This week, Microsoft lifted the veil on its upcoming release of Office for Windows (currently known as Office 10) and--for the first time--revealed details about the suite. According to Microsoft, Office 10, which will likely be called Office 2001 when it ships next spring, is a major release. The software will begin delivering on the company's Office.NET vision by integrating Web services and new and improved features that will increase productivity by providing a cleaner, simpler interface and better control.
"This is the most ambitious and significant Office product release ever," said Microsoft Office Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky. "The breadth of customer solutions we are delivering in this product exceeds any previous version of Office, and the innovations we are making will truly enhance the way people work and communicate."
Office 10 will include a .NET feature called Smart Tags that provides HTML-like hyperlinks that interoperate across Office applications. For example, Microsoft says, "If a contact's name is typed in Word, a Smart Tag will appear and offer to automatically insert the contact's address from Outlook. Or if a stock quote is typed into Microsoft Excel, a Smart Tag would appear and offer to access information about the stock from the Web." New Task Panes in all Office 10 applications (except Outlook, which features a new Digital Dashboard front-end) expose frequently used options without the need to open dialog boxes or menus. Speech technology, such as that included in the Windows.NET "Whistler" betas, will let you issue voice commands or use speech to create and edit documents.
To improve Office's reliability, Microsoft implemented numerous changes, including application and document recovery and application error handling. Office documents will be automatically recovered if a file, application, or system error occurs, so you can reopen the application and recover the document. And Microsoft says that Office 10 will be more secure, with a central security panel, advanced password encryption, and various other security-minded options.
Microsoft also is improving Office's installation, with "significant" improvements to the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard. And despite a change in the Access file format, Office 10 is completely backward-compatible with previous Office formats, so Access 10 will open older documents without the document conversion that Access 2000 required.
For more information about Office 10, read my exclusive Office 10 preview on the SuperSite for Windows