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This week in Office

Microsoft offers a peek at its next Office productivity suite, which is expected to come out by the second half of 2006.

Microsoft offered a peek this week at its next Office productivity suite.

While the company is still not discussing specifics on most of the features it will add with Office 12, it is promising to have the productivity software suite ready by the second half of next year. The company is also talking about some broad areas that it sees as ripe for improvement, including enhanced collaboration. Among the other key areas are individual productivity, finding business information and managing corporate business documents.

To handle an expected explosion in e-mail traffic, as well as the rise of instant messaging and other forms of electronic communication, Microsoft is trying to develop software that can do a better job of sorting out the really important messages.

As part of its attempt to let workers better make sense of ever-growing amounts of data, the company is adding into Excel the ability to create dashboards and scorecards that offer a quick way to visually keep track of just how a business is doing.

Microsoft has also confirmed that its upcoming version of Internet Explorer will include tabbed browsing, a feature made popular by competitors Opera Software and Firefox. But in a Microsoft blog, IE's product unit manager told consumers not to expect too much from tabbed browsing in IE's beta offering.

"The tabbed browsing experience in the upcoming IE 7 beta is pretty basic," he said. "The main goal for tabs in our beta release is to make sure our implementation delivers on compatibility and security. The variety of IE configurations and add-ins across the Internet is tremendous."


Meanwhile, Netscape released the final version of Netscape 8, a browser that includes features to protect Web surfers against two types of security risks now causing concern among consumers: spyware and phishing.

Whereas many anti-spyware tools can help people after the malicious software has already hit their PCs, the new browser can prevent people from getting it in the first place, the company said. To help people avoid phishing frauds, the updated browser automatically adjusts security settings while they surf, based on lists of sites that are known to be malicious or trusted.