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Microsoft Office 97, 2000, and XP: A Look Back

My first meaningful experience with Microsoft Office came in 1993, while I was still a diehard Amiga owner but could see that the end was in sight. Since my wife was working at a technology training company in Phoenix at the time, I was able to get an early peek at a beta version of Word 6.0 and the other applications that would make up Microsoft Office 4.0. It was a revelation to me: While Amiga word processors were numerous, none were of particularly high quality. But Word 6.0 was powerful and professional, and dramatically better than anything I'd seen on my then-current home computer. It was exciting but devastating.

I would later switch to the PC, of course, and to Windows (after a brief foray into OS/2), and with it Office. And with my deepening writing relationship with Microsoft in 1994-1995, I was let into a number of high-profile betas, including Windows 95, Plus for Windows 95, MSN, and, yes, Office 95, the first 32-bit version of Microsoft's office productivity suite. I co-authored a book about Excel 95, and contributed Microsoft Office content to other general-purpose educational titles of that era. But it wasn't until Office 2000, in 1999, that I started adding regular Office coverage to the SuperSite for Windows. (That's because the site itself didn't exist until August 1998, and didn't really expand into non-Windows topics until that year.)

The Office reviews and articles here are from this early era for the most part. The Office XP review, in particular, is a mess and is incomplete. I think I became overwhelmed by the size and scope of the suite at the time, and the review is comprised of a number of articles from the beta as well as the final version, comingled, with the beta articles updated over time. Because of the immediate nature of what I do, I have a hard time conceptualizing and completing far-off publication projects. So that review is, perhaps, the first example of me biting off more than I could chew and simply never finishing it.

As always, the newer articles are at the top.

Office XP Tips - January 3, 2002

Courtesy of Microsoft: As the dust from the holiday season settles, many people find themselves exploring the possibilities of their new Office XP systems. While we certainly expect folks to be taking full advantage of this product already, some tips and tricks directly from the software designers should be very useful. Whether allowing people to do things they didn't know were possible or making everyday tasks that much more simple and quick, we believe some useful tips and tricks will be appreciated.

Top Ten Tips for FrontPage 2002 - May 29, 2001

On June 30, 2001, Microsoft will post a massive list of tips for FrontPage 2002 to the Office XP Web site, but we've got an exclusive peek at the top ten tips from that list now. Enjoy!

Microsoft Office XP Review, Part 6: Word 2002 - March 15, 2001

As a writer, I've found Microsoft Word to be my single indispensable tool. Aside from Outlook (which I use for its email and PIM functionality), Word is the application in which I spend the most time each day, so I'm pretty serious about getting the most of its features. Since the release of Office for Windows 95, which introduced us to the curly red lines representing spelling mistakes, Microsoft has offered small but important upgrades to Word in each revision of its Office suite. Because of the amount of time I spend with Word, I've always felt compelled to upgrade to the latest version and now, with Office XP and Word 2002, this need is more obvious than it's ever been.

Microsoft Office XP Review, Part 5: New Features in Office XP - January 22, 2001

Office XP has been derided by some members of the press as a warmed-over upgrade with few new features. But this is clearly not the case: I enumerate through many of the new features here, and some of them--notably Smart tags--are actually quite compelling and innovative. For writers such as myself, Office XP is a must-have upgrade, and I suspect many people will have a hard time going back to earlier versions once they spend a few sessions with Office XP.

Microsoft Office XP Review, Part 4: Outlook 2002 - January 5, 2001

Since its humble beginnings as the weakest link in Office 97, Outlook has grown into an essential tool for millions of people, myself included. At the time of this writing, I'm averaging over 150 email messages per day, and I use Outlook's Calendar and Tasks components to keep my schedule moving; I also use Outlook Contacts as my default address book. So Outlook is, for me at least, a mission critical application.

Microsoft Office XP Review, Part 3: Overview of the Microsoft Office XP Review - December 18, 2000

One doesn't undertake a review of a new Office suite lightly. So Instead of supplying a Beta 2 review of Office XP, I'm going to write a multi-part review of Office XP, based on the most recent code available at the time. Between the time of this writing (mid-December 2000) and the final release (expected in June 2001), I'll provide the several parts to this review of Office XP.

Microsoft Office XP Review, Part 2: Introducing Microsoft Office XP - December 18, 2000

The Office product line enters an interesting gray area with this version, as Microsoft is in the opening phase of a transition to the Web-based services that will define its .NET ("dot net") strategy for the future. A massive, monolithic product, Office will not be brought forward to .NET, but will instead be retrofitted with .NET-like features

Microsoft Office XP Review, Part 1: Installation - December 18, 2000

If you meet the minimum hardware and software requirements, you can install Office XP, which now supports two licensing modes, normal and subscription. A normal installation of Office XP closely resembles the way we install Office 2000 today: You enter your product key, choose the options you want, and use Office for all eternity if you so desire. With a subscription license, however, you must enter an Office Subscription Product Key, which will activate a one-month Office subscription. After this period of time ends, you can reactivate the product and extend the subscription.

Microsoft Office 10 Preview - October 23, 2000

Office 10 Beta 1 includes a slew of new features, such as a subscription software service, voice control, and numerous simplification improvements that will help shape this release into a compelling upgrade over Office 2000. The Beta 1 package includes the client software, an Office Web Server, the Office Resource Kit, two Language Packs CDs, and a ClipArt CD.

Microsoft Office 2000 Service Release 1 (SR-1) Review - May 12, 2000

Service Release 1 (SR-1) is free to Office 2000 users and includes a number of bug fixes to the popular Office suite, including some previously available fixes. Microsoft recommends that all Office 2000 users update their systems to SR-1 and I agree; the company is even changing the retail Office products to include the SR-1 updates.

Microsoft Office 2000 Premium Edition Review - June 7, 1999

Office 2000 is a massive beast, eager to eat up as much hard drive space as you'll give it. But it's also a worthy and compelling upgrade to the previous version, Office 97, for certain users. Should you upgrade?

Microsoft Outlook 98 - November 13, 1997

After totally dropping the ball with Outlook 97, Microsoft has redeemed itself and then some with this early beta of Outlook 98. Outlook 98 Technical Beta 1 hints at the direction future Office products will take while offering a much-needed refresh to the weakest link in the Office 97 suite.

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