MS Office 95: This Suite smells of success
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1995. First
published in Our Computer Player, October 1995
Windows 95 is nice, but while it does a pretty good
job of running the
current generation of applications, it really needs new applications to
take advantage of all its improvements. It really shouldn't come as
of a surprise, therefore, that Microsoft is revamping virtually its
product line to run as native, Win95 applications.
The flagship of Microsoft's armada is the MS Office
suite-- it should
come as no surprise that MS Office 95 was released on August 24th-- the
same day as Windows 95 itself-- might as well give everyone in those
lineups something else to buy! (well-- nearly ready. The update to
the database included in the Office Professional package, isn't quite
of beta-testing yet. Instead, purchasers of the Pro package get the
2.0, with a coupon for a free upgrade when the Win95 version is ready).
In the past few years, software Suites have become big
for a majority of sales of word processors and spreadsheets, for
And despite competition from Lotus SmartSuite and Novell (formerly Word
Perfect) Perfect Office, MS Office has garnered over 70% of the suite
Where in the former DOS world, Microsoft seemed to always have the
contender in word processor and spreadsheet sales, the combination of
and suites has pushed them into a comfortable sales lead.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WINDOWS 95
Many of the improvements that Office-95 users will
like best aren't
really improvements to Office-- they are common to any programs
for Win95. Users quickly learn to enjoy long file names, for example--
something that Mac-users have appreciated for a decade. No more
to identify that "3rd Quarter 1995 Budget" word processing file. (But
automatically creates a standard DOS 8+3 file name as well, so the file
can be used on computers or with software that's not up to long
All Win95 applications must be written as 32-bit
software, rather than
the 16-bit versions standard with Windows 3.x. This doesn't
make them run faster. The 32-bit Windows NT versions of MS Word and
for example, ran slower than their 16-bit equivalents, because they
out the highly-optimized programming code of the older versions in
to be compatible with NT on a wide range of CPUs.
The newer Win95 versions of these programs, however,
do feel snappier
than the last generation. And, as 32-bit programs, Windows 95 will run
them in separate multitasked sessions-- making them harder to crash by
some other misbehaving program. These are big programs, however, and
they'll run (at least one at a time) on 8 meg machines, you might want
to consider upgrading to 16 megs if you're going to run them regularly,
especially if you need to run several at once.
Win95 allows new programs to be multi-threaded-- to
run separate processes
in the background to improve performance. The Office applications don't
make much use of multithreading, however, adding it only to printing.
A nice Win95 feature that may take getting used to is
can now highlight part of a document, and drag it to the desktop, where
the scrap can sit and wait for you to drag it into a different document
or even a different application. Use it, for instance, to drag an
from a letter, and drop it into a contact list... but like the other
only usable with Win95-compatible applications, like all of Office 95.
Similarly, right-clicking on the desktop gets you the standard Win95
menu-- choose New to simply create a new Word or Excel or Powerpoint
In fact, as with Win95 in general, right-mouse clicking is implimented
throughout Office 95.
Office 95 applications also all make use of Win 95's
you can send e-mail from any of them, or use it to share information
a network. You can also use Word to edit your Exchange e-mail. Help
in all the applications can automatically connect you to the correct
on the Microsoft Network (if you have registered for an account!)
Suites have been marketed as a bargain-- a way to get
three or four
applications for the price of two. Office continues in this tradition,
as before, bundling MS Word word processor, Excel spreadsheet, and
presentation graphics (plus the Access database in the Pro version).
Plus, a group scheduler and personal information manager that debuted
Windows for Workgroups has been moved from the core Windows package
Office. (WFWG users can get a free upgrade of Schedule + from
As well, suite marketing has claimed that purchasers
would find it easier
working with a collection of applications that were sported the same
Unfortunately, the reality has not always lived up to this-- the
found in suites may have come in a single box, but have tended to leave
more than a little to be desired in terms of working together.
Office 95 is better than previous versions in this
programmers worked on using as much common code for all of the
they share File Open and Save dialogue boxes, for example, enhancing
standard dialogues with Previews of the selected filesand integrated
While users of Word 6.0 could run AutoCorrect, now this feature
across the Office, as does a new help extension, the Answer Wizard. A
touch is the vertical scrollbars-- you can now see what page number
scrolling to. Common spell checking dictionaries, including
You can open these applications from Win95's Start
Menu, but by default,
you get the Microsoft Office Shortcut Bar, replacing the previous
anemic Microsoft Office manager (MOM). The Shortcut Bar (sorry, no cute
acronym) floats on the desktop, or can be anchored to an edge of the
and you can add any Win95 shortcut to it, by just dropping it onto the
Shortcut Bar-- making it an easy way to access any of your favorite
whether its part of Office or not. You can have multiple Shortcut
it's configurable enough that some users may find it preferable to
Start Menu for most of their computing.
