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Microsoft releases Office 10 beta

Speech recognition, XML - that sort of thing

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Microsoft is to release the first beta of Office 2000's successor, codenamed Office 10, to a restricted number of testers. According to some (unconfirmed) sources, it gave Office 10 beta to testers at the beginning of August, but Microsoft has now decided to announce some of the features of the new software suite.

So what do we have? Well, it's still the same Office code as a foundation (the last time apparently) so we're still looking at bloatware. The aim is to make it "more accessible and easier to use". And so appears a new user interface "option" that covers all Office applications, and this is called a "task pane".

It is building XML into Excel and Access to bring them in line with Word. This will mean you can shift and manipulate data easier, tie it in with Web apps and, of course, come up with some pretty graphics to show at a presentation. It is expanding group-working "capabilities", so you can have several people working on Office documents at the same time.

What else? It's up to its old tricks by tying in Hotmail and Microsoft Instant Messenger with Outlook Express. It is increasing security overall, improving document recovery and tying in so-called "smart tags" which will let you put a symbol on a page that links you to a particular Web page. It will also being completely backwards compatible, says Microsoft.

No dates have been set for the second beta release but the finished product is due to ship mid-2001. Office 10 is a middle product to Microsoft grand vision of Office.Net, which is timetabled so far for 2002. ®

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