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Microsoft previews InfoPath update

Microsoft is giving users a chance to test enhancements to its InfoPath XML forms manager, which it will deliver as part of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for its Office 2003 products in June.

The InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1 Preview bundles software fixes and adds a host of new features.

Microsoft will offer a beta version so that both users and software makers can prepare for the new functionality, said Bobby Moore, product manager for InfoPath at Microsoft.

InfoPath joined the Office family last October part of the Office 2003 release and is Microsoft's new XML forms manager. SP1 updates to InfoPath fall into four main areas: security, reliability, user experience and programming environment.

Microsoft has improved support for digital signatures, adding the ability to sign different parts of the form as well as cosigning, among other features.

Reliability is improved by expanding automatic and offline document-saving support, enhancing filtering to find relevant content quickly and by fixing bugs.

There is additional handwriting recognition support for Tablet PCs and the ability to work on XML forms sent via e-mail, instead of having to retrieve them from a server.

Developers using Microsoft's Visual Studio .net can now create InfoPath applications using managed code. Previously InfoPath developers were limited to using scripting.

Additionally, the update adds tools for working with ActiveX controls and complex XML schemas as well as layout controls for working with printed forms and promises easier integration into existing business process and workflows.

The InfoPath 2003 Service Pack 1 Preview is a fully functional copy of InfoPath that is set to expire on 31 July. It is available for free download in US English only from Microsoft's website at: www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D5ADC839-73F4-4299-ABA0-E88C90B25144&displaylang=en

InfoPath 2003 is available as part of Microsoft Office Professional 2003 Enterprise Edition and standalone versions available through Microsoft's volume licensing channels as well as at retail outlets for an estimated price of $199.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service


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