02:24 PM

Microsoft Ready To Update Office 2007 Beta 2

The update will include improved performance, better integration, enhanced collaboration tools, and "general fit and finish changes." Office 2007 is scheduled to be released late this year or in early 2007.

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced that a public refresh of Office 2007 Beta 2 will be posted Thursday, marking another step in the march toward a release in late 2006 or early 2007.

Pegged as a "Technical Refresh," the update will be available only to users of Office 2007 Beta 2, and will be offered as a download from the Microsoft Web site.

Microsoft touted improved performance, better integration, improved collaboration tools, and "general fit and finish changes" in the Technical Refresh (TR) "This Technical Refresh is the final external product milestone leading to RTM [Release To Manufacturing]," a company spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to TechWeb Wednesday.

Interface changes included in the TR range from a new silver-colored skin (making a total of three themes for the suite), more predictable behavior from the Ribbon, and additional keyboard command support.

The Ribbon, which reviewers have marked as the greatest departure from earlier Office interfaces, now can be more easily minimized, and once minimized remains that way the next time the application is launched.

Keyboard support has been boosted from Office 2003's approximately 30 percent -- that fraction of the applications' commands were accessible from the keyboard -- to 100 percent in Office 2007, the spokesperson said.

Although Microsoft has set prices for the new application suite, it has been coy about a launch date, saying only that it plans to put the program in corporate users' hands by the end of this year, and ship it to others in early 2007. Last month, began taking pre-orders for the product, and listed January 30, 2007 as its ship date.

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