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9/28/2005
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Microsoft Updates Office 2003 With SP2

The update is designed to improve security and stability.

Microsoft quietly released a service pack update for Office 2003 late Tuesday to beef up security, fix stability problems, and add an anti-phishing filter to the Outlook e-mail client.

Office 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2) is primarily a collection of previously-released security fixes, with some new additions thrown in for good measure. According to Microsoft, it also includes stability improvements garnered from user-reported crashes via the Microsoft Online Crash Analysis tool, which pops up a display whenever a program fails in Windows XP and asks if the user wants to report the problem to Microsoft.

"SP2 provides updates that address top customer experience issues, as well as support for upgraded applications, security improvements, and significant stability and performance improvements for Office client applications as well as servers," said a Microsoft spokesperson in an e-mail to TechWeb.

All the applications in the various versions of Office 2003 -- including Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Outlook -- as well as other programs in the Office family, such as OneNote, Publisher, and FrontPage, are affected by the SP2 update, said Microsoft in the online document detailing the fixes.

SP2 boasts relatively few straight-out additions, however. One of the most notable, if hidden, is a new anti-phishing feature in Microsoft Outlook 2003.

A new setting in Outlook's Junk Email Filter now renders all messages filed to the Junk folder as plain text (rather than the more dangerous HTML) and by default disables the links embedded in all Junk messages. The links can be turned on manually by the user (much as embedded images within messages can be toggled on within Outlook).

The Windows site run by Steven Bink of Amsterdam shows several screen shots of the new Outlook feature, including one which appears when the user enables deleted links within a suspicious message.

The last time Office was updated with a service pack was July 2004, putting SPs for the suite on the 12- to 18-month track that Microsoft generally adheres to.

Office 2003 users can wait for Auto Update to download and install SP2, use the Microsoft Update or Office Update services, or download it manually from the Microsoft site. Depending on the user's Office 2003 configuration, SP2 runs from 50MB to 104 MB in size.

Also on Wednesday, Microsoft released Service Pack 2 for its SharePoint Services and Outlook Live 2003 products.

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