GARDINER, Mont., July 12, 1999 — After working nine years as a recruiter for a Yellowstone National Park concessions provider, Bill Berg quit his job in 1995 to enroll in an MBA program at the University of Washington. Soon afterward, he suddenly got an idea: Why not create a Web site that matches college students with seasonal jobs at national parks, ranches, ski resorts and other outdoor destinations?
“I had been trying for nine years to locate college students to work in Yellowstone for the summer, and I saw this immediate fit,” Berg said. “It just occurred to me that millions of college students who have free summers also have free access to the Internet. It was just kind of a ‘duh’ moment.”
Four years later, Berg runs an online company called “Cool Works” out of a small cabin along the Yellowstone River in Wyoming. The business, which he started in 1995, receives 100,000 visitors a month and has 300 clients who advertise job vacancies. With a Web-based business, first-rate software is critical to Berg’s success. His choice? The Office 2000 business productivity suite and its extended family of products. “I received a beta copy several months ago, and we’ve been pretty much using the whole suite ever since,” Berg said.
In addition to using Microsoft Word to write documents and Excel to build charts and analyze information, Berg uses FrontPage to create and manage his Web site and Publisher to create the marketing materials he sends to his clients. He is making his Web site more interactive with Vizact and is adding graphics to his Web site with PhotoDraw.
Berg says the uniform features of Office applications make it easy for his employees to switch among software programs without learning different commands for each application. Moreover, the ability to easily import files from one application to the next enables Cool Works to create professional-looking Web pages and printed materials. “Switching from one application to the other is not that big of a deal,” Berg said. “You just kind of know how to get around. Office 2000 also makes it easy to save files from Word and other Microsoft applications directly into my FrontPage site without having to do a lot of mop-up to make them Web-ready.”
Berg is among millions of customers who are turning to Office 2000 to make their businesses more productive. Most people who have used Office are familiar with software programs like Word for writing documents, Excel for creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint for making slide presentations. But the Office “family of products” includes much more. Microsoft added three new products when it launched Office 2000 last month and released improved versions of several previous products. FrontPage 2000 enables users to create and manage Web sites, while Publisher 2000 makes it possible to develop marketing materials from newsletters to business cards. PhotoDraw 2000 lets customers edit photos and create graphics, MapPoint 2000 allows users to produce maps and analyze demographic information, and Vizact 2000 creates active documents with Web-like effects that improve communication and reduce information overload.
All five software applications can be purchased as standalone products. In addition, FrontPage and PhotoDraw come with Office 2000 Premium, a high-end version of the Office suite offered for the first time, and Publisher is included with the Office 2000 Premium, Professional and Small Business editions.
“Office 2000 offers users both the breadth and depth they need to accomplish a wide variety of tasks in minimal time,” said Andrew Dixon, Microsoft’s group product manager for Office 2000. “To reduce users’ learning curve, we’ve introduced innovative new approaches such as a user interface that adapts to the way people work, and a way to get help by asking questions using their own words. We’ve also made the products tightly integrated so it’s easy to move between the Office 2000 family of applications without having to learn a new set of tools.”
James Shourt, chief information officer for the Los Angeles law firm Troop Steuber Pasich Reddick & Tobey, LLP, said Office 2000 has enabled his firm to create a virtual computer training program for the law firm’s 140 attorneys and 220 staff. The firm uses a combination of Vizact, PhotoDraw and PowerPoint to create dynamic employee training presentations, which the company posts to the company intranet via FrontPage. Because Office applications are easy to learn, the people who develop the training courses can create the online training programs themselves, Shourt said. The training programs also make it possible for employees to find information quickly when they need it.
“These people are under tremendous pressure, and they don’t usually have time to come to class,” Shourt said. “This way they can get the information when they can best absorb it, which is when they need it. It might be 3:00 in the morning, and it might be exactly the time they need to learn how to set margins. This doesn’t wake somebody up at 3:00 in the morning, who in turn, has to do the work for them. They do it themselves.”
So what exactly do each of these products offer? For one thing, each reduces costs by expanding the tasks businesses can accomplish in-house, Dixon said. Moreover, each application saves time because it’s easy to use and includes tools already familiar to Office users.
Creating and Maintaining Web Sites with FrontPage 2000
In addition to offering FrontPage 2000 as a standalone Web site creation tool, Microsoft for the first time has included it with Office 2000 Premium edition. The inclusion of FrontPage in Office Premium underscores the increasing importance Office users are putting on creating Internet and Intranet sites to better serve customers and improve collaboration among colleagues and partners, said Tom Bailey, a lead product manager for FrontPage at Microsoft.
