Windows Phone 7 Review

Not since the Microsoft Courier – although ultimately it didn’t materialize – have I been so excited about a piece of technology from Microsoft. The other big release from Redmond this year, Office 2010, looked good initially, but was kind of a bust in the end.

MobileCrunch now has a fairly exhaustive review up, discussing the various aspects of the phone and how it does things differently from its competition. This sentence at the end sums up Windows Phone 7 and its roots in Windows Mobile quite nicely, I think:

Tinkering with Windows Phone 7 is like finding out that the little girl who was kind of a punk to you in second grade somehow managed to grow up kind of cool — and to top it off, she’s actually sort of hot.

It’s good to see that Microsoft didn’t just build an iPhone or Android clone, but came up with ideas uniquely their own. We’ll have to see how the market welcomes it, though I already know, I’m going to get one the day HTC releases their successor to the HD2 with Windows Phone 7 (like maybe this beast, although it’s only a concept).

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Not so happy with Office 2010

My initial impression of Office 2010 was mixed. Unfortunately, I can’t say it has gotten any better since then. While there a couple of really nice improvements in the latest version of Office, several glitches I encounter on a day to day basis have made using it frustrating at times.

Outlook

Outlook is probably the one Office application I spent the most time in. I use it not just for email, but also to subscribe to RSS feeds, keep track of appointments and to-do lists and then sync all of that to my Windows Mobile phone. All of this works pretty well. However, Outlook 2010 seems to have serious problems with IMAP email accounts, which unfortunately, both my primary email accounts use.

First, I don’t get a new mail notification when new items arrive in my IMAP inbox anymore. In the previous version, I only did not get the pop-up notification, but my “You’ve got Mail” sound was still played. In Outlook 2010, I have to manually check my inbox to not miss incoming mail.

Second, I can’t seem make Outlook use my IMAP mail account as the default mail account. While I can check it as the default account in the account overview, whenever I create a new message, the first non-IMAP account on the accounts list is used for sending it.

Excel

Excel for me has always been the cornerstone of the Office suite. While there have always been stability issues with Word when working with complex documents, Excel has always been rock solid. Too bad, that changed with the 2010 release.

Microsoft Excel has stopped working

I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the fact that I run a German Excel on an English-language version of Windows 7, but Excel 2010 has been unable to properly apply custom formatting to numbers and dates, misinterpreting custom date formats that worked flawlessly in Excel 2007. I thought it might have to do with the fact that these were files that I created many years back (probably in Office 2000 or Office 97) and there might be some incompatibility there, but this also happens with newly created files that contain nothing but a few numbers.

While I’m usually hesitant to send debug information to software makers (for privacy concerns), I made an exception this time. Hopefully, this will help Microsoft find and fix the issue.

The only plus with Excel 2010 is that it loads much faster than the previous version. Other than that, I would probably be better off had I stayed with Excel 2007.

OneNote, PowerPoint and Word

Since graduating from college I haven’t seriously used any of these applications anymore. I must say though, that there are a couple of nice things in the 2010 release. I haven’t run into any issues with them, since I don’t use them on a regular basis

PowerPoint has some new slide transitions that look much more professional than what was there before. I’m sorry to say it, but when it comes to aesthetics, Apple’s Keynote used to kick PowerPoint’s butt. No more. If only Microsoft took out sound effects, so people could no longer include them in their presentations. It’s so annoying and so unnecessary.

The one feature in Word I find the most noteworthy is the new document outline. I tried this with my master’s thesis (100+ pages including pictures, charts, footnotes and a bunch of other advanced features) and I was presented with a nice overview of chapters, sections and sub-sections that made navigating a document of this size a snap.

There isn’t much to say about OneNote. I have been using the application since it’s very first version shipped as part of Office 2003 and must say that it has progressed nicely since then. While I used it extensively for taking notes for school, I now just use it for travel planning as a place to collect ideas, links to things to see and places to go, itineraries et cetera. Hence, I probably don’t use any features that weren’t already in the initial release.

Summary

Office 2010 is a nice upgrade from 2003, but not worth it, if you already have 2007, in my opinion. I used to think Office 2010 compared to Office 2007 was like Windows 7 compared to Windows Vista: The earlier release came out with some really groundbreaking stuff (such as the ribbon in Office 2007, major UI and under-the-hood improvements in Vista), but wasn’t well received by most. Consequently, many people stayed with Office 2003 and XP, respectively. Windows 7, while only a minor upgrade to Vista in terms of new features, was apparently much more well liked and has already sold more than 150 million copies as of last month. As with Vista, many users who had Office 2003 never upgraded to 2007, but might now upgrade to 2010. Considering the problem’s I have run into, I can only advise against that. Maybe it’s not like I though, but rather the other way around: Office 2007 is Windows 7 and 2010 is Vista in this story.