Microsoft Office XP Professional
"Definitely A Must-Have Upgrade!"
| Type of Product | User Level | Features |
| Product Analysis | Final Comments | System Requirements |
Type of Product

Microsoft Office XP Professional Edition

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Microsoft's Office XP has been finally released and it's sporting a new look and a host of new features and improvements. For anyone who is not familiar with Microsoft Office, it's an application suite containing programs and utilities for both the home and office user, and Office XP contains the latest versions of these popular productivity software products. By combining Microsoft's programs into one unified application suite, Microsoft has created a general-purpose tool that can handle virtually all the data processing, forecasting, communication, and Web publishing activities of a modern business or organization. Each application shares common commands, dialog boxes, and procedures, so once you learn how to use one application, you'll be able to apply most of what you've learned to all the rest. There are four suites of Office XP to choose from:

  1. MS Office XP Standard--a basic package for students and teachers that contains Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint;
  2. MS Office XP Professional--contains all the standard applications plus Access;
  3. MS Office XP Professional Special Edition--same as the Professional edition plus FrontPage, Share Point Team Services, Publisher, and IntelliMouse Explorer;
  4. MS Office XP Developer--same as XP Professional plus FrontPage, SharePoint Team Services, and developer tools.

Prices: Standard is $479.00 and $239 for upgrade; Professional is $579.00 and $329.00 for upgrade; Professional Special Edition is $499.00; and Developer is $799.00 and $549.00 for upgrade. See the Microsoft Web site,, for more information.

User Level
Beginners, intermediate, and advanced computer users. Microsoft Office XP is appropriate for just about everyone from novices to experts.


New & Enhanced Features for Microsoft Office XP

Everyday Tasks:

  • Office Task Panes--The most common tasks in Microsoft Office are now organized in panes that display in place with your Office document;
  • Interface--Microsoft Office XP has a cleaner, simpler look to its interface.
  • Help--There is more convenient access to Help. Get the full power of the Answer Wizard in an unobtrusive package. When you enter a question about an Office program in the Ask a Question box on the menu bar, you can see a list of choices and read a Help topic whether you are running the Office Assistant or not.
  • Smart Tags--New in-place buttons that let you immediately adjust how information is pasted or how automatic changes occur in your Office programs. For example, when you paste text from Microsoft Word into Microsoft PowerPoint, a button appears next to the text. Click the button to see a list of choices for fine-tuning the formatting of the pasted text. Smart tags and their associated choices vary per Office program.
  • Updated Clip Organizer--Hundreds of new clips, an easy task pane interface, as well as the same abilities to organize clips and find new digital art on the Web are part of the updated Clip Organizer (formerly Clip Gallery).
  • Conceptual Diagrams--Word, Excel and PowerPoint include a new gallery of conceptual diagrams. Choose from diagrams such as Pyramid for showing the building blocks of a relationship, Radial for showing items in relation to a core element, and more.
  • Voice Commands and Dictation--In addition to mouse and keyboard methods, you can now select menu, toolbar, and dialog box items by speaking. You can also dictate text.
  • Support for Handwriting--You can use handwriting recognition to enter text into an Office document. You can write by using a handwriting input device such as a graphics tablet or a tablet-PC, or you can write using your mouse. Your natural handriting is converted to typed characters. In Word and Microsoft Outlook, you can also choose to leave text in handwritten form.
  • Improved Fidelity of Pictures and Drawings--In Office XP, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, FrontPage, and Publisher are using an improved graphics system (GDI+). With this new graphics system, shapes and WordArt have smoother outlines and adjustable levels of transparency with true blending. Digital pictures stay sharper and clearer when you resize them.
  • Accessibility--Office XP programs support Microsoft Active Accessibility 2.0. This technology makes accessibility aids, such as screen readers or screen enlargers, more effective.
  • Find Printers--If your organization uses Microsoft Windows 2000 and the Active Directory directory service, you can search for printers across your network from the Print dialog box in Office XP programs.
  • Storing Documents with Microsoft Exchange Server 2000--You can store Microsoft Office documents on Exchange Server 2000 and access them through the File Open, File New, and File Save dialog boxes, as you would any other Office document.


