Office 2003 beta 2 refresh released

Microsoft released a "refresh" of Office 2003 beta 2 to a small number of testers last Friday, a rare move by the vendor to improve the stability of the product when it is released later this year.

The "Microsoft Office System Beta 2 Technical Refresh" is being made available to 15,000 "technical" beta testers via BetaPlace, Microsoft's site for beta testers, the company said in a statement. The testers will be asked to give feedback on the improvements Microsoft made to the second beta version of the upcoming 2003 version of the applications suite, Microsoft said.

The Redmond, Washington, company plans to decide before the end of the month if and how it will offer the refresh to the hundreds of thousands testers in the Office 2003 beta 2 program, the company said.

Announced in April, the refresh resembles the first round of bug squatting Microsoft usually does after commercial release of a product. This should result in a more stable Office 2003 product when it comes out later this year, comparable to a product with the first service pack installed, Microsoft has said.

About 600,000 copies of Office 2003 beta 2 were distributed, making it one of Microsoft's largest Office beta programs. The company said it received double the amount of feedback it normally gets on an Office beta, in part helped by an automated reporting tool in the software. Office 2003 beta 2 was announced in early March.

A beta refresh is uncommon at Microsoft. Typically a second beta is followed by a version of the software that is almost ready to be commercially released. No major bugs were found in the second beta version, but some issues that could affect users were discovered, Microsoft has said. Microsoft has declined to specify those issues or what improvements have been made in the refresh.

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