Office 2003 update boosts security, Vista compatibility

SP3 release also fixes more than 450 bugs, Microsoft says

Microsoft may be successfully hawking Office 2007, but the software vendor isn't neglecting its many users who remain on Office 2003.

The company is expected to release a third service pack update for Office 2003 tomorrow, making the update available for downloading from its Web site.

In a white paper released to the media, Microsoft said that Service Pack 3 offers security improvements, better compatibility with Windows Vista and other customer-requested features while minimizing the impact on existing systems -- a major concern for IT managers worried about how an update could affect the PCs of their users.

The security enhancements in SP3, which comes two years to the month after its SP2 predecessor, include improved protection from social engineering attacks designed to steal private user data, Microsoft said. It also enables IT administrators to more finely control what types of documents users can download and open, and adds other security features that are already in Office 2007.

In addition, the update includes more than 450 fixes, many of them for minor but nagging bugs caused by incompatibility between Office 2003 and newer Microsoft products such as Vista and Internet Explorer 7. For instance, Microsoft said that Word 2003 users will now be able to copy and paste text from a Web e-mail account, such as Windows Live Hotmail or Yahoo Mail, in IE 7 without causing the word processing application to crash.

Another fix is designed to prevent the screen from flickering when users move their mouse over the tab control in the Access 2003 database.

Office 2003 users who don't go to Microsoft's site to download SP3 will be notified of the update by the software vendor's AutoUpdate feature over the next few weeks.

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