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Office revamp to get a going-over

The software giant plans to "refresh" the beta version of Office 2003, which could delay the final release, and tries out a new PowerPoint add-on.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
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David Becker
2 min read
Microsoft is close to delivering an update to the latest trial version of its Office software.

The software giant is preparing a "technical refresh" for the current beta version of Office 2003, a company representative confirmed Monday. The 600,000 beta testers for Office 2003 were sent letters earlier this month informing them that the revamp would be available in June, and the Microsoft representative confirmed it would be ready by the end of the month.

As previously reported, the update focuses mainly on enhancements suggested by users of the first beta release and implies delays for the launch of the final version of Office 2003. That software is officially set to go on the market late this summer, but analysts believe early fall is a more realistic schedule, given the update.

The technical refresh will only be available as a download, requiring testers to slurp up nearly 400MB of data to update all Office 2003 beta products. The notice sent to testers also informs them that, to install the update, their hard drive will need free space equivalent to five times the size of the downloaded material. Most testers received the original beta releases on CDs.

In other Office-related beta news, Microsoft announced on Monday the release of a test version of Producer 2003, the free add-on for the PowerPoint 2003 presentation program. The software lets users add audio and video clips to presentations that are created in PowerPoint, which is included in standard Office packages.

Producer 2003 includes changes based on the latest version of Windows Media Player, enabling greater compression of media files and more effective delivery methods for presentations, such as streaming media content sent over a corporate network or the Web.

The Producer revamp also expands support for non-Microsoft technology. Presentations can be saved as HTML Web code and viewed on the Mac version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser and the Windows version of the Netscape browser.

The Producer 2003 beta is available now for free download.