Intended as a more corporate-focused version of the company's popular productivity application suite, the software was delivered to a few thousand early beta testers yesterday
David Jaffe, lead product manager for Office, said the Office 11 software was designed to include wide support for the industry standard data format XML (Extensible Markup Language).
The software would allow users to save Word or Excel files in XML. This, he said, would enable other applications to share the documents easily. Jaffe said Word and Excel would also be able to retrieve XML data from any number of sources, including the Web or a company's internal database system.
Microsoft is planning to release a software development kit that enables developers to program the task pane to pull XML data from various sources.
The move toward XML is part of a broader effort at Microsoft, embodied in its .net initiative, to allow customers to access data, services and applications from disparate computer systems on a variety of computing devices.
Microsoft unveiled its plans for Xdocs, a tool designed to allow corporate users to build forms that collect and distribute data in XML. For example, it could act as a user-facing interface for inputting data into a customer relationship management database or other back-end computer systems. Jaffe said a winder beta programme for Office 11 would be available in early 2003.