User interface differences in Office 2010 vs earlier versions


Applies to: Office 2010

Topic Last Modified: 2011-07-15

Banner stating end of support date for Office 2010 with link to more info

If you are upgrading from earlier versions of Microsoft Office to Microsoft Office 2010, review the changes in the User Interface. Some of these features help IT administrators configure, validate, deploy, and protect Office installations in their organizations. This article introduces some of the new features and improvements in the Microsoft Office 2010 suites that are relevant to IT professionals.

In this article:

  • New and updated features in Office 2010

  • File formats

  • Edition comparison

  • Differences between Microsoft Office versions

  • What’s new for IT Professionals

New and updated features in Office 2010

The following are highlights of Office 2010.

Fluent user interface

The Office 2010 Fluent user interface (UI) lets you support users more efficiently. It contains updates to the ribbon and a new Backstage view that displays the details of files and functionalities, even letting you create a custom UI, all within the XML schema.

The ribbon organizes commands in a more usable way by presenting them as a set of tabs. Each contextual tab represents a task area relevant to a particular Office product. The ribbon is improved in Office 2010 and is included in all Office 2010 applications.

Backstage view

The Microsoft Office Backstage view in Office 2010 replaces the Microsoft Office Button of the 2007 Microsoft Office system. The Backstage view enables you to create a custom UI, similar to within the ribbon, and to add elements such as workflow or task information that is specific to an organization’s needs. The Backstage view is available in all Office 2010 applications, and replaces the File menu of earlier Microsoft Office versions.


Microsoft Silverlight is a technology that works in the browser and on the desktops that brings many Microsoft Office experience to life with amazing video, animations and interactivity. Microsoft recommends installing Microsoft Silverlight along with Office to improve the information worker user experience with Office 2010. Specifically, Microsoft Silverlight enables better online experience with Office Online, powers the Office 2010 interactive guides (available with Office 2010), improves the user experience of Office SharePoint 2010, improves the performance of Office Web Companion applications and help with the process of uploading Office document to cloud services.

File formats

Microsoft Office 2003 introduced a format based on extensible markup language (XML) that enabled you to understand the details of a document. The 2007 Office system made XML the default file format so that you could easily work with your documents. The data that was contained in the XML file listed the content in a document, and the description included any settings that were needed for the document to work within the application. In addition to supporting about 20 different document formats including XML Paper Specification (XPS), Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.5, PDF/A and Open Document Format (ODF) v1.1. Office 2010 continues to support XML.

The XML format provides advantages such as easier data mining and content reuse; faster document creation from different data sources; reduction of the size of Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files; and improved data recovery of corrupted files.

ODF users can save documents in version 1.1 of the ODF for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Users can open, edit and save files in the OpenDocument Text (*.odt), OpenDocument Spreadsheet (*.ods), and OpenDocument Presentations (*.odp) formats.

Edition comparison

Five editions of Office 2010 suites are available — three user versions and two business versions. For more information, see Office 2010 suites.

Differences between Microsoft Office versions

Within each application, Office 2010 has improved functionality in many areas. When the 2007 Microsoft Office system was released, a significant difference from Office 2003 was the introduction of the ribbon in the user interface (UI) for Microsoft Office Access 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, Microsoft Office Word 2007, and parts of Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. The UI changed from a collection of menus and toolbars to a single ribbon mechanism. The Office 2010 suites maintain the ribbon and have some new features.

The ribbon is now available across all products of the Office 2010 suites so moving from one application to another is seamless. In addition to changes in the ribbon, the Office 2010 suites background is now a gray color, by default, whereas the 2007 Office system background was blue.

The following table describes the differences in UI elements between Office 2010, the 2007 Office system, and Office 2003.

UI element Office 2010 Office 2007 Office 2003

Menus and tabs

The ribbon replaces menus and toolbars across all Products of Office 2010 and can be fully customized.

The ribbon replaces menus and toolbars in Access 2007, Office Excel 2007, PowerPoint 2007, Word 2007, and parts of Outlook 2007.

Menus and toolbars only are available.

Task panes

Groups of commands on the ribbon and the ability to customize.

Groups of commands on the ribbon and the ability to customize.

Basic task pane.

Quick Access Toolbar (QAT)

Fully customizable.

Introduced in 2007.

Not available.

Backstage view

More tools outside the document viewing window.

Limited tools that can be accessed through the Microsoft Office Button.

Limited tools on the File menu

Digital signatures

Found in the Backstage view under Information about Document / Protect Document.

Formatted with XMLDSig, found under File / Finalize Document / Signatures.

Found under Tools / Options / Security / Digital Signatures

Smart Art

Improved from the 2007 version.

Design tools available in all Microsoft Office applications.

Not available.

Open Formats (*.odt) OpenDocument Text

Included in this version.

Added in 2007 Office system Service Pack 2 (SP2).

Not available.

Windows Live Writer integration

Blog posting options available in the application.

Not available.

Not available.

Spelling checker

The spelling checker is now integrated with automatic correction.

Basic spelling checker.

Basic spelling checker.

Paste Preview

A live preview before you commit to Paste. Avoids having to use the Undo button.

Paste, Undo, Paste.

Basic Paste capabilities.


The Backstage combines Print with Print Preview, Page Layout and other print options.

Microsoft Office Button, Print with limited printing tools spread across several commands.

Basic Print option on the File menu.


A miniature chart inserted into text or embedded in a spreadsheet cell to summarize data.

Dynamic charts and chart types.

Three-dimensional (3-D) charting.

E-mail Essentials

Conversation, Cleanup, Ignore Thread, and Mail Tips for when a person is out of the office or if e-mail is sent to a group.

Not available.

Not available.

Photo editing tools

Available in these applications: (Word 2010, Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010, Outlook 2010, and Microsoft Publisher 2010).

Limited functionality.

Limited functionality.

Video in Microsoft PowerPoint

Video triggers and controls.

Not available.

Not available.

What’s new for IT Professionals

To learn about licensing and volume activation, 64-bit editions of Office 2010, application virtualization, security changes, and Office Customization Tool changes in Office 2010, see What’s new for IT Professionals in What's new for IT professionals in Office 2010.