Secure your Office with Microsoft Office XP Service Pack 1

Ready to roll out Office XP? Before you do, check out this Daily Feature from Steve Pittsley that explains what's included in the latest service pack and how to deploy it on your network.

The wait is over for those of you who have been holding off on deploying Microsoft Office XP until the first service pack was released. Service Pack 1 for Office XP is a compilation of all previously available fixes and many new ones. This Daily Feature will give you a breakdown of what’s included in Office XP Service Pack 1 and then show you how to install the software locally and over the network.

Breaking down Office XP Service Pack 1
Microsoft has recently made headlines for promising to tighten up its coding practices and make its software more secure. Although Office XP Service Pack 1 was released before the infamous memo written by Bill Gates, the majority of the fixes in this service pack address security issues. For a more detailed listing of the fixes that are part of this service pack, point your browser to the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

Virus fixes
Two of the more notable security issues addressed in Service Pack 1 are related to macro viruses. In the first scenario, a hacker could craft a malicious Excel or PowerPoint document containing a macro that would run as soon as the document was opened. Instead of being warned that a macro was present and being asked for permission to run it, the user would not be notified, and he or she would have no idea that the code was run. In a similar vulnerability, a hacker could exploit a security hole in Word that would allow a specially written macro to be executed without notifying the user that the macro was present or being run. The code could also prevent Word from scanning for macros in subsequent documents. While both of these issues have been previously addressed in individual patches, the fixes are both included with Service Pack 1.

Word fixes
Microsoft Word users have been faced with a few troublesome issues that have been resolved in Service Pack 1. Among these problems are several situations that cause Word to quit unexpectedly. Patches are also incorporated to fix an inaccuracy in the count of misspelled words in a document and to correct an issue that caused wavy lines, dots, or dashes to be printed as solid lines.

Excel fixes
If you’ve been using Microsoft Excel to write VBA macros that attempt to display the Templates dialog box for creating new files, you might already know that the New Workbook task pane is displayed instead. Service Pack 1 resolves this problem, as well as an annoying one that causes Excel to stop unexpectedly when you attempt to insert an object into your spreadsheet. This error occurs because the number of ActiveX controls being registered in the registry key exceeds the number allowed in Excel.

Outlook fixes
Service Pack 1 contains quite a number of fixes for Outlook, including one to stop the instant messaging features from causing a significant delay when opening an e-mail message from a sender who is outside of your Exchange domain. Another problem that can cause a few headaches is one in which the user is unable to access directory information on an LDAP server. The user is told that they have insufficient rights, despite actually having the requisite rights. Along these same lines, if you use LDAP to add a Contact who has no