Not one of our more timely reviews, this, since IT Reviews didn’t even exist when Office 97 SBE2.0 was launched. But we’ve got a copy now, and it’s worth a look because this is the second edition of Microsoft’s office suite aimed, quite obviously, at small businesses. These are the sort of businesses that don’t require the full-blown database functions of something like Access, but would quite like to have a desktop publishing package for creating marketing materials and perhaps one or two other utilities such as a route-planning tool.
The first thing to note is the name. Why is it called Office 97 SBE2.0 and not Office 98 SBE? Simply because the core components of this package are those from the 1997 version of Microsoft Office – Excel 97, Word 97 and so on. It is called version 2.0 because there have been a few changes to the line-up. Excel and Word are still there, as is Outlook 97, the personal information manager. A voucher is included in the box for a free upgrade to Outlook 98, although you have to pay postage and packing costs. Plenty of column inches have already been devoted to these core applications elsewhere, so there’s little point in covering old ground. Suffice to say that they are here, they work, and most people will have at least seen or used them before. Compatibility with older versions of Excel and particularly Word is still a thorny issue, but if you’re careful it is possible to exchange data with other users without too much trouble.
Also included in this package is a copy of the AutoRoute Express 98 route-planning package. Microsoft initially made a pig’s ear out of this product after buying it, but this latest version is considerably better. It’s still not quite as fast as Route 66, but it is quite comprehensive and a handy program to have around when planning sales trips. Word-processors have come a long way, but sales leaflets and marketing brochures look far better when generated using a desktop publishing package. Office 97 SBE2.0 users get Publisher 98 for that purpose and, like most Microsoft applications, there are wizards to help you create something impressive without too much creative input. Other inclusions are Small Business Financial Manager 98, which is basically a clever add-on for Excel that provides most of the necessary financial management features, plus the obligatory copy of Internet Explorer 4.0 and a range of other potentially useful tools including several UK-specific document templates.
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