Nearly half of Microsoft’s 2 million FrontPage customers are knowledge workers creating Internet and intranet sites for their businesses, Bailey said. “This is by far the fastest growing segment of our customer base,” he said. “And knowledge workers require tools that work like their Office applications and give them the flexibility to design dynamic sites which meet their individual business needs.”
FrontPage 2000 delivers a broad range of new features that will allow traditional Office users to quickly get a Web site up and running, Bailey said. For example, the user interface is much more like that of Office, allowing FrontPage users to take advantage of familiar Office toolbars, menus and dialogs as well as features such as fonts, colors and backgrounds when creating their Web sites.
FrontPage 2000 also provides new tools that allow users to create and manage Web sites exactly the way they want, according to Bailey. For example, FrontPage 2000 allows users to preserve hypertext mark-up language (HTML) formatting imported into FrontPage documents, regardless of the application used to create it. The product also allows users to design for any browser and gives them the ability to customize the “themes” or templates that are included in the product. “Users want the ability to create sites that convey a unique and consistent look that matches their business needs,” Bailey said. “The ability that customers have to use their own HTML code and have it preserved, choose the browser they want to design for and customize the 60 new or improved FrontPage themes gives them the tools they need to do this.”
Finally, FrontPage provides a new “Reports View” containing 13 different reports that help users fix problems as they create and manage their sites. For example, Web site managers will be able to better identify problems such as outdated hyperlinks, slow pages, unlinked files and old files. “The reports allow the designer to understand what’s happening with various Web site pages, files and images so they can quickly identify problems and fix them,” Bailey said.
Berg, the Cool Works president, said FrontPage has consistently boosted his productivity ever since he switched to the product three years ago. “It was a great leap forward because at the time I was still working by myself, and Cool Works was starting to get really busy,” he said. “It increased my productivity many-fold. And now it’s even more robust than it was before.”
Laying Out Marketing Materials with Publisher 2000
Publisher 2000 was developed to give business users a simple way to create marketing materials ranging from business cards to annual reports, said Lori Birtley, a Microsoft product manager for Publisher and PhotoDraw. Microsoft adapted the user interface features of Publisher 2000 to give them a similar look and feel to other Office applications, she said. Publisher also is tightly integrated with other Office applications, making it easy to import files created with Word, PhotoDraw and other software programs into the product without losing formatting. “A great example is a newsletter,” Birtley said. “The text may have been created in Word. The graphics may have come from PhotoDraw or another graphics application. And all of these pieces are easily rolled into one of the Publisher automatic layouts.”
Publisher 2000 includes 2,000 design templates intended to help businesses create a consistent look among all their publications. It also includes “wizards” that walk customers through the steps of laying out different types of publications. “Publisher is all about making layout programs easy to use,” Birtley said. “In fact, it was the first Microsoft application to introduce the concept of wizards to help people through the process of building their applications.”
One of the biggest changes to Publisher 2000 is that it now handles spot- and four-color files. This means business users for the first time can print Publisher files on professional printing presses, Birtley said. “This version of Publisher comes with a whole set of commercial printing tools that really allow customers to print anywhere-on their desktop, at their quick print center or all the way up to a full commercial printer,” she said.
Publisher also recognizes files from non-Microsoft Word processing and graphics programs from Corel WordPerfect to Adobe PhotoShop, she said. “Publisher is a great integrating application,” Birtley said. “It can take content from almost any source.”
Until now, Publisher has only been offered with the Small Business Edition of Office and as a standalone product. Hoping to expand the product’s reach, Microsoft now also packages it with both the professional and premium editions of Office 2000, Birtley said.
Because Cool Works can quickly create publications using Publisher, the company uses it to create customized marketing brochures for specific types of clients such as national parks, summer camps and guest ranches. “We can pretty much tweak our brochure to target any one of those groups and then head over to Kinko’s and have them printed off without relying on a professional printer and having boxes of brochures lying around that are going to go out of date,” Berg said.
Producing Photos and Graphics with PhotoDraw 2000
PhotoDraw 2000, a new product offered by Microsoft, is aimed at helping users with no formal graphics training edit photos and create graphic illustrations. The first software program to combine graphic illustration and photo editing into one product, PhotoDraw greatly simplifies computer graphic design for users, Birtley said. “During the past 10 years, there’s always been a split between what you could do with photographs and what you could do with drawing applications,” she said. “With PhotoDraw, no matter what type of object you select, whether it’s text or a photograph or a line, you can apply exactly the same effects using the same tools, and the customer doesn’t have to switch among different applications.”
