After spending some time with Office 97, I'm convinced Microsoft finally has us where they want us. What I mean is, with Office 97, they've left us very few reasons to ever leave the Microsoft-controlled environment. Why? Because that environment--complete with a surprisingly unobtrusive cartoon character called the "Answer Wizard"--is about as pleasant and functional as a software program can be.
Microsoft has added a new configuration to the Office 97 family--the Small Business Edition. Considering how fast small businesses, and particularly the homebased segment--are growing, it's no big surprise that Microsoft is targeting small-business users with its most popular software program. What is somewhat surprising, however, is how Microsoft adapted Office 97 to appeal to small-business users.
After numerous focus groups and much BODYing, Microsoft determined that small-business users don't require two of the key Office Professional components: Microsoft Access (database) and PowerPoint (for presentations). That left Word 97, Excel 97 and Outlook 97, the new Microsoft information manager. To make the product more appealing to small-business users, Microsoft added Publisher 97 (desktop publishing), Automap Streets Plus (street-level mapping), and Small Business Financial Manager 97. The result is an extremely interesting and easy-to-use suite of products. (Macintosh and Windows 3.1 users are out of luck when it comes to Office 97--this is a Windows 95/NT product only.)