In my review of Microsoft Office 2010 Plain & Simple, I noted that that book took a bare-bones approach, and there were other books that could give a more complete look at Office 2010 for those of us who wanted a lot more information. So—is a simplified book not what you need? Do you want a good solid easy-to-understand reference for just about everything there is to know about Microsoft Office? Microsoft Office 2010 Inside Out might be just what you're looking for.
Now, having said that I must note that this book does not try to cover every possible program that's included in every version of Office 2010. It's designed to give an in-depth look at Word, Excel, OneNote, Powerpoint, and Outlook. The programs it covers are the most commonly used, and the ones found in the versions of Office 2010 most people are likely to have—and honestly, if the book went into this level of detail about every single Office component, you'd need a forklift to pick it up. It's already over 900 pages long, with a 47-page index. This is not a complaint, mind you. The authors get a lot of explaining done in those pages, and they do it well.
Getting started, in detail
The book begins with an overview of Microsoft Office 2010, and offers special help to people who upgraded directly from Microsoft Office 2003, who will be seeing radical changes in the Office interface. One feature of this book that I (as someone who's a lot more familiar with Office 2003) really appreciated is the "Inside Out" tips that appear in their own little boxes throughout the book. These give clear explanations of why certain things work the way they do, and provide very helpful suggestions to work around software problems. The introductory chapter goes into great detail about the Ribbon, which was first introduced in Microsoft Office 2007, and which has been expanded and updated in Microsoft Office 2010. There's also an extensive look at what's included in the various versions of Office 2010, the system requirements for each, and the excellent advice that there's no simple upgrade path from one version to the next, so it's a good idea to be absolutely sure of your needs before you plunk down your money for any given version. Microsoft Office 2010 Inside Out also gives the most comprehensive description of the installation process I've ever seen. I don't think anyone will come away from reading it thinking they don't have enough information.
There's a detailed description of the options you have for customizing all the Office components, and an in-depth look at Backstage View. (Longtime Office users may recognize Backstage View as an updated version of the Transfer menu from the DOS versions of Word.) I also liked the in-depth instructions for customizing the Ribbon, including a long list of things you can and cannot do in that regard. Putting things together in a way that makes sense is one of the best steps to take in making such sophisticated software easier to understand. The rest of the introductory chapter goes into just as much detail about the commands, file manipulation and formatting that all the Microsoft Office 2010components have in common. Once you've read the first 186 pages of the book, you should have a good solid introduction to the way Office works. And yes, that's a lot of reading. But that's what this book was written for—an in-depth, comprehensive explanation of everything.
What we know, and what we don't
I think it's safe to say that most people who use Office are familiar with one or two of its component programs, and may never touch the others, or have limited experience with them. The authors' purpose in creating this book was to provide the best possible reference work for the most commonly used Office programs, and they succeeded. If you've got Microsoft Office 2010 Inside Out on hand, you need not flounder around trying to work with less familiar software--there are expert-level instructions right there in the book. As with other books of this nature, one need not read the whole thing, nor read it in any kind of order, to get maximum benefit from it. In fact, just reading that first introductory section will give most people a very firm foundation from which to use any of the components. The individual sections covering Word, Excel, OneNote, Powerpoint and Outlook are every bit as comprehensive as the introduction. Each section starts with a detailed discussion of the basic commands, formatting, document creation and so forth, moving step by step through the things most users will need to know. And each component's section ends with an "Inside Out" chapter that moves on from the basics to the more advanced tasks.These "Inside Out" chapters also explain some of the things that Microsoft has added to Office 2010, such as Building Blocks (which I think many people would refer to as "templates") and Office's web-page-creation capabilities, which even without the addition of Publisher are considerable. Each "Inside Out" section ends with the authors' favorite tweaks and tips for that Office component.
Ending on the right note
Microsoft Office 2010 Inside Out finishes up with chapters dealing with file sharing and security (and quite properly links the two together). The final section, which is called "Index to Troubleshooting Topics," takes a unique approach. Instead of repeating troubleshooting advice from previous chapters, it lists Office's components alphabetically in a table containing the most common problems and the page number on which the solution appears. I think this is an excellent way to go about it.
Now, I'd be the first to say that not everyone who uses Microsoft Office 2010 will need this book. However, if you want to go well beyond the simple basics of document creation, formatting, and printing, this book is definitely for you. It will help you get the most out of Microsoft Office 2010, familiar and less-familiar components alike. Unlike some other long software-manual type books, this one contains no wasted space. I have used Word and Excel for decades and I was astonished by how much I still did not know how to do. Thanks to this book, I'm on my way to a whole new level of expertise. It's a keeper.