Should You Upgrade Microsoft Office to 2010?

This article addresses upgrading from Office 2003 or 2007 to 2010. If you are looking for my thoughts on Office 2013, you will find them here.


Whether you should upgrade your Microsoft Office software is not quite as easy a question as whether you should upgrade to Windows 7, an issue I addressed previously.

First I will make some general observations about Microsoft that impact the decision to upgrade.

General Observations

Microsoft only supports the past 2 versions of its software.  This means that Microsoft will stop supporting Office 2003 in the near future.

Microsoft also only offers backward compatibility for the past two versions of its software.  This means if your clients have Office 2007 or 2010 and send you a file, you won’t be able to read it unless the client knows to save it to be read by Office 2003.

There is supposed to be a solution to this problem a compatibility program that is easily downloaded and installed.  However, while I noticed the program worked perfectly when I open 2007 files in 2003, I haven’t had as much success opening 2010 programs in 2003.

Recently, in the middle of a faculty presentation I was running from a computer with 2003 installed I actually had to download a Powerpoint viewer for 2010 to show the Slideshow.  While I could view the presentation, I would not have been able to edit it or work with it in any way.

Upgrade From 2007?

Office 2010 is Office 2007 grown up. The main reason I hesitate to recommend the upgrade is the cost.  The main reason to upgrade is if you and/or your staff are frustrated with some of the issues that weren’t yet resolved when Office 2007 was released.

The main criticism of Office 2007 is how the concept of the Ribbon was implemented.  The Ribbon is much improved in Office 2010.  Office 2010 also offers some more robust features, greater compatibility with Web features and the like.

If you do upgrade from 2007 to 2010 the only issue you will really need to deal with is pricing.  You should provide some training for your staff but the learning curve won’t be huge.  Hardware that can run 2007 can run 2010.  The upgrade process itself is quick and easy from 2007 to 2010.

All of this said, unless your staff is really frustrated with Office 2007, I see no reason to upgrade to 2010 at this point.

Upgrade from 2003?

Generally speaking, I think everyone who has 2003 should upgrade due to the compatibility issues with clients. Also, 2007 and 2010 simply have some wonderful features that enable users to take advantage of how software and the Web have changed during the past 7 years.

However, please don’t run out and buy a new version of Office just yet. There are some important things to keep in mind before you do.

Is It Buggy?

Office 2010 is very new and some bug issues are still shaking out.  It is likely that updates from Microsoft will be somewhat common over the next year or so.  The updates are done the same way operating system updates are done.  Set the computer to automatically update and you won’t have much to worry about in this regard.


First you need to find out if Office 2010 (or 2007) is compatible with your software.

Operating System

Will your Operating System work with Office 2007 or 2010.  Both of these programs require XP, Vista or 7 with all Service Packs installed.  If you are running a network with Microsoft Server you need at least Server 2003.  If you are using Microsoft Exchange Server for Outlook you need to be running at least 2000.  If you are running a different kind of server to run Outlook you will need to check that compatibility.

Complete details for Office 2007 may be found here. Complete details for Office 2010 may be found here.


Next you need to look at your regular software. A lot of software is not yet compatible with Office 2010.  For example, when I brought PBI up to Office 2010 from Office 2003 we were using the then newest version of Acrobat, version 9.  A lot of the neat tricks available that Office 2003 and Acrobat 9 shared were lost to us.  Fortunately Acrobat 10 is available now and it works very well with Office 2010.

You must check your software first and determine if it will work with Office 2010.  You don’t want to lose some important option that is crucial for your office.

Compatibility with your hardware

In order to run Office 2007 or Office 2010 you need to make sure your computers can handle it.

Microsoft’s Website notes the following requirements for Office 2007.

