Loaded, and Dressed for Success
latest version of Microsoft's famous Office suite is positively bristling
with new and redesigned features designed to make life easier - and more
productive - than before.
Office 2000, for obvious reasons, the suite is available in several versions,
from the "entry level" Office 2000 Standard to the humongous
Office 2000 Premium. In between are Small Business and Professional versions.
differences between the Offices is the extra applications you get in the
box - or, in this case, on the CD-ROM's. The standard version gives you
"year 2000" incarnations of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
The top end Office Premium adds FrontPage, PhotoDraw, Access, Publisher,
and Small Business Tools.
even the entry level version includes powerful apps suitable for most
homes and/or offices, the deluxe Premium version (which is the one we
received) is so complete you may not need much else on your hard drive
in the way of productivity software. If Premium isn't enough, there's
also a Developer's version that's even more high end. It ups the ante
with Visual SourceSafe version control, Visual Basic, a Programmer's Guide
and more esoteric stuff like that.
the new box
retooling of Office is apparent right from the moment you start the program
setup. The interface is new - and graphically shows you the "tree
layout" of all your choices. New installation options include the
ability to omit certain components until you actually need them ("install
on first use") or to run particular Office parts from the CD-ROM.
These are designed to save you hard drive space and I really liked the
idea behind them.
using it for a while, however, I discovered that it's a real pain to keep
inserting the CD into the drive when you're trying to access a particular
feature - especially if you're playing an audio CD or otherwise using
the CD ROM drive at the time. I ended up reinstalling Office to dump almost
everything onto the hard drive (hey, what's a couple of hundred meg between
friends?) and have found it much easier to live with that way.
thoughtful inclusion actually screwed me up a couple of times until I
figured it out. It's a "miniature" version of WinFax that, on
the installation tree, is located about four branches out of the way -
so if you're not doing a custom install you'll never see it.
the installation defaults to including this app, which would be very thoughtful
if I weren't already running the full version of WinFax Pro 9. The Office
installation overwrote my WinFax install, effectively "dumbing down"
the program. So I had to reinstall WinFax to correct this.
once you've set the installation parameters (or left it to the default
ones), the process is straightforward, if slow - at least my rather massive
installation was comparatively slow.
Old, Something New
of older versions of Office will find the look and feel quite friendly,
even though there are lots of enhancements. The toolbars look familiar,
though I didn't like the way the "formatting" toolbar parked
itself to the right of the "standard" one. I'm used to it -
and prefer it - below the standard one, and this is where it used to park
itself. I don't know why Microsoft made this change, but I don't like
you can just drag it back where you want it - whether top, bottom, or
side of the window or as a floater - and it'll stay there on subsequent
startups, so this criticism is pretty minor.
really nifty thing about the new interface is its "smart" drop
down menus. They look like the old menus, except that now there appear
to be some choices missing, replaced by a pair of "down arrows"
at the bottom of the menu.
there's nothing missing. All the familiar choices are there, but the software
only shows the most often used ones; the rest are easily accessible by
holding the cursor over the "down arrows" and waiting a few
seconds - at which point the menu magically extends itself to its complete
more to it: the software pays attention to the way you work and automatically
customizes these menus to reflect your own work habits. This means that
the features you use most often are featured on the menus, with lesser-used
options hidden out of sight but quickly available via the "down arrows."
is really neat - and it's a feature that appears all over the suite, including
your "favorites" menu of Internet Explorer 5.
can also customize your toolbars more easily than before (and it was easy
before!), adding and/or removing buttons by clicking on a single "down
arrow" at the end of each toolbar. Doing this reveals all the currently
and potentially displayed buttons, allowing you to click them into or
out of existence on your toolbars. Very slick, indeed.
N Type" is a feature of Word that lets you double click anywhere
that's blank in a document (for instance, the lower right corner) and
insert text or another item directly there - without needing a bunch of
"carriage returns," tabs, or spaces to get there. This feature
only works in Web layout and Print layout views, however, but these are
the views in which you'd be most likely to need them anyway.
has also upgraded "copy and paste" to "collect and paste."
