Author: Paul McFedries
Publisher: Que, 2010
Aimed at: Those with some experience of Excel
Pros: Wev apps are worth knowing about
Cons: Not enough for complete beginners, too much for experienced Office 2010 users
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
Titles in Que's Using series have extra material that is available once you register ownership of your book. The two types of online extra are: Tell Me More audio clips and Show Me video clips and this title has at least three media items per chapter with 38 in total. These work best if having registered your purchase you read the book onscreen via Safari.
In the first audio clip, Understanding Cloud Computing author Paul McFedries introduces himself, which seems a nice touch until you realise he includes his name in every media item! He then relates what his computing experience was like before cloud computing. It certainly isn't necessary to listen to this clip in order to follow the text - and if you prefer reading to listening you may even find its off-topic content irritating - but at least it's a short clip.
The first video deals with what many will consider a very trivial task - signing in to Windows Live - but if you have never done this before seeing it done is quicker than reading through the steps in the book, which are included with a Let me Try icon, which indicates there is a task you are expected to do if you are an "active reader".
The main usefulness of this book is in raising awareness of the Microsoft Office web apps - the suite of applications with cutdown versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note that run on a web server rather than on your personal computer. This makes them accessible over the Internet and makes sharing and collaboration easy.
The first chapter compares the interfaces of the web apps with their desktop counterparts and makes the important point that in order to edit an existing Office document online it needs to have been created with Office 2007 or later. There are also restrictions as to browser support and operating systems. For Internet Explorer you'll need version 7 or later running under Windows 7, Vista or XP. However you're not limited to Windows - Firefox 3.5 under Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X 10.4 or later or under Linux and Safari 4 under Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X 10.4.11 or Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later are also supported. You also need Silverlight to get a good experience of web apps and there's a video clip to show how to install Silverlight for Firefox.
Chapter 2, Learning Windows Live SkyDrive Essentials opens with setting up SkyDrive, customising it with a theme and adding a photo to your profile. It moves on to working with folders, creating documents with SkyDrive and uploading them from Office, plus commenting on and deleting files.
The alternative way to access Office Web Apps is via a SharePoint 2010 server that has them installed. So the next chapter is on configuring and using SharePoint 2010 with sections on organising SharePoint libraries, dealing with Office documents in Sharepoint and managing SharePoint Files.
For me at least, Chapter Four, on collaborating with the Office web apps first using SkyDrive and then SharePoint was the core of the book. For both environments it starts by looking at permissions - which Paul McFedries explains in the two Tell Me More audio clips is more complicated than you might imagine and concludes in both environments by look at both sharing and co-authoring as methods of collaboration in each of the apps. The chapter also includes making documents available for viewing as RSS feeds.
The rest of the book deals with selected aspects of working with the Office web apps - and if you are an experienced user of the corresponding desktop apps there probably isn't much that will come as a surprise - at least in Chapter 5 which covers formatting, mainly of Word documents with topics including fonts and numbered lists. Similarly Chapter 6 on file-related features covers some familiar ground - saving files for example, but also some novel ideas - like downloading a snapshot of an Excel file which preserves results and formatting without the formulas.
The final four chapters cover each of the apps. In the case of Word, Excel and PowerPoint there isn't much included that doesn't also apply to the desktop versions. There's not enough for the beginner and what is covered sometimes seems a bit idiosyncratic. Personally I'm unfamiliar with OneNote and the chapter covering it wasn't enough to me get started - but did make me think it could be useful.
So the book does succeed in helping users "get comfortable with the newest way to use Microsoft Office 2010", i.e. the cloud-collaboration aproach - but there's not enough for complete beginners and the help is at too introductory a level for an experienced Office 2010 user. And while the media clips probably do add something for some users they won't appeal if what you wanted was the printed book experience.