  • Digital Signatures--You can apply a digital signature to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to confirm that the file has not been altered.
  • Increased Protection Against Macro Viruses--Network administrators can remove Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications, the programming language of Microsoft Office, when deploying Office. This can decrease the possibility of viruses spreading via Office documents.

Web Documents and Web Sites:

  • Target Your Web Publishing Efforts--Save your Microsoft Office documents as Web pages for versions 3.0 - 6.0 of various Web browsers and give your readers the best possible viewing experience.
  • Share Your Office Documents Over the Web--From any Office program, you can save documents to Web sites on MSN. This gives you an instant collaboration space where you can share files with other people.
  • Save a Web Site as a Single File--A special Web archive file format is available in Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word. This file format lets you save all the elements of a Web site, including text and graphics, into a single file.
  • Open Office Web Pages for Editing From the Browser--Office programs recognize the HTML pages that they generate. You can open an Office document that you've saved as a Web page in the program it was created in, right from Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Language-Specific Features:

  • Improvements to Changing Language of User Interface and Help--More components across Microsoft Office support changing the language of their user interface. In addition, terms on the interface match the terms in Help, even when the main text of Help is in a different language than the interface. This feature is only available with the Office XP MUI Pack and a volume licensing agreement.
  • Hangul/Hanja Converter Improvements--Over 20,000 new characters are supported by this converter for Korean language documents. The converter automatically uses new fonts that have the proper glyphs for the new characters.
  • Full Support for Windows 2000 Language Features--Microsoft Office programs now support all the languages that Microsoft Windows 2000 does. Office also supports the latest extensions to Chinese character encoding via Unicode, including support for almost 70,000 Chinese characters.
  • East Asian Character Support on Non-East Asian Systems--Now you can enter characters from East Asian languages in all Office programs, even if your system software is a non-East Asian language version. This was previously only supported in Word and Outlook, or on Windows 2000. For example, on a computer running English (U.S.) Microsoft Windows 98, you can enter Japanese characters in Excel.

Error Prevention and Recovery:

  • Document Recovery and Safer Shutdown--Documents you are working on can be recovered if the program encounters an error or stops responding. The documents are displayed in the Document Recovery task pane the next time you open the program.
  • Office Safe Mode--Microsoft Office XP programs can detect and isolate startup problems. You can bypass the problem, run your Office program in safe mode, and keep getting your work done.
  • Office Crash Reporting Tool--Diagnostic information about program crashes can be collected and sent to your company's information technology department or to Microsoft, allowing engineers to correct these problems so they don't interrupt you again.
Product Analysis
  General Office XP Features

In this section, I will briefly discuss the general Microsoft Office XP Professional enhancements and new features. Then below, I will look at the changes and improvements for each individual Office application.

Activation--Similar to the Windows XP Operating System, there is a new activation/registration process. You must activate Office within the first 50 times you run it by calling a toll-free number or going online, then giving your product ID code. Also, you can install Office on only two machines. To do more than two installations, for instance, if you need to reinstall it on a machine that completely wipes out, you must call another 800 number to receive a code that lets you do another installation. The benefits of this registration process is a mixed bag as there are pros and cons to the feature. Security supporters think this is an excellent feature, while other users see it as a strategy from Microsoft to invade the privacy of people and monopolize the industry. I've had no problems with the activation process as yet.

New Interface-- Office XP has a new look that is streamlined and flatter to take advantage of high-color displays. Playing off the flatter look of Office controls are the new floating toolbars, which slowly fade to a neutral color when they are not being used. It certainly has a cleaner look and is easier to read. Thumbs up on this new look!

Task Panes--An important aspect of this new Office interface is Task Panes which give you easy access to your important tasks in a single integrated view. From the Task Pane, which appears on the right side of the screen, you can perform searches, open or start a new document, view the contents of the clipboard, format your documents and presentations, or even access translation and template services via the Web. Different Task Panes are associated with specific applications. Some power users have complained about the space they take up, but they are easy to minimize, close, or not appear as the default. So again, I give a thumbs up on this feature.

Smart Tags--Smart Tags are a set of buttons that are shared across the Office applications. These buttons appear when you need them (such as when you make an error in an Excel formula, when Word automatically corrects your action, or when you paste some data) and gives you the options you need to change the given action or error. Smart Tags are one of the best new options.