This means you can collect up to a dozen items onto your "clipboard"
and then paste them at will. I still haven't gotten used to this increased
flexibility, but it's always nice to have extra choices.
new suite has also changed the way multiple documents appear on your screen,
too. Now, each file opens in its own window, and appears separately on
the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. I still haven't decided if I
thing I really like is the font previews that now appear in the "font"
drop down menu. Finally, Microsoft lets you see how your fonts look before
you use them. This is one area in which the software giant has been playing
catch-up; it still is, too: while the preview is welcome, Corel's WordPerfect
2000 suite lets you actually preview how the font will look in the document
enhancements include the "autocomplete" feature that's now in
the "File" "Open" dialog box. As with other places
in which this feature appears, the software will offer to finish a file
name for you once you've started typing it. Word also detects the language
in which you're typing and governs itself accordingly, setting its spelling
and (ugh!) grammar checkers and other proofing tools to take that into
account. You probably won't use this a lot unless you write in various
languages (I never noticed it in action, but I only write in English -
even though some might quibble with that claim), but I suppose it can
thing that, as a writer, I did find handy is the "instant thesaurus"
feature you can access via the right mouse button. Just highlight a word
and right click, and the menu offers you a "synonyms" choice
as well as access to the program's full thesaurus. I use this all the
has new toys as well, naturally, including a "list autofill"
that automatically formats rows or columns to match the rest of the list
or table in which they're situated. There's also a "See Through Selection"
feature that, rather than using reverse video, uses light shading in selected
cells so you can better see what you're doing when making changes.
has also beefed up the Office Assistant - that damn paper clip (or other
insidious beastie) that pops up to offer help when you don't need it -
and frustrates you when you do need it. I've never liked the Office Assistant
(which, like most help systems that come with software, rarely gave the
assistance I want), and I still don't like it.
or not, the kind of Office Assistant help I need is someone standing behind
me who knows how to bail me out when I bite off more task than I can chew
for "plain language help."
has always been a piece of cake to use, and now it's even more so. There's
a new "autofit text" feature that helps you cram more words
than you thought possible into a "placeholder," automatically
resizing it to fit. Bullets also number themselves and you can use graphic
bullets as well.
also added new "autoshapes" and have enhanced the clipart gallery
to make it easier to find particular artwork by category or theme. You
can click on a piece of clipart and drag it into your document.
is a nice PIM (personal information manager) and the new version is easier
to use than before. The changes I really like are the ease with which
you can access (no pun intended) other outlook files than the default
one that parks itself in your Windows folder (and which, in my case, gets
lost every time I reformat my drive - because I never remember to back
it up!). Now, you can just open a new file and use it - though in order
to make it really efficient you have to manually remove the default shortcuts
and replace them with your new ones. This isn't a big deal, however.
"Search" feature is also better than before and you can easily
find a name (or whatever) wherever it appears in your data - though it
won't find an appointment while you're in the "contacts" view
or vice versa.
installation of Outlook doesn't seem to shut down completely when I exit
the program, and subsequently gives me an error message "unable to
update public free/busy data. Operation failed" when it tries to
save to disk periodically - even after it's supposedly shut down (but
really isn't). I don't know if this is an Outlook thing, a misconfiguration
of my Windows installation - or just the usual gremlins that seem to follow
me around - but it's a pain nevertheless.
has been retooled as well, and includes a cleaner, more accessible (pun
intended) interface. I don't use Access much (to me, its powerful database
features are like hunting mosquitoes with an elephant gun). I don't really
consider myself qualified to judge it, but I do know that the new version
offers easier design and table creation right from the main database window.
did a quick redesign of a query in about ten seconds, without having to
expend any conscious thought - which is the way it should be.
a suite like this offers a lot more than you can cover in a single review,
and please check out our individual reviews of components sold separately,
like PhotoDraw 2000, FrontPage,
been a regular user of Microsoft Office since version 4.3 and find that,
though (as with every other piece of software) it has its warts, overall
it's a wonderful product.
wish they'd do something about the huge .pst file Outlook creates (I wish
it were a simple database file you can easily import/export), but no software
Microsoft Office 2000 has enough in it that's new or improved to make
it a worthwhile upgrade if you're in the market for such - or looking
for your first fully featured Office suite.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think