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.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Launch event

Long day at the Office 2003 launch event. Lots of Microsoft sales pitches, obviously, but well worth it. Not only are there little tidbits of information and "oh yeah I see how that works" moments that make being there worthwhile. They also feed you coffee and bagels in the morning, lunch, and all the Dr. Pepper, pretzels, popcorn and candy bars you can grab in the afternoon,and at the very end of the day they handed you a voucher for a free copy of MS Office 2003 Professional and OneNote. These are the full versions, no trialware, no feaure-limited, full freakin' versions. That's like 600-700 dollars worth of software, free just for sitting there all day and filling out the evaluation form. (Of course these kits will not be available until "Late November" and will take 4-6 weeks to reach me, but with the 120 day eval I got at the event, I should be more than covered until then!) Unfortunately, I didn't win any of the door prizes, like the Acer TabletPC, Canon Digital Camera or NEC flat panel monitors. That would have been sweet.

Most of the IT Professional track focused on InfoPath and SharePoint, both of which add some serious functionality that Office has never had. I also picked up some more info on Information Right's Management that prove that the article I pointed to yesterday is even more wrong than I thought it was before! Pure FUD, plain and simple. Here's why:

First, you need Windows server 2003 and Right's Management services runnig on it. Then you need Ofice 2003 client to create the protected document. Then, in order to use the feature, either the person you send the doc to has to have access to the RMS on the 2003 server, or you can use PassPort authentication, if you don't want to create a trust with their server. In other words, to send those sorts of documents to people outside your enterprise, it's going to be more hassle than it's worth for most people. Secondly, to view a protected document in Office you need the 2003 version, however, you can also view it in Internet Explorer with a free IE add-on for RMS, if you don't have Office 2003, and the RMS API is open, so if you want to use something else to view, write the tool yourself and you'll be able to use Linux, Mac, whatever your heart desires. (Yes there is an SDK for it, apparently) Far from being an evil MS plot to force upgrading, IRM the way it's instituted requires exactly one Windows 2003 server and one copy of Ofice 2003. (and maybe not even that, since the API is open I assume you could create your own client to create the documents, so you'd only need the server.) So much for Robertson's claims.

Overall, it was definitely worth the time, and it was even nicer to not be in the office the whole day either. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Blatant propaganda

I just read this article on about Office 2003 and can I just say, I'm really disappointed that anyone takes this man seriously. I don't have time to fisk the whole thing but here's a sample:

"Again under the umbrella of "security," Microsoft is implementing features which limit who can open and edit documents to further thwart competition. Microsoft Office 2003 gives its users the ability to control who can read and edit certain documents, but only if they use the latest Microsoft software. If one user within an office uses this feature, all others will be unable to use any other office suite to access that document. They will not be permitted to run Linux software, they will be required to purchase and run additional copies of Microsoft Office 2003. Since documents are frequently emailed around via the Internet, this will force others to accept Microsoft's software or be unable to communicate."

Um no, as you said yourself Office 2003 gives users the ability to control who can read and edit certain documents. If I work in an office that doesn't have 2003 rolled out to everyone or has someone using Linux I simply wouldn't turn on the feature. Communication is a two way street, if I'm constantly sending people documents that they can't open I seriously doubt I'm going to be running around telling everyone that they have to upgrade, I'm going to send it in a format they can actually use! Otherwise what's the point of trying to send documents? On the other hand, if I worked in a law firm or someplace that required serious security like this, it's nice to know that I can actually accomplish it by upgrading everyone to the Office 2003 platform, and not have to worry about who's forwarding emails or who doesn't understand how to open encrypted files or forgets/gives away the passwords. That's kind of nice, it's another choice. Isn't that what Lindows was supposed to be about, giving people another choice of OS? I guess giving people control over their documents and choice in how to share them is only a good thing when it's not Microsoft, right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

OneNote 2003 Trial Software

A 60-day trial version of OneNote 2003 is available. I saw this link over at Lockergnome and like the poster there, I too think it's a shame that OneNote isn't included in any of the Office packages, but only as a separate purchase.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Release press

Here's a list of recent press coverage of the new Office version put together by Todd Bishop of the Seattle PI.

Thanks to Scoble for the link..