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Microsoft Office 2010 beta review

The beta of Microsoft Office 2010 is now available for the public to download. We find out what’s new since the Technical Preview rolled out over the summer.

Excel

Excel's conditional formatting has been improved with more logical defaults and the ability to pick individual icons from icon sets. There are new tools for visualising data including Sparklines and Slicers.

Sparklines produce miniature charts in a cell and show a single line or set of bars to summarise a range of data. You can highlight the highest and/or lowest values in each run of data and adjust the axes to be relative or absolute.

Sparklines are great for summarising data that would look too jumbled in a traditional chart. The new Slicer controls let you visually filter data in lists, PivotTables making it more obvious what data is included and consequently making PivotTables friendlier. Combine Slicers with the new PowerPivot add-on from the SQL Server team and even ordinary mortals can analyse hundreds of millions of rows of data without having to know what a Data Cube is.

Excel

Sparklines show small line or column charts in a cell to quickly summarise data.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint gets some new 3D transitions for use between slides which, used sparingly, will brighten up some presentations. There's also more flexibility in animations and a new animation painter which lets you copy animation between objects. You can more easily embed video in your presentations complete with effects such as refection, borders and recolouring and you can easily trim sections from videos. You will be able to broadcast presentations to anyone via the internet, even if they are only using a mobile device such as a smartphone, and you can easily compress your presentation to send it by email if required.

PowerPoint screen grab

You can group slides into logical sections and new transition effects include 3D for the first time.

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