The real Office 2007 installation guide, part 1

Starting our comprehensive series on installing Office 2007, preparation, options and aftermath.

You’ve been hearing about it for some time but Office 2007 is now a reality. It’s available for MSDN subscribers and organizations with volume licenses. Retail boxes will be available in January 2007.

You might not get Office 2007 right away and might not get it at all – which is fine. We won’t be switching all our articles to Office 2007 but that’s where most of the news and interest is at the moment.

In this issue we’ll start a comprehensive guide to preparing and installing Office 2007. Microsoft likes to push the line that installing their software is simple and easy. For the most part it is easy, but there are things that you should do to make the process easier and your computing more efficient.

Our intention in this article is to let you properly prepare for installing Office 2007. After all it’s probably the most used piece of software on your computer, aside from Windows itself – so it’s worth getting right.

We’ll give you information that Microsoft doesn’t provide ‘up front’ so that you can make a properly informed installation. Similar suggestions apply for Office 2003 and earlier versions of Office as well.

This series will spread across several issues of Office for Mere Mortals – in this issue we’ll look at the hardware needed to run Office.

$$PAGE$$

GETTING READY FOR OFFICE 2007

Microsoft lists only a ‘system requirement’ for running their software.

It’s in Microsoft’s interests to scale down the requirements down as much as possible because higher computer specs might discourage people from buying. It’s a pity they’ve stopped the practice of minimum and recommended hardware specs.

The Microsoft requirements will let Office 2007 operate but usually so slowly as to be more frustrating than useful. The situation gets worse when you use multiple programs at once (eg Word and Excel at the same time).

Microsoft specs don’t make allowance for that lumbering behemoth known as Microsoft Outlook. We like Outlook a lot but it uses up plenty of computer resources. Most people run Outlook all the time so it is gobbling up memory and processor cycles even before you start Word, Excel or Powerpoint.

Finally, the Microsoft recommendations make no allowance for other software you might run on your computer. The unspoken assumption is that you’re using Office and nothing else, which is unrealistic.

That’s why we call the Microsoft system requirements for Office ‘the bare minimum’.


THE BARE MINIMUM

This is a summary of the Microsoft’s system requirements for Office 2007. It’s mostly the same as the Office 2003 specs:


Computer and processor: 500 megahertz (MHz) processor or higher

Memory: 256 megabyte (MB) RAM or higher

Hard disk: 1.5 gigabyte (GB); a portion of this disk space will be freed after installation if the original download package is removed from the hard drive.

Display: 1024×768 or higher resolution monitor

Office 2007 will run under either Windows XP or Windows Vista.  You don’t need Vista to run Office 2007 and, frankly, we can’t see any compelling advantage to using Vista with Office.

But there are plenty of footnotes on those basic requirements.

$$PAGE$$

OUR SUGGESTED SPECS FOR OFFICE 2007

We’re reluctant to recommend hardware specifications because there is no single good answer. But here are some suggestions and discussion that you can use as a starting point for your own decisions:


COMPUTER AND PROCESSOR

At least a 1 gigahertz (1,000 MHz) processor, preferably 2 gigahertz or more.

Intel and AMD spend a lot of money to advance the view that faster processors are better – that’s true but in reality a slightly faster chip won’t make any noticeable difference. The currently fastest chips are often much more expensive than the real speed improvement you’ll get.

In Microsoft footnotes: “1 gigahertz (GHz) processor or higher and 512 MB RAM or higher recommended for Business Contact Manager” and “2 gigahertz (GHz) processor or higher and 1 GB RAM or higher recommended for OneNote Audio Search.”


MEMORY

At minimum 512 megabyte (MB) RAM but preferably 1GB plus.

What matters far more for Office than processor speed (especially using Outlook) is memory. The base memory of 512MB we see offered with many new computers is now the bare minimum that you should have. Office and Windows make good use of any extra memory to speed things up.

We feel that a bare minimum of around 750MB is the practical lower limit for using Office with Outlook and other Office apps at the same time. 1GB memory is better and anything up to 2GB is great. Past 2GB is useful but there’s diminishing productivity returns for most regular users.

In a footnote to Microsoft’s requirements are some important notes related to memory:

512 MB RAM or more is recommended for using the Instant Search feature in Outlook. Word’s Grammar and contextual spelling features won’t work at all if the machine has less than 1 GB of memory. As noted above, 512MB of RAM is the minimum for Business Contact Manager and 1GB is least workable for OneNote’s Audio Search feature.

$$PAGE$$

HARD DISK

Much of the time you spend waiting for Office or Windows is hard-disk related. You’re actually waiting for information to be read from or written to the hard drive. More memory can help alleviate the waiting (memory is used as a drive cache) but a faster hard drive is better.

Installing a new hard drive is not simple but when you’re next buying a new computer you should look for any options for faster hard drives.

Around 1.5 gigabyte (GB) is needed during the install but then Office 2007 uses about 600MB in the ” /Program Files ” folder plus another 600MB of setup files held in a hidden folder to ease repairs. A total of around 1.3GB – give or take for common use files and depending on which Office programs you install.

In these times of 40GB plus hard drives, a major program using 1.5GB or less isn’t an excessive proportion of the available space.

Keep in mind the space needed for your documents and the main Outlook storage file (PST or OST) which can grow into many gigabytes on its own.


DISPLAY

1024×768 or higher resolution monitor is good. If you have more than one Office program running at once, having more screen real estate is worth it.

The speed and memory of a video card is also important. It’s not just a question of a better picture but also improving performance. Clearly it’s better to have a video card with its own memory, rather than one which ‘borrows’ some of the main computer memory (a common shortcut on a laptop).

A video card with twin monitor support is useful for future expansion.

If you’re getting a new computer or upgrading make sure the new video card is ‘Aero’ capable. Aero is the gee-whiz graphics system available in most (but not all) incarnations of Windows Vista. Even if you’re not intending to use Vista – ‘Aero’ capability is a useful yardstick for a decent video card that will be more than adequate for Office users and give future upgrade opportunities.

In short, Aero requires: a video card with DirectX 9-class GPU that supports, a WDDM driver, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware, 32 bits per pixel and ‘Adequate graphics memory’. See here for the Microsoft specs in practice it’s best to check the manufacturers web site to see if your new video card is Aero capable.

Next week we’ll look at the preparing for Office 2007 setup and the installation itself.