Microsoft Office XP

By Dees, Tim | Law & Order, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Microsoft Office XP


Dees, Tim, Law & Order


While Microsoft hasn't promoted the introduction of its new XP software with quite the fervor it did with Windows 95, the latest flagship product line has received considerable attention in the computer industry press. The XP (which stands for "eXPerience") label is being applied to both a new operating system- Windows XP-- and a version of its Office "suite" of applications, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access, among others. Windows XP will not be released until October 2001, but the Office line is available now.

XP adds more whistles and bells to the already feature-rich Office group, most of them directed at facilitating cooperative efforts between workers. With XP, especially in a networked environment, it becomes relatively easy to collaborate on any number of documents and projects. The software also makes extensive use of a new feature called "smart tags" that attach themselves to components of documents and provide links to further information about them. For instance, the software might recognize a name at the top of a letter, and offer to insert the address into the letter corresponding to that name from the Windows or Outlook address book. The user can configure these so the same code can be used to insert the statute number or crime elements for burglary into a report, possibly saving some time and legwork. The various components of the Office package are more tightly integrated than in previous versions, so users may be using the features of multiple applications without knowing it.

Documents that need to be written, reviewed or edited by several people are much easier to handle in XP, as the software emphasizes collaboration. That the various actors in the creation process are separated by different shifts or geography becomes less relevant. Microsoft's biggest target audience is the corporate world, where workers in different cities may be cooperating on a single project. Law enforcement personnel usually work out of the same office, but may not see one another because of different duties or schedules, so the same technology can be exploited in this sector.

Preliminary results from my technology survey indicate 75% of the departments responding use Microsoft Word as their word processor, and nearly half of those are using Word 2000, the most recent version prior to XP. This is by far the most often-used desktop computer application in law enforcement, and it's the one that has the most changes in XP. Microsoft has promised that documents produced in Word 2002 (the XP version) will be compatible with Word versions back to Word 97, and there is even a switch to disable features that aren't available in earlier versions.

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