Happened to have the opportunity to get a firsthand preview of Microsoft Office 2007 -- and while I didn't get to see everything under the hood, there were a number of very useful redesigns, tweaks and improvements to Microsoft Word and Excel (didn't get to see much about Outlook and PowerPoint).
Much ado on the Microsoft site about the new Office user interface -- "The Ribbon" (below).
And it does work better for me once you begin the get the hang of it.
The traditional menus and toolbars have been replaced by the Ribbon, a new device that presents commands organized into a set of tabs. The tabs on the Ribbon display the commands that are most relevant for each of the task areas in Word 2007, PowerPoint 2007, Excel 2007 or Access 2007.
For example, Word 2007 has tabs for writing, inserting, page layout, working with references, doing mailings, and reviewing documents. In addition, Word has a number of innovations that makes working with text much easier, such as pop-up boxes to change fonts (size, type, etc.), that results in more time spent writing, rather than formattting. In addition, tabs have seemedn to replace drop-downs menus throughout.
Excel 2007 has a similar set of tabs that make sense for spreadsheet work: creating worksheets, inserting objects like charts and graphics, page layout, working with formulas, managing data, and reviewing. These tabs simplify accessing application features because they organize the commands in a way that corresponds directly to the tasks people perform in these applications.
To me, the most notable improvement in Excel was that spreadsheets can now be directly printed; the silly step of "setting the print area" has been eliminated. Also evident were a number of improvements that at least bring this ap up to date.
Latest word has availability in March 2007, but if you want to try the beta, visit the Microsoft site. A word of caution is in order: Remember this is a beta so be careful about usiing this software with any data that you can't afford to lose or have damaged.
Update: It's now released and you can get your copy of Office 2007 pretty cheaply on Amazon.