MS Office Beta Notes

This is a side-blog where I intend to keep all of my notes from Beta testing new versions of Office. This will keep them all in one place for future reference. I started this with Office 2003, and am bringing it back for the 2007 version. This is not an official Microsoft site, this is just the ramblings of one IT guy.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Missing option

Not a big deal, but one of the things I like in Outlook 2000 is the fact that I can have a signature but only insert it on certain messages rather than by default. For example, on internal office email, my name, title and phone number really aren't necessary, but sometimes on external ones it is, but not on all of them. I like the fact that I can choose to default to no sig and then with a quick "Insert/Signature" drop it in there. I can't find where that's an option in 2003, you either have it on or off, period. That's fewer options, not good. :)


Friday, April 25, 2003

Question for further research

Just thought of it and need to look at the idea further:

How is Rights Management in Office 2003 going to interfere with normal employee monitoring practices, if at all? Will employees be able to hide some resource usage activity by creating "protected" documents that contain, say, company sensitive information, that they, in turn, email out as an attachment that I'll be unable to open?


Thursday, April 24, 2003

Access and XML

I guess the big thing about Access 2003 is the way it works with XML. Of course our membership database doesn' t deal with XML so it's not exactly big news to me. It would be bigger news if we used SQL server or something like that where we could use the XML stuff. As is, we pretty much use .csv to get stuff in and out of Access over to that database. I'm going to have to spend much more time evaluating where XML might be of use to us.

Bigger news, to me, is the ability to open a 2000 database and not have to convert to 2003! Heck it even gives me the option to create a database and save it as a '97 or 2000 so I can still use it after the beta period expires. That's nice, although I don't know what new features will be lacking in the database if I do that.



Various other reviews

Other places doing more professional beta reviews:

Windows and .NET Mag
PCMag
Windows Supersite

Also of note:

Office Zealot's Office 2003 wiki.


Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Hotmail and spam

Turns out that the spam features do work on Hotmail, sort of. It only identified and moved the spam messages from the Inbox to the Junk Mail folder when the message itself was highlighted. But it did catch both messages that Hotmail's own anti-spam features didn't.

The other interesting thing with the hotmail, and all the other mail, is that Outlook automatically cleaned up the formatting and got rid of extra line breaks. Combined with blocking "some images or external content" (Outlook's words..), it makes all the messages very easy to read.



More Outlook

I discovered last night something that I know no version of Outlook up to 2000 did. (I don't know if XP did it.) It allows you to connect to hotmail and sync your hotmail folders the same way that Outlook Express has for years. This is probably a good thing for users and maybe a royal pain for managers everywhere, but honestly, aren't your employees going to hotmail.com anyway? This might actually take less time! The Outlook Rules don't work on those folders, since they follow the hotmail rules, and it's not exactly clear if the junk email features work or not. I'll have to do some more testing on that.

Speaking of the junk email features, there are basically 5 settings. Off, Low, High, Whitelist and Blacklist. I'm not exactly sure what the difference between low and high is, I assume it's tighter restrictions, but exactly what those restrictions are is unclear. You can also toggle between immediate deletion of junk mail and having it all dumped in the Junk Mail folder. The whitelist lets you whitelist "To" addreses as well as "From". This comes in handy when you're on a discussion mail list, you can have everything sent to the list address whitelisted no matter who sends it. The message rules are pretty similar to 2000, but it fairness I'm not sure what else you could do with rules that hasn't been available already.

Flagging a message and having Outlook remind you at a specific time about a flag is still working. The interface is easier to deal with than 2000 is. 2000 doesn't really make it clear that you can change the time from the default of "by 5:00" to something specific, it's more obvious in 2003 that you're setting an actual reminder.

By the way if you're using a Microsoft Mail Postoffice in place of an Exchange server, I don't believe you can use Outlook XP, let alone 2003. I haven't seen anything in either one that would allow you to connect to a MSMail Postoffice. If anyone knows something different I'm all ears, since that is what we currently use at work! (Yeah it's old!)



OneNote

Steven has a link to something I definitely need to hang on to, Ben Schorr's OneNote FAQ.



Outlook

The first bit of Office that I looked at was Outlook 2003. I spent a good portion of late Saturday night/Sunday morning learning about the differences and features. It took a little while to adjust to the 3 panes-across layout as opposed to the 1 pane on the left, two panes over top of each other on the right layout of 2000, but once I got used to it, I like it. The left pane looks a little busy, but the right pane allows you to see more of the message. On top of that, Outlook 2003 actually blocks HTML scripting and some images by default so it's probably safer to actually use the preview pane! :) (You can also switch back to the old view as well.)

Of course all those legit newsletters you get that use banner advertising are probably going to have to adjust and go to text ads, because all the folks using Outlook 2003 are never going to see the banner ads. (For my test I looked at Lockergnome's Windows Daily, and the banner that usually appears across the top of the message, is blocked.) That's not necessarily a bad thing..

The other new things I liked are the ability to add "search folders" which let you search for messages and then lump them all together in one folder, keeping that folder handy for when you want to go back and reference those messages again, without actually moving the messages out of whatever folder they currently exist in. You can also display messages in a folder by size, time, date, author, conversation, flag type, etc. Much more powerful than 2000, and the ability to define your own "flag" scheme also gives you many more options than 2000 does in sorting and handling your email. All good stuff, and stuff that I think will change the way some people handle their email. Of course not everyone needs or wants this much power, but it's nice to know it's an option. Options are good. :)

The sad truth is, I don't get enough email to tell how much use I would get out of some of these features. *L*

The one down side, at least on my system, is that it seems to be quite a bit slower at checking mail and downloading messages at startup than 2000 is. But that may just be the difference between systems, I have 2000 at work, 2003 at home, it's hardly an apples to apples comparison.

Anyway, back to regular work now.