Office XP: ‘try before you buy’ say users

Users and analysts have given a mixed reaction to Microsoft’s claim that customers ‘can’t afford to ignore’ Office XP, the new version of Microsoft’s flagship Office suite launched on Thursday.

Microsoft customers have been beta testing Office XP for over a month. Those users that have decided to upgrade partially supported Microsoft’s bullish claims. They said they had upgraded because of new features that made the software easier to use, or because they felt an upgrade was simply overdue.

Others said the new features were not compelling enough compared with the time and cost of rolling out the new software within their organisation.

Euan Robertson, IT manager at media consultant Feather Brooksbank, which uses Office 97, told Accountancy Age sister publication Computing: ‘I haven’t yet seen any compelling reasons to upgrade to XP.’

Gavin Bolton, network manager at manufacturing firm Porvair International, agreed: ‘We’re running quite happily on Office 97, and most users don’t need more than the very basic facilities. I don’t need the added functionality, I don’t need the forced registration and I don’t need the hassle of upgrading.’

IT buyers who have upgraded said user feedback suggested the most enjoyed improvements were better presentation overall, an improved data recovery system and organisation-defined smart tags, which can be used to make data from other applications more visible.

Mike Goddard, financial director at Freixenet, said: ‘I think it was time to upgrade. We’d taken a decision when [Office] 2000 came out that we weren’t going to upgrade to that because there weren’t sufficient differences between Office 97 and Office 2000.’

Freixenet upgraded 22 UK staff to Office XP about five weeks ago.

Mike Silver, research director at analyst Gartner, said that for firms using Office 97 or later, upgrading is ‘a grey area’.

He said: ‘Microsoft’s done a lot of things with Office XP to make Office easier to use, but if your users aren’t power users, if they mainly use Office for word processing and spreadsheets, then what they have is probably enough.

‘If you are planning a move anyway, it has appeal, but buyers should then think hard about whether the features of Office XP will give their organisation real benefits. There is a 30-day trial version available from Microsoft for around £10, and companies should look at that.’

Review of Office XP

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