Microsoft Corp.’s Macintosh Business Unit
(MacBU) today announced the release of an update to its popular Office suite of applications — Word, Excel, Entourage and PowerPoint — as well as a new version of the company’s instant messaging application Messenger. The MacBU also announced it will release a Palm Sync conduit for users of Entourage on July 15, 2002 — the update will be available as a free download.
MacBU General Manager Kevin Browne
first announced news of the pending Service Release 1 for Office v. X and Palm conduit during an event
at the company’s Mountain View, CA headquarters in mid-April.
Making good on his promise, the MacBU’s first update to Office v. X contains 1500 performance improvements, updates, new features and fixes that affect every application in the suite.
“Microsoft is committed to providing the most seamless experience possible with the Office v. X Service Release 1, particularly in terms of compatibility and ease of use,” said Browne. “To that end, we have made more than 1,500 improvements, updates, fixes and new features in SR 1 that make Office v. X faster, more stable and more reliable than ever. With great new features like Quartz text smoothing, FileMaker and ODBC, which help Office v. X connect with Mac OS X and other applications more seamlessly, users will see why downloading SR 1 from the Mactopia Web site is so important.”
New features in the Office update include:
Quartz text smoothing:
Users of Mac OS X version 10.1.5 (which Apple hasn’t released as of this story) or higher can take advantage of the Quartz drawing engine to smooth text edges. Quartz text smoothing makes on-screen text easier to read, particularly in Word and Entourage. Quartz text smoothing is also available in Excel and PowerPoint.
FileMaker Server integration:
In Excel X, external data can be imported from FileMaker Pro databases hosted on a FileMaker Server. Data can also be imported from a local FileMaker Pro database.
Excel X reintroduces support for Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), enabling users to refresh existing queries that were created in Excel 98, Excel 2001 and Excel for Windows.
Button face customization:
Button face customization in Word X, Excel X and PowerPoint X allows users to easily change the image that appears on a toolbar button. Users can either choose from supplied images or create and paste button images with the graphics editor.
Office wide improvements provided in Service Release 1 include:
Performance of the Genie-effect in features such as the Formatting Palette in Word X, Excel X and PowerPoint X has been improved significantly.
PowerPoint X, Excel X and Word X no longer quit on waking.
The overall stability and security of Word X, Excel X and PowerPoint X have been improved.
The Office Assistant no longer displays as a blank or white box in any Office v. X program.
There is greater stability for users working with Visual Basic for applications in Office v. X programs.
Font improvements in Office v. X programs enable the former WYSIWYG font menu to behave as a Mac OS X font menu should.
Highly encrypted documents are easier to open.
Printing has been redesigned to work natively and seamlessly under Mac OS X.
In addition to the general improvements to the Office v. X suite, each application has also been updated with fixes and features.
Improvements in Word X:
To enable Word X to run more smoothly, stability enhancements have been made throughout the program, including for tasks such as creating large tables and using the rulers.
Users will notice increased speed when printing documents with certain complex border art applied, and better performance when manipulating on-screen objects and scrolling vertically through long documents.
Toolbar customization and behavior work correctly.
Document windows work seamlessly with one another.
When adding words to the dictionary, users will no longer get an alert stating that the custom dictionary is full.
Users can enter accented characters in all fonts. Improvements in Excel X
Saving and opening:
Users can save a file in Excel X and then open it in Excel 98 without getting an Out of Memory message.
Freezing panes and AutoComplete:
AutoComplete works correctly when used with freezing panes.
Improved chart performance:
Performance has been improved by as much as four times when charts are used in Excel.
Improvements in PowerPoint X:
Performance and appearance improvements:
Users will notice a better response time when caching two large or complex pictures during screen updates.
When the Free Rotate tool is used to rotate text on a slide, PowerPoint X will smooth the edges of characters on the screen, making the text more readable and as attractive as text running horizontally. The rotated text smoothing improvement is not related to Quartz text smoothing and cannot be turned off.
With Quartz, transparency effects are much faster in PowerPoint slide shows. The time required to prepare the next slide in a slide show is shortened. Transparent objects also animate correctly during a slide show.
Improved stability means that users will have a smoother, and more reliable experience with PowerPoint X.
Users can now enter accented characters in all fonts while the Formatting Palette is displayed.
Faxing from PowerPoint X print options now works as it should.
Improvements in Entourage X:
The size limit for Entourage X databases has been increased from 2GB to 4GB. Entourage X also can rebuild some damaged databases that could not be rebuilt before.
Entourage X requires less use of a computer’s hard drive and access to the user’s identity on the network, which improves performance and reduces laptop computers’ reliance on the battery.
IMAP mail improvements:
Users with an Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) mail account can synchronize folders as they switch between working offline and online. They will receive a more accurate display of information about what’s on the IMAP server, such as the number of unread messages in a folder.
Improved overall stability:
Stability has been improved overall, and particularly when the Entourage Database Daemon is running in the background. Working offline in Entourage X also is more stable, as is the case when running IMAP.
MSN Messenger 3.0 for Mac OS X also provides new features such as the ability to transfer files to people in the user’s Buddy List; organize contacts in groups; resize toolbars and icons; the ability to Import and export contact lists; and improved emoticon support.
With Messenger 3.0 users also have access to common tasks and functions directly from the Dock including signing out of MSN Messenger; changing their status; transferring files; going directly to the MSN Home Page and Hotmail Inbox; and viewing their contact list.
System requirements for Messenger 3.0 include iMac or iBook, PowerMac G3 or G4, PowerBook G3 or G4; Mac OS X version 10.1 or later; 24MB of RAM; 4MB available; and Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Office v. X Service Release 1 and Messenger 3.0 will be available from
Microsoft’s Mactopia Web site as a free download today.