When a product as successful as Office needs to be updated it isn't just a case of adding on a few bits and bobs. You have to impress if you expect people to want to spend £500 for the Professional version.
That means Office gets an overhaul. The majority of changes see a newer, more XP- styled interface, shinier buttons and added features. Under the hood, things have also changed. Of course, Office is a collection of products to make the package and each of these individual packages have been honed in their own special way.
Outlook has had the biggest makeover. The main difference is its interface. Like the other products this has been “XP-ed” and the look is much more glossy than previous versions. Other more important differences include a new and improved junk mail facility that will automatically filter out "hi my names candy" and "you've been approved for a new loan" porn/spam emails from your work or personal addresses. On the whole the filter worked very well and only occasionally did we find that the amazon newsletter was filtered as unwanted. Of course you can opt to train it to improve the situation but it let through few enough spam emails for us to consider training unnecessary.
Another noticeable feature is the addition of date markers on the email window. In addition to usual "date received" functionally, Outlook will also show the days the emails came in as headers. This is really helpful if like most you end up having hundreds of emails in your inbox and can remember you sent it last week but not sure where in the list last week starts from. Better still the headers allow you to hide the day, week or even month in question.
Word has a few changes also, namely its understanding of the XML file format. Additionally Microsoft has added a file viewer, similar to Adobe's Acrobat Reader and this saves launching the whole Word package. Why wouldn't you want to launch the Word package, you ask? Because it seems that on the whole the suite's a memory hungry bugger on hardware than ran the previous version without chugging.
Even if you're a not a diehard Office user, the updates in the 2003 version are good enough to warrant a new product and not just a downloadable add-on. Microsoft has managed to give people what they want without the ugly paperclip getting in the way.