Over the next several weeks we'll be taking a closer look at each of the elements included in the Small Business Edition of Microsoft Office 2003. This includes Word, Excel, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, PowerPoint, Publisher and relevant add-on applications, such as SharePoint.
This week, we take a look at the heart and soul of Microsoft's productivity suite for small businesses the 2003 editions of Word and Excel. While these mainstay applications of offices around the world are fairly mature, Microsoft has created a few interesting new functions that caught our attention.
But why change a good thing?
Katie Jordan, Microsoft Office senior product manager, said its computing solutions are changing because small businesses are changing.
"Small businesses are facing a challenging business landscape," Jordan said. "As a result, today's small businesses are focusing on how to generate more business value and improve productivity with personal impact, effective teams, business information and process management."
With this in mind, Microsoft developed its Office 2003 Small Business Edition for companies with fewer than 50 employees and limited IT staffing. Jordan said that generally speaking, these types of small businesses complete a technology upgrade every five to eight years.
"The majority of the software these smaller businesses purchase consists of general counting applications, business productivity software and anti-virus solutions," Jordan said. "What stops these small businesses from adopting new technologies are cash flow, hidden costs of implementation, and a plain, old-fashioned desire to avoid risk. We think the Small Business Edition can overcome these barriers."
What's New in Office 2003?
The first time you launch any Office 2003 application you'll notice that the risk of unfamiliarity with the programs is nearly nil. Upon reviewing the most recent Beta release of the Microsoft Office System, we found that the user interface has been fine-tuned with glitzy new icons and a subtle splash of color, but the heart of Microsoft's business productivity application remains very familiar.
The 2003 version of Word makes it easier than ever to read documents on a computer without the need to print the document on paper. Word 2003 automatically optimizes its display for the screen size and resolution you are using on your computer. Also, a new reading layout view improves the overall reading experience.
The reading layout view (show above) allows users to view two pages at once and flip through other pages the same way that you would flip through a book. Rather than scrolling, pages are flipped one or two at a time to simulate the experience of reading a book, which reduces eyestrain by making it easier for a user's eyes to track the text.
Users can also browse a document using the new thumbnail view, which lets them jump to a particular page by clicking on an image of that page. Meanwhile, the document map displays the structure of the document similar to a table of contents. You can also highlight portions of the document and add comments without switching out of the reading layout view.
Word 2003 also provides improved features for creating foreign language documents and for using documents in a multiple language setting. Enhancements to typography result in better display of text in more languages than ever before. Word 2003 also supports more Unicode ranges and includes improved support for combining diacritics, such as Æ, ç, or ß and the like.
The mail merge function has also been updated to help you choose the correct greeting format based on the gender of the recipient if the language requires it. Mail merge can also format addresses based on the geographical region of the recipient. This is a very handy feature for in-house marketing projects.
Also new is ability to support ink devices, such as a Tablet PC. If you are using a device that supports handwritten input, you can use the tablet pen to take advantage of these functions in Word. This allows you to mark-up a document with handwritten comments and annotations, incorporate handwritten content into a Word document, and send handwritten e-mail using WordMail in Outlook.