02:28 PM

5 Things To Know Before Installing Office 2007 Beta 2

From download size to when the software expires, here are five fine-print particulars you should think about before putting Office 2007 through its paces.

Microsoft's decision to push back the delivery date for Office 2007 may have a silver lining for some: it gives them all that much more time to try out the for-free preview, dubbed "Beta 2," before shelling out $149 to $679 for the real deal.

And with Office 2007 Beta 2 still available -- Vista's test isn't -- there's still a chance to join in the fun.

If fun is the word.

Office 2007 is, as nearly every reviewer has noted, a major departure from earlier editions. That alone may scare you off. Or maybe you're not easily frightened.

In any case, here are five fine print particulars you should think about before putting Office 2007 through its paces.

1) Downloading the beta takes ages

Although Office 2007 Beta 2 is still available online -- unlike Vista, which shut down its servers to new users last Friday -- the download is, well, large.

Pulling down the 550MB of Office 2007 takes just 9 minutes by Microsoft's calculation when using a 1Mbps broadband connection, but grabbing the whole enchilada -- Office, Groove 2007, SharePoint Designer 2007, OneNote, Project, and Visio -- will consume 33 minutes at 1Mbps, over 2 hours at 256Kbps, and a whopping 6+ hours at 56Kbps.

Download that and the server software for Groove, SharePoint, and Project and you're staring at over 3GB of data, around the same amount as the Vista Beta 2 download.

Fortunately, you can order a DVD that holds it all for about $7 (in the U.S.; $4.95 for the DVD, $2 for mailing).

The order process starts here.

2) It goes dead in February 2007, so you might be sans suite

Like most Microsoft previews -- including Windows Beta 2 -- Office 2007 is Cinderella Software in that it stops working at some point. Its deadline: February 1, 2007.

That date has new meaning after last week's announcement that Office won't appear until "early 2007" (to volume customers "by the end of year 2006"). It's unclear what will happen to your beta copy of Office 2007 if, say, Microsoft doesn't roll out a final until March, which by some accounts, is still "early" next year.

Last week's postponement was, after all, the second since late March.

After the February 1 cut-off, the suite "will continue to work in a reduced functionality mode that limits your options and operations," Microsoft says on its Web site.

No other clues, however, as to what that means.

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