November 6, 2006 6:00 AM PST

Microsoft wraps up work on new Office

Microsoft said Monday it has finalized the code for Office 2007, marking the completion of the first of two key projects for the software giant.

Both Windows Vista and Office are slated for release to big businesses on Nov. 30. Microsoft has issued near-final test releases of Vista, but has not yet completed the final, or "gold," code for the new operating system.

As for Office 2007, the upcoming release sports some major changes from Office 2003, including new file formats and a radically revised user interface. In addition to those and other changes that have been known for months, Microsoft noted that it has also added a feature to Outlook to make it easier to send text messages to cell phones.

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Video: Microsoft finalizes Office 2007 code
The current version of Microsoft Office 2007 has many features, but we await its final release. CNET's Elsa Wenzel takes a look.

As Microsoft is doing with Vista, there will be a higher-end "ultimate" version of Office 2007, as well as other options for both businesses and consumers. In addition to old standbys like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, some versions of Office 2007 include accounting software, the OneNote note-taking program and server-based tools.

The upcoming release marks the most significant update to Office in a decade, said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division. "It's rewarding to be able to send this release off to our customers and help them take the next big leap forward in productivity," he said.

Office is slated for a broad release "early next year," while Vista is due for a mainstream launch in January. Microsoft had hoped to have both programs on store shelves and on new PCs in time for this year's holiday-shopping season.

In March, Microsoft said it would push back the consumer launch of Vista until January, announcing that week that it would also move the broad launch of Office to coincide with Vista. In June, Microsoft said that it wouldn't have the Office code finalized by October, as originally planned and the company became more vague on when Office would ship, stating only that it would come out in early 2007.

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