updated 10:35 am EST, Wed January 14, 2004
Office 2004: first look II
Microsoft highlighted a new Notebook Layout view in Word 2004, which brings the familiar notepad metaphor to to its word-processing application. Designed to help users visually and structurally organize information, Word Layout View offers the ability to quickly take notes, search and flag relevant information. Using the "look and feel" of ruled notebook paper, it shows only the most important commands and offers several tools for helping quickly create outlines; action items (a.k.a to-do's) with checkboxes; collapsable text sections with custom, automatic headings; and other note-taking functions. Users can also instantly search for text within the document, with the resulting words highlighted in the document for easy visual identification.
Word Notebook View also offers the ability record audio directly into Word documents. Using the MPEG-4 codec built-in to QuickTime, the function records audio from the internal Mac mic on laptops (and other external mics) directly into the Word file. Files sizes are typically 16 KBs/sec using the MP4 format, although users can choose WAV and AIFF formats. Users can visualize the audio level via the "audio monitor" in toolbar. Word 2004 also provides automatic time-stamps within the audio file, allowing users to simply click anywhere in the document to access the specific portion of the audio associated with the text. Users without the newest version Office can still open/view documents created by Word 2004, but will not have access to advanced functions, such as audio, audio time-stamps, checkboxes, etc.
Microsoft also showcased Excel Page Layout, which brings the familiar layout view metaphor to the industry-standard spreadsheet application. Excel 2004 offers a new view that allows users to preview spreadsheet documents in a page-layout view, offering a live preview of an Excel document with page breaks and margins. Users now can view and manipulate directly in the spreadsheet exactly what they'll see on paper, including margins, headers, footers and page count.
The Compatibility Reports in Office 2004 are designed to help users determine document compatibility. Users can run reports from within any document save dialog and the toolbar provides a visible, blinking "caution flag" when Mac-only or advanced features may provide compatibility issues with other versions of Office 2004. These reports detail items that may be problematic on another platform or with older versions of Office, providing the option to automatically fix them. For example, running a detailed report on a PowerPoint document will flag a rotated object within the presentation, offer users a solution, and prompt them to change or ignore the item.
Microsoft Office 2004 will support any Mac with a G3 processor running Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later. It requires 1,024x768 or higher monitor resolution with support for thousands of colors. Office 2004 will be available in a Standard Edition for $400 (Word 2004, Excel 2004, PowerPoint 2004, Entourage 2004 and MSN Messenger 4.0); Student and Teacher Edition for $150 (same as Standard Edition, but discounted pricing); and Professional Edition for $500 (includes Virtual PC 7 with WinXP). All editions will be offered in English, with certain editions localized in French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish.
Microsoft announced a "technology guarantee", which offers a free upgrade to Office 2004 for any new purchases of Microsoft Office v. X for any purchase of Office v.X between January 6, 2004 and 30-days after the product is released. The promotion also provides inexpensive upgrades to the Office 2004 Professional Edition: $90 from Office v. X Standard Edition and $130 from Office v. X Student and Teacher Edition. The promotion is valid throughout the United States and Canada, as well as internationally.