Microsoft marshals resources to mend Office 97 glitches

Microsoft heard corporate user complaints about Office 97 upgrade problems loudly and clearly, and now that the company has finally turned its attention to the problem, it is putting its extraordinary resources behind it. Fixes for Office 97 that were planned for March are now slated for July. But additional resources, in the form of Web sites and technical support, will try to address user needs.

Microsoft heard corporate user complaints about Office 97 upgrade problems loudly and clearly, and now that the company has finally turned its attention to the problem, it is putting its extraordinary resources behind it.

Fixes for Office 97 that were planned for March are now slated for July. But additional resources, in the form of Web sites and technical support, will try to address user needs.

"It wasn't that we weren't focused on the migration issues early on, but we realize we made this more complicated than we should have," says Richard Fade, vice president of desktop applications at Microsoft. "The complexity we created around file compatibility has caused an unacceptably high level of frustration, especially in corporate environments, and I'm apologising to our customers for the situation."

To solve backward-compatibility problems, Microsoft is offering viewers to let users view and print Word 97 documents without Word 97 installed. Installable converters let users of Word 6.0 for Windows 95 open Word 97 documents within their versions of Word.

Fade called Word 97's use of RTF for backward compatibility a mistake that Microsoft made when trying to anticipate upgrade problems. "If we had it to do over again, we'd have made it so you would write out a native Word 6.0 file rather than RTF format, and that's what we will do in the July release."

The July release will also include a Word 97 compression-enhanced RTF converter that reduces the excessive file size of RTF documents containing graphics.

In addition, a PowerPoint and Excel dual file format will save two versions, allowing users of Office 97 and Office 95 to view and edit.

A Microsoft Migration Web site will be a central location for Office 97 upgrade resources. On the site in June, Microsoft will offer a 30-day trial of TechNet, which includes two CDs with technical data on Microsoft products, including the Office Resource Kit.

Additionally, Microsoft will add an Office 97 migration technical support hot line, available June to September, for quicker response from senior support engineers.

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