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Vista and Office 2007 from Microsoft 

These two groups of products have had millions of words written about them, yesterday in London they were finally launched as retail products and Bill Gates and I were among those there.

Microsoft® Office® 2007The setting was the rather new and impressive British Library. Although Office 2007 is stated to work with Windows XP the first proviso is all the new features will only work with documents opened using the new extension. Should you need backward compatibility then it can open documents using the 'doc' extension and more importantly save them in the same way but of course none of the new features will be available.

Perhaps the two most striking initial difference is that 'ribbons' replace menus and any item that you have not used for a while is still showing on the ribbon. The other is something called 'Gadgets' these sit as applets on a sidebar and come into play when required.

Turning to Vista there are maybe four versions that may be available in retail. There are others but they are mainly for vertical markets. I suspect the most likely is 'Home Premium' with a likely retail price of £185. There is a cheaper version 'Home Basic' but given any list then 'Premium' will tick around a dozen boxes while 'Basic' clicks two or three. The other versions 'Business' and 'Ultimate' click a few more but at more than £100 more than 'Premium'.

Currently the cheapest way is to purchase an OEM version with a piece of hardware and get Windows XP for around £75 and a voucher to exchange for Vista. However check which version of XP gives the version of Vista you require.

Unless you are Web developer or you wish to connect to an office network from home then 'Home Premium' should tick all the boxes. Given that it costs only a few pounds more than 'Basic' and it can do a lot more including the ability to run Aero then it's not really a decision at all.

Windows Vista - Live Thumbnails on taskbarShould you upgrade or do a fresh install? Well the fresh install will be a lot quicker and probably give less problems initially. However once you have reinstalled all your applications the saving will probably be less.

Should you upgrade at all? If you have less than 1GB of memory then No. I am told Vista may work with 512MB but it really needs at least 1GB. Perhaps the question should be will my current applications work with Vista? If not then unless you can manage without those applications the answer is again No.

The box contains two versions on separate DVD's one is 32bit and the other 64bit. Before you make a grab for the 64bit version think and then think again as I am told that the 64bit version refuses to work with any unsigned driver. This is of course designed as a security feature but signing costs money and a lot of small developers cannot afford it. So in a lot of cases you will be safer - and possible it will run faster - with the 32bit version.

Windows Vista DesktopThere are tools around to say what software will or should work. Certainly there are tools for hardware and especially for graphics cards. Currently a lot of the drivers do not work correctly and it is likely that even if you have enough RAM and a capacious hard disc you will probably need a new graphics card unless you have a recent one with special Vista drivers. Searches will be faster as almost everything will be indexed.

The Aero graphics along with improved security and a better structure are probably the most compelling reasons to upgrade. Gamers may feel that they need it but initially anyway will games work with Vista? I am told that you will need to wait around three months for specific Vista games to arrive. On the display front the system fonts are now vector and not bitmaps and that means that resizing a screen gives a far better appearance.

I will be looking to test a number of new PC's with Vista over the coming months, indeed the Vista machine adverts are starting to appear remember the manufacturers have had Vista for two months, that should be long enough to tweak their hardware so that Vista runs smoothly.

As for my tests I will - when I receive copies - firstly test the upgrade and then the clean install on a machine with 1GB of memory supported by a ReadyBoost memory stick. Look for my reviews as and when products arrive. More immediate info on both Vista and Office 2007 from www.microsoft.co.uk

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