Microsoft Releases Office 2007 SP2

The productivity suite update adds built-in support for Open Document Format and a slew of other tweaks, including improved Outlook performance.
Microsoft released Office 2007 Service Pack 2 on Tuesday, bringing with it built-in support for standardized document formats and a slew of other tweaks like improved Outlook performance.

With the new service pack, Microsoft adds native Open Document Format support to the Office suite, a pledge Microsoft made last May. In moving to support ODF -- a rival standard to the largely Microsoft-developed Office Open XML -- Microsoft hopes to hold onto large customers, especially governments, that are beginning to require ODF support in their productivity suites. The move is also likely intended to stave off continued antitrust concerns in some parts of the world.

Microsoft's support for ODF means users can open, edit, and save documents as ODF documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Changing documents back and forth between ODF and Office's default file formats results in only minor formatting changes. Microsoft also has added native support for PDF and XPS, but will not add support for the ISO-standardized version of Office Open XML until Office 14. Another new feature, this one for developers, is an API that allows developers to build additional file format support into Office.

Office 2007 SP2 includes significant performance improvements for Outlook. SP2 decreases the time it takes for Outlook to start up, shut down, and view or switch folders, Microsoft claims. It also reduces the number of scenarios for a now-common error message during Outlook startup informing the user that a certain data file was not closed properly and is being checked for problems, thus delaying startup. According to Microsoft, Office 2007 SP2 is 26% faster than SP1 for "a set of common e-mail tasks" and 36% faster for users with larger mailboxes.

A number of new features increase graphics support. Office 2007 SP2 will improve print fidelity of graphics, improve performance while graphics are present on screen, add standardized DrawingML markup for graphics, and improve image quality in PowerPoint presentations.

In the past, companies that wanted to uninstall Office service packs had to uninstall the entire Office suite and then reinstall it. With Office 2007 SP2, that problem goes away, as Microsoft is introducing a service pack uninstall tool.

Office 2007 SP2 also will include significantly better file encryption capabilities; programmatic access to charts in Word and PowerPoint; cumulative previous updates on performance, stability, and security; plus a number of small application-specific updates.

The new service pack became available as a manual download Tuesday. It won't become an automatic update for another 90 days, and then only with a 30-day notice.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).