AutoCorrect Options Buttons (Smart Tag)--Office now gives you more control over how automatic corrections and replacements happen in Office documents. Whenever an Office application makes an automatic spelling correction, Office places an AutoCorrect Options button in your document, so that you can undo automatic actions, or select a different AutoCorrect option. This was a much needed option. It's a great time-saver.

Office Clipboard (Task Pane)--An improved clipboard enables you to copy up to 24 pieces of information at once across all the Office applications or the Web and store them on the Task Pane. The Task Pane gives you a visual representation of the copied data and a sample of the text, so you can easily distinguish between items as you transfer them other documents. Another great time-saver.

Speech Command and Control--Office now includes Microsoft's speech recognition technology, so you can speak the names of toolbar buttons, menus, and menu items in Office to complete your work without using the keyboard or mouse.

Office Collaboration Features--Office XP includes several new collaboration features that help you track, review, and merge changes made to documents, spreadsheets, and presentations shared by multiple people in a workgroup. For example, Outlook now tracks the documents you end out for review as attachments, making it easier to manage the changes that your coworkers make.

Searching for Data--Searching for files has become even more important as hard disks get larger, networks get more sophisticated, and workgroup data is spread across multiple Internet and intranet servers. Office XP has an updated search engine which lets you search your own computer, networked computers, and Outlook simultaneously, so you don't have to switch away from your document to find what you're looking for.

Reliability and Robustness--Software applications occasionally crash, even when you do everything right. Office XP has been designed to minimize the impact of crashes by employing a number of new recovery features. Save on Crash provides one-click recovery that lets you save all of your data after a crash. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook all provide a timed recovery feature that saves your document at regular intervals. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint feature a Task Pane recovery option that appears after a crash when you restart your application. If your application hangs (or remains on your screen without functioning), you can click the Windows Smart button, point to Programs and run Microsoft office Application Recovery in the Microsoft Office Tools group to stop the application.

Drawing Features--Office provides even more tools to let you integrate drawings and artwork into your projects. You can create, edit, and format organization charts in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You can create conceptual diagrams without purchasing special third-party tools. Word supports additional creative artwork options with the Drawing Canvas, which allows you to create new, complex drawings and convert your MS Draw objects.



Microsoft Word is a word processor application and desktop publishing program that you can use to create memos, reports, newsletters, mailings, and customized Web pages. Word provides you with a wealth of features that you won't find in other word processing programs. For instance it has Drawing tools that allow you to do CallOuts which are like cartoon bubbles that you an use in documentation that will allow you to bring emphasis to particular areas of your document. Word 2002 boasts quite a few enhancements.

Document Collaboration--A number of tools make it easier for business users in distributed office environments to work on shared documents. Word 2002 allows multiple users to edit a document at the same time by making copies of the document for each user and merging the documents back together. An improved Compare and Merge feature allows for the creation of a third document and better tracking of merge results. Open Document Management API compliant systems can now benefit from mail merge, insert file, comparison, and other features. Document tracking is much improved, and allows multiple edits to a document to be tracked carefully and unobtrusively. Finally, you can now use digital signatures to authenticate documents.

Everyday Tasks--A number of common everyday features in Word have been enhanced to make working with Word easier and faster. The Styles and Formatting box is greatly improved and now shows samples in a larger Task Pane window to the side. You have the option of having Word create a new document icon on the Windows taskbar for each document (the default behavior in Word 2000) or you can enable the Multi-Document Interface feature to create only one master icon on the taskbar--the default in Word 97. You can now select multiple areas in a document by holding down the Ctrl key, and the Find and Replace dialog box has been improved and made more consistent with Microsoft Excel. Bulleted lists and numbered lists are easier to create and modify. Tables can be copied via drag and drop. Footnotes, proofing tools, AutoComplete, and WordCount features have been extended and enhanced. Mail merge has been streamlined via a new Mail Merge Wizard. These are all practical and useful improvements.

Drawing Canvas--Word includes a new feature called the Drawing Canvas that lets you create a drawing area, or canvas, within which all objects have an absolute position. Within the canvas, you can use smart connectors in OfficeArt to keep shapes together when one connected shape is moved around the canvas.

Format Checker--With the Format Checker tool, you can now inspect what formatting commands created a particular formatting effect that is visible in a document, demystifying previously hidden formatting in a document. This is a much needed improvement, especially for users of WordPerfect who are used to the Reveal Codes in that program, and missed them in Word.

