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  1.    #1  
    Saw an ad today announcing the new release of MS Office. Anybody got the skinny? What's new in it? What's better about it? What's worse about it? Does it require yet another hardware upgrade for us PII users?
  2. #2  
    I was just looking into this today...

    Here's some info from the NY Times, May 3, 2001 (I don't have the URL or I would have posted that).

    State of the Art: Unearthing Office Tools Long Buried
    By DAVID POGUE

    When you buy any ordinary product, like a lawn ornament or an electric toothbrush, you own it. You can put it on your grass or bathroom sink and admire it as a symbol of how far you've come.

    But software works more like a health club membership: the initial payment is only an entry fee. After that, you're expected to pay dues forever by buying the software company's yearly upgrades.

    Microsoft has honed that business strategy to an art, piling new features onto its best sellers about every 18 months. Unfortunately, sooner or later, something that began life as a word processor now surfs the Web, crunches numbers and refinishes wood floors and you, the hapless consumer, are expected to find your way through its labyrinth of features.

    Microsoft is clearly becoming aware of this danger; its own observations suggest that the average customer winds up tapping into fewer than 20 percent of the features in Microsoft Office. On May 31, Microsoft will show the world just how hard it's been trying to unbury the other 80 percent.

    The evidence will come in the form of an upgraded software suite, Office XP (not to be confused with Windows XP, the operating system scheduled for release later this year). The chief virtue of Office XP which includes Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint isn't so much a list of new features as it is an improved arrangement of old ones. By turning over the Office garden topsoil with a trowel, the company hopes to help its customers unearth buried gems.

    For example, a helpful software gizmo called a Smart Tag appears periodically as you work. It's a little lightning-bolt icon that says, in effect, "Click me for a list of features that might come in handy right now."

    The resulting short list of commands may let you reformat material you've just pasted or get driving directions (from the Web) for an address you've just typed. In Word, Smart Tags most often offer to undo (or turn off) the program's auto-capitalization, auto-bulleting and other auto-formatting, much to the relief to anyone who has always longed to smack Word's intrusive helping hand. (And by lynch-mob demand, the factory setting for Clippy, the paper-clip Help character, is "Off" in Office XP.)

    The new Task Pane is another way to call buried options to your attention. It's a narrow window that appears from time to time at the right edge of the screen, exposing relevant controls. When you use the Find command, the Task Pane shows options for finding files on your hard drive. Other Task Panes show formatting controls or text styles in Word, slide miniatures in PowerPoint, or the 24 scraps you've most recently cut or copied from Office programs.

    But just because Office XP cleverly repackages old features doesn't mean that it offers no new ones. Only space (and my life span) prevents me from listing them all.

    Collaboration tools, for example, have taken a huge leap in Office XP. A new Send for Review command in Word, Excel and PowerPoint lets you sent a document via e- mail to several people for their feedback. When they respond, Office gathers their comments into a single document, using color-coded balloons to show you what changes each critic made to your masterpiece.

    Each program also offers a broad array of disaster-recovery features, including one that sends an error report to Microsoft via e-mail after a program crashes, presumably to help the company study what went wrong. (An even better feature would have been the elimination of crash-producing bugs in the first place, but let's not quibble.)

    Another Microsoft first in XP is speech- recognition, which lets you dictate text into any Office program. But Microsoft weirdly plays down what should be a big-ticket feature: a standard installation doesn't even include the speech feature (it has to be installed separately), and no microphone comes with the software. Maybe Microsoft is insecure about this feature's inferiority to, say, Naturally Speaking 5 from Lernout & Hauspie. Still, it's not bad for a freebie, especially if you would rather get the first draft down quickly and clean up the recognition errors later.

    According to Microsoft, Office XP also exhibits the first tender shoots of the company's vaguely defined .NET initiative, an effort to get better integration of its PC software with the Web. For example, Word can roughly translate text into another language via automated Web sites, and you can download new clip art or Smart Tags directly into Office. In other words, so far, .NET seems to stand for Not Especially Tantalizing.

    Another broad category of new features is aimed at corporations (which, Microsoft has discovered, often buy Office in huge quantities). One of the most exciting is something called SharePoint Team Services, an easy-to-use, build-it-yourself Web site for project teams to conduct discussions, exchange files and so on. Unfortunately, you don't necessarily get that feature just by buying Office XP. A private SharePoint Web site must be handled either by a corporate Windows 2000 server or, if your name doesn't end with Inc., by certain Internet service providers (whose names Microsoft hasn't yet announced). Once a SharePoint Web site is set up, however, anyone with Web access (even the XP-deprived) can connect and use its features.

    The features common to all Office programs, like Smart Tags and the Web links, are probably what you'll see advertised. But in the end, the small but important updates to the individual programs may most affect your decision on upgrading.

