Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Mossberg’s Mailbox

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained many questions about Microsoft Office 2007.

Will the new Office 2007 require Windows Vista, or will it run on Windows XP?

Office and Windows are separate products. Office 2007 runs fine on both the forthcoming version of Windows, called Vista, and on the current Windows XP. I have tested it on both.

You didn’t mention Microsoft Access in your review. Has it changed along with the other Office programs?

I never review Access because it isn’t meant for average consumers, who are my primary audience, and it isn’t included in the Standard or Home versions of Office. However, Access 2007 does have the same all-new user interface as the rest of Office. For more information, see: office.microsoft.com/en-us/access/FX100487571033.aspx.

I understand that the new Excel can handle much larger spreadsheets than the old one, but am wondering if using these giant spreadsheets would slow down a computer?

Yes, Microsoft says that Excel 2007 can now handle spreadsheets with up to one million rows by 16,000 columns, compared with 65,536 rows by 256 columns in the prior version. The company adds that, to help with the load, Excel can now make use of both processor cores in one of the new dual-core computers. However, it’s safe to assume that such a huge spreadsheet would cripple an average older PC. For more on the new Excel, see: office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel/FX100487621033.aspx

When will the Macintosh version of Office 2007 come out? Will it have the same new user interface? Will it be able to read the new Office file formats?

The Windows and Macintosh versions of Office, while similar in many respects, are different programs, with different names and release dates, which are developed by separate teams at Microsoft. There won’t be an Office 2007 for the Mac, per se. But there will be a new Mac version of Office in the second half of this year, according to Microsoft. It will be called Office 2008.

This new Mac version will have its own new interface, which will differ from the one in the new Windows version, and won’t be as much of a radical change. Unlike the new Windows version, the forthcoming Mac version will still have the usual menus. It won’t have the “Ribbon” interface used by the Windows version, but will have something called the “Elements Gallery.”

As to file formats, the new Mac version will be able to read and write the new formats introduced with the Windows version. For users of the older Mac version of Office, Microsoft is promising to release converters, in beta form, in the spring.

You reported that Microsoft has stripped Outlook from Office. If you install the new Office 2007, can you still keep the old Outlook 2003?

Whoa, there. I never said Outlook had been stripped from Office. I merely said it had been dropped from the cheapest version of Office, the $150 Home and Student edition. It’s still a part of the Standard version and all the other versions.

As for keeping Outlook 2003 when you install Office 2007 Home and Student edition, Microsoft says you can do it, but only if you select “custom” in setup, and specifically choose NOT to remove Outlook. (The standard install process would remove the old Outlook, even though no new Outlook would be installed.)

However, the two programs won’t work perfectly together. Outlook 2003 won’t use Word 2007 for composing and editing emails, but will instead revert to using its internal message editor for that purpose.

* * *

Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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