Fundamental Tasks--Fundamental tasks have been enhanced to increase productivity and reliability. For printing, Word now supports Print Zoom in landscape layout, and supports folios, booklet, and pamphlet formats. Improvements have been made to Word's capability as an HTML editor. In terms of accessibility and support for disabled persons, Word now supports the Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) 2.0 standard as well as Federal Accessibility laws. Power management is better in Word. Document Recovery has been significantly improved in Word and other Office applications.

International Improvements--AutoCorrect works better in international environments. Unicode support has been extended to editing and typing in multiple languages, opening and pasting HTML documents, and font application. You can translate foreign words by selecting and right-clicking them. To translate longer pieces, you can also connect to translation services on the Web. International characters can also now be used more readily in bulleted and numbered lists.

Word 2002 definitely has many instantly recognizable improvements for both beginners and advanced users.




Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program that has high-end data analysis, charting, and analytical functions. You can use it to build: invoices, order tracking worksheets, general accounting ledgers, database lists, PivotTable reports, and colorful 3-D charts. Excel 2002 has lots of new features for all users.

Unlocking Data--A number of tools make it easier to find, analyze, and publish data associated with Excel worksheets. Web Queries make it easier to link to data on the Web. Web Page AutoRepublish automatically keeps Web pages in sync every time you save your document. Copy/Paste Web Query automatically links to data on the Web when you paste it from a Web page. Import Data allows you to find and share data sources easily in Excel.

Reporting and Data Analysis--The new Smart Tag feature recognizes data types, such as stock quotes and addresses, and assigns actions to these items. PivotTable report features have been improved with drop down menus and other user interface enhancements. The analysis of PivotTable data is streamlined with the automatic GetPivotData formula.

Accessing Data--Excel works with more data types, including common data sources on the Web. XML is now supported as a data interchange format, and worksheets can be linked directly to XML data on the Web. The new RTD (Real-Time Data) function brings real-time data into Excel for analysis.

Reliability--Excel is more reliable than ever due to the Microsoft Office Document Recovery feature. In addition, Excel AutoRecover brings you right back to where you left off after an unexpected event.

Command and Feature Enhancements--Numerous menu command and product feature enhancements make Excel even easier to use in fundamental areas, including link management, Find and Replace searches, hyperlink navigation, sorting, drawing borders, inserting international number formats, editing cells vertically, error checking, and customizing headers and footers with graphics and additional information. The Intelliprint feature now eliminates the printing of blank pages, an enhancement designed to conserve your printing and paper resources.

All in all, Excel 2002 has lots of new features to help both the basic and advanced users. The Smart Tags are great, cutting and pasting is easier, and there are better visual aids.




Microsoft PowerPoint is an application for slide, overhead projector, and multimedia presentations. You can create slides for a sales presentation, speaker notes, multimedia demos, kiosk displays, and live conference presentations for the Web. PowerPoint 2002 is much more powerful than previous versions.

Collaboration--A number of tools make it easier for groups to edit and review PowerPoint presentations in workgroup environments. Presentations can now be saved with password protection, so that reviewers can view presentations in PowerPoint but not edit or save them. Web broadcasting is now easier to use. Authors can now attach digital signatures to their presentations to increase security and reviewer confidence. Presentations review cycles in workgroups have been made easier by routing and reconciliation features, which manage change requests from multiple reviewers. Comments have been revised so that in addition to allowing reviewers the chance to insert "hidden" notes in presentations, they can be compared to one another, merged together, and printed with presentations.

Animation--You can now apply a combination of animation and transition schemes to your whole presentation at once--a significant time saver. New slide transition effects include Comb, Fade Smoothly, Newsflash, Push, Shape, Wedge, and Wheel. Custom animation effects are easier and more impressive now with the ability to control exit animations, motion path animation, and timed/simultaneous animations.

Everyday Tasks--Copy and Paste is better able to handle inserting different content types and a large volume of information. Print Preview allows you to determine how a presentation will print and lets you make fine-tuning adjustments. Slide formatting is easier with one-click formatting. You can apply more than one design template to the same presentation. Thumbnail views of your slides are now available on Normal view.

