Microsoft has finally made the beta version of Office 2010, its productivity suite, available to the public. Here are five reasons that you should download the beta and check out what Microsoft Office 2010 has to offer.

The Office 2010 beta includes updated versions of Word, excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, InfoPath, SharePoint Workspace, and Communicator.

You can download it right now from the Microsoft Office 2010 beta site.

Like Windows XP versus Windows Vista, a fair percentage of users never made the jump from Office 2003 to Office 2007.

The Windows Vista backlash had a residual effect which led customers to adopt a 'my-current-version-works-fine-why-change-it' mentality.

Well, for those users (as well as those users who have adopted Microsoft Office 2007), here are five reasons that you should download the beta and check out what Microsoft Office 2010 has to offer.

1. Ribbons

Okay. I admit that the ribbon interface takes some getting used to. If you are still using Office 2003 and you are used to the standard menu options across the top of your Office application screens, prepare yourself for a little learning curve when you start using Office 2010.

That said, once you familiarise yourself with ribbons you will find it hard to go back.

The ribbon interface is more intuitive and helps you operate more efficiently (after that requisite learning curve we were talking about).

Ribbons existed in Office 2007, but only in certain applications. With Office 2010 Microsoft has built the ribbon interface into the entire suite.

2. Backstage View

This feature is more relevant for users of Office 2007. In Office 2007 a round Office button replaced many of the functions commonly accessed from the menu bar such as saving and printing. That button never really seemed to catch on.

In Office 2010, the button has been replaced with something that looks like one of the ribbon tabs at the top.

Clicking on the tab at the far left brings up a separate screen called Backstage View.

The Backstage interface displays a list of tasks in a panel on the left, but most of the screen is dedicated to displaying the options available for the selected task.

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