Microsoft has unveiled an online version of Microsoft Office 2007 that users can test drive without downloading the beta or ordering a DVD preview.
Office 2007, which is to roll out in November (for corporations) and January (for consumers), has been available in a Beta 2 preview edition for more than a month. Test Drive, however, is aimed at users who balk at installing pre-release software.
"The online test-drive offers the perfect opportunity for everyone to experience an easier and better way to work," said Chris Capossela, vice president of the information worker group, in a statement.
The Office 2007 applications, including Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Publisher, can be run from within Internet Explorer on systems powered by Windows 98, 2000, or XP. Sample data and documents are provided, as are Microsoft's server-based solutions, such as SharePoint and Project Server.
Saving and printing are among the few disabled features of the Office applications.
Office's test drive relies on a Citrix plug-in that must be downloaded and installed; non-IE browsers, such as Mozilla's Firefox, can't be used to run the online applications.
Although the online test drive -- the applications run within a browser and off Microsoft's servers -- may make some wonder if the effort is also a sly way to experiment with delivering Office as a Web application or service, a Microsoft spokesperson rejected the idea. "No. This new online test drive is designed to help people to explore the benefits and enhancements of the 2007 release through their own Web browser without having to download or install the beta 2," she said.
One analyst applauded Microsoft for taking Office on a test drive.
"[It] makes sense. Office 2007's radically redesigned user interface means Microsoft really needs to re-introduce people to the software," wrote JupiterResearch's Joe Wilcox on his blog Tuesday. "The UI redesign is all about user benefits, and risk-adverse IT managers and their employees will need to see those increased benefits to really evaluate the merits of upgrading." The Office 2007 online test drive can be found here.
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