PhotoDraw offers painting and drawing tools, as well as a complete set of tools for re-touching photos, Birtley said. It also comes with 300 business templates and a “clip gallery” that includes 20,000 photos, backgrounds and clip art illustrations. Microsoft has incorporated an answer wizard into the product that responds to questions users type in. Another wizard automatically saves a graphic to the correct size and format based on whether the customer plans to save it to the Web or incorporate it into a printed document.
Microsoft has offered PhotoDraw as a standalone product since October. It also has included PhotoDraw in the Office 2000 Premium edition to give business users another tool to create professional-looking Web sites. “PhotoDraw really allows users to get up to speed quickly because it offer a very familiar Office interface,” Birtley said. “With a couple of clicks, they can make very professional-looking graphics that they can incorporate into their Web sites and printed documents.”
Employees at Troop use PhotoDraw to create sophisticated graphics that add more flair to intranet Web pages and to PowerPoint slide presentations delivered to law firm clients. “You don’t have to go to a class to learn it, or pull your hair out for 40 hours,” Shourt said. “That makes a big difference.”
Making Better Business Decisions with MapPoint 2000
MapPoint 2000 is a new Microsoft product designed to help users create maps and analyze demographic information. MapPoint enables users to type in any address and find it on a map. They can customize maps by adding color and text. And they can plot trends on maps to help them make better business decisions. “Let’s say I want to better understand where my business is doing well or where my sales people are under-performing,” said John Betz, Microsoft product manager for MapPoint. “Maps are a great way to gain insight into your business activities.”
MapPoint also allows users to combine demographic information with maps to help them identify business trends. “Once I’ve plotted my sales information on the map, I may want to understand something more about each sales area,” Betz said. “Is it a high-populated area? Are my customers high-income or low-income? Where should I put my next store based on this demographic information? MapPoint can be used for this purpose.”
Maps created in MapPoint can easily be used in other Office programs. For example, they can be e-mailed to people using Outlook, incorporated into PowerPoint presentations or saved to the Web. The product comes with census data such as household sizes, income and population by age. Users can also import their own data into MapPoint from Excel spreadsheets, Outlook contacts and databases such as Access, SQL Server and Oracle.
MapPoint builds on the success of Expedia Streets, a consumer mapping application included with Office 97 Small Business Edition, Betz said. Microsoft has released two versions of MapPoint 2000, one for U.S. customers and one for Great Britain.
MapPoint gives businesses a new set of tools that were once the sole domain of large companies that could afford expensive Geographic Information System (GIS) software, Betz said. “MapPoint takes the hard-to-use, expensive functionality out of the back room and puts it in front of everyday Office users so they can make the same smart business decisions that only the largest companies could once afford to make,” he said.
Creating Active Documents with Vizact 2000
Announced in May, Vizact 2000 enables users who are not Web authors to create more dynamic Web pages, PowerPoint presentations, e-mail messages and other electronic documents by letting them control when elements such as text, pictures, sound and film clips appear and disappear. For example, Vizact comes with a feature called AutoMotion, which uses movement to attract readers’ attention to key points.
It also allows users to add Interactive Bullets that reduce the amount of information users see on a computer screen, allowing them to find more detailed information by clicking on each bullet. “In a lot of ways, business users have been limited by the static nature of documents,” said Lisa Harding, a Vizact product manager. “For example, they couldn’t create one e-mail message that spoke to many different people interested in different portions of the same e-mail. Vizact allows each recipient to click on an Interactive Bullet and see only the details of interest to him or her. And business users can apply these capabilities in the same way to all of their Office HTML files, including documents, presentations and spreadsheets.”
Vizact helps businesses to communicate more effectively, Harding said. It also helps them sift through vast amounts of information. “Vizact helps solve the problem of information overload by creating documents that don’t overwhelm the user with information they don’t need,” she said. “At the same time, it makes it easy for them to locate and use that information when they do need it.”
Using Vizact, trainers at the Troop law firm have developed dynamic training programs for employees without having to learn complex Web authoring tools, Shourt said. “Vizact allows you to choreograph objects in time and space, like having a sound clip roll at a certain point because of a certain action,” he said. “That’s a very powerful tool when you can give it to someone who knows how to build a curriculum. We’re saving an incredible dollar amount by not having to buy very expensive authoring tools and training people for months to use them.”
Like Troop and Cool Works, thousands of businesses are starting to discover the powerful tools Office 2000 offers their companies, Dixon said. “As Office family members, each of these products helps businesses to be more productive,” he said. “They’re easy to use, yet sophisticated in what they can accomplish. The result is a more creative approach to business problems.”