New version of Office due in May 2003

The next version of Microsoft Office, code-named Office 11, will be released next May, Microsoft Corp.’s Jeff Raikes, vice president of productivity and business services, announced at the PC Expo/TechXNY conference in New York.

Office product manager Nicole von Kaenel said most of the details of the desktop software won’t be available until the end of the summer, but she did point out four areas where Office will be upgraded.

The user interface in Outlook, the e-mail client software that comes with the Office suite, has been changed to split its window vertically, instead of horizontally, as it is now. That way, von Kaenel said, users can read e-mails like a sheet of paper in a frame on the right side of the window. They will also be able to set their own taxonomies for how e-mails are sorted and filed.

Office will also have better XML connectors, so users can automatically transfer data from their line of business applications such as enterprise resource planning to Office applications such as Excel. However, von Kaenel wouldn’t elaborate on how exactly Office 11 has been changed to allow for that.

She also said there would be tighter integration between Office 11 and SharePoint, but again declined to offer details except to say that it will be easier for participants in online meetings using SharePoint to track and modify documents before and after the meeting.

The final upgrade will allow users to place unstructured data, such as that from a drawing table, directly into a structured document, such as a Microsoft Word or text file.

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