Microsoft Office 2003: A Retrospective Review
Microsoft Office 2003 was an office suite developed and distributed by Microsoft for its Windows operating system. It was released to manufacturing on August 19, 2003, and was later released to retail on October 21, 2003, exactly two years after the release of Windows XP. It was the successor to Office XP and the predecessor to Office 2007. The Mac OS X equivalent, Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac was released on May 11, 2004.
Office 2003 introduced several new features and improvements to the Office product lineup, such as:
- Information rights management: a technology that allows users to control access and usage of documents and email messages.
- New collaboration features: such as shared workspaces, document workspaces, meeting workspaces, and SharePoint integration.
- Improved support for smart tags and XML: allowing users to create custom XML schemas and apply them to documents.
- Extended use of Office Online services: such as online clip art, templates, and help.
- Two new programs: InfoPath, a program for designing, filling, and submitting electronic structured data forms; and OneNote, a note-taking program for creating and organizing diagrams, graphics, handwritten notes, recorded audio, and text.
- Picture Manager: a graphics software to open, manage, and share digital images.
Office 2003 also rebranded the Office suite as an integrated system dedicated to information workers. As a result, Microsoft appended the “Office” branding to the names of all programs. For example, Word became Microsoft Office Word 2003. Office 2003 also updated the Office logo, eliminating the puzzle motif in use since Office 95. Additionally, Office 2003 was the first version to support Windows XP colors and visual styles, and introduced updated icons.
Office 2003 was the last version of Office to include the traditional menu bar and toolbar interface across all programs, and also the last version to include the “97 – 2003” file format as the default file format. This file format was compatible with previous versions of Office, but it did not support some of the new features introduced in Office 2003. Users could choose to save documents in a new XML-based file format that supported all features of Office 2003, but this format was not compatible with previous versions of Office without installing a compatibility pack.
Office 2003 was incompatible with Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, Windows ME and earlier versions of Windows. Minimum required operating systems for Office 2003 were Windows 2000 SP3 or later, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. It was officially unsupported on Windows 8 or later versions of Windows. Microsoft released a total of three service packs for Office 2003 throughout its lifecycle. The last service pack (SP3) was released on September 17, 2007. It improved performance and security of the suite, and also provided tighter integration with Windows Vista and Office 2007.
Office 2003 was a popular and widely used office suite that offered many features and benefits to its users. However, it also faced some challenges and criticisms from users and reviewers alike. Some of the common issues reported by users were:
- Lack of innovation: some users felt that Office 2003 did not offer enough new features or improvements over previous versions of Office. They also complained that some of the new features were not useful or user-friendly. For example, some users found the information rights management feature too complex or restrictive to use effectively.
- Lack of compatibility: some users encountered problems when opening or saving documents in different file formats or using different versions of Office. They also reported compatibility issues with other software applications or operating systems that did not support Office 2003