Office 2007 creeps toward release

Office 207 is close to completion as Microsoft prepares to release the last public test version on Thursday.

Microsoft's Office 2007 suite is nearing the end of its long testing process. Microsoft on Thursday will offer a refresh of beta 2, the last external test release of the product before it is released to manufacturing, the company said.

Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh will feature improved performance, enhancements to its collaboration tools and tighter integration across the individual products, Microsoft said. It also will include improvements in the general look and feel of the suite.

Users can download the beta 2 refresh of Office 2007 for free at http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview.

Beta 2 of Office 2007 was originally released in late May. In the first two months of its public release, it was downloaded more than 3 million times by beta testers, so Microsoft began charging users US$1.50 to download the release at the end of July. The company began allowing users to test Office online with a Web-based test version of the suite in June.

Like its sister product Windows Vista, Office 2007 has been delayed several times, but the company's latest target for release is to have it in the hands of business customers before the end of the year and consumers in the first quarter of 2007. However, online retailer Amazon.com is already taking orders for Office 2007, and lists the product's ship date as Jan. 30, 2007.

Vista, the next major update to Microsoft's Windows client OS, is also expected to be in general release at the same time, and will get to business customers in November, according to its current schedule.

Office 2007 features a new user interface and a host of enhancements to its applications that allow users to work together in a collaborative environment.

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