Notes from the Technology Trenches – New Versions of Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Suites; Cites & Insights; Crawford at Large

Roger V. Skalbeck is the Technology Services Librarian and Webmaster at George Mason University School of Law in Virginia, and he is a web committee member for the Law Librarian’s Society of Washington, D.C. Opinions expressed or implied in this column do not necessarily reflect those of his current employer or any other organization. This column is, of course, 100% free of any legal advice.

New Versions of Microsoft Office and WordPerfect? (are we ready?)

It will be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before the products hit the streets, but consider yourself warned that both Microsoft and Corel intend to release new versions of their popular Office suites this year. My first question about this is: Do we really need completely new versions already? The next question I have is: How much higher will the “minimum system requirements” bar be raised for users? We’ll find this out soon enough, so for now, let’s at least take a look at the announced release dates and some of the reported details:

WordPerfect Office 2002

Announced in a January press release, Corel indicates that they will be shipping WordPerfect Office 2002 in the Spring of this year. In a sense, Corel is following in the path of car manufacturers by assigning a “model year” in advance of the calendar year. Alternately, this could have been a cautious approach, should there be any delays to the launch (remember Windows 95, going down to the wire in 1995?). Based on the vague language of the press release, it’s hard to tell what new features we can expect, but Corel offers the following: ” ‘Over 70 percent of the new features and enhancements developed for WordPerfect Office 2002 are the direct result of feedback from our customers,’ said Graham Brown, executive vice-president, business applications for Corel Corporation.”

From my point of view, the most interesting new development of the WordPerfect suite is the inclusion of Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software (now the Lernout & Hauspie Dragon…). Voice recognition software might not be very widely used, but since it will be bundled with the new version, a lot more people will probably try it out. Of course, new software will require more local storage space, and voice recognition will probably require additional (or updated) hardware to be configured and integrated. Other elements to be included in the new suite are better conversion options for sharing files with Microsoft Office products.

Microsoft Office XP

The other major office suite expected to be released in the same general time frame is Microsoft’s Office XP (which is short for “experience”). In choosing this name, Microsoft gets out of the “dating game”, choosing a product name that might be afforded better trademark protection. ZDNet offers a very promising assessment of a “corporate preview” version of Microsoft Office XP, under the headline: “Microsoft Office XP: The User Takes Command“. As with the new version of WordPerfect, it looks like user preferences and feedback are at the core of the updates to this new product. Microsoft is also incorporating voice recognition functionality, in addition to built-in OCR (optical character recognition) software that will convert text-based documents from your scanner into files you can edit. Microsoft offers a 26-page Product Guide (in MS-Word format), which details new and improved features of Office XP.

Microsoft Windows XP Operating System

During this calendar year, we can also expect to see the launch of a new operating system, Microsoft Windows XP, which was announced about a month ago. Preview information is available in’s Sci-Tech section as well as on in PC Magazine on ZDNet. Fortune also just published a fairly promising review of the new operating system: “Microsoft Cleans Its Windows” (March 19, 2001). This review states that “Microsoft XP integrates more than it innovates”, which sounds like a good thing. If your organization has held off on implementing Windows 2000 (or Windows ME perhaps), perhaps you can leapfrog into XP towards the end of the year.

With new office suites and a brand-new operating system expected during this calendar year, technology pessimists might likely anticipate more headaches, integration problems, deployment pains, upgrade woes, greater system requirements and increasingly complex user training needs. Optimists will probably hope for more useful features, better integration with web technologies, more seamless software integration and solutions to myriad user requests/complaints. For the new operating system, Microsoft states that Windows XP will be an operating system that “will fundamentally improve your home and business computing experiences”.

I love technology innovation, and I readily test out new gadgets and gizmos, but I have both optimistic and somewhat pessimistic views of the upcoming products. The technophile in me hopes to get better control over Microsoft’s “Wizards”, while getting improved web integration options and fewer proprietary quirks from both WordPerfect and Microsoft Office. The technology manager in me cringes at the thought of having to deploy yet another suite of applications and an entirely new operating system, some of which might not be supported by existing client hardware. I’m not holding my breath in anticipation of these new products, but I do consider myself fully warned. Let’s just hope that the benefits outweigh the headaches in the long run. When it comes to the time for you to decide whether to upgrade, take a look at the updated reviews and see if and when the new features are really necessary for your (or your organization’s) well-being.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large (new publication)

Many people in the library community have probably heard of Walt Crawford, and even if you haven’t, his new publication effort is worth a look. Some of the better-known works by Crawford to date include a book he co-authored in 1995 called Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness and Reality, which was a look at some of the fallacies of the digitization of print, especially for library collections. In 1999, he authored Being Analog: Building Tomorrow’s Libraries, which was mentioned in my December, 1999 column here on LLRX. Now he has begun a self-published journal called Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large (CICAL).

Each issue is published in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, and they have come out monthly since December of last year. Crawford is a very prolific and though-provoking author, who covers a diverse segment of information technology topics. As stated on the first page of the inaugural December 2000 issue, Crawford’s areas of concern are “Libraries, Media, Technology & Stuff”. He includes citations to recent articles from the popular computer press and news magazines such as The Industry Standard (the Cites part), along with his supporting and questioning views about the articles (the Insights). Each issue is divided into sections headed “Articles Worth Reading”, “Product Watch”, “Review Watch” and “PC Values”, which details market prices and specifications for computer systems in at least three categories.

Crawford’s coverage is varied, and his alternate views on new industry trends and reports certainly help to provide new perspectives. If you know Crawford’s work, or (more importantly) if you appreciate insightful article selection and “cut through the hype” commentary on “Libraries, Media, Technology & Stuff”, I think CICAL is worth a look.

As always, if you have comments, questions or concerns about materials covered in this column, please let me know.

Web Sites Mentioned in this column:

WordPerfect Office 2002 Coming This Spring (1/30/2001)

Dragon Naturally Speaking 5.0

Microsoft Office XP Corporate Preview (From Microsoft)

Microsoft Office XP: The User Takes Command

Microsoft Office XP Product Guide (From Microsoft, in MS-Word format)

Microsoft Windows XP (From Microsoft)

Windows XP: Coming Soon (PC Magazine on ZDNet)

Microsoft unveils new Windows operating system ( Sci-Tech section)

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large – ISSN 1534-0937

Copyright © 2001 Roger V. Skalbeck. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in: Notes from the Technology Trenches, Technology Trends