: Office 11 Beta"> Bill Coan, president of Coan and Co. Inc., in Hortonville, Wis., which develops custom templates and add-ins for corporate customers, also gave the programmable task pane the thumbs up as users will now always have available to them the most urgently needed options and guidance. While Microsoft will not be supplying ready-made "smart documents," it will be providing a developer kit that will make programming easy, allowing corporations and enterprises to create their own internal smart documents that could be used across the company, Jaffe said.Office 11 also allows much more integrated collaboration between people and has been designed to make the capturing of corporate knowledge and leveraging of the existing infrastructure and staff resources far more seamless and efficient. "Office 11 is far more tightly integrated with SharePoint Team Services Version 2.0, which introduces the concept of document workplaces," Jaffe said. "What this does is create a task pane that is essentially a view into an STS site. Users can then make their documents become a live attachment, which creates an STS site specifically for collaboration on the document or project. "As the mail is sent out, recipients can check the STS site via the task pane to see if there is a later version of the document than the one they have. So this gives them access to the most up-to-date information and copies of the work/reports," he said. User presence is also now recognized so the task pane will show if co-workers or contributors are online, and they can chat with them from within the task pane. "For many users, this will be completely transparent and they will not even be aware that an STS site has been created on the back end. In line with this, we have also improved how meetings take place through meeting workspaces," Jaffe said. Microsoft also made some "radical" changes in Outlook around the way connected users read, store and manage the personal information they store. A new reading pane has also been built into Outlook that allows users to read more of their e-mail in preview than ever before without taking up more real estate. It is also better at storing and searching e-mail. Users can now sort strings of e-mail around the same subject by conversation thread, as well as use the search across multiple folders and save those search results into a single folder. Microsoft has also introduced quick flags, where users can apply five different-colored flags to their various e-mail messages to indicate how these need to be followed up, which could then be searched for by color. Improvements have also been made around how mail is managed in terms of connecting with Exchange. "We now have something called local cache mode, which is far more intelligent about how it uses the network bandwidth. So not only can it recognize the type of connection you are on, but its smart about how it downloads information," Jaffe said. With Outlook 11, information can be stored locally, and when the user connects back to the server it automatically syncs back up. If the connection is lost, Outlook will not go down and the user can continue working uninterrupted, since it is smart enough to recognize when it is online or offline. In addition, it can now recognize the type of Internet connection a user has and download information differently depending on the connection. So, if a user has a slow dial-up connection, just the headers of the e-mail will be downloaded first. Clicking on the e-mail will then cause the body of the message to download. Microsoft has also now put smart tags into PowerPoint and Access. A new research and reference task pane is also included for the first time that allows users to access information on Encarta and do language translation out of the box. It will also allow users to access external Web services or content, the specifics of which will be announced later in the year, Jaffe said. Asked if this was doing the same thing that Microsoft had tried with smart tags in Windows XP, which it was forced to drop from the product, Jaffe said people did not have problems with smart tags in Office XP as it made sense in the context of a document and pulling information into that document. "Anyone can build their own smart tag solution, and here the reality is smart tags will work a lot like they did in Office XP and well probably have third parties that we make available to use right inside research and reference. Organizations can also do this internally," he said. Microsoft will also be releasing a software developer kit that allows users to link to their own research and reference sites from within the Office document, he added.
When asked about the security of these documents, Jaffe said they could be digitally signed, so users would know that they came from a trusted source. "The reality is that this is no different from how people work today, when they open up an e-mail or access a Web site or use smart tags to access information. Nobodys going to be any more exposed," he said.