Microsoft?s Office 97 suite, due for early release by Christmas, will introduce radically different file formats that will not be compatible with current Office releases. The changes will enable the constituent applications - Word, Access, Excel and Powerpoint - to support new data types.
Although Microsoft has not changed file formats across all four modules before - only Powerpoint and Access changed in the 1995 upgrade for instance. However, it will help users adapt by providing automatic access to file converters and the ability for system administrators to set default file formats. Office 97 will be able to read and write Office 95 file formats and so users can set the defaults to save 97 files in 95 format, especially during a roll-out when companies may have a mixture of old and new versions in place.
The chief new data types that will be supported are graphics from Microsoft?s new Office Art tool, Visual Basic for Applications, and hyperlinks in documents.
Information will now be stored in a standard way across all four packages to support a new method of sharing code. Powerpoint will gain the ability to compress files, but earlier releases of the presentation package will not be able to decompress these files.
Office 97 should handle unfamiliar file formats more efficiently than Office 95, using remote libraries of file converters that can live on servers or Internet sites.
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