The final public beta of Microsoft’s Office 2003 sits the suite firmly in the enterprise league as a complete front end system.
Long gone are the days of stand-alone apps; the suite, now termed a ‘system’ by Microsoft, widely makes use of XML to deliver new features such as the Research Task Pane, which resides in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The pane enables users to search the Internet, databases, reference information such as a thesaurus, and specially-delivered services.
Outlook’s interface has been redesigned with accessibility and easier management of e-mail in mind (See here for a screenshot). Features no longer need to be turned on to be accessed, a spam filter similar to that used by Hotmail has been added, and new ‘quickflags’ can be used to group e-mails in a follow-up folder. Worker’s Outlook calendars can be viewed side-by-side and contact information can be shared between users on a network.
Microsoft has added a customer relationship manager with the Business Contact Manager add-on for Outlook. The tool allows users to create accounts, distinguish between companies and their employees, and track all related e-mail, calendar and notes items. Handily, you can filter accounts according to activity, for example, showing all neglected contacts. Native mail merges are enabled with Word and Publisher.
One of the more exciting additions to Office 2003 is OneNote, a tool that uses a pen-and-notebook analogy to store notes (typed or handwritten — both are searchable), audio, drawings and clippings from the Internet.
In brief: Microsoft Office 2003 beta 2
[Beta software, not rated]
Slated for a mid-year release, Office 2003 Beta 2 includes some interesting improvements, particularly in Outlook, that should be of interest to most users.
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