- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2001

It's not in stores yet that'llhappen at the end of May. ButMicrosoft Corp.'s new Office XPcould be a rather tremendouseXPerience, if you'll pardon thepun.

Office XP (yes, the XP doesstand for "experience") islocked down as a product; it hasbeen "released to manufactur-ing," the firm says. Microsoftannounced that Office XP willbe available in retail stores andfrom certain hardware manu-facturers on May 31. Those whowant to order a "public beta"CD that includes a 30-day triallicense of the software can do soon line at www.microsoft.com/office/trial/, paying $9.95 forshipping and handling.

The firm also announced sev-eral versions of the programwill be available at retail.Among these, two seem to bemost likely to appeal to a broadcross-section of users:

One is Microsoft Office XPStandard, which the firm says isdesigned for users requiring acore set of desktop productivitytools. It includes MicrosoftWord 2002, Microsoft Excel2002, the Microsoft Outlook2002 "messaging and collabora-tion client," (a fancy term for apersonal information manager)and the Microsoft PowerPoint2002 presentation graphics pro-gram. The company says the es-timated retail price (ERP) forversion upgrades is $239, whilethose buying a fresh copy willpay $479.

More interesting for many ofus will be "Office XP Profes-sional Special Edition." Mic-rosoft is billing this as "an in-troductory offer available for alimited time to existing Officecustomers in select worldwidegeographies." This edition in-cludes Word 2002, Excel 2002,Outlook 2002, PowerPoint 2002,Access 2002, the FrontPage2002 Web site creation andmanagement tool, SharePointTeam Services, Publisher 2002,and the new Microsoft Intelli-Mouse Explorer. The retailprice for this upgrade is $479,Microsoft says.

Either way, I believe some ofthe main features of these newprograms will be very, very en-ticing to users. I'm alreadyenough "sold" on Word 2002 tonot want to go back.

The new program looks muchlike the "old" Word, except thatit offers some subtle and notso subtle features. The"smart tags" feature can adddepth to your word processing:if you enter a date, the smarttag can be used to look up yourcalendar for that day; type aperson's name and it can lookup contact information, or gen-erate an e-mail to them. Insert astock symbol known to the Mic-rosoft Network's financial sec-tion and you can look up a stockquote or company profile.

The tags at least in myearly testing aren't yet per-fect; they couldn't find my con-tact information for love ormoney, although it worked per-fectly for three of the four othernames I tried. The tags can,however, be programmed by in-formation technology managers(and others) and can also becreated to perform custom func-tions, such as looking up infor-mation in a corporate database,or on the Web. (I'm waiting anx-iously for a smart tag that willwork with the Google Internetsearch engine, for example.Ditto for one that will look updefinitions in the on-line versionof the Merriam-Webster dictio-nary, www.m-w.com.)

Another feature sure to warmthe cockles of any writer's heart whether of college term pa-pers or of newspaper columns is the ability to place a wordcount indicator in the Wordscreen "toolbar." This isn't justfor pulp fiction aficionados whoget paid by the word; whensomeone wants a 1,500 worddocument, you don't want to de-liver 2,500 words or 1,300.The word count feature, whichis all-but-automatic, is a tre-mendous invention.

Formatting text is anotherplus: if you cut and paste textfrom a Web site and the format-ting changes, you can see, in atool bar, the combined format-ting, and you can easily selectthe format you desire. The samegoes for fonts, where selectionand application is also easy.

There is a fair amount of in-tegration in this new versionwith both collaborative tools(one e-mailing option lets yousend documents around the of-fice for review) and links to theInternet. The menus themselvesare a bit easier to handle incolor, and the memory "foot-print" of Word 2002, even withloads of features activated,doesn't seem to be too bad.

Now that's just a first-day as-sessment of Word; future col-umns will explore the new ver-sions of Excel, Outlook andFront Page, the latter beingMicrosoft's Web page editor. Fornow, it's worth a visit towww.microsoft.com/office tolearn more about this software.Me? I'm going to learn by doing.

• Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mark every Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m., Eastern time, on www.adrenaline-radio.com.

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