CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Office 95 promises to bolster Microsoft's image
10/7/96

by Cathi Schuler

Microsoft. Just the name alone elicits images of a behemoth corporation that dominates every aspect of the personal computing industry. It's continued success and over-powering presence is a monument to the free enterprise system, although the Justice Department may feel differently.

Gates and Co. are once again the target of an anti-trust investigation stemming from Microsoft's practice of bundling its Internet browser software, Explorer, with the Windows 95 operating system. It's reminiscent of the investigation that threatened to delay the release of Windows 95 last year when the major online services complained that the bundled Microsoft Network represented unfair competition. When are they going to leave these poor people alone?

I suppose "poor" isn't the best choice of words. Microsoft posted a record $8.67 billion in revenues for the fiscal year 1996, a 46% increase over the $5.94 billion reported last year. Net income totaled $2.20 billion and earnings increased 48% as compared to the fiscal year 1995. Microsoft attributes increased revenues to the success of the Windows 95 operating system and the Office 95 suite of business software applications that include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.

The consumer has clearly driven this marketplace and the results are based on three simple facts: Microsoft products are efficient, easy to use and affordable. There are excellent non-Microsoft products available as well, and the buyer can choose...that's the beauty of a free-market society. But an overwhelming majority of business users have selected Microsoft Office as the business software application of choice.

The many studies and surveys that track usage and preferences seem to be borne out in the real world as well. Better than 75% of my business clientele uses some component of the MS Office suite, usually Word, Excel or both. Requests for training and classes are almost exclusively for Office products while interest in the powerful WordPerfect has waned. My textbook publisher has cutback the production of training books for all applications, citing the overwhelming nationwide demand for Office 95 textbooks and the slumping sales of other instructional manuals.

Ease of use and a consistent interface can take most the credit for the popularity of this business software package. Each application maintains a common look and feel which minimizes the learning curve between the various Office components. Once you learn the menu bar and tool bar in Word, for example, these same features in Excel and PowerPoint seem like old friends. Similar commands and dialog boxes are consistent as well for opening, closing, saving, formatting and printing files. Mouse and keyboard functions are virtually identical between applications.

Office applications can also be integrated seamlessly with one another as objects; meaning that you can embed an Excel spreadsheet into your Word document, for example. Both Excel and Word files can be incorporated into PowerPoint as well for enhanced presentations and productivity.

If you prefer, you can keep all your work in the Office Binder which acts like a notebook that holds your all your Office files together. From this venue you can open and work on your multiple Office tasks from one location and perform such valuable functions as adding footnotes, headers, and page numbering simultaneously to all Excel, Word or PowerPoint documents as if they were one file.

Currently, Office 95 is the only version available for sale, but Office 97 is due to ship by year's end and the early reviews of the beta versions have been glowing and effusive. The latest version of Office will come in three flavors: Standard, Professional and Developer Edition. Standard will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the new Outlook. This application combines SchedulePlus and the Exchange client into a single application. The Professional version adds the Access database software and the Developer Edition is designed specifically for software developers.

As you might expect this new incarnation is loaded with support for the Internet and World Wide Web in all applications. In Word, for example, if you type http://, Word assumes this is a Web page reference and will automatically add the appropriate HTML tags. Enhanced AutoFormatting is also featured, such as a grammar checker "on the fly" in addition to the current spell checker "on the fly". Excel promises all new cell formatting such as merging cells, rotating text in a cell and using the tab key to indent text.

It's hard to believe that a product which already hogs such market share can be dramatically improved, but if history is any indication, Office 97 will be the best yet. Ultimately, the consumer will decide and drive the marketplace. In the past, the buyer has voted America Online over Microsoft Network, and Netscape over Microsoft Explorer but I suspect, Microsoft Office will maintain a substantial lead in the business suite category.

Training Classes for Microsoft Office: UOP Eberhardt School of Business 8-week course beginning October 18th Call Myrna Vick for information and registration: 946-2478 Upgrade Computer Training 951-5000 New Horizons Computer Learning Center 951-8500


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cschuler@ceeprompt.com

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