Office 2010 has arrived! Customize your ribbon!

By David H. Ringstrom, CPA

Office 2010 is now in stores and at, so anyone can upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft's flagship productivity suite. Office 2010 provides numerous refinements to the new user interface introduced with Office 2007.

As you might be aware, Microsoft abandoned a decades-old user interface comprised of drop-down menus for a new approach known as the ribbon. Although the ribbon tends to cause much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair for long-time Office users, the user can get acclimated pretty quickly – particularly if you take advantage of the free transition tools for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. As of this writing, 2010 versions of these interactive guides have not been released, but the user interfaces are pretty much identical between Office 2007 and Office 2010. Anyone using Office 2007 should encounter a seamless transition to Office 2010.

One major change that upgraders will notice is that the File menu has returned to Office 2010 apps in place of the round Office button in Office 2007. Further, the structure of this drop-down menu has changed. Whereas Office 2007's menu mostly followed the same structure as a traditional File menu, Office 2010 introduces a new Backstage View designed to make it easier to control various aspects of your document, such as printing and protecting the document when you share with others. Office 2010 also adds picture-editing and screen-capture capabilities to all Office applications.

Other new features include video editing in PowerPoint, an improved navigation pane in Word, and my favorite new feature, the ability to customize the ribbon. Office 2007's ribbon isn't customizable unless you resort to complex programming that required a book to explain. Conversely, in Office 2010 anyone can add or remove commands from the ribbon, and even create new tabs. Further, it's easy to export customizations and import them into Office 2010 on other computers. At long last, you can create an interface for Excel that groups the commands you use daily into a sequence that makes sense to you, which can be a significant time saver.

Excel 2010 has several new features, such as sparklines (in-cell charts), slicers (a visual method of filtering), and PowerPivot (an Excel 2010-specific feature that allows you to use pivot tables to crunch millions of records of data at once (see

New features in Outlook 2010 include an expanded ribbon, Quick Steps (a way to automate repetitive tasks), Conversations (a way of archiving or deleting related messages in one step), and Contact Cards (a way to get background information for people who contact you via e-mail).

Typically, every second or third release of Office tends to be transformational, while the interim releases tend to be enhancing. Anyone currently using Office 2007 will find a wealth of useful enhancements in Office 2010, while upgraders moving from Office 2003 or an earlier version will encounter a small learning curve with the ribbon interface.

Keep in mind that Microsoft has eliminated upgrade pricing for Office 2010, so everyone must pay full price. This may dissuade some users from upgrading, but there will be free options to consider. Office 2010 Starter (presently in beta testing) will be a limited feature, advertisement-supported version, or you can access the free Office Web Apps at Set up a free account to get 10 GB of free online storage, and the ability to create new documents in Web-based versions of Office 2010 applications. You can also download a free trial of Office 2010 from

A previous version of this article first appeared on .

About the author:

David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at  or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link