Upgrade Advice

Q. Although my Windows 98 operating system and Office 98 are working fine, I was about to follow your recommendation (in “Facing the Future,” JofA , Apr.01, page 26 ) and upgrade to the 2000 versions. However, I just heard Microsoft has announced another upgrade for both this year. What do you think I should do?

A. I was aware of the planned upgrades—to Windows XP (the new operating system) and Office XP—when I wrote the article. But generally I believe it’s prudent to wait a few months after any new software version is introduced (or at least until the first bug fixes are available) before taking the plunge.

Having just returned from a Microsoft developers conference where I had the opportunity to torture test both programs, I’ve changed my mind for several reasons.

Microsoft has added some components to both Windows XP (for eXPerience) and Office XP that make them easy to use and, even more important, very productive.

My favorite is Smart Tags, which is in Word, Excel and Outlook. It anticipates your next action, pops up a menu of choices (which you can customize) and then performs the action you choose. For example, if you’re writing a letter or e-mail and type in a person’s or company’s name, Smart Tags asks if you want it to seek out the address (or the company’s latest earnings’ report or stock price) by searching your computer, your network or the entire Internet for the information. Once Smart Tags finds the information, it copies it into the document.

Up until this latest version, every Windows operating system has been saddled with DOS operating system components in order to run those old applications. Maintaining that compatibility made Windows more vulnerable to crashes. DOS is now gone entirely and, in the event Windows XP does crash, the software automatically safeguards the file you were working on (up to the keystroke that triggered the crash). Then, when you reboot, it reassembles the events that led up to the crash and gives you the option, with just one keystroke, to e-mail the information to Microsoft so its engineers can find a way to fix the bug.

By the time you read this, Office XP will be out. The new operating system is scheduled to be available before yearend.

Do you have a technology question for this column? Send it to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at zarowin@mindspring.com or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881. We regret that we cannot answer letters individually. If a reader’s question is deemed to have sufficiently broad interest, we will answer it in a forthcoming Technology Q&A column.

—The editors


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