Office ’12’ Beta 1 is now available

It seems like the big milestones just keep coming for Office '12'. Today, a select group of our customers and partners were given access to the first beta of Office '12'. This is just our next step towards the final release of Office '12' which is scheduled for later in 2006, and it's a great chance for us to gather technical feedback. This is the biggest release of Office in a long time, and the first Beta is pretty sweet.  I'm sure most of you have been reading the news over the past 5 or 6 months about all the new things in Office '12', but I wanted to give a quick recap in honor of the first beta. If I had to sum up Office '12' with just a few key points, here's what I'd say:

  • Most significant release of Office in over a decade - I'm absolutely convinced of this. If you're on the first beta, you'll see what I'm talking about. After using Office '12' for just a few days it's hard to imagine going back to an older version. I don't often feel this way using an RTM version of a product, let alone a beta.
  • Get results better and faster - Thanks to our moves to open standards based formats as well as the integration of our applications, servers, and services; you can significantly improve the quality and efficiency of your work. The amount of content out there continues to grow, and we help you better manage, share, create, reuse, and find that content.
  • Big time productivity improvements - There is a new user interface to give you better access to all of Office's functionality; new graphics and charts to give you better looking documents; and more unified presentation of all your information in Outlook.

Those are pretty high level, but I wanted to try to sum everything up in a few really simple statements. There are of course a lot of different areas we could drill into, but I doubt you have time to read it all. Here are some of the more interesting areas though that I wanted to specifically call out:

  • New User Interface - Those of you that made it out to PDC in September got a sneak peak of this new user interface. It's really a huge positive change, that helps get you quick access to all the main pieces of functionality while at the same time making it easy to find the more obscure things as well. We find that a number of the feature requests we get from our customers are actually for functionality that's already in the product; they just can't find it. I've been using this new UI for awhile now, and I love it. I'm not a very knowledgeable Excel user, and I've found that the new UI really helps me do the kinds of things I'd always assumed Excel could do, but never really could figure out. If you want more information on the new UI, you should check out Jensen Harris' blog. He started blogging back in September and already has a book's worth or information. He kind of puts me to shame :-).
  • New Graphics and Chart engine - This is something we haven't talked about a lot yet, but it's really an exciting area. What the new UI does for improving the look of the application, the new graphics and charts do for improving the look of your documents. The improvements in charts is awesome. Here's an example of a chart that you can create with just a few clicks:

    Click on the chart to get a larger view
  • New File Format - This as you know is the area that is most near and dear to my heart. We are finally fully opening up our file formats in Office. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel will all three use new XML formats as their default formats. These formats will be fully documented and anyone can leverage them to build solutions, or even to build a competitive application. If you're interested in this topic, just keep reading my blog (and look through all my previous entries).
  • Business Intelligence - Not sure you guys have heard the term BI much, but I hear it all the time now. πŸ™‚ There are a number of different meaning to this, and there are a number of things we're doing in Office '12' to help you work with your data in more powerful and easy ways. For instance, check out David Gainer's blog. He's the group program manager for Excel and he talks about all the new features they are providing in Excel to help you better visualize and manage your data. We've done some research here, and it looks like currently people spend about 25% of their time just searching for information. Another 25% of their time is spent analyzing that information. As you can see, this is an area with a ton of potential for helping people with their efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Content Management - This is an area I'm hoping to talk about more in future posts. Records management, Web content management and document management are all going to be brought together so that anyone in an organization will have an easy time of creating, managing, sharing, archiving, and finding their content. We've done a lot of work here with the file format to make it easier to store document meta data, and even surface that meta data easily so that a document author can quickly fill it in. We've even done work in Word to allow you to map that data onto the surface of the document so that as you edit your document the metadata is automatically filled in as well.

We've already spent a lot of the project talking with customers about the features in Office '12', and now that we've released beta 1, we can really start to dig into the features and make sure we haven't missed anything. There are going to be a lot of partners that will want to build on top of this new feature set, especially the new file format. This first beta is a great opportunity for that.

So, what do you do if you aren't on the list of folks receiving the first beta? Don't fret, Beta 2 will be even more solid and will be made publicly available when we release it next year. You can register for it at the Office '12' preview site:


Comments (26)

  1. Rod says:

    Yeah Office ’12’ is looking good.

    I have a question though: my next .net development project includes generating PPT presentations (with charts) on the server side. I’m seeing all the cool stuff regarding VSTO and VS.NET, but always about Word and Excel…which makes sense for a moment, since I believe they are the most used "data carriers" in the enterprise.

    Then I guess I could just get the XML spec and try to make the PPT presentation from the ground up, but is it recommended by MS to be done this way? Is it feasible? If yes, are there any samples out there?

