Change is here in the shape of public betas of both Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. But new ways of working may leave you feeling a little lost…

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

Bob Dylan obviously had access to a time machine when he came up with the immortal lyrics “It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for times they are a-changing”. Who knew that his famous ditty was actually an ode to Windows Vista – for change is indeed coming, and it really is going to rattle your desktop wallpaper.

In the world of PCs and Windows, change is generally heralded as a good thing. Our software should get smarter, technology should kill more viruses than a lorry-load of Domestos, and our PCs get snappier and easier to use.

And that’s true with a new Windows launch – but there are some differences. Microsoft has recently released two public betas of its tip-top blockbuster products: Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. They are packed with change.

Everything from new ways of working to the fact that they are utterly different from the way you use both Windows XP and Office. And, while Microsoft should absolutely be lauded for allowing us to kick the tyres of its new software before release, the road may prove bumpy.

The probable first response will be a collective cry of “Who moved my stuff?” You see, we all develop intuitive ways of working. With XP and Office 2003, many of our day-to-day actions have become second nature. The daily grind has honed our shortcut key skills, allowing us to scan menus and navigate folders without a second’s thought.

Shake your Windows

Vista and Office 2007 are so radically different that they represent the biggest leap yet in how we will interact – and enjoy – working and playing with our PCs and digital devices. Many of the new additions are more welcome than a cold beer, off-the-hook phone and England lifting the 2006 World Cup (only just, mind).

Yet for all of us, innovations such as the ribbon interface in Office 2007 will take some getting used to. Teeny icons and a pale colour scheme don’t help as we travel around applications with less confidence than an entrant into Britain’s Worst Learner Driver competition.

Add to the fact that these are beta applications – not polished, ready-for-primetime tools with shiny packaging and printed manuals, but software that is still fermenting – and many may find the change too, well, challenging to manage.

My advice, though, is to stick with it. Rarely do you get the chance to help mould one of the biggest ever milestones in personal computing and digital productivity. So, download the beta of Vista, or fire up the splendid beta version of Office 2007 that’s free on our August 06 cover CD, and find out for yourself. Sure, it’ll shake your Windows, but that’s kind of the point.