Sunday, May 3, 2009

Microsoft Updates Office 2007 With "Service Pack 2"

This week brought a major update to Microsoft Office 2007 -- Service Pack 2, a free download that fixes bugs, improves performance and adds a few new features in the company's bundle of productivity applications.
This update should arrive automatically if you use Windows' Microsoft Update option, or you can download the 290-megabyte file yourself.

The headline attraction of Office 2007 SP2 is the support it adds for some important, non-Microsoft file formats. It can read and write Open Document Format files, which may help Office users share files with people running the sometimes-unimpressive, but always free and open-source suite. Office 2007 SP2 also lets users save a copy of their work as a Portable Document Format file -- a helpful feature that Microsoft had unwisely required people to install an optional add-on to use before.

A note on Microsoft's tech-support site catalogs other changes this update brings (for instance, "Adds conversion rates to the Excel Euro Currency Tools add-in for the Maltese lira and for the Cypriot pound"), while a separate article details SP2's tweaks to Outlook alone, including some advertised performance improvements.

I tested Service Pack 2 on a Windows XP desktop running the "Standard" edition of Office -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. The install took several minutes and required a restart, after which I tried opening a few OpenOffice 3 documents in Microsoft's suite.

Most word-processing files looked about right, with only the occasional misaligned graphic or indent (as eWeek writer Jason Brooks found in his tests). But the OpenOffice spreadsheets I opened in Excel came out all wrong -- formulas vanished from cells, replaced by the last number OpenOffice had calculated in those spots.

That can't possibly be what Microsoft intended, but I couldn't find any mention of this issue on the company's Office Interoperability blog. That site did, however, link to a blog post by an ODF developer explaining that the ODF specification "does not yet specify formulas." That seems a huge omission -- certainly something that users should get a clear warning about before they wonder what's wrong with their spreadsheet.

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