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Delivering the second keynote speech which opened the IT Forum in Barcelona, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division, gave delegates a quick glimpse of the upcoming version of Outlook.

The most obvious immediate change is an integrated "To Do" list which drew applause from the audience. Raikes showed how changes to the To Do list are integrated with the Outlook calendar. The SharePoint calendar allows you to view team appointments. Inbox search has also been improved.

The preview panel for viewing emails will now include a preview of any attachments.

Raikes said that users complained they could not find many of the capabilities which existing software has so he pledged Office12 will make it easier to find the functions you need. This was demonstrated with an Excel page which changes the options offered to users according to where and what they are doing in the document.

Outlook will also include a "Finish" button to allow users to review mails before they are sent to ensure that tracked changes or other unwelcome information is not included.

The first beta version of Office12, for a few thousand techies, will be available shortly before a wider beta release in the second quarter of next year. ®

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