In Beta 2, Office 2000 grows—again

Beta 2 of the mammoth Microsoft Office 2000 arrived on seven CD-ROMs. Not only has the
code expanded, Microsoft Corp. has inserted the Web programming tool FrontPage, desktop
publishing application Publisher and a new art tool, PhotoDraw. All the regulars are still
present: the Microsoft Word word processor, Excel spreadsheet, Access database, PowerPoint
presentation program and Outlook personal information manager.


Installing this colossal, confusing collection left me wondering just which components
I would end up with.


But I liked the new Office’s ability to recover accidentally deleted files. Anyone
who has ever tried to save a little space on the hard drive knows the c:\Windows directory
is loaded with .dll, .sys and other mysterious files, and the user has no way to tell
whether they’re important.


Office 2000 can tell. If you accidentally delete a needed file—even an executable
file or the program itself—Office 2000 figures it out and offers to reload the
missing file.


Office 97 users have no compelling reason to upgrade, however. The standard
applications seem the same, although the little Office Assistant has gotten out of its
box. The helpful animated icon now floats wherever you want it to.


Consider upgrading if you contribute to the Web and are not a Hypertext Markup Language
programmer. HTML, the file format for Web documents, is now native for Office. But diehard
FrontPage or Web programmers might not be happy to learn that all the suite’s apps
have the same Web authoring status as FrontPage.


For example, Excel is terrific at math calculations, but a lot of people use it only to
make text tables. When I saved a small Excel 2000 table as HTML, a lot of unneeded code
got dumped into the file along with the needed data. Excel threw in a bunch of cells well
beyond the plotting area, too, so the resulting HTML document was unnecessarily huge.


I tried to open the file in FrontPage to do some more formatting on the Web page. Guess
what? FrontPage launched Excel to edit the file.


Office 2000 makes HTML more complex than it needs to be. The Web motif shows that
Microsoft attempted to pull the suite apps a little more tightly together. But if I open
an HTML file in FrontPage, I want to use FrontPage, not Excel, to edit it.


Microsoft also has tried to simplify drop-down menus, which withhold some options in
case they aren’t needed. If you pause long enough, the rest of the options appear.


Here are some of the options and features now present in Office:


last year in Office 98, and not much has changed except for some color additions and a
few more Internet standards.


Several of these applications deserve a more complete review, which the GCN Lab will
undertake in April when Office 2000 officially premieres, without some of its current
bugs. 



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