    For example, Word now lets you select more than one chunk of text at the same time. After using the Find feature to highlight every occurrence of a book's name, for example, you can italicize all of them with a single click. Outlook can check Hotmail and MSN accounts directly and offers color coding for calendar categories. And when you're making a PowerPoint presentation, you can attach a second monitor for your own use that reveals your notes and previews the next slide.

    So, the big question is: Should you upgrade? Pessimists may gripe that a few bugs remain, and they may complain about the activation procedure now required a ritual designed to thwart software pirates.

    Optimists, on the other hand, may point out that the new Office programs work well together and share a clean new look (including two- toned, icon-studded menus).

    To its credit, Microsoft hasn't chosen to bludgeon its customers into upgrading by introducing new file formats, as it has occasionally in the past. The last two Office versions for Windows (1997 and 2000) and Mac (1998 and 2001) can open and save XP documents without any conversion. If the new features don't appeal to you, therefore, you can soldier on with your older copy of Office without earning the disdain of your upgraded co-workers.

    The XP upgrade will mean little to people who use their computers mostly for surfing the Web, sending e-mail and typing the occasional letter to the editor. But those who work in teams, produce heavily formatted documents or spend all day staring at their Outlook screens will be rewarded by the improvements, especially if they're among the "every other version" crowd that waited out the last upgrade.

    Upgrades to Office XP cost from $240 (for Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint) to $500 (which adds Access, FrontPage, Publisher and a Microsoft mouse). You can also buy the programs individually. Most cost $110 to upgrade, or $340 if you're just off the shuttle from Alpha Centauri and have never owned a Microsoft product before.

    The only remaining question is what Microsoft will call future Office versions, having abandoned its year- based naming scheme. Building on the two-letter suffix letters probably won't work unless Microsoft wants to wind up with future products called Office YO and Office ZZ.
  3. #3  
    Just as an FYI, you shouldn't post entire article verbatim in a discussion forum. It breaks all sorts of copyright laws. In the future, you may just want to provide a link to the original article.
    We're all naked if you turn us inside out.
    -David Byrne
  4. #4  
    Originally posted by homer
    Just as an FYI, you shouldn't post entire article verbatim in a discussion forum. It breaks all sorts of copyright laws. In the future, you may just want to provide a link to the original article.
    Someone make this man a mod!
    -Joshua
    I've decided to become enigmatic.
  5. #5  
    Jazzlover,

    I purchased a new Dell that came with XP installed and for various reasons I took it off and put Office 97 back on - primarily because my company still uses mostly Office 97 still.

    You can set up XP to not use features offered since 97 came out so you can have the latest software but turn off the newer features? Smart from MS's view because they new that there are still an ton of Office 97 user's out there.

    You can't run it on Windows 95 machines that's about the only restriction.

    I wouldn't fork over the money for it if I were you but since I have an OEM copy and couldn't delete it from the new computer it was ok to keep however because of conflicts with Office 97 specifically Access 97 issues, I unistalled it and then loaded Office 97 in the primary directory and then loaded back in Word and Excel in a seperate directory with the options described above. In the two days that I have used it under this configuration I see no reason to upgrade.

    I didn't load Outlook 2002 for fear of not being able to sync my new M505 which is in the docking station charging for it's first use but I can still say don't bother.

    I have also played with Office 2000 and would recommend it first before buying XP because of some ease of use improvements over 97 but unless you are doing a lot of web design type stuff - not enough to jump. You could get some of the security improvements from MS's download page for Outlook and be just as good.

    My 2cents.
    Moose Man
    Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
    iPhone 3G, Treo 750, 680, 650, 600 and T5, T3, T, M515, M505, Vx, V, Prizm, Visor, IIIc, IIIe, Palm Pilot Professional, Palm Pilot (ok boys and girls a whopping 128k of memory - those were the days) and former Palm Beta tester.
  6. #6  
    Well, in case any one is wondering the M505 conduits will sync to Outlook 2002 which is what they call Office XP version of Outlook. Confused? well so am I.


    Jazzlover,

    Some additional information for you - the XP programs have some features that are neat but again not enough to justify the cost. Specifically in Outlook:

    Email accounts are handled slightly easier with a wizard for setup puposes but you can not import email account settings from prior versions of Outlook - you must use the wizard. That is a little backwards in my mind because one of the advantages of 98 and 2000 was the capability to export and then reimport such as if transferring settings from one computer to another.

    There are some neat tools to cleanup email or archive. They do have a multiple clipboard viewer that is kinda neat but how often will you use it?

    There is not enough reasons in my mind to justify the cost - still.
    Moose Man
    Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
    iPhone 3G, Treo 750, 680, 650, 600 and T5, T3, T, M515, M505, Vx, V, Prizm, Visor, IIIc, IIIe, Palm Pilot Professional, Palm Pilot (ok boys and girls a whopping 128k of memory - those were the days) and former Palm Beta tester.
  7.    #7  
    ...alot for the helpful posts.
    For my needs, doesn't look like there are enough improvements to warrant the $$.

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