  • Computer Specifications: 500-megahertz (MHz) processor (CPU) speed or higher, 256-megabyte RAM or higher, and CD or DVD-ROM drive.
    Note: For Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, you’ll need 1 gigahertz CPU speed and 512 megabytes of RAM.
  • Hard Disk: 2 gigabytes (GB) free space for installation, although some of it will be freed after installation is complete.
  • Monitor: Super VGA (800 × 600) or higher resolution monitor (1024 × 768) or higher is recommended.
  • Internet: Broadband connection of 128 kilobits per second for download and activation of products is recommended. However, it’s not required; if necessary, you can install from a DVD and activate the product by phone.
  • Miscellaneous: Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher.

Microsoft notes that any computer capable of running Office 2007 can run Office 2010.  It lists the following as requirements.

  • Computer Processor: 500 MHz or higher
  • Memory: 256 MB or higher
  • Hard Disk: 1.5 GB; a portion of the disk space will be freed after installation if the original download package is removed from the hard drive.
  • Monitor: Super VGA (800 × 600) or higher resolution monitor (1024 × 768) or higher is recommended.
  • Internet connection

Learning curve

Office 2007 and 2010 are very different from 2003. When I moved my office to 2010 people were very happy with me.  Until they started using it and realized how very different it was from 2003.  It took the staff a while to be comfortable with the differences.  Office 2007 and 2010 use something called a Ribbon across the top instead of the simple layout Office 2003 used.  While it turns out the Ribbon works very well, the learning curve is huge.

You will have to arrange for some training for you and your staff or you won’t be able to efficiently use the software.  This is where your greatest expense in terms of money and time will come into play.

Fortunately, once your staff is trained they will find Office 2010 more efficient to use than 2003.  The Ribbon, which I mentioned earlier as a negative issue in 2007 is much improved in 2010 and with the right training your Staff will actually find the organizational nature of the Ribbon helps with navigating Office 2010.

Upgrade Process

If you run a clean office in terms of keeping your Operating System up-to-date you won’t find it very difficult to upgrade to Office 2010 from 2003.  If on the other hand you haven’t kept up-to-date with installing Service Packs and other updates from Microsoft you will find the upgrade painful and long.

As a side note, If you haven’t been keeping up with your Microsoft updates this is something you need to investigate and fix right away.  Failure to keep up with the updates not only has serious implications for the upgrade to 2010, it has serious implications for the security of your computer(s) and client privacy.

Hopefully you keep your computers up-to-date in which case you should find the upgrade takes only about 5-10 minutes per computer.


As noted, if you plan to upgrade from 2003 to 2010 you will require training for your staff.  The cost can vary for this.  Do not be cheap on the training, in the end properly trained staff will be (a) a lot less frustrated with the new software, improving buy-in (b) will be able to use the software much faster, saving you money and (c) will be able to take advantage of all of the robust features of the software, saving you money.  In the end, the training cost will pay for itself through the increased efficiency of your office enabled by the improvements 2010 offers over 2003.

Office 2010 itself is expensive. Definitely look around or find someone to help you look around for the best cost.  If you simply purchase the software from any old place you will pay $500 per copy for the full professional version.  There is no reason to pay that much.  You also will want to consider if you can get by with the Home and Business version which costs $279.99 from Microsoft.  You can look at a comparison between the products and pricing from Microsoft itself here.


The upgrade from 2007 to 2010 is not necessary unless, as I mentioned, 2007 is simply driving you or your staff crazy with its less then perfect implementation of the many changes from 2003.  Generally speaking, I see no reason to spend the money.  Wait until the next version of Office comes out and consider upgrading then.

Please analyze everything I have said about a switch from Office 2003 to Office 2010.  The decision isn’t a quick and easy one.  In the end, I do recommend the switch to 2010 for the more robust tools offered in 2010 as well as ease of compatibility with your clients and colleagues. But you must explore the related issues first to make sure you won’t upset your entire office’s procedures and needs with the upgrade.

I cannot stress enough that you must offer solid training in order to upgrade from 2003 to 2010 or you will find the change disastrous.  The differences are simply too great between 2003 and 2010 for your staff to simply pick up from where they were with 2003 and do their work without good training.

Happy Upgrading!

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