Outlook 2007 I like.  Is it worth the purchase price?  Probably not, but there are some nice changes to the look and feel of the program that make me “feel” more up-to-date in a techie sort of way.  It seems to load faster, setting up email accounts is easier, and it can handle feeds now.  I like the sorting options in the different categories, and the ability to have a third column in the email screen that shows appointments and tasks.  Very nice program.  My one problem with it is more the fault of Palm than Microsoft – My Treo 700p won’t sync with Outlook.  They haven’t updated their Hotsync program to integrate with it, so they directed me to a third-party vendor of syncing software that does sync with Outlook 2007.  I’m sure I’ll discuss this more in depth at some point, but…   How long have the betas been available for Outlook 2007?  If a third party vendor can be ready, why can’t Palm?

Excel 2007 is also a little better.  Frankly, the only reason I stuck with Excel for the last several years is the MSN stock quote add-in that allows you to download stock quotes directly into a spreadsheet.  I know this is possible in Calc from openoffice, but its not as slick or easy.  Excel 2007 allows you to keep this functionality, and adds the ability to add tables from any webpage (the way they do this is also pretty cool – with a pop-up window that has arrows by all the tables.  You click on an arrow and it inserts the whole table into your spreadsheet just like that!)  I know you can also do this in Calc, but again, its really easy now in Excel 2007.  Everything else I do in Excel is possible in the multitude of online and offline competitors (mostly free), I’m just more comfortable with Excel because I have used it for so many years.

On a different note, although I’m not terribly fond of the “ribbons” in the Office suite, I am getting used to them.  From a useability standpoint, I don’t think they make it easier to work in Office, but they make it look different.  For example, rather than going through the menu to change a message format from html to plain text, you now have to figure out which ribbon it is on, and then click the button.  Same way for everything.  In fact, I had a few minutes of frustration in trying to figure out how to open a document in Excel, because I couldn’t find anything on any of the ribbons.  Finally it occurred to me to click the button in the upper left corner – that is where the standard “file” menu options are now located.  That said, the graphical look and feel of the ribbons do make it easy to identify functionality that you don’t use as much, and I like the real-time preview of changes, plus the longer list of recently opened documents.

Now here’s my beef with the Office 2007 package.  When you create a document in the new suite, you are told (as you are in other places) that in order to view this document, your friends that haven’t upgraded will have to download a free tool as a viewer.  In addition, although you can save documents in the “old” format, you get a warning that “some of the features/formatting” will not work in previous versions – are you sure you want to save in an inferior format?  Seems a little ridiculous to ask everyone to upgrade in order to share documents, but I’m an openoffice type of guy, so that’s just me.

In conclusion, on the strength of these two upgrades alone, I will probably get Office 2007, but that’s not saying much.  I already mentioned that I need to upgrade Outlook.  The program by itself is about $90.  If I want to upgrade Excel, it’s another $90, so I might as well go all the way and just get the full Small Business upgrade suite for $245 from Buy.com.  I don’t want to go piecemeal and decide later that I need the other pieces, or I’ll end up spending a ton more.  I’m sure that’s the strategy behind Microsoft’s pricing structure.