Microsoft Office 2003 goes on sale this week.

If you’re using Office 2000 or Office 97, there are improvements throughout the programs in the suite that make upgrading worthwhile. And Outlook 2003 has significant changes that deserve a look regardless of what version of Office you’re using. Here’s an article about the new features and changes in Microsoft Outlook 2003.

I’ve seen several articles praising the spam filter built in to Outlook 2003, like the article linked above. And the screen is laid out differently – a jarring change at first, but I’m coming to appreciate it as I get used to it.

If you’re ordering a new computer, it’s now possible to include Powerpoint for a reasonable price – one of the annoying omissions from the inexpensive version of Office given to the manufacturers until now. Office 2003 Basic Edition includes Word, Excel and Outlook. Office 2003 Small Business Edition adds Powerpoint and Publisher.

If you’re buying an upgrade version in the stores, licensing has been liberalized on the student and teachers edition of Office 2003. It should be widely available at $130-$140, about half the cost of the regular business version. Microsoft is trying to tempt more consumers into upgrading, so the student edition license is valid for parents, in addition to students and teachers, and the license now permits installation on up to three computers. Small businesses should do the right thing and get the regular version, but qualifying home users and home offices shouldn’t hesitate to get the student edition – the software itself is identical to the conventional boxed suite.

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