Office suite better suited to bigger offices
by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First
published in Business in Vancouver
November 4- 10 2003 High Tech Office
are to be relied on, virtually all of you are running some version of Microsoft
Office. On October 21, the software leviathan
unleashed a new version, Office 2003, in a bewildering number of
different packages. Many users are now wondering what's lurking in the
new package for them.
Professional 2003 installed easily over top of my existing
installation, pretty much respecting the various customizations that
I'd made over time. Like the last version, it requires activation
online or by phone, and continues the practice of allowing users to
install it onto two computers: one at home, one at work, for example.
Many individual users may prefer to buy the lower-priced Student and
Teacher edition, which can be legally purchased by anyone with a
student in the family. But if you're thinking of upgrading, note that
this new version requires Windows 2000 or XP. If you use Windows 95,
98, Me, or NT4, don't even think about it.
The first thing
new users will notice is the attractive blue-shading on the menu and
tool bars. But beyond appearance, new features may seem a bit lacking.
Word offers a new 'Book View,' making it possible to view and edit two
pages side by side. There are subtle but useful improvements in
tracking changes to documents. Excel offers List functions (borrowed
from Office's Mac version), recognizing that real people often use
spreadsheets not for number-crunching, but as a quick and dirty way to
organize lists. Choose Create List and you'll find it easier to add
data, count items, average, sum and more.
Outlook is the
most changed, with a more efficient screen arrangement, the ability to
view shared calendars side by side and much-improved spam filtering.
Junk mail filtering is set to "low" by default. You may want to try it
at a more rigorous setting if you're feeling deluged with spam. (Users
of older Outlook 2000 or XP versions can get similar filtering with the
free, open-source SpamBayes, spambayes.sourceforge.net.)
applications now offer better support for users of new Tablet PCs.
The secret is
that despite the plethora of packages marketed at home and small
business users, this new version wasn't really developed for them.
Instead, this upgrade is for large enterprises, many of which will
automatically qualify for it as part of their Microsoft licences.
market, we see the evolution of the "Office System," with Office 2003
meant to integrate with a series of Microsoft server products:
SharePoint, Exchange, Live Communication Server and more. With all the
pieces in place, enterprises gain powerful tools for communicating and
organizing work. Users can create mini-Web sites for posting documents,
automatically notifying colleagues of changes, for example. XML links
can be created (by someone who knows what they're doing!) to outside
reference or content sources - translation services, stock prices, news
search. The new Office applications all contain a Shared Workspace task
pane letting users share documents, view others' shared documents or
communicate with workgroup members without needing to fire up a Web
browser or chat software.
have great potential to make users more productive, but to make it work
will require enterprises to have a vision and commitment, lock into the
full set of Microsoft products, spend time developing customized XML
data structures and train staff.
Tied in with
the Office 2003 release is a series of "Office Accelerators," focusing
on specific business tasks - sales proposals, recruiting,
quality-management, financial reports and scenarios and business
scorecards. Each package (sold separately), integrates Office
applications with products from Microsoft and third parties.
If you use
Office in a large organization, you'll probably end up with the new
version sooner or later. Time will tell whether your organization makes
good use of the new features. But if you're someone who has to pay for
his or her own software, you may not find enough new and improved in
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