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This week in Microsoft

Microsoft announces tweaks to its software, one of which is drawing intense criticism from some Windows users.

Microsoft announced tweaks to its software this week, one of which is drawing intense criticism from some Windows users.

The company plans to introduce new XML-based file formats for its Excel, PowerPoint and Word applications when the company launches its Office 12 software package next year. Company executives said the move to replace Microsoft's traditional binary file formats with XML-based versions as the default in Office 12 will let people more easily share information.

While Microsoft's Excel and Word programs already offer some XML compatibility, the new format is expected to bring those applications, and PowerPoint, into a "full fidelity" version of the standard. The biggest touted advantage of the new formats will be their capacity to allow workers to access data from various documents without opening individual files, and to allow workers to use that information in new ways.

However, the software giant drew some criticism after confirming that it will not make Internet Explorer 7 available to users of its Windows 2000 operating system. Although Windows 2000 will be supported until 2010, at the end of June of this year Microsoft will no longer accept requests for design changes or new features for the operating system.

In response to criticism from an antitrust compliance committee, Microsoft has agreed to make modest changes to Windows XP. In a court filing this week, the U.S. Justice Department and some states charged that Web-related resources, such as saved HTML files, continued to be denoted by an Internet Explorer icon, even when it was not the default browser. Also, the filing said, disabling Internet Explorer in XP does not automatically delete user-created shortcuts pointing at the application.

Microsoft said in the same filing that it will modify XP to respond to those concerns. The Internet Explorer details were unearthed by an oversight committee that was created as a result of an antitrust settlement agreed to by Microsoft and the federal government in 2001.

The company also filed its latest attempt to comply with the 2004 antitrust ruling from the European Union.