Microsoft’s latest version of its popular home and business software, Microsoft Office 2010, is now available for purchase at retailers like Best Buy, Amazon.com and other electronics and software sellers. This is big news for businesses big and small, as well as the rest of us who are largely so used to Office programs that we almost take them for granted.

There are, of course, changes that set the 2010 version apart from the 2007 and 2003 versions that most of us use. PC Magazine reports that one of the first changes lies in how consumers can buy and use Office 2010. From the article:

“We’ve made dramatic changes in the way we deliver Office 2010 to give consumers more buying choice, making it easier than ever to unlock the power of Office on new and existing PCs,” Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, said in a statement. “For the first time, people can purchase a Product Key Card at retail to activate Office 2010 preloaded on new PCs. For those who want to download Office 2010 direct from Office.com for an existing PC, the new Click-to-Run technology will have them up and running in a matter of minutes.”

“Unlocking the power” isn’t all that’s different about Office 2010. Michael J. Miller of the PC Mag blog points out 5 key changes to the way Office works, including the return of the “file” menu (not present in the 2007 version), better graphics editing and a new feature that lets users edit videos within the PowerPoint program. Speaking as a PowerPoint fan, that functionality sounds easy and awesome.

The biggest change, he says, is with the online apps. Microsoft is releasing free access to online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and you don’t have to buy Office 2010 to use them. These apps are intended to compete with Google Docs and other online document services. You’ll need a Hotmail or Live login to access the online apps, and users are limited to 25 gigs of space for now, but in general, the service is promising. And of course, if you DO buy Office 2010, it works together with the online apps very well.

The Home and Office version of Office 2010 costs $149 for up to 3 PCs, and $119 for the Keycard version. A free trial version is available at Office.com. Miller suggests that those comfortable with Office 2007 might not want to worry about upgrading, but those using Office 2003 or older versions should probably take the plunge with Office 2010. It’ll bring your home or small business into the modern Office!

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