Microsoft introduces Office upgrade

Microsoft Corp. unveiled the latest version of its Office desktop software Thursday at events staged nationwide, including one at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., that drew more than 5,000 people, among them representatives from numerous government agencies.

Office XP, like Office 2000, includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, its Access database, Outlook personal information manager and other PC products. Microsoft will continue to support Office 2000 but the company will no longer sell new licenses, Microsoft said.

Office XP comes with a number of new features, including several that government users should find particularly beneficial, according to Megan McKenna, a technology specialist at Microsoft Federal.

For example, while users work, smart tags will appear on the screen to offer AutoCorrect, AutoFormat and Paste options. The tools also can search the Internet and other databases for information related to whatever the user types in to a Word document or e-mail message.

"The Air Force is doing smart tag development today, and Lockheed Martin [Corp.] has built smart tags and has two government customers interested in using them or hiring them on as consultants," McKenna said. One Air Force smart tag looks up acronyms by simply right-clicking on the letters, she said.

Additionally, Microsoft has increased the default security and offers a custom installation wizard to help customers set up or modify settings on the software. Office XP also has new antivirus tools to help control team security settings to prevent virus attacks and avoid downtime, McKenna said.

SharePoint Team Services, meanwhile, is designed to make it easier for Office XP users to share information between applications. The software helps users who have no technical expertise set up a Web site where members of a team can upload documents, participate in discussions or add other content.

The most basic version of Office XP will sell for $239 for an upgrade to an existing version, and $479 for a new product.

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