Worthwhile update to Office 2007 beta

officelogoMicrosoft released a public update yesterday to the Office 2007 beta 2 suite of applications.

Known as a technical refresh, the new build has bug fixes and includes better product integration, improved collaboration tools and “some general fit and finish changes,” according to a Microsoft spokeswoman as reported by Microsoft Watch.

As I’ve been using the Office 2007 beta 2 for the past few months, I’ve installed this upgrade. It’s a hefty download (over half a gig) as nearly every file in the beta it patches has changed. As the beta program has over 3.5 million testers in it, I would imagine Microsoft’s download servers will be very busy during the coming days.

Things I noticed immediately after installing and running just two of the apps – Outlook and Word.

Outlook runs a great deal faster than before. Not only was it a very slow application but it was also a memory hog. Memory usage appears to be better with this refresh. No visual changes that I noticed other than the application icon.

There is a known issue with Word (and probably other applications in the suite) and Norton AntiVirus with the tech refresh. If you have NAV installed, it’s very likely you won’t be able to open any Word document, which is what I experienced.

It’s to do with the NAV plug-in for Office which scans documents for macro virus infections. This plug-in may cause performance issues, the inability to open files within Office, or the inability to install some Office programs. Microsoft says:

[…] Users running Symantec’s Norton Anti-Virus Scanner may find they are unable to open Microsoft Office documents in the Beta 2 Technical Refresh due to the way the anti-virus application programming interface (API) is implemented in the technical refresh. Microsoft expects this issue to be remedied in the RTM version. All Beta 2 customers have been notified of this issue and can find additional resources on Microsoft Office Online.

Fixing it is easy although a kludge, ultimately requiring you to disable the NAV plug-in.

One feature I really did like in the original beta 2 that is no longer part of the suite (because of copyright issues with Adobe?) is the integrated PDF file-saving. If you want that functionality, you now have to download and install a separate add-in. That’s the first thing I did after installing this tech refresh.

There are some subtle changes in the Word menus, notably a bit of renaming and reordering of some of the commands you see in the Office button. Much easier to understand those now.

Plus you can now minimize the ribbon. While some people don’t like this ribbon at all, I do so don’t plan to be minimizing it. But at least you have a choice now.

In summary, I think it’s a worthwhile update, one that anyone using the Office beta 2 ought to install. If you’re not using the beta yet, you’ll need to install it before applying the refresh. The beta is no longer free – it will cost you a nominal $1.50.

Download the Beta 2 Technical Refresh.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.