September 30, 2007
Law Students: Grab Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 for Only $60
While Microsoft has long offered the discounted Home/Student version of Office, this offer is probably their best yet for qualified students. Microsoft is offering Office Ultimate 2007 (their top Office suite package) for only $59.95, which includes:
Microsoft is smart to expose future business leaders to their new suite. The offer is good through April 30, 2008, with more details at Microsoft's Ultimate Steal web site and their Education web page. This is probably as close to free that Microsoft has gotten with a brand new Office suite, and it's a very complete suite to boot.
September 26, 2007
Brett Burney Reviews Outlook 2007
My friend Brett Burney just posted a very informative review of Outlook 2007 on Law.com. Having used it myself for the past several months, I agree it's definitely a worthwhile upgrade. I've found the Instant Search to be, well, instant! Finding e-mails has never been faster or easier for me. I really like that it's as simple as using Google, yet with a click you can expand the search box to reveal additional search fields. So far, the search has been so fast and accurate that I haven't needed to go beyond the single search field.
I also like the new To Do bar on the right pane, and Brett is right on the money when he says you need a widescreen monitor to take best advantage of it. Once you have one, you'll never want to go back. Also, due to the mixed bag of old-style pull-down menus and its new ribbon bars, long-time Outlook users shouldn't have much difficulty making the transition to Outlook 2007. Microsoft also made good use of colors that are pleasing on the eyes and are used to good effect. Since I've been running it in standalone mode on my new laptop, it's been very, very snappy, and unlike most mature Windows programs, it doesn't act bloated to me, other than having to wade through the legacy pull-down menus on occasion. Of course, I'm sure it helps to be running it on a new PC with a faster Core 2 Duo processor.
Also, the Personal Folders Backup plug-in works with Outlook 2007, so people like me can make automatic backups of their Outlook .pst file without having to think about it. Don't worry that Microsoft's web page lists it for "Outlook 2003/2002" -- it works just fine with Outlook 2007. All it really does is copy your .pst file to your preferred location after you close Outlook. Depending on whether you use Outlook in standalone mode vs. in conjunction with Exchange Server, you may not have as much need for the plug-in with the latter, and it could have some e-discovery impact if you're maintaining additional backups. But for standalone users, it's a very useful plug-in, and I'm glad to see Microsoft didn't abandon it.
Overall, Outlook 2007 is a great upgrade. While it's main-screen interface hasn't adopted the new ribbon bar, it features enough other enhancements and refinements along with great performance to make it my version of choice.
September 25, 2007
Excel 2007 Multiplication Math Bug
Just when I was about to post how great my experience has been with Office 2007 (I really, really like the new ribbon interface, live format preview, and the enhanced online help), news has been popping up among bloggers and Google Groups of a serious, yet perhaps somewhat specific, math bug in Excel 2007:
If you have Excel 2007 installed, try this: Multiply 850 by 77.1 in Excel.
One way to do this is to type "=850*77.1" (without the quotes) into a cell. The correct answer is 65,535. However, Excel 2007 displays a result of 100,000.
Now the strange thing, according to some posters, is that Excel 2007 treats this result inconsistently when it's used in other formulas dependent upon this result. Sometimes it's used as 100,000, and sometimes it's used as 65,535. On my Vista Ultimate laptop, I was able to duplicate the above poster's test results that reference the above result in cell A1.
As these errors did not occur in Excel 2000 in comparison, this is a step backwards. Let's hope Microsoft corrects it quickly. The question may remain, however, as to what to do with spreadsheets and charts created during the time the bug existed. Assuming MS issues a patch, for critical data it's probably not a bad idea to reopen them after patching and refreshing the calculation to see if anything changed.
My system is current with all relevant patches via Windows Update, which is set to include other Microsoft products such as Office. In Excel's "About" screen, it reports Excel's version as 12.0.6024.5000 and MSO as 12.0.6017.5000. (Presumably, MSO = Microsoft Office.)
If you're having difficulty locating the "About" screen in the new 2007 line, you're not alone. It's buried under the following menu structure:
1. Click on the circular MS Office button at the top left corner in Excel.
So much for the good ol' days of clicking on Help, About, to quickly see version and patch numbers!
On the plus side, overall I've found Office 2007 Professional to be very solid, with substantial usability improvements. As with Vista, which has been getting more reliable with various Windows Updates (e.g., my document preview now works in Windows Explorer), I expect Office 2007 will hit many legal desktops, running either on XP or Vista. Not to mention that more and more third-party software vendors have been making great strides in making their programs compatible and integrated with Vista and Office 2007. There were several Office 2007 readiness sessions at the recent annual ILTA conference, and all were packed with attendees. Many already have test installations well along, and some firms reported they're already receiving documents from clients in the new Office XML formats.
[11.20.07 Update: Microsoft has released an Excel 2007 Hotfix package for this issue.]