Why sacrifice Office 2000 for an unknown quantity?

Office XP is being manufactured and Microsoft is already shipping a "corporate preview" version. Office users will soon have to...

Office XP is being manufactured and Microsoft is already shipping a "corporate preview" version. Office users will soon have to decide whether to upgrade or not. As usual, their conclusion will depend on what they use Office for and what they already have installed.

Jack Schofield

Opinion

There have been versions of Office where it was silly not to make the upgrade as quickly as possible. Office 95 and 97 fell into that category. Users typically spend so much time in Office that these upgrades paid for themselves very quickly.

But progress is slowing. While very nice, Office 2000 was less of an advance, and Office XP may get an even less enthusiastic response. In fact, it includes one feature that will discourage some users from switching - the copy protection system.

XP "calls home" and alarm bells will ring if the same copy of Office XP is installed on more than two PCs.

Furthermore, there is no advantage in combining the new version with Windows XP, when that finally appears. You do not need Windows 2000 to run Office 2000 and you do not need Windows XP to run Office XP, or vice versa. Office XP may share the "eXPerienced" marketing label, but it does not share the new graphical user interface, code-named Luna.

Still, people who work in groups will love it. XP makes it easy to distribute a document and consolidate different people's comments. And less frequent users will enjoy the user-friendly "smart tags" and "task panes".

When doing something in an Office application, these context-sensitive "smart tag" boxes pop up at the cursor position and offer a number of options that might otherwise involve visiting several different menus.

Smart tags are a great idea. However, they just make it easier to do things you could already do in earlier versions.

Finally there is the well-established "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" principle. Office 2000 (with the first service pack) is fast, powerful and stable.

Those are worthwhile qualities, and they are not worth giving up for what is still, at the moment, an unknown quantity.

Jack Schofield is computer editor of The Guardian

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