Along with tens of thousands

by francine Hardaway on May 29, 2003

Along with tens of thousands of other people, I�m beta testing
Microsoft Office 2003. They are probably doing it because they are
Microsoft Solution Partners or something like that. Or maybe they
are CTOs and they want to know if they should upgrade to increase
their enterprise�s productivity when the software ships. I�m
it because it costs $24.95 to sample all the new products and see
whether it�s worth paying $499 to have them forever. Right now, I
have them until November 30.

First impressions: Office 2003 is prettier. It�s all blue, and
the applications seem to hang together better, or at least they appear
to because of the pretty GUI. Outlook has some new views for reading
email, and seems to work better with my spam filter, Matador, than
Outlook XP does.

I was really looking forward to installing Outlook 2003 with
Business Contact Manager, but I tried to get it to finish installing
three times, and each time I was informed that there was an error
initializing the server, and that I should check the server logs and
the error logs to see what it was. I don�t have a server. Maybe
that is the problem. Then, after the error message came the most
depressing message of all: “rolling back the action.” The program
then proceeded to uninstall itself and tell me finally “no changes
have been made. Installation failed.” Bummer. The installation,
c’est moi.

The CD Software packet of Office 2003 comes with a lot of mystery
meat: One Note 2003, Windows SharePoint Services, Microsoft
PortalServer, Windows Server, InfoPath, and Exchange Server. I
didn�t install them for the same reason I don�t cook: it�s not
necessary for a single person. Some things you just don�t need to

I was especially saddened to know that I, as a single person, could
not use the Shared Workspace feature in Microsoft Word. If I were
lucky enough to have lots of friends on my network, I could create a
shared workspace on the web with its own URL. I could invited other
people into my workspace, and let them collaborate with me on my
documents. I could assign them tasks, store documents in a private
library, create links to references needed for the document, and
receive “dynamic updates” when someone in my workspace altered my

In fact, Microsoft has now made it possible to do something that I
have never really wanted to do: create a document by committee.
Documents created by committees are never really interesting to the
reader, although they are politically fascinating for the writers,
each of whom wants to have the last word. Ah, that little rant makes
me feel better for being alone at my single computer, networked only
to my other computer in the bedroom.

I think, however, if I were still at Intel, writing press releases
that needed six levels of approval before they vanished into
oblivion (EE Times), this shared workspace thingy would be desirable.

Two other features that come with Office 2003 are Front Page and
Publisher. I am not a web designer, but I thought since I had the
chance, I would try to design a simple site in Front Page. No
chance. I have never seen a less intuitive piece of software. If I
had started from scratch with HTML code, which I don�t know, I
have been less confused. Fortunately, the simpleminded can still
create simple web sites in Publisher. And that�s because
is WYSIWYG, which Front Page is not. I tried to embed a video clip
into my home page, and it was like throwing it down a black hole. It
disappeared into a little box and was never heard from again.

Our old favorite, Powerpoint, has a few spiffy new features: it has
a rehearsal timer, and a shared workspace feature of its own. No new
slide layouts (what a shame) and no really funky new background
designs. Probably best not to fix something that is not broken
(although it�s overexposed).

I�m incompetent to talk about Excel, since I still don�t know
how to
use a spreadsheet to do anything but the most routine functions. But
I did get a laugh when I found the shared workspace function for
Excel, because I figure that makes it easier for those corporate C-
types to collaboratively cook their books.

It takes forever to install the Office 2003 Beta, and that may be
because of all theweb functionality . I suspect it takes time to
throw out all those tentacles into other people�s networks and
software. Microsoft, however, has honed this snooping to a fine art –
-and they�ve named it “collaboration.”Is there a spin doctor in

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