Since the suite's original release in January, Office 97 users have complained about weak backward compatibility in Word 97 and email problems. Microsoft has posted a series of fixes on its Web site in the past several months, but next month's "service release" will group all of them in one package.
The Word compatibility problems stem from the company's decision to create a new file format for Word 97. Because of the new file format, Word 97 users have had to save their documents as .RTF files to share them with Word 95 users.
The work-around has caused problems, however, including bloated file sizes, lost formatting, and difficulty locating converted files. Although Microsoft has scrambled to fix them in the past few months, the problems won't get completely ironed out until next month's release, which will include a file converter that lets Word 97 users save their documents as true .DOC files.
On the email side, the patch will keep users from unwittingly installing the Office 97 Outlook client and the older Exchange email client at the same time. Users found that the double installation quickly ate up system resources.
The patch will also reset the default on the Word Mail client--different from the Outlook and Exchange clients--to "off" when Word 97 loads. When Word loads, the Word Mail client is automatically on, which requires an extra 4MB of memory on top of the minimum 16MB recommended for Office 97.