Microsoft wraps up Office XP

The software, which has yet to be priced, is scheduled to reach stores in the second quarter of this year. Microsoft is touting Office XP, previously code-named Office 10, as "the most significant version of Office ever released."

The software includes many features for collaborative working. The software is further integrated with the Web and services like Microsoft's own Hotmail Internet mail service and the MSN Messenger instant messaging application. Features with names like SharePoint Portal Server and Task Panes have been designed to allow users to find, share, and publish information to an Intranet or the Internet.

XP also includes Smart Tags, a feature which recognises information as it is typed in. When the start of an address is entered in Word, for example, the program would offer to add in the rest from the Outlook address book.

Work has also been done to secure user documents. Microsoft said it can "virtually assure" people that they won't lose their documents to any type of computer crash. To IT administrators Office XP is portrayed as an easy to deploy "true development platform."

Microsoft said it has made an effort to make it easy to find and use the features of Office XP. The company said its own research has shown that most customers used very little of the functionality of previous Office releases, simply because features were hidden or too complicated.

Work on the new software suite started about two years ago. The first beta was sent out to 3,000 testers in August 2000, followed by an expanded test including 10,000 users in September.

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