To upgrade or not

Q: I have a small office with two PCs running Microsoft Office 97. Should I upgrade to Office 2000?
–K. Murray, Houston

A: Of course, the answer is, it depends. There are a number of things to consider before upgrading any software. The most important is does it still do everything you need it to? This is especially true of an expensive office suite like Office 2000 that comes in many different flavors and price points.

The Standard version ($499 new user, $209 upgrade) includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. The Small Business version ($499 new user, $209 upgrade) adds Publisher and Small Biz Tools to the mix. If you want Microsoft Access, you’ll need the Professional version ($599 new user, $309 upgrade), and the Premium version ($799 new user, $399 upgrade) gives the full monty with Microsoft’s HTML editor FrontPage and PhotoDraw.

While these versions are definitely an improvement over the seemingly ancient Office 97, their main claim to fame is Web integration. The folks at Microsoft seem to believe that you’ll soon be using the Web for publishing documents or at the very least managing an Intranet. They’ve even made Word into a reasonably robust HTML editor. Bottom line: if your business is heavily dependent on working with the Internet, then you may want to shell out the nearly $500 to upgrade both machines in your office. Otherwise, if you’re humming along nicely and don’t have any real problem with your current suite, here’s a piece of advice: if it ain’t broke, don’t break it. Besides, your next computer, which will probably have a shorter shelf life than your Office suite, will likely have Office 2000 preinstalled, saving you yet another headache.

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