Microsoft has announced the worldwide distribution of some 500,000 copies of Microsoft Office System Beta 2 to customers and partners. Final versions of the product are planned for release in Summer 2003. The Microsoft Office System is described as "a set of programs, servers, and services designed to better connect people with each other and their organizations, information and business processes, to transform information into business impact." Key system components include Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office FrontPage, Microsoft Office InfoPath, Microsoft Office OneNote, Microsoft Office Publisher, and Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server. FrontPage is said to include the world's first WYSIWYG XSLT editor; InfoPath 2003 "streamlines the process of gathering information by allowing users to create and complete dynamic forms and submit them to the XML-enabled systems and business processes that need the information." The XML Software Development Kit (SDK) included in the Beta 2 package supports customized enterprise solutions based upon XML Web services. Intranet collaboration tools are supported by the Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies.
Beta 2 Package XML Software Development Kit
"With the XML Software Development Kit (SDK) included in the beta 2 package, Microsoft partners can leverage the XML functionality in Office 2003 to create customized solutions that enable users of Office to create, process and utilize critical information in their own data stores and through XML Web services.
- New Support for XSDs. Office 2003 is the first major productivity suite to provide broad support for customer-defined XML Schema Definitions (XSDs). This means power users and developers can structure their data in a way that makes the most sense for them, and companies can create integrated business solutions directly within documents that act as front ends to valuable XML Web services and other XML-based data sources.
- New XML in Word. Word is ideal for the creation of documents with large amounts of text and extensive formatting, such as business plans or marketing plans, and these documents retain their rich formatting when saved in the XML format. Office Word 2003 users can save documents in XML and create templates based on their own schemas. A collection of XML documents can be searched as readily as a database, enabling businesses to unlock important information stored in documents across the organization.
- New XML in Excel. Office Excel 2003 is optimal for users entering tabular, largely numerical data that is best presented in a grid and used for calculations and analysis. Data within any customer-defined XML schema now can be processed by Excel without having to be reformatted. Manipulating XML-based data in Excel for reuse and analysis is now as easy as selecting from a field chooser. With XML support, Excel can update charts, tables and graphs as changes are made to the underlying XML data store, providing dynamic, real-time information for analysis in any Excel format. Excel is also a great front end for many data-rich XML Web services -- connecting to them is as simple as entering a URL.
- New XML in Access. Access is the most appropriate Office tool for users who want to extract data from one or more tables in a database. With Office Access 2003, users can browse related tables in a database and choose how to export data by defining the structure of a customer-defined XSD.
- New Smart documents. 'Smart' documents are a solution development and deployment platform based on XML that is available in Word and Excel. They bring relevant information directly to the task at hand through a new programmable task pane. With smart documents, highly customized XML solutions can be created to enable business processes, help users complete forms and other documents, and link that information to back-end systems that support XML. A Smart Document SDK will be included in the beta 2 package.
- New Research Task Pane. The Research Task Pane helps users locate information across the Internet, SharePoint Portal sites and even through corporate databases while working right alongside their reports, charts and other documents. Search results can be pulled into the document without switching applications, and through the use of smart tags, users can perform a variety of actions beyond just copying and pasting from a Web site.
- Improved Smart tags. Now smart tags provide even richer ways for developers to create actions related to specific content or XML elements in their document, such as sending an e-mail message or inserting a stock quote or company financial information."
[adapted from the Beta 2 Fact Sheet]
New Rights Management Technologies
"To help teams work together more effectively without having to worry about information leaks, new rights management technologies have been added to Office 2003. This gives companies more control over the dissemination of their business information.
New Information Rights Management (IRM) functionality in beta 2 "allows companies to help protect sensitive information from unauthorized distribution or alteration and to set and enforce policies that help control how their data is used. Based on Windows Rights Management Services, organizations can use IRM to proactively control the level of access that authorized individuals are given to proprietary documents and information -- including e-mail messages and attachments. Using IRM, companies can help protect sensitive information from being cut, copied, pasted, printed or forwarded by unauthorized individuals. Information goes only where it is intended to go." [from the Beta 2 Fact Sheet]
[See details released earlier: "Microsoft Announces Windows Rights Management Services (RMS)."]
- Announcement 2003-03-09: "Microsoft Office System Released to a Half-Million Beta 2 Testers. Partners Offering New Services and Solutions Through the Microsoft Office System."
- Microsoft Office 2003 Beta 2 Fact Sheet. March 2003.
- Office 2003 Overview
- Microsoft Office InfoPath - 2003
- Frequently Asked Questions About Office 2003
- "Microsoft Office Word 2003 XML Object Model Overview." By Paul Cornell (Microsoft Corporation)
- Microsoft Office Newsroom
- Microsoft Office System Preview
- "Microsoft Office 11 and InfoPath [XDocs]" - Main reference page.