Microsoft has announced Office 2001, and has made the new feature set available. There is new information about the upcoming and much awaited upgrade to their well-known business software suite. The following announcement from Microsoft is rather long, but full of information. There are also a series of screen shots from the forthcoming release. According to Microsoft:
Fact Sheet for June 2000
The new suite introduces new features and tools designed to simplify difficult tasks in Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2001. Office 2001 fulfills the everyday computing needs of Macintosh customers by offering unsurpassed compatibility and features, some of which appear first on the Macintosh platform.
Internal Microsoft research has shown that current applications are overly complex and features are too difficult to find, learn and use. Microsoft redesigned Office 2001 features to mirror the ways in which people use Word, Excel and PowerPoint to accomplish everyday tasks. Both new and pre-existing features are now simpler and more intuitive. Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2001 help people start and complete projects more quickly, access the right tools for projects, get more out of their information, and create brilliant presentations using rich media. The following new and improved features are the result of extensive customer research and usability testing.
Getting started and completing a project quickly can often be the most challenging part of a project. From choosing the right application for the task to creating professional-looking documents, the Project Gallery is the ideal starting point for any Office 2001 project.
Many programs today assume that people know which application should be used to complete a task. The task-based Project Gallery provides a common starting point for each of the Office 2001 applications, helping people find the right document or template to match their needs before deciding which application to use.
The new Project Gallery provides a central point where users can access new customizable templates and wizards for any of the Office applications, allowing them to easily browse document samples such as business cards, greeting cards or calendars. Projects are organized in user-friendly category folders. Once selected, category folders expand to reveal large preview icons, making it a snap to find the right document and look.
New Customizable Templates and Wizards
Because getting started and completing a project quickly is often one of the most difficult parts of completing a project, Office 2001 includes customizable templates in the Project Gallery. These templates help users to start and complete professional-looking documents such as invoices, catalogs, newsletters and journals.
Newly designed wizards make it easy to customize a template by providing the flexibility to change the theme and color to offer a truly personalized project. Once a template is chosen, the wizard walks a user through a number of common fields. As information is added to the fields in the wizard, the template is instantly populated, moving the user quickly toward completion of the project.
Using the Right Tools
Toolbars in applications are often cluttered and overly complex, making frequently used commands and features difficult to find and access. Customer feedback has highlighted the need to simplify user interfaces while providing easy and quick access to the right set of tools for completing projects. Office 2001 applications are designed to be simpler and easier to use, thereby increasing personal productivity.
The new context-sensitive Formatting Palette provides easy access to the right tools for completing projects. Common tasks are simplified, such as the formatting of text, images and documents. As a user works on different parts of a document, the context-sensitive Formatting Palette adapts and shows appropriate tools for the job. Words, tables, lists, pictures and the overall document can be edited, allowing people to work faster and more efficiently, without searching for commands on toolbars and drop-down menus.
Centralizing all formatting tools on the new palette simplifies the overall interface in applications. For example, Word 2001 now includes only a single-row toolbar by default. The formatting toolbar from Word 98 is consolidated onto the Formatting Palette, which can be moved anywhere on the screen and docked wherever a user prefers.
The popularity of digital cameras, color inkjet printers and graphics-rich Web pages has increased the demand for documents that include colorful graphics and pictures. Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2001 feature built-in tools for importing and editing images in Office 2001 documents. Users will now be able to import images into Office 2001 directly from a scanner or digital camera that supports the TWAIN interface, without having to run a separate application. Image-editing tools are available to correct and enhance pictures easily, including essential tools such as red-eye reduction, scratch removal, automatic color correction and image rotation. The new graphics capabilities of Office 2001 include powerful Picture Effects filters that, with the click of a button, change the entire look of an image. For example, the user can make a photograph look as if it were sketched in charcoal or appear as a mosaic painting.
Screen shots of Office's new features and interface.
Encarta World English Dictionary
Office 2001 applications offer new integration with Encarta World English Dictionary, allowing people to find definitions of highlighted words. Users can now define complex words without launching a separate application or looking up words in a paper dictionary.
Excel 2001 now includes a Calculator, also a first-for-the-Macintosh feature, which enables novice spreadsheet users to discover and understand the concept of formulas in cells. The intuitive calculator-like interface makes it easier for users to work with simple formulas and link to other cells or use precompiled functions to do their work.
Click and Type
Many people today create professional-looking documents using intensive formatting, yet it can be time-consuming and cumbersome to insert text, tables and graphics in an exact location on the document. Word 2001 includes Click and Type, a new feature that allows users to insert text in a document by simply double-clicking where they want to type.
Word 2001 shows users what formatting will be applied through simple cursor hinting and automatically applies the appropriate formatting, such as extra lines, tabs, alignment and text wrapping. This makes it easy to center-align titles, to create indented paragraphs, or to create a single line with text in different places. A first-for-the-Macintosh option in Word 2001 is the ability to click into the location of the header or footer and begin typing. This eliminates the need to access the header and footer from the View menu.
Excel 2001 includes an improved AutoComplete feature to help users quickly enter previously used information. When a user begins typing in an Excel 2001 cell, a drop-down menu appears with items that match the current input. Additional typing narrows the list of choices, and backspacing expands the list. Populating cells is faster because, with the click of a button, users can identify and choose from the list the previously entered information they would like to use.