In addition, Office adds a new kind of document-- a
Binder file. This
lets you combine data from any of the Office apps, or other
software into a single, notebook-like setting... as easily as dragging
them in. You can number pages, or check spelling, as if this was a
file, regardless of the source of the data... a step in the direction
working with documents that fit your data, without having to start off
with single applications. Because the Binder uses OLE 2, as you change
to a page created in a different application, you don't open that
your tool bar and menus change to fit the data. (And OLE 2 works much
smoothly in Win95 than in previous versions-- but still demands a lot
Several years ago, Microsoft promised a single, Visual
language, that would be supported across its applications. While Excel
has supported Visual Basic for Applications, Word and PowerPoint still
lack this support. Word and Excel continue to use the same file formats
with the previous versions, but PowerPoint and Access produce new,
The applications in Office95 benefit from being
designed for Windows95,
and to share the common features of Office. Otherwise, the actual
of the separate applications are not dramatically changed from the last
generation. That's not a bad thing-- Word 6.0 and Excel 5.0 were both
with features that many users still haven't had a chance to fully get
All applications in the suite now sport a '7.0'
version number-- even
though in some cases, this means jumping a few numbers (Excel 5.0 to
Access 2.0 to 7.0-- Word skipped in the previous generation, from 2.0
6.0... now it too, shares the 7.0 moniker).
Word 7, for example, builds on the previous version's
sometimes feeling like it's become Auto-everything. As before, you can
Auto-correct (now available in all the Office apps) so that when you
'teh' you get 'the'. Now you also get auto-bullets. Starting a line
"--" gets you the default bullet symbol. Start with a number, and you
a formatted numbered list. Headers auto-format. A row of dashes becomes
an instant border.
Pause in your typing, and your spelling can be
checked... this seems
to work more smoothly than a similar feature in the beta of Lotus's
Pro that I recently looked at-- there, every word typed appeared as a
until you finished typing it by pressing the spacebar... a
changing of colour.
Auto-mania also comes to Excel. AutoCorrect, again.
But also AutoComplete...
like in Quicken or MS Money, start to type in a previously-appearing
in a cell, and it fills in the rest for you. Highlight a bunch of
and the total is automatically calculated, and displayed on the bottom
of the screen.
New to Excel 7.0 is Data Mapping, a feature that
premiered on Lotus's
1-2-3, release 5. Data in a spreadsheet can be translated into a
map, as easily as into a chart. A basic set of maps is included, with
promise of more from third-party suppliers (no neighborhood map of
Another steal from Lotus SmartSuite is tighter links
between the spreadsheet
and the database program, in this case, Excel and Access. Users will
to wait for Access 7.0 to see these in action, however.
I wasn't too impressed with the Windows for Workgroups
version of Schedule,
preferring Lotus's Organize as a simple personal information manager
I haven't seen anything in the Office95 Schedule + that changes that
but if you don't currently use a PIM, it's worth a look; it is more
than the previous version. As well, it is well integrated into the rest
of Office. For example, you can pull names and addresses out of
+ into a Word letter. Oh-- it also includes a Wizard to work with that
Timex computer watch.
And I haven't looked at Powerpoint, Office's
presentation graphics program--
I'm saving it until I can compare it, head to head, with Lotus's new,
version of Freelance Graphics.
Like all of the current suites, Office 95 is a hefty
program, that can
demand a lot of ram and hard drive space. It can be installed in a
fashion, taking a 'mere' 27 megs, or can be set up to run off a CD-ROM
drive (which still asks for 30 megs of hard drive space). Microsoft
a typical installation will require about 55 megs of space-- a full
takes 89 megs. If you find yourself regularly opening Word and Excel at
the same time, perhaps to drag a spreadsheet chart into a word
document, you'll be best off with 16 megs of ram. If you get the CD
you get the bonus of Microsoft Bookshelf on the disk-- a useful
of reference tools (dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, desk encyclopedia,
Home users and some small offices running Win95 may
find their needs
better served with one of the new generation of all-in-one programs,
as Microsoft Works-95, or the soon-to-be-released Claris Works 4.0.
Even though the biggest improvements users will find
with this suite
come from Windows 95 (like long file names) rather than from the core
at the moment, this is the product of choice for business users running
Win95. Even when Lotus and Novell release their Win95 competitors, in a
few months, this will remain the one to beat.