PowerPoint 2002 is a huge improvement and especially has a wealth of features for the basic user. The multiple masters, print preview, and easier slide editing are certainly worth the price.




Microsoft Access is a relational database management system that has query, reporting, and mailing list features. You can manage inventory and tax records, customer and contact lists, music collections, and corporate databases. Access 2002 is definitely a good improvement, especially for advanced users. But beginners will appreciate the better Wizards and Help support.

Core Feature Enhancements--A new file format handles new Access properties and offers better performance for large database projects. Access 2002 also allows you to open and modify files in Access 2000 format without converting to the new file format. A new Undo feature allows for multiple undo and redo actions in Design view for tables, queries, stored procedures, reports, and other actions. Database tables, queries, and other data views can be examined now with PivotChart views and PivotTable views. Several new shortcut keys let you move quickly between views. Access has an improved compact and repair feature that fixes broken forms and reports.

XML Support--Access works with more data types, including common data sources on the Web. XML data can either be created from Microsoft Access format (Jet) or SQL Server structures and data, or can be used to import data or structure into either Access or SQL Server.

Worldwide Access Support--It is now easier to display multilingual text (English, Asian languages, and complex script) in Access tables, forms, and reports. Access now includes a Spelling tab in the Options dialog box, which provides access to dictionary language options and custom dictionary names.

Programmability--For users who use Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to control how Access works, Access provides new objects, properties, and methods. Users can also pass a database password when programmatically opening a database.

Access 2002 has many improvements that will appeal to the advanced uses. But the Wizards and Help are greatly improved for the beginners.




Microsoft Outlook is more than just an email program. You could consider it a personal assistant on your desktop. Use this information management software for electronic mail, document management, calendar scheduling, meeting planning, and resource management. Send and receive Internet mail containing attachments, schedule your daily appointments, and plan meetings.

Core Product Enhancements--It has a new storage architecture that improves speed and performance, especially when you are working with messages and schedule information offline. There is a friendlier account configuration that makes it easier to use MAPI accounts, Internet accounts (POP3 and IMAP), personal folder accounts (a new configuration option), and address books. There are Progress dialog boxes that can be cancelled (interrupted) while messages are being opened, sent, or saved. There is a new unified reminder window that you can use to dismiss or postpone multiple schedule reminders at one time. The program has a new synchronization architecture that allows for the synchronization of multiple email accounts at once, and most folders from all accounts. Send, receive, and offline synchronization events are all controlled by the same Send/Receive command on the Tools menu.

E-Mail--AutoComplete is now an option in Outlook e-mail, and completes names in message addresses like Internet Explorer 5 and Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word is now the default e-mail editor in Outlook. Word supports all of the Outlook editor features and can be configured to switch on the fly to any message format. Using the new Accounts button, you can now switch between accounts easily; click the button to choose from which e-mail account you want to send a message you've just finished composing. Within the preview pane, you can now open attachments, follow a hyperlink, respond to meeting requests, and display properties of an e-mail address. The preview pane also displays the InfoBar, which lets you know whether any attachments were blocked for security reasons. MSN Hotmail support has been integrated into Outlook. You can now add your Hotmail account to Outlook and use all the features that outlook offers for viewing and managing your information.

Calendar--The Outlook Calendar supports conditional formatting (like Microsoft Excel). The meeting planner feature of Calendar has been enhanced and supports the counter-proposal of meeting times and a group calendar option.

Contacts--The Outlook Contacts list supports Instant Messaging addresses and has a new address field for each contact item.

Final Comments

Overall, Microsoft Office XP is definitely full of good improvements. It's one of the most comprehensive suites on the market. It's easier to use, the interface is more attractive, and stability-wise, it's much improved. Also, the collaborative features (such as online document sharing) is a must have for companies and workgroups. I would highly recommend it as an ungrade or for a first time user.

System Requirements

Requirements are:

  • Pentium-133;
  • 24MB of RAM (Windows 98), 32MB of RAM (Windows Me or NT), 64MB of RAM (Windows 2000), an additional 8MB for each Office XP application running simultaneously;
  • Super-VGA monitor;
  • 245MB of free disk space (minimum, depending on utility programs selected);
  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.
Graphics: Adobe Photoshop 6.0
Web Page Design: Macromedia Dreamweaver 4.0
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