  2. Rod says:

    Sorry I managed to overlook the sentence "These [XML] formats will be fully documented and anyone can leverage them to build solutions" which pretty much answers the second part of my previous comment.

    Now it’s just putting my hands on the Beta ASAP and the XML file format documentation πŸ™‚

  3. David Joyce says:

    Can you point to blogs etc. that give more information on the future of Content Management please?

  4. Sean says:

    No disrespect and congrats on the release, but I’d love if you could stop holding 3D charts up as a great example of things you can do with Office. It’s particularly frustrating when I see that you’ve made a gorgeous looking 3D pie chart, which is particularly bad for distorting data (it makes the section in front look much bigger relative to others) — I’d love for the focus to be on making good looking charts that show the data well.

  5. Aaron says:

    Are there any plans to implement any of these features in future release of MS Office for Mac?

  6. BrianJones says:

    Hey Rod, you can view the preview of the schemas here:

    We’ll have some updated schemas for the Beta 1 version soon.

    David, I’ll look around to see if any of the SharePoint or CMS guys are blogging. If I find some links I’ll put them in a seperate post (so you don’t have to keep checking these comments).

    Sean, I chose the 3-D pie chart just as a way of showing off the new charting engine and how much better you can make them look. You obviously aren’t forced to go with a 3-D pie chart :-). I’m not sure if anyone on the chart team is blogging, but I’ll try to look around and see if we have more content on the real issue of making good looking charts that show the data well.

    Aaron, I don’t believe the Mac Office team has talked a whole lot about the features they’ll have in their next version. They have announced support for the new XML formats, but that’s all that I know of currently. You can check out this blog though for more details:


  7. BrianJones says:

    Rod, sorry I forgot to include the link. Here you go:

    The schemas are packaged in two forms. You can download an .msi; or a .zip


  8. spacedman says:

    That pie chart is a disgrace. Go read Tufte. Pie charts are great for showing a few numbers in as big a space as possible. Perspective and solid pie charts distort perception. The shading just makes that worse. If that’s the default choice of colours then its extremely poor – too many are similar. If the wedges aren’t labelled then the eye keeps having to track over to the legend to figure out what’s what. This whole graphic shows 9 numbers, and doesn’t even let me easily see which is the third biggest.

    Office 12 for pointy-headed bosses everywhere.

  9. BrianJones says:

    Thanks for the comments spacedMan πŸ™‚

    You can make the chart look however you want. There are tons of choices for colors as well as how things are labeled. I just went with something to show off some of the cooler effects like 3-D; shading; etc. I wasn’t trying to effectively convey the information as much as I was just going for something that looked cool. We can all have fun sometimes too can’t we? πŸ™‚


  10. Jack London says:

    A new install is ok but update has some problems.

    I get errors every 2 min. after update operation on MSOSFD.EXE file.

    AppName: msosfd.exe AppVer: 12.0.3111.1010 ModName: acrord32.dll

    ModVer: Offset: 0023652c

    It is really annoying!

  11. David Walker says:

    I agree with Spacedman. Looking cool is a horrible thing to do when it obscures the information! Resist the temptation to pick 3-D and shading! In fact, the choices in the product that obscure the information should arguably not be choices.

  12. BrianJones says:

    If you guys are interested in the new chart technologies, you should check out David Gainer’s blog on Excel. He just posted a ton of example charts:


  13. John Craft says:

    Please add me to the list of people interested in CMS integration in Office 12.

  14. oo says:


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  15. Yuki says:

    Lol noobody will adopt Office 12. Geez most ppl still run ’97 or 2000 and just nobody uses 2003. Nowadays it seems like MS only produces vaporware hyping or useless software.

  16. Martin Bryan says:

    Whetting our appetites at XML 2005 is fine, and allowing us to register for the next release may eventually prove helpful, but we really need to be able to check out the file and directory structures/contents now, so that ongoing work on developing techniques for managing Word XML files can be undertaken in such a way that it will be forward compatible with Office 12 requirements. How can we identify which of our partners might have been selected as one of the chosen few allowed access to the current release?

  17. Office 12 Beta 1 was promised to PDC 2005 attendees. Well we have registered but still no show – whats going on there?

  18. Today we are announcing the details behind the upcoming 2007 Microsoft Office system products. We had…

  19. Calvin says:


  20. fred says:

    anyone know if anything can be done about : I get errors every 2 min. after update operation on MSOSFD.EXE file. cos i get it too and its well annoying! cos otherwise it rocks!

  21. I hope everyone had a great new year. Sorry I’ve taken so much time off from blogging. I was pretty busy

  22. It seems like the big milestones just keep coming for Office ’12’. Today, a select group of our customers and partners were given access to the first beta of Office ’12’. This is just our next step towards the final release of Office ’12’ which is schedule

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