Filled with features, Word closes the simplicity gap

Filled with features, Word closes the simplicity gap

Office 2000 version does more things the user's way, but learning curve and suite price tag are steep

The Clipboard feature of the Microsoft Word component of Office 2000 can cut and paste multiple items, but the word processor still loses points for overthinking.

This review is part of an occasional series about programs in the recently released major office suites: Corel WordPerfect Office 2000, Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition 9.5 and Microsoft Office 2000.

By John Breeden II

GCN Staff

The Microsoft Word component in the Office 2000 suite packs plenty of features and is a bit easier to use than previous versions.

The word processor still tries to outthink the user, but its arrogance is toned down from predecessors that practically tried to rewrite'mostly incorrectly'what the user entered.

On occasion, you still might find Word inserting an erroneous paragraph break or trying to put something in italics that you wanted in boldface, but such mistakes are rarer. As competing programs such as Corel WordPerfect 9 get more complicated, Word becomes simpler and better.

Word can now cut and paste multiple items. In the past, the Clipboard was limited to one item; you had to open the document and paste before you could continue cutting. Now you can cut multiple items and paste them into documents at your leisure.

The program finally does a good job of removing all the older components of itself during installation over an existing version. If, say, the power goes off and installation aborts partway, the system won't be totally messed up.

Box Score''''''''
Microsoft Word 2000

Word processor in

Microsoft Office 2000

Microsoft Corp.;

Redmond, Wash.;

tel. 800-285-7772

Price: $799 for Office Professional

+ Lots of new features

+ Easier to manage, but learning curve
   still high

' Costlier than competitors

Real-life requirements:
Windows 9x or NT, 200-MHz or faster
Pentium, 32M of RAM, 252M of free

Microsoft has also done a good job of revitalizing the help system. You no longer have to know Microsoft's terms to ask questions. For example, if you want to form text into a shape, the function is called Autoshape. But in the help menu, you simply type, 'How do I put text into a cloud?' The program will respond: 'To put text into a cloud ' '

The File Open window keeps track of where you have saved files and helps find them again. This is valuable for users who save files in multiple places on a desktop PC, in special folders or even to the Web.

One great new feature is automatic activation of the correct foreign dictionary for spell-checking and grammar-checking whenever you type in a foreign language. If you stop typing in English and start up in, say, Spanish, the program spots the change after a few words and does not continue to flag Spanish words as misspelled English ones. When you return to English, the reverse happens, making mixed-language documents easy to create and use.

Overthinking, however, still afflicts Word. It has gotten a bit better at letting the user find and turn off unwanted bells and whistles, but they should all have a default turnoff.

When you pull up the Options menu, the most common functions will be at the top. As soon as you use an option from the bottom of the list, it gets promoted to the top.

This helps somewhat, but the program still has a higher-than-average learning curve for a word processor. Microsoft has a ways to go, especially considering that the suite costs more than twice as much as comparable products.

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