Office 2000 includes the newest versions of its mainstay suite products, Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint as well as Microsoft Publisher. In addition, Office 2000 includes a bevy of applets for improved overall integration of applications and specifically integration with the World Wide Web, including Front Page 2000, for Web page design, and the new PhotoDraw 2000.
After reviewing Office 2000, I couldn't find any single reason for totally abandoning your current Office 97, especially if it's working well for your needs. I did, however, find many new and intriguing features, especially in Word, that will be much-appreciated by current Office users.
This upgrade for Microsoft Word is actually Word 9, if anyone's counting the upgrade versions. The front-end interface is almost identical to previous Word versions, but beneath the surface there are many improvements.
The enhanced table features alone are reason enough for seasoned Word users to upgrade to this new version. Now you can select from three types of table configurations that differ, depending on the needs of your document.
Tables now behave more like graphics and can be dragged throughout your document and set with wrapping options so that they act more like floating text boxes rather than fixed tables anchored to the document. Additionally, diagonal lines are now supported inside table cells.
The Click and Type feature is also new to Word 9. This enhancement allows you to point and double-click anywhere in your document to move the cursor directly to that location, even when you're staring at a blank document window. No longer do you have to press Enter or Tab multiple times to position the cursor in the proper location. It does take some understanding of the application, however, to manage all the non-printing characters that Word generates to enable this function.
The Open and Save dialog boxes have been completely redesigned and now utilize the Microsoft Outlook vertical-style tool bar. As such, it's a more intuitive interface that makes it easier to find recently used documents and perform file-management tasks that were previously challenging.
Unlike the problems with Office 97, Office 2000 is backward-compatible with previous software versions. This means that documents created and saved in Word 9, for example, can be opened and edited in Word 8.
Collect and Paste is another very smooth feature that's available to all applications in the Office 2000 suite. This function lets you copy up to 12 different pieces of text, graphics, e-mail messages, files or Web pages into the Clipboard and then paste them individually or collectively into any Office application.
All Office programs now sport an e-mail icon on the standard toolbar enabling you to easily electronically send a document, spreadsheet, database or presentation using Microsoft Outlook. New Web features are heavily integrated into all Office applications now that HTML is fully supported as a standard file format. Word finally does a decent job editing and saving HTML pages and even supports frames, although any heavy-duty HTML design and editing should be done with Front Page 2000. This HTML editor is fully integrated with all its Office partners and offers terrific templates, themes and styles for carefree Web page design.
PhotoDraw is also a slick Office 2000 "go with" that's light years ahead of its predecessor, Microsoft Photo Editor. Using this product, you can create art, design logos, edit clip-art images or add designer effects to your scanned photo images. This program interfaces with your existing scanner or digital camera as well.
The installation procedures for all applications have been streamlined over earlier versions and are more flexible. The "install-on-demand" function saves hard disk space by installing shortcuts only to programs and features rather than the entire suite of products. This way, you only install the applications that you use. It also cuts down on piracy, since you must retain all your original CDs in order to activate product features.
If you're interested in trying Office 2000, visit www.microsoft.com/office/ for information on the Corporate or Consumer Preview Program. Remember, this is test software that is used at your own risk. For safety, I installed Office 2000 on a second hard drive, leaving Office 97 completely intact on my primary hard drive. The various components in this preview program will expire by August. Office 2000 is tentatively scheduled for release in June.