Microsoft Office Upgrade Tackles Spam

The software giant targets spam in an Office 2003 upgrade and reworks two other components.

To shore up the security and quality of its Office System suite, Microsoft has released the first service pack for download.

Office 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) features enhancements for the Office System, launched in New York last October, as well as enhancements for Office OneNote 2003 and Office InfoPath 2003.

Office System is a productivity suite that lets employees collaborate on projects via video conferencing or e-mail. It incorporates several applications, including Office Live Meeting, Office Live Communications Server 2003 and SharePoint Portal Server 2003.

Improvements with Office 2003 SP1 include Outlook's new ability to handle the barrage of spam many users face these days, as unsolicited e-mail deliveries continue to climb in spite of filters and security software.

Building on the junk e-mail controls from Office Outlook 2003, the upgrade will allow users greater control over incoming international messages and filter spam by moving messages to the junk e-mail folder based on the sender's country suffix or the character encoding of a message.

Office 2003 SP1 features more support for developers using managed code, digital signatures and forms sharing via e-mail to write applications based on Microsoft's InfoPath electronic document software. SP1 for InfoPath also more efficiently handles e-mail attachments, digital signatures and XML schemas.

The service pack also improves the integration of its OneNote note-taking software with Office 2003 editions and mobile devices. These improvements will allow employees to insert Office documents directly into OneNote, import meeting details from Outlook, create contacts and appointments, and publish pages to Office Word.

There is also better rich media support to allow users to copy notes directly from a Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC or Smartphone into OneNote and take video notes that sync with typed or handwritten notes.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant said in a statement that the changes stemmed from technical data and customer feedback, which were culled through error reporting and connection tools, as well as the Customer Experience Improvement Program.

Service packs from Microsoft have come to become greatly anticipated by customers for improved performance, scalability, availability and security from original versions of the software, generally after several bugs or flaws have been detected.

For example, Windows XP Service Pack 2 is perhaps the most hotly anticipated upgrade the company currently has, largely because it has been delayed a few times. The company has assured customers it will be available next month.

Because Microsoft develops many complex systems with multiple applications that often work together, the company relies heavily on customer and developer feedback to bolster its software in service packs.

Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Office at Microsoft, said that as soon as the October launch of Office System, customers were experiencing an increase in the average time between product errors by seven times over the first beta release.

With SP1, the executive said "we've improved product reliability even further by taking action on the top issues affecting product performance."

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