March 17, 1999 11:25 AM PST

Microsoft offers Y2K patch for Office 95

With less than nine months to go before January 1, 2000, Microsoft has released a new set of Year 2000 fixes for its Office 95 applications suite.

Microsoft has said that Office 95 is "compliant with minor issues," meaning its core date-handling feature is Y2K compliant, but the software could still experience some minor glitches.

Available for download off of the Office Update Web site, the Office 95 Year 2000 Patch is for either the Professional Edition or the Standard Edition of Office 95, as well as for users of any of the individual programs included in Office 95 (Excel 95, Word 95, Access 95, PowerPoint 95, or Schedule+ 7.0) or Microsoft Project 4.0, the company said.

Microsoft has already stated that Office 97 is Y2K compliant.

The patch represents a relatively new phase in Microsoft's Year 2000 initiative, which has been criticized by customers and analysts for its delay in coming.

"One problem people are still having has to do with how information has been trickling out from Microsoft," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group. He said users of some Microsoft software have found out that the products they assumed were Y2K compliant in fact had compatibility problems. The issue "is troublesome but not critical," he said.

The first Y2K patches and tools to come from Microsoft's Y2K initiative were detailed last January. The company maintains a Year 2000 information page on its Web site.

An example of how the newest patch works with the programs within Office 95 is Microsoft Word 95. One date method that is changed is the way in which Word assumes which century you mean when you enter a two-digit year in a date. Once you install the update, years entered as 00-29 are assumed to be in the range 2000 through 2029. Years entered as 30-99 are assumed to be in the range 1930 through 1999.

In addition, Microsoft Excel 95 Microsoft Query 2.0 (Msqry32.exe) now uses a different rule for two-digit years. Years entered as 00-29 are assumed to be in the range 2000 through 2019. Years entered as 30-99 are assumed to be in the range 1920 through 1999.

The technique, called "Windowing", is used in the majority of Y2K software fixes. Another, more permanent, technique is to expand existing two-digit year date fields in software applications to recognize four-digit dates, so that the year 2012 will be read and understood as "2012" and not "12". Office 97 already uses four-digit dates fields. In the case of Office 95, and other desktop applications that are frequently refreshed by their manufacturers, a 29-year window should be more than adequate.

Users of the Access Developer's Toolkit for Windows 95 who redistribute updated Access run-time files will need to install the update and recreate the setup using the Setup Wizard. Any updates that are applied to Access or its components will be automatically rolled into the setup when it is created, the company said.


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