Microsoft Corp.'s Office 97 will
introduce sweeping changes in the file
formats for each of its
applications--Word, Access, Excel and
PowerPoint--to support a variety of
new data types and technologies.
As with most format changes, however,
these new files will not be
To help users with the transition,
Microsoft will give administrators the
ability to set default file formats
and provide automatic access to
libraries of file converters.
File-format changes are
common--Microsoft often changes formats
with upgrades. However, these changes
apply across all the
applications. By comparison, Word and
Excel did not change their
formats in Office 95.
"Changing file formats is something
we do reluctantly,'' said group
product manager Michael Graff. "But
there are a number of new data
types we needed to support. And we're
doing everything we can to
make the transition easier for users.''
The changes were necessary, he said,
to support the graphics from
the new Office Art tool, Visual Basic
for Applications and hyperlinks in
In addition, Office 97's new method
of sharing code modules required
Microsoft to standardize the way that
information is stored in each
product. Another change will occur in
PowerPoint, which can
automatically compresses files when
it saves them. Earlier versions
of PowerPoint will not be able to
decompress these files.
Office 97 applications will be able
to read and write older file formats.
Users and administrators also can set
the default format to the
previous format so that, for example,
Word 97 automatically saves
files in the Word 95 format. This
default setting can be changed by
system administrators during a
rollout to provide consistency across
Office 97 also has been redesigned to
handle unfamiliar file formats
better. Administrators now can add
pointers to remote libraries of file
converters. Then, if Office
encounters an unfamiliar file type, it can
check the library for a converter.
These libraries can reside on servers
or on Internet sites.
Office 97 is slated to be released by
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., to
corporate customers in December.
"The future masters of technology will have to be lighthearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb." - Marshall McLuhan 1969
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