March 1997 // Featured Products
The Power of Microsoft Office 97
by Katie Jordan
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Katie Jordan "The Power of Microsoft Office 97" The Technology Source, March 1997. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Microsoft Office 97, Professional Edition, provides significant upgrades of each productivity application: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation graphics program, and Microsoft Access. Office 97 also introduces the Microsoft Outlook 97 desktop information management application that replaces Schedule+ in the Office suite.

Office 97 brings schools the power of an intranet, enabling administrators, teachers, and students to share information, collaborate on projects, and be more effective in getting their work done. Office 97 offers significant changes over previous versions of Microsoft Office in three key areas:

  • Individual Efficiency: Intelligent and integrated software helps users get organized and be more productive.
  • Intranet Solutions: Users can exploit the power of an intranet for sharing information throughout an organization.
  • Improved Software Management: Enhanced setup and administration tools translate to easier migration and reduced support costs.

Flexible Setup

Upgrading larger software installations throughout a school district or within a school is not a trivial undertaking. Software is often evaluated for the capabilities the users want, but it should also be evaluated for ease of installation, administrative flexibility in setting defaults, and file-sharing capabilities across different platforms and versions of the same software.

Microsoft Office 97 is designed to provide administrators with the same high level of flexibility and control whether end users install the software themselves, whether a technician installs it, or whether a fully-automated, hands-off installation process such as Microsoft Systems Management Server is used. In addition, because many large schools use tools to manage users’ desktops, Microsoft has provided the technology to support these tools, including support for System Policies and System Management Server.

System Policies and System Management Server

System Policies, introduced in the Windows® 95 operating system, and now supported in Windows NT® Workstation 4.0, gives the administrator control over custom settings for both the operating system and the applications on end-user computers. Default file formats and locations, Office Assistant settings, and the workgroup template location are examples of options that can be set through System Policies. For example, if you will be installing Office 97 throughout your school district over a period of time, you should set the default file format so that files are saved in an earlier version of Office. This will allow for continued document sharing between all users.

Systems Management Server (one of the BackOffice™ server products) makes it easy to install Microsoft Office throughout a school or district remotely, eliminating the need to visit each desktop individually.

Administrative Tools

In order to meet the varied software installation needs of schools, Microsoft has created tools that allow administrators to customize Microsoft Office.

The Network Installation Wizard lets network administrators create one or more custom installations of Office 97 by stepping them through the process for creating a custom Setup Table File (STF). Office setup then allows users to specify which STF to use during any given installation. For example, an administrator would want to choose the default file save type for the current version of Office if users were to be added a few at a time. That way, users can continue to share files. Other Network Installation options include choosing which features should be installed; whether users should install the software on their local hard drive or run it from the server; the default folder for installing Office and the My Documents folder; and whether to add files to Setup, such as custom templates. The Network Installation Wizard is available on the CD-ROM in the Microsoft Office 97 Resource Kit.

The Office 97 Policy Template is used with the Windows 95 Policy Editor to update changes to users’ systems over a network. For example, once all users machines have been upgraded to Office 97, the administrator can use the Policy Template to change the user default file save from the Office 95 file formats to the Office 97 file formats. For more information on implementing System Policies, refer to the Windows 95 Resource Kit or the Windows NT Resource Kit.

The Office Upgrade Assistant, available with the Microsoft Office 97 Resource Kit, helps end users and administrators remove obsolete Office 4.x or Office for Windows 95 software, making it unnecessary to remove an earlier version of Office prior to installation of Office 97.

Batch file converters let users convert entire directories of files to any file format supported by that application. In addition, in the Typical Setup for Office 97, a database is created that shows you a complete list of application files that were installed with Office 97 and includes queries that tell you the feature that installed the files, file location, version information, and so on.

File-Format Compatibility

In a mixed environment of Microsoft Office users, sharing files can be problematic. Administrators don’t want to expend the effort and cost of installing converters for older versions of software, and users of the new version don’t want to give up new features in order to save in older formats. starting with the Office 97 applications, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint will be able to determine if a file that is being opened was created in an older version, and help the user locate converters on a shared network location, or even the Microsoft Web site.

Default Save Feature in Microsoft Word 97, Microsoft Excel 97, and PowerPoint lets administrators restrict users to saving in a particular file format. Since many schools do not upgrade everyone at one time, this is an effective intermediary solution for sharing files. End users can specify the file format in which to save documents in the Tools Options dialog box in each of the applications. In addition, on the Windows 95 and Windows NT platforms, the administrator can set the file format using the System Policy.

Viewers allow users who do not have Office to view and print Office documents. Users can accomplish specific tasks such as following hyperlinks, showing a presentation in the PowerPoint Viewer, or using the AutoFilter feature in the Microsoft Excel Viewer. Viewers can be downloaded from the Microsoft Office Web site at

Additional Resources

There are a variety of resources available to assist administrators in installing and using Microsoft Office.

  • The Microsoft Office 97 Resource Kit is available through Microsoft Press or can be found on the Microsoft Web site.
  • A host of Microsoft Solution Providers and Authorized Training and Education Centers are specifically trained to assist in deployment, development, and training with Microsoft products. Information can be obtained by calling 1-800-SOL-PROV in North America.
  • Microsoft TechNet is a comprehensive information resource for anyone who evaluates, implements, or supports Microsoft business products, sent out monthly on CD-ROM. More information can be found at
  • For classroom teachers, students, support staff, and staff development specialists, In and Out of the Classroom with Microsoft Office 97 training guide will be available in February on the Microsoft education Web site at
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