Microsoft cleans up Office XP

Trying to give users more incentive to move over to Office XP as well as to its Windows XP operating system, Microsoft Corp. has released its first Service Pack for the desktop productivity suite that focuses on improved performance, security, and reliability.

In addition to the collection of bug fixes and features enhancements, Microsoft has also included the SharePoint Team Services site migration tool, which is intended to help users migrate SharePoint's Web-based technologies.

Some of the new security fixes are designed to close some of the holes that have allowed malicious code to run in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. The update also addresses problems dealing with Outlook's view control vulnerabilities, such as a hacker being able to manipulate someone's mail and calendar appointments.

Stability fixes to the suite address issues in PowerPoint when customers use custom bullets as well an update to Outlook that addresses the problem of users not being notified when their personal offline folders are full.

Microsoft has responded to some users' complaints about performance including e-mailing those about attached Office documents, boosting Office XP application performance when running under Windows XP, and an improved ability to publish SharePoint Team Services sites from one server to another using FrontPage. There's also the matter of including MSN Messenger with Outlook.

"We launched Office XP in May and (Windows) XP in October and now with Service Pack 1, I think this will be a key driver for organizations to really deploy both products," said Nicole Von Kaenel, a product marketing manger for Office XP. "Organizations should be more comfortable now evaluating the two together."

Going forward, Microsoft officials have said they will be looking to evolve the Smart Tag capabilities within Office XP more toward linking and delivering a variety of services-related information.

"You can see the beginnings of smart tags being used to deliver Web Services now, and you will see more in the future," Von Kaenel said.

For instance, one example of an enterprise-level, Web services solution is hooking up Office XP applications and functions with a server-based database from Oracle Corp. or Siebel Systems Inc. to deliver. Microsoft is currently working with a number of companies, including Federal Express, to implement just such solutions.

To further boost interest in Office XP, Microsoft said it will ship its Office XP Web Services toolkit sometime next month, which will help developers and corporate IT shops to more quickly discover and integrate XML Web Services into customized Office XP solutions, company officials said.

With the upcoming toolkit, for instance, developers can search for available Web services using the UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) registry. They can also more easily read descriptions of XML Web service results and all of their associated methods.

Once users have discovered an XML Web service, they can then add a reference to it with one mouse click, according to company officials.

All methods associated with XML Web service are available in Microsoft's VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) through proxy classes, which can be created with VBA classes.

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Ed Scannell

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