OSB Professional Liability Fund

Microsoft Office 2007 and Beyond

May 18, 2018
by Rachel Edwards

Microsoft Office is a staple for many law firms. Whether it be the use of programs like Word, Excel, or Outlook, many firms rely on Office to complete their work. As with many consumer and business products, every version of Office provides options for customer support as part of the installation. The support includes things like regular and automatic updates, customer service, and fixes for bugs or other product issues. Yet this support has a “lifecycle,” meaning support will end a certain period of time after release of the product.

Microsoft defines support as either “mainstream” or “extended.” Generally, mainstream support has an expiration period of 5 years from the date of release of the product. After mainstream support expires, support is often extended for an additional 5 years, but with various limitations on the support provided.

Microsoft Office 2007 is the most recent lifecycle to expire, with all support ending on October 10, 2017. Below is an overview of Office lifecycles for PCs since 2007:

  • Office 2007- All support ended 10/10/17;
  • Office 2010- Mainstream support ended 10/13/15; Extended support ends 10/13/20;
  • Office 2013- Mainstream support ended 4/10/18; Extended support ends 4/11/23;
  • Office 2016- Mainstream support ends 10/13/20; Extended support ends 10/14/25.
Office 2016 is the current version, but Microsoft is slated to release its newest version, Office 2019, later this year. If you use a program with an expired lifecycle, you may be putting yourself at higher risk for malpractice claims or disciplinary issues if your system is no longer supported by updates such as fixes for newly discovered cyberattacks. If you own a Mac, the lifecycle periods depend on the particular service pack offered at the time of purchase. If you are unsure about the lifecycle of your program, search Microsoft’s website.

Yet many attorneys are hesitant to upgrade for fear of having to learn a new program. The good news is that few user interface changes have been made to Office applications since 2007. The launch of Office 2007 was the last major restructuring of the user interface. For a detailed overview of the changes made in 2007, go to our website for tips on using Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Outlook 2007. Of the few user interface changes made to Office since the 2007 version, below are some of the more noticeable changes:
  • Office 2010
    • The ribbon interface is added to all Office programs, and users have more ability to control and customize what items appear on the different tabs.
    • The photo and video editing tools have been improved, such as applying artistic effects and improving quality.
    • Actions like open, save, and print are now found in a separate tab labeled ‘File’ on the ribbon interface rather than the round Office button and it is referred to as the “backstage view”.
    • Multiple users are now allowed to work on the same document without being locked out.
    • Existing documents are now opened in ‘Protected View’ in Word, allowing you to determine if the document is safe to open and edit.
    • Outlook has added an ‘Ignore’ button for removing yourself from and deleting conversation threads. Outlook has added a feature called Quick Steps which allows users to automate common or repetitive tasks when managing emails.
  • Office 2013
    • The ribbons and start screens for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook have a different color scheme. The start screens also provide more options, such as lists of recent documents and various templates.
    • Office documents saved online are now synced and allow access from multiple devices.
    • It is easier to transition back and forth between Word and PDF documents. For example, you can now open and edit a PDF file in Word without having to first save it as a Word document.
    • More options are available for inserting and editing images.
  • Office 2016
    • The Clip Art image library was removed completely. More options are now available for editing images.
    • Office applications have improved readability, such as changes to the dark color scheme making it easier on the eyes.
    • The ‘Tell me’ feature has been added to the ribbon, which acts as a search engine to help you find what you’re looking for in the application or online.
    • Real-time co-authoring has been improved, making it easier for multiple people to edit the same document. You can use the ‘Share’ button on the ribbon to save a document in the cloud and share it with others.
    • Outlook has added a list of recently worked on files when you click the ‘Attach File’ button, allowing for quicker access.
Instead of focusing its energy on user interface changes, Microsoft is changing how the product is offered, such as through a monthly subscription rather than a one-time purchase, offering more cloud-based options, and encouraging syncing and collaboration amongst multiple users and devices. For example, Microsoft launched Office 365 in June 2011, which is a subscription-based service allowing you to download programs from the internet and install them on multiple devices rather than just a local hard drive. You then receive the newest version of the program and automatic upgrades as newer versions are released. See Sheila Blackford’s InPractice article to determine if Office 365 may be the right fit for your firm.

If Office 365 doesn’t make sense for your firm, consider upgrading to Office 2016, or Office 2019 upon release later this year. Keep in mind that Office 2019 will only run on the Windows 10 operating system, so you will need to upgrade your operating system if you have an earlier version. Office 365 will run on the three most recent operating systems, Windows 7, 8, or 10. In addition to upgrading when your version’s support lifecycle expires, see below for helpful practice aids and articles regarding data security, which can be found on our website at www.osbplf.org > Practice Management > Forms:
  • Information Security Checklist for Small Businesses
  • Protecting Yourself and Your Law Firm from Data Breaches
  • How to Back Up Your Computer
  • The Case for Excess