Getting More Out of Information
Managing simple lists in Excel and conducting mail merges in Word are two of the most common tasks people use Microsoft Office to complete. Yet these tasks are difficult and cumbersome, because the right set of features for the tasks are hard to find and use. Excel 2001 features revolutionary List Tools for managing lists, and Word 2001 includes the Data Merge Manager, which simplifies the process for conducting a mail merge into a single, easy-to-use feature.
60 percent of user spreadsheets are simple lists, such as catalogs of CD collections, inventories and customer lists. Excel 2001 offers new List Manager to simplify the chore of managing such lists. Common problems in handling lists include sorting, filtering, formatting, printing and summarizing data.
Excel 2001 anticipates the intent to create a list and automatically offers to convert the cells into a manageable, sortable list. A common problem with using lists is that headers do not remain persistent as the list is scrolled on a monitor or when printed. Excel 2001 addresses this problem by keeping list headers at the top of the screen or page as a user scrolls through the document or prints a multiple-page list.
Other common tasks such as inserting a new column or moving a complete row are no longer difficult or frustrating. Excel 2001 List Manager merges individual cells into a row of corresponding information and offers a floating palette of List Manager tools, which provide the means for easier management of lists. A new Total Row command adds a new row at the end of a list, which provides users with the functionality to calculate such information as the sum or average of the data in a particular row without having to run a separate feature.
Data Merge Manager
One of the most difficult tasks to accomplish in Microsoft Word has been completing a mail merge, yet it is also one of the most valuable and widely used features. Word 2001 introduces the Data Merge Manager, a feature available only for the Macintosh that simplifies the process of using data to conduct a mass communication, via mail or e-mail. The mail merge concept has been completely rethought and reimplemented. The concept formerly known as Mail Merge is now called Data Merge, to reflect the shift to an easier, less complex process.
Instead of requiring users to change the way they work to conduct a mass communication, the new Data Merge Manager allows users to work as they normally would. The entire data merge process is simplified and consolidated into a single window, eliminating the complexity of the current multitude of steps. For example, a user can conduct a Data Merge between a newsletter created in Word 2001 and information for the mailing stored in Alpacas Address Book. Completing a data merge for this example can take as few as 10 mouse clicks, compared with over 50 clicks in previous versions of Microsoft Word. The Data Merge Manager also makes creating envelopes and labels in Word 2001 a snap.
Creating Brilliant Presentations
Creating brilliant, effective presentations is important, yet many people dont have the time to learn a new application or work to make projects look professional. New features such as the Tri-Pane View and AutoFit Text will help people quickly create brilliant presentations. Support for rich media in PowerPoint 2001 enables people to easily add eye-catching QuickTime Transitions between slides. And with the popularity of rich media, PowerPoint 2001 introduces PowerPoint Movies, a feature available only for the Macintosh that allows people to save and share PowerPoint presentations as QuickTime Movies.
Microsoft has received feedback from customers that they want to be able to work seamlessly with the various views in PowerPoint Macintosh Edition. In usability tests, Microsoft also has found that many novice users work in Slide view only and never find the other views. Tri-pane View allows users to combine the Slide, Outline and Notes views. One combined view of information makes it easy for users to perform tasks such as adding new slides, editing text within a slide, entering notes while creating a presentation and navigating while editing.
In PowerPoint 2001, text is automatically resized to fit into a placeholder so that it doesnt "fall off" the slide. AutoFit changes the line spacing, then the font size and then both to make the text fit. Users dont have to spend time trying to make the text fit, because it happens automatically.
PowerPoint 2001 provides support for key Apple technology such as QuickTime. Users who have QuickTime installed on their Macintosh will be able to choose from hundreds of QuickTime Transitions to make their presentation flow more smoothly.
QuickTime is the most popular multimedia format on the Macintosh because the QuickTime player is included in the Mac OS, making it the ideal vehicle for presenting rich content. The new PowerPoint Movie feature allows users to save their presentations as QuickTime Movies and share them with anyone who has the QuickTime player installed, adding both impact and ease of distribution. Anyone with the QuickTime player installed can view a PowerPoint Movie, regardless of whether they are using a Macintosh or have PowerPoint 2001.
Professional users will be able to deliver multimedia-rich slide shows with graphics, sound and exciting slide transitions to wide audiences. In addition, users can insert voice narration, background music, transitions and animations into PowerPoint Movies.
The PowerPoint Movie feature also includes the flexibility to fine-tune a presentation with options for display size, transitions, use of an MP3 file as a soundtrack, and more. PowerPoint Movies can be shared and edited between PowerPoint 2001 users, since a movie can be simply reopened in PowerPoint 2001.
No pricing information has been disclosed and Office 2001 is set to be available later during the year.
Office is the dominant computer application today. Having an advanced Mac version certainly bodes well for the platform. The downside of this release is that it is not OS X ready. Hopefully Mac users will not have a long wait before an OS X version is available. This is, however, a chance for another company to step in and establish itself in the "Office-like" market with a Carbon or Cocoa version of an Office-type application now.
Either way, it is good to see the Microsoft Mac Business Unit is once again proving that they are making the the best software with the Microsoft name on it.