POWER USER

POWER USER

John McCormick

The leading office suite rivals'Microsoft Office 2000, Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 and Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition 9.5'are all out, and WordPerfect looks as robust as Word. It even reads all .doc files.

Is there any longer a strong argument for standardizing on Office 2000? Web connectivity has become a necessity, and Microsoft Corp. promotes Office 2000 as highly Web-integrated. It is. But ironically, the Web is also Microsoft's biggest headache because sharing work and files among distant offices has become so easy.

I cannot guess how many times I have had to reply by e-mail that security concerns prevent me from opening any .doc attachment sent to me. I could work around that, but why should I accept possibly macro virus-infected files from strangers, when all they need to do is send plain ASCII text that anyone can open and read, usually without even downloading?

Maybe the senders are indifferent, ignorant of the macro threat, hiding poor content under fancy formatting or just lazy. But it is a pain in the e-mail.

Watch out

Microsoft has ignored the dangers to which Word users expose themselves by opening .doc files. In adding so many macro capabilities to Word and making it so easy to enhance with Visual Basic, Microsoft has compounded both the threat and the reality of virus attacks.

This year's worst cyberepidemics were linked to .doc files. Melissa and other macro viruses have done real damage in time and money at government and corporate offices.

When's the last time you heard of a virus epidemic spreading through WordPerfect or Lotus Word Pro files? Never, right? If you had, it was a hoax. It just hasn't happened and is unlikely to, unless Lotus Development Corp. and Corel Corp. make some design mistakes.

Yes, you can avoid .doc viruses by opening Word files in WordPad or the free Word file viewer, but why should you have to? Even with Word's security feature activated, some virus attacks can still get through. Visual Basic is such a powerful programming environment and Word macros have so many features that deflecting all attacks becomes impossible.

When I refuse to download .doc files, the senders all are able to convert their documents. I do not see why anyone would risk opening a .doc file that had traversed the Internet.

Microsoft ought to make ASCII the default export file format and keep the fancy formatting for other purposes. People are lazy and usually save in the default format, so that step alone would greatly reduce macro virus attacks.

As for general virus attacks, check www.avp.com for what may be the best antivirus software available. Antivirus programs are only as good as their latest updates, and most vendors work on a 30-day cycle. But AntiViral Toolkit Pro from Central Command Inc. of Medina, Ohio, gets daily updates.

A single-user version of the Microsoft Windows application costs $50 to download.

There's a free plug-in to catch Office 2000 viruses. A virus encyclopedia at www.avpve.com/ is useful, too.
Under the macro virus category, you will see Word Pro, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access and Word 2000 viruses but none for WordPerfect. Word alone has hundreds of viruses described.
I'm not bashing Microsoft's attitude just for fun. Microsoft Office macro virus exposure has to be a concern for any manager.

I want to make a year 2000 prediction: Wackos and other malicious types are going to set up a big virus event for the end this year. The real nut cases predict Armageddon and then work to bring it about.
Expect to see a lull in virus attacks until December because hackers are saving up all their new trash to dump on us at year's end.


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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