A good year

Roll over "Office 12.0", it's now "Office 2007". To emphasise the fact that Office is now a lot more than just Word, Excel and Outlook, the official title will be: The 2007 Microsoft Office System.

If Word, Excel and Outlook are all you require, Microsoft Office Basic 2007 is the most stripped-down version of the suite. Office Standard 2007 includes PowerPoint.

For many, the Home and Student version will be a bargain - and you no longer need to be in education to qualify. As well as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, this package includes OneNote - ideal for students taking notes - but not Outlook. You're allowed to use this version at home or school, but not commercially.

There's a Small Business version that includes Publisher, Outlook and the Business Contact Manager software. If you want Access, you'll need Office Professional. Professional Plus adds InfoPath, Office Communicator and support for the Office server applications. Office Enterprise 2007 has the whole lot, including Groove.

None of the versions include FrontPage - it simply doesn't exist any more. Microsoft bundled a similar program in beta one of Office 12.0, called SharePoint Designer 2007. This name was to emphasise how good the program is for customising SharePoint sites. There was also Expression Web Designer. SharePoint Designer has many Web-editing features, but it's not clear if those will make it to the final product. The emphasis has so far been on creating SharePoint sites and using the Windows Workflow Foundation to create applications that put order to workflow.

Is the price right?

Australian pricing isn't finalised for Office 2007. Looking at US purchase costs, Office Standard is a similar price to the current version. Office Professional Plus costs five per cent more than the Office Professional Enterprise bundle it replaces - and Enterprise is 22 per cent more than Professional Enterprise.

The Student and Teacher edition of Office 2003 currently costs around $200. If the Office Home and Student 2007 package follows the same trend, it'll be cheaper than the upgrade price for the Standard version of Corel's rival program, WordPerfect Office X3.

Microsoft's published list of Office versions doesn't include the previously rumoured Office 12.0 package for Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile will include Office Communicator, however, so you'll be able to mix VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls and IM (instant messaging) to stay in touch with your office contacts.

OneNote 2007 is to incorporate OneNote Mobile, synchronising notes between phone and PC. It'll also have the ability to photograph business cards, which arrive in your notes, using OCR (optical character recognition) to convert the contact information into text. There are more details for Office Live, too, now in beta. This isn't, as you might expect from the name, online versions of Word or Excel. Instead it's a group of collaboration tools and business applications.

Shared Sites are password-protected Web sites where you can upload documents and have discussions. They're similar to SharePoint Services. The 20 marketing, HR and project-management programs are the kind of thing you could build in SharePoint Portal Server. It's a bit like a hosted SharePoint for small businesses - but without the option to build your own applications beyond the Shared Sites.

Competition time

Corel has finished the latest WordPerfect Office suite, X3, featuring a live preview of the formats we can expect to see in Office 2007. While Office 2007 will save files as PDFs, WordPerfect Office X3 can open PDFs - see Figure 1. Corel promises support for Microsoft's Office formats. This doesn't include XML formats, but Corel could bring this out as an upgrade. Word count is finally on the toolbar and the main suite gets the WordPerfect Mail PIM (personal information manager), which was previously found only in the Small Business Edition - see Figure 2.

WordPerfect Office X3 includes WordPerfect, Quattro Pro for spreadsheets, Presentations, WordPerfect Mail and Presentations Graphics in the Standard edition.

If you need a database, Paradox comes with the Professional and Student editions. Although similar to Office Home and Student 2007, these programs don't include e-mail. There's a Home edition with just Word Perfect and Quattro Pro, plus video editing, DVD burning and Norton Internet Security.

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Mary Branscomb

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