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THE WORD ON WORD


October 1, 1999
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Earlier this year, Microsoft released a further update to its “Office” suite of programs. The core is a word processor (Word), spreadsheet (Excel), and Personal Information Management software (Outloo…

Earlier this year, Microsoft released a further update to its “Office” suite of programs. The core is a word processor (Word), spreadsheet (Excel), and Personal Information Management software (Outlook). For those who spend extra money, slide preparation software (Power Point), a database manager (Access) and various web-authoring tools are included. For full details of the various versions of Office 2000, look at http://www.microsoft.com/office/order/default.htm.

Microsoft also includes graphics editing software, tools for generating simple web pages, and an update of Internet Explorer in all versions.

I installed the Small Business Edition a couple of weeks ago, and like it. As with most software upgrades released in the past few years, there are no spectacular improvements, simply because all the features that are essential have been in the leading software for years.

One improvement that I like a lot is that it is now much smoother to paste parts of tables from Excel into Word documents. In general, the different programs in the Office suite integrate better than in past versions, but they are still not as seamlessly integrated as Microsoft suggests.

If you often work with several word processing files open simultaneously, you will like Word’s new approach of having each in separate windows. Each file appears in the Windows Taskbar separately, so you can jump from one to the other with a single click, in a manner similar to that used in Word Perfect.

WORD 2000 AND THE INTERNET

One major change is that all Word documents can be saved as HTML files, ready for posting to an Internet web site. A more widely useful aspect of this is that if you E-mail such a file, you can be fairly sure that anyone who can receive E-mail can also read and print the file. All that is required is an Internet browser like Netscape or Internet Explorer. While this feature was available in limited form in Word 98, the HTML file lost much of the Word formatting if re-opened in Word. This problem has largely disappeared, although there are some minor quirks.

More powerful software than Word is required for creating sophisticated web pages. However, with the simple facilities in Word, it is easy for documents like conference schedules to be posted to the Internet every day, thus keeping the published version as up to date as the notes in the organizer’s own computer.

INTRANETS

An Intranet is a structure for storing and displaying information in a private network, available only to authorized users, in a fashion that looks like the World Wide Web. This can be useful for keeping employees posted on everything from the Friday lunch at a nearby restaurant to the current product pricing, or forms to fill in for requisitions. Word 2000 has made Intranets easier to use with its ability to save files directly to an Intranet, and to share files that are being developed cooperatively by a team.

A Word 2000 document can be written like a web page, with hypertext links to make it easy for the reader to jump to points referenced on other pages, if he is reading on a computer.

TAKE NOTE

Documentation: If you have an “OEM” copy of Word (i.e. it came free with a computer), there is virtually no documentation. You have to rely on the help menus, which are excellent, and seem to improve with each version. However, I feel that there is still a lot to be said for buying a book on the software if you wish to become expert with it.

Revision control: As you work with a large report, you can save versions of it at various stages, and these travel with the document file. Thus, you can look back at how something was said last week, or recover a previously deleted chapter that the boss has changed his mind on yet again. The various versions have plain english titles, so it is not too hard to keep track. While Word can be configured to automatically save a version of the document each time the file is closed, this can create large files if a report is developed over several months.

Multilingual support: Microsoft has added a number of useful multilingual features. The principal one is that it can recognize the language of text, and applies the appropriate spelling checker. I can even be so lazy as to type using the English keyboard, and not bother with accents, and Word’s spell checker will fix it all up.

In the past, it was quite messy to have more than one language in one Word document, and required either ignoring the spelling and grammar checker, or playing gymnastics with the keyboard. For anglophones writing in other languages, the grammar checker is particularly useful, since it corrects errors such as failure to make adjectives agree in number and gender with the noun.


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