The first public beta of Office 2007, available on the August 06 cover disc, gives us more than a quick bite at the Office suite that is sure to dominate our desktops next year.

This article appears in the August 06 issue of PC Advisor, available in all good newsagents now.

The launch of a Microsoft Office suite is always a major event in the life of a computer magazine. And here at PC Advisor, we’re already getting excited about the imminent release of Office 2007. We say imminent, but consumers won’t get the chance to snap up the software until 2007. In the meantime, the first public beta version is available on the cover disc, which gives us more than a quick bite at the Office suite that is sure to dominate our desktops next year.

But it’s usually what happens to the user interface that has us cooing with delight or (more likely) spitting blood.

Most of our favourite tools will now be hidden away on a completely different, often illogical, menu. And if you were blissfully happy with the way a certain feature worked in the previous version, you can bet it’ll have been comprehensively revamped this time round. Until we get used to the interface, performing routine tasks will take much longer than they used to. So it’s up to Microsoft to soothe our wounded egos, reminding us why the applications are going to make us more productive than before.

Microsoft’s particular panacea appears to be ribbons, ribbons and more ribbons. Rather than having us fumble through a maze of menu options, the ribbon will be constantly changing according to what we’re doing, so the tools we want will be there when we need them. This is quite an exciting feature, having the PC think for us so we can spend more time concentrating on whatever it is that we’re supposed to be concentrating on.

And it means we now get extensive previews when we want to change the look of something. Anything less than a 19in screen isn’t going to cut it in the era of the ribbon, so it’s just as well large flat-panel prices are tumbling.

This month we review two of the best-value 20.1in screens on the market. And those who’ll be wanting to add extra oomph to their PCs when Office and Vista are launched will be glad to get a look at the latest batch of AMD Athlon CPUs. Add to that a glimpse of the next big thing in Wi-Fi and it’s proving another busy month for the IT industry – hasn’t anyone told it summer’s here?