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Office 2004 - Software with Style

I don’t normally describe software as sexy but with Microsoft Office 2003, it’s hard to do otherwise. Yes I know, that deploying it across a business will add a string of zeros to your total cost of ownership and might even force you to mortgage your house and sell your children to Microsoft but having Office 2003 sitting smugly on your PC is rather like, well, having the benefit of an expensive Italian mistress, without the grief of being manager of the England football squad.

I’ll leave product reviews to others who have a spare lifetime to find their way around the new Office features and wax lyrical on the subject of XML and digital rights management. I mostly use Word and Outlook, sometimes PowerPoint and occasionally Excel to help me add-up numbers when I run out of fingers. If you happen to subscribe to the theory that the Personal Computer only exists as a platform for Microsoft to develop Office upon, then you have to wonder how much more functionality can be squeezed from the Intel processor before it collapses from nervous exhaustion under the weight of new features.

If you can justify the upgrade, then I think you’ll enjoy the experience, as Office 2003 is finally turning the Personal Computer into something which resembles the Apple Macintosh experience from a usability perspective. Office 2003 seems to have added something that was lacking in Microsoft software in the past and that’s style. The question is of course whether you are prepared to pay more to be stylish?

A word to the wise though and the consequence of close to an hour on the phone with Microsoft support last week. Anti-virus software is causing the company a huge headache. Alright, it’s had to be sympathetic because after all, without it we’re toast on the World Wide Web. However, as I have discovered from hard experience, products such as Norton anti-virus and those from other AV vendors, wrap themselves around the Windows Operating System like a vine. Try and install any new software with AV software loaded in the background and you are likely to come to grief.

So, before you install anything new in future, in Windows XP, run ‘MSCONFIG’ from the Start box first. Choose selective start-up and turn everything off apart from the ‘System.Ini’ file. Then go to the services tab and make sure that’ Windows Installer’ is ticked to ‘On’. You should now reboot your system and then when it’s ready again, from the Start box run ‘Temp’ and ‘%Temp%’ consecutively and delete all the temporary files that are displayed. You are now ready to install your new software, like Autoroute 2004 or Money 2004, hopefully without any problems. When the installation is finished, go back to MSCONFIG, reselect ‘Normal Startup’ and restart your system. This process may save you hours of grief in the future.

Returning then to the question of Office 2003. We have been asking for years in Computer Weekly how long Microsoft can continue to build more features into Office and when the public will simply give-up upgrading because the benefit is no longer visible or it’s too expensive. The answer it seems is that Office, like the universe will continue to expand ‘ad-infinitum’. It arrived not long after ‘The Big Bill’ and will continue to fill most of the available space in processors yet to come and in another ten years, I’ll be wondering how I coped without Office 2013 although maybe not my Italian mistress.


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