Microsoft will release Office 2010 this year. And yet so many Office users have not yet switched to Office 2007 from older versions. Why are people using office productivity software that is several years older than their computers, cars and cell-phones? I mean, would you be caught with a cell-phone circa 2003? Yet if you’re using versions of Word, Excel, etc. prior to Office 2007, then 2003 is the best case scenario.

While cost is surely behind some of the reluctance, I believe the main reason many have not switched to 2007 is the radically re-designed user interface. The “ribbon” used in most Office 2007 applications is so different from the previous menu bar and icon-based toolbar interface, that most of us on first seeing the Word 2007 screen went something like, “OK, where’s the hidden camera and how come I don’t get the joke?”

Now after using the new interface for a week or two and enduring a brief but painful and frustrating learning curve, almost anything you want to do actually becomes easier to find than in the older versions. But who wants to go through that much pain? Yet like it or not, as new computers arrive pre-loaded with Office 2007 (and soon 2010) most users will either have to adapt or switch to some other productivity suite – and learn another unfamiliar interface.

The good news is that help is available, of a nature that makes the learning process quite painless; but for some reason it’s apparently a well-kept secret. See the links at the end of this post, which lead to resources on the Microsoft website that aid in the transition from Office 2000/XP/2003 to Office 2007 in a simple but powerful way: choose a command from your familiar Office 2003 interface, and the tool shows you how to do the same thing in 2007.

For example, to emulate inserting a comment in Word 2003 I selected Insert, then Comment on the tool:

And the tool shows me how to insert a comment using the Word 2007 ribbon:

(Click on the above images to see a larger version.)

So if you’re moving to Office 2007 (or thinking of it), I suggest you bookmark these links:

Word 2003 to Word 2007

Excel 2003 to Excel 2007

In a few weeks I’ll post some comprehensive information about Office 2010.