CMP's Windows Magazine Finds 'Serious Flaws' in Microsoft's Office 97 and Outlook

Publication Removes Office 97 and Outlook from its WinList of Recommend Products

May 8, 1997

Due to file compatibility problems, problems with e-mail system lock-ups, and a host of other issues, CMP's WINDOWS MAGAZINE has removed Microsoft's Office 97 and Outlook from its WinList of recommended products. This is the first time in the publication's five-year history that any product has been taken off the WinList due to late-surfacing bugs and design flaws, although, as Fred Langa, Vice President, Editorial Director of CMP's PC Group, points out, the products will be reevaluated when their problems are resolved.

WINDOWS MAGAZINE editors found the problems during extensive real-world testing, a process that differentiates the publication from its competitors that solely rely on labs-based testing. "We discovered some disturbing problems with Office 97 that would come to light only after sustained use in a real-life setting," said Langa in his "The Explorer" column in the June issue of WINDOWS MAGAZINE.

Word 97 Compatibility Problems

Although it's been reported that Word 97 files are incompatible with earlier versions of Word, it was thought that saving files as earlier versions of Word would alleviate those problems. What was not revealed is that Word 97 saves files as generic RTF (rich-text format) files disguised with a DOC extension. "At the least, you can lose formatting information; at the worst, you can get strange error messages and other incompatibility problems," writes Langa.

Microsoft released a separate file-converter program that Word 95 users can run to let Word 95 read Word 97 files. But Langa said this attacks the problem from the wrong end. "The small installed base (Word 97) should provide compatibility with the large installed base (Word 95), not the other way around," he said.

Outlook Problems

"Outlook, Office 97's e-mail/PIM/schedule application, is very cooly unless you use Microsoft's Exchange for e-mail," warns Langa. The problem is that Outlook overwrites entries in the Registry that Exchange uses, "and the results aren't pretty." WINDOWS MAGAZINE staffer Jim Powell said his system slowed to a crawl and became unstable after installing Office 97.

"Suddenly, opening a simple mail message in Exchange took 45 seconds on a Compaq Deskpro Pentium 166 with 32MB of memory," notes Powell. "When I chose Word 97 as my e-mail editor, I encountered dozens of productivity-stopping, out-of-memory errors and system lockups I'd never had before."

"Top tier products don't break each other," writes Langa. "This serious flaw knocks Outlook down a level from the WinList's other well-behaved contact managers and excellent stand-alone e-mail clients."

Langa's column, which further addresses the issue of when to upgrade, concludes: "We recommend you stay with Office 95. At least for now, this is clearly a case where it makes more sense not to upgrade."

WINDOWS MAGAZINE's writing and editorial staff employs some of the industry's foremost experts on issues related to Windows and Windows-based technology. The publication is online at on the Web, and on America Online at Keyword: Winmag. In addition to content from the latest issue of WINDOWS MAGAZINE, the site features dozens of Windows productivity tips, instructions for turbo-charging browsers, and tips on where to find and download the hottest shareware apps, including Windows 95 updates.

CMP Media Inc. provides publishing, marketing and information services to the broad high-technology spectrum -- the builders, sellers and users of technology -- through print and electronic media. All of CMP's publications and online products can be accessed through the company's TechWeb® site on Web at Along with WINDOWS MAGAZINE, CMP's print titles include HomePC and NetGuide Magazine.

NOTE: All of CMP's press releases are available on the Web at Journalists and reporters may also set up interviews with CMP's high technology experts through the site by e-mail.

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SOURCE: CMP Media Inc.

CONTACT: Catherine Jarrat Koatz, 516-562-7827, ckoatz(at), or
Leslie Dunbar, 516-562-7040, ldunbar(at), both of CMP Corporate