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'Critical' patch sent out for Office flaw

Microsoft issues the first major update for its recently released Office 2003, fixing a bug that could result in lost work.

Microsoft issued the first major patch for the new version of its Office software, fixing a flaw that could result in lost work.

The "critical update," released late on Tuesday, applies to three of the four major applications in Office 2003--the Word word-processing program, the PowerPoint presentation application and the Excel spreadsheet software, according to a Microsoft bulletin.

The problem happens when a document created with one of those applications is opened with an earlier version of Office. If the document contains graphics elements created using the OfficeArt tool, the earlier version of Office will misinterpret that part of the document and add invalid data to the file when it is saved.

An attempt to re-open the file with the Office 2003 application that created it could result in a corrupted document, missing content or other errors.

Microsoft released Office 2003 late last month amid considerable fanfare. Unlike previous updates of the productivity software, which focused on new tools and features, the major changes in Office 2003 are under the hood. Support for XML-based enterprise systems and Web services and new digital rights management features are positioned to turn Office into a broad platform for interacting with business data.

Analysts have predicted that migration to Office 2003 will be slower than previous Office upgrades, partly because the new connections to corporate computing resources will make integration more of a challenge.