Office 2003 gets first 'critical' update

Microsoft has issued its first "Critical Update" for Office 2003, less than a month after the software was officially launched.

The update fixes a problem that can occur when a user opens or saves a PowerPoint 2003, Word 2003 or Excel 2003 file that contains an OfficeArt element that was modified and saved in an earlier version of Office, Microsoft said in a support article posted on its website.

OfficeArt is a feature in Office that allows users to design three-dimensional effects, shadows, multi-coloured files, textures and Bezier curves.

The earlier versions of Office can make changes to an Office 2003 file with OfficeArt that cause problems when the file subsequently is used in Office 2003 applications, Microsoft said. The document may not open completely or open with missing content, or it may be corrupted, or the user may see an error message, Microsoft said.

Office 2003 went through what Microsoft called its largest beta test ever, including an unprecedented "refresh" of the second beta. The refresh further pushed back the Office 2003 release, but Microsoft said it would enhance the product's stability, making the first release comparable to a product with the first service pack installed.

"Microsoft's goal in any testing process is to identify and address all issues critical to customers and their needs." a Microsoft spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, in this circumstance, the issue was limited to such a small number of customers that it was not identified before Office 2003 was shipped."

The fix is now available for download and will shortly be available via OfficeUpdate, the automated update service for Office 2003.

The download and the support article can be found at: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=828041

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