First Look: Microsoft’s Office 11 Beta

By Ryan Naraine

The first beta of Microsoft’s Office 11 suite for the Windows XP platform will be shipped before the end of this year, the company said in an e-mail to its testers.

“We are writing to let you know that you have been accepted into the Office 11 Individual Evaluation Program for the upcoming Office 11 beta this Fall!,” the software giant said in an e-mail sent out to testers. “You will be hearing more about the beta soon,” it added.

The Office 11 beta, a makeover for the flagship Office XP suite, is expected to target developers looking to integrate Office into other business applications and create software like collaborative environments.

Office XP is already fitted with features like customizable smart tags and XML support and the Office 11 upgrade is expected to incorporate Microsoft’s .NET Web services initiative that would let users use applications like Excel, Word and Outlook in new ways.

Not much is known about the particulars of the Office 11 beta and, predictably, the Redmond, WA-based firm has remained mum on details but developers on beta sites aren’t shying away from speculating on what Microsoft might do with the upgrade.

“I expect to see a major emphasis on XML and Web services in addition to the obvious cosmetic changes they’ll make in Word, Excel and possibly Sharepoint,” said Sean Savant, a developer based in Virginia.

Savant said the Office 11 beta is among the most eagerly-anticipated new releases from Microsoft this year because of the possibilities it promises with the advent of .NET.

Office 11 is expected to include major upgrades to the MS Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, Access, FrontPage and Sharepoint but it’s the Developer Tools section that has testers buzzing with excitement.

“I don’t want to be guessing about what they’ll put in there but, with Web services taking off, I expect them to target the developer community with improved tools, Savant added.

The Developer Tools software already offers a complete set of Office XP applications and tools like the COM Add-In Designer that lets developers build components that work across any combination of Office XP programs. Testers expect the Code Librarian (which offers sample codes) to be expanded and the drag-and-drop database that deals with storing and reuse of code modules to be jazzed up in a major way.

There is also speculation that Microsoft will improve on its customizable templates like its Code Commenter and Error Handler, which helps create error-handling code.

The news on the pending release date of the Office 11 beta comes on the heels of Microsoft’s shipping of Works 2003, which has lost ground to Corel’s WordPerfect recently.

Just last week, Corel found takers among PC makers for a new licensing program tailored-made to strike at the heart of Microsoft’s much-maligned Software Assurance program. Corel’s move came right at the time Microsoft’s customers were grumbling about a deadline to buy software and not fall under the new licensing scheme, which charges an annual fee for upgrades in the software application bought.

With the push, Corel hopes businesses owners and technology officers will look at its WordPerfect suite of applications, which provides Microsoft Office-comparable and -compatible applications.

The new licensing agreement doesn’t have volume commitments and, more importantly, doesn’t require an annual fee to upgrade. The Corel Transactional License option started Thursday, the same day Microsoft’s Software Assurance program launches.

Reprinted from

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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