Microsoft shows off future Project features
Execs demo planned additions to project management app but make no shipment promises
IDG News Service - SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. officials today demonstrated some features that are expected to be in the next version of the company's Project software, much to the delight of the crowd at the Microsoft Office Project Conference here.
Members of the audience openly applauded a timeline view that Microsoft is developing. Alice Steinglass, Microsoft's senior program manager for Project, showed how users will be able to cut and paste the timeline into other applications, such as PowerPoint. Users will then be able to alter individual components of the timeline image -- for example, by deleting sections or changing fonts.
Features such as the timeline view are part of a Microsoft effort to make Project not only easier for project managers to use, but also to make it more usable by other kinds of workers.
"At the end of the day, the fundamental thesis here is that we are all project managers because we all manage work," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a speech at the conference. "We need to make sure that we give rich tool sets to people at all levels of the food chain to help them do work management."
Steinglass also demonstrated a major user-interface change that's planned within Project: the addition of an icon "ribbon" at the top of the screen, similar to the one featured on the new Office 2007 versions of Word and other applications. By clicking on an icon, Project users will be able do things such as filter for incomplete tasks or group tasks together by resource names. Those functions currently require several clicks in Project 2007, Steinglass said.
In the future, Project also will give users an easier way to customize fields, according to Steinglass. The current method is complicated and will be replaced by an approach that provides a blank column, which users will be able to start filling in with any information they want to include. As soon as they do, a new blank column will automatically appear, Steinglass said. She added that if a user inputs a dollar figure into a column, the rest of that column will automatically be configured for dollar entries as well.
Microsoft doesn't even have a name for the next version of Project yet, and it didn't disclose a time frame for when the features that were shown today will become available. Project 2007 began shipping earlier this year, and some Project 2003 users have said that they're waiting for the first service pack update of the new release before they'll even move up to that one.
On Monday, Microsoft said that it would announce the shipment date for Project 2007 Service Pack 1 within two to three weeks. When pressed for more details today, Mike Angiulo, general manager of the Project business unit, said that SP1 is on the same release schedule as the first service pack for Office 2007 as a whole. He added that the final code is being tested, an indication that the release may be imminent.
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