Office 2000: For Heavy Web Users Only

The latest version of Microsoft Corp.'s Office -- the most popular office suite in the state and local market-is all about the World Wide Web. In fact, it is tough to tell where Office 2000's Windows applications end and the Web begins.

The beta version of Office 2000, which shipped last month, is a necessary upgrade only for government users who require advanced Web capabilities. If your shop doesn't work extensively in Hypertext Markup Language and you don't need the special collaborative features implemented through Office 2000's new Web Server Extensions, you can get by without spending money and time on this upgrade. And because Word 2000 files can be opened in Word '97, administrators should consider upgrading only users who really need the Web enhancements.

HTML Support

The most significant enhancement in Office 2000 is direct support for HTML files. Word has been turned into a full-fledged HTML editor. You can open and save files in HTML or other document formats. In addition, Word supports Extensible Markup Language (XML), which lets you store data that can't be displayed in HTML, such as document summaries, so that the data is available when you reopen the document in Word. XML also supports tools for employing frames. The result is that from Word you can create HTML documents with almost the same formatting capabilities as with Word's native format, and you can save the documents locally or directly to Web sites.

Word also now offers automatic link checking during saves and a Web Preview feature that works just like Print Preview, provided you have a Web browser installed on the system. Word even supports HTML as a clipboard format for copying and pasting text.

Other Office applications also are more Web-friendly. While they don't offer the full set of HTML tools you'll find in Word, both Excel and PowerPoint open and save files in HTML format. And Word and PowerPoint offer an extensive set of "themes"-pre-formatted templates designed for attractive Web presentation. The new version of Access-included in the Professional and Premium versions of Office 2000-can be a data server for Web pages, and the program includes wizards for configuring this integration.

These enhancements mean that it's not just publishing to the Web that agencies will find easier with Office 2000. The suite also facilitates workgroup collaboration over the Web in new ways.

If you install the new Office Server Extensions on your Hypertext Transfer Protocol server, Office users can jointly view documents and carry on discussions on a page. User comments can be placed within the text or in a discussion panel at the bottom of the page. Users can participate in the discussion group by employing an Office 2000 application or a Web browser.

Users also can subscribe to documents stored on the Web server. After doing so, they will receive notification by e-mail when the document is changed or deleted.

The new version also make it easy for users to manage files on the Web server because it all can be done using Windows Explorer just as if the files were local. Users can create folders and drag and drop files into them.

Bear in mind, however, that Office's Web collaboration tools require you to use Microsoft's Internet Information Server and Internet Explorer to get full functionality.

Administration Aids

Some of the improvements in Office 2000 will appeal more to administrators than to end users. At the top of the list is a new Windows Installer, which allows the administrator to decide where each Office component will reside: on the local desktop, on a network server or on a terminal server. Administrators can even distribute applications for "Install on Demand."

With this option, icons are placed on the local desktop to show the user what applications are available but not yet installed. When selected, these applications are automatically downloaded across the network and installed.

Another nifty feature is the self-repair utility. Activated at launch time, the utility checks for missing files and missing or corrupt registry entries. If it finds any problems, the utility often can correct them without the user even knowing.

Office 2000 also makes it easier for administrators to manage roaming users, thanks to Roaming User Profiles and a new profile wizard that makes it easy to transfer custom installations to a new machine.

The final version of Office 2000 will be available to large customers during the first quarter of 1999 and to the general public during the second quarter. The Standard version of Office 2000 will include Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. A Professional version will include the major applications listed above plus Access. And the Premium version will include all of the above plus the FrontPage Web page designer and PhotoDraw, an image editing program.

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