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Microsoft Office XP

Nancy and Duane Swope

February 2002

Editor's Note: Microsoft Office XP Professional was generously donated by Microsoft to CUGG in return for a written review by one of our members.


Microsoft Office XP Professional is a suite of Office Applications including:

We installed this program on my HP 500 MHz computer (Windows 98) with 128 megabytes of memory and also on Duane’s HP 1.3 MHz computer (Windows ME) with 128 megabytes of memory. The installation went very smoothly and we proceeded to start checking out the programs. The first thing we noticed was we were getting low memory messages occasionally even though we had shut down some extra programs running in the background. So then we had more memory added to both computers, each one receiving an additional 128 megabytes of memory. Even though the requirements say you only need 128 megabytes of memory we felt it was to our advantage to add more memory. That seemed to take care of the low memory messages and allowed us to jump back and forth among the different programs like Excel, Word, and Outlook etc.

After looking through the different programs we were seeing the Activation Window popping up a lot, saying we had only 47, 46, 45 (and so on) more times to use the program without activation. We were hesitant to activate the program till we were sure that we wanted it on the computer we were using. We found out that we could freely use it until our 50 times were up and then we had to activate by phone to Microsoft or over the Internet. You are allowed to use it on two computers. We decided to activate it only on Duane’s computer and not activate the other one as we hope to someday get a laptop computer and put it on there.

Microsoft Office XP Professional comes with speech recognition included. We were anxious to give this a try as we had had several speech recognition programs before but were not to happy with them. They just didn’t seem to get the words right. We had a hard time getting speech recognition to work and were about to give it up when it started working—we still do not know what caused that problem. We did the first 10 minute training and were very disappointed to find it did not get any words right. So we did all the training sessions which took quite awhile to do and still only have about 50% of the words right. All we got done was correct words which took up a lot of time. When you want to give a Voice Command (such as save, file, close etc) you click on that icon and it usually got it right. That part was great but we probably won’t use that much by itself as it’s just as easy to click on the command you want and not worry about saying a word that the computer will recognize. We had some crashes too, something we did not experience otherwise. Since there is a built in recovery system, it did come in handy as we could go back and our work was still there. That’s a nice feature. We shut down most of the programs that were running in the background and that didn’t seem to make much difference. Speech recognition seems like a wonderful idea but our experience of it to date just doesn’t make it worthwhile to us. We felt like we had a good microphone to work with speech recognition but did look at some others in the store. Since they were $40 and up we did not want to buy anymore microphones. Perhaps this would help some if you got a more powerful microphone. It also says you need to have a quiet environment when doing the training. The only sound around was our computer running so we didn’t feel like this was a problem. If someone was not able to type it might be OK for them but they would have to do lot’s of training with the program.

Since we were familiar with Word we opened it next. One of the new items now in word is the “Smart Tags”. If you write your address etc, the system recognizes that and offers you a choice of things to do such as include a map, driving directions etc. The name of a person would give you the option of e-mailing that person etc. as a smart tag. The words are underlined and you will see the little smart tag and with a right click there are your options for different things to do. There is even the option of going to the internet and ordering more smart tags that are customized to what you may need in your work. We liked that part very much. When we cut something out it then appeared on the right hand side of the screen on the clipboard. We could keep track of what changes we had made or paste it in somewhere else in the document. It can hold 24 items. That is a new feature to Word also. Our favorite part was after making a mistake whether it was language or spelling the system immediately recognized it and would let us right click and there were options to correct it right away. A very nice feature! All in all, Word is still tops as far as we are concerned and these added features are just “icing on the cake” so to speak.

Duane was familiar with Excel more than I was so I had some learning to do to work with this program. Duane brought in prior work he had done in an earlier version of Excel. It was immediately recognized without a problem. All of the previous commands are there plus a few new ones. We did have a crash with using Excel but going back into it we found our data had been saved. We really like the recovery system built into this program, sure saves a lot of headaches. We experimented with doing some charts and the office assistant came on with ideas to help us. It seems to sense when we are lost as to what to do next.

PowerPoint has always caught our attention as we have seen so many people use it in their presentations. We have plans to use this program a lot in doing some presentations ourselves. It seems easy to do and has amazing capabilities. We really like the feature where you can bring in small video from your camcorder to use in a PowerPoint presentation. It’s simple enough for a novice or experienced users to make great presentations. There are many new little windows that open as you work that show you what you can do with your work. The drag and drop feature worked great and is one of our favorites. Just clicking on view as a slideshow worked well and we could often check how we were doing and how it looked. There are so many different features to make fancy text, add sounds and so on. We are sure this will be one of our favorite programs of Office XP. We did not have any problems running PowerPoint even through all the slideshows etc. and going back and forth all the time.

Outlook 2002 was a little hard getting used to as we had always used Outlook Express. It has so many more features to learn. In fact there are so many features it will take a long time to learn them all and take advantage of it all. We were impressed with Outlook and look forward to using it all the time. From what I read about the new updated Outlook 2002 they have beefed up the security, something that was really needed. They have also made Outlook 2002 interact with the whole Office XP program.

Outlook 2002 introduces some new features in the preview pane. You no longer have to open a message in order to open attachments, follow a hyperlink, respond to meeting requests, and display properties of an e-mail address, you can do it all now within the preview pane. Another updated feature is the reminders window option. It helps you to remember scheduled meetings and other tasks. There is even a snooze feature to remind you as soon as five minutes later. We tried this feature and it worked exactly like it was suppose to. Speech recognition is available in all of these programs. It would enable you to speak an e-mail and send it if you use it in Outlook 2002.

Access 2002 includes new features for the inexperienced and also the experienced. We have worked and worked with Access and still find it confusing. This is one program we will have to do lots of practice with in order to use it. It’s definitely one program we will probably want to use in the future but only after much studying about it. It seems to be the hardest program for us to conquer and learn.

This program of Office XP Professional worked very well for us. It definitely will be expanding our horizons as we learn more about this entire well integrated program in the near future. We found that there is lots of help through the Internet and you can also go to Microsoft directly from inside the program and download more templates for Access. It all worked smoothly with our cable Internet hookup. We find this program is not for the beginner as it takes lots of time to learn and can be somewhat confusing when you first get into the program.

A CD containing step-by-step tutorial came with this program. We thought this was a very good tutorial and helped a lot. The interactive part was very helpful; it lets you do the steps as you work along with it. It would not work right until we shut down all the programs running in the background except for Explorer and systray.

Our favorite parts of the program seem to be the new task panes located on the right side of the window. From the task panes you have all the available information concerning what you are doing. The ability to see what’s on the clipboard right away is a nice feature. The Office Assistant was a big help and seemed to sense when we needed help and popped in with some information for us. Later on you may want to shut down the Office Assistant when you are more familiar with the program as it does cut down on performance as it’s running in the background. The intelligence built into this program is amazing, as it continued to keep track of what we were doing and offered help along the way. Multiple undos make it easy to go back to previous work if there were something you didn’t like.

Once we were sure which computer we wanted this program on then we activated the program. We have cable internet so we chose that way to activate it. It happened so fast that we were not sure it was activated so we checked under the help menu and it said it was activated. It would have been nice to have a double check on activating it built in as we weren’t sure that it had happened when it was suppose too. Just someway of letting us know it did go through would have been better for us and not left us guessing.

Office XP Professional sells for $579.00. The Microsoft Office site ( gives all the information about Office XP and the requirements to run this program. There is an Office XP CD available for $9.95 which lets you test-drive it for 30 days to see if you would like it. It’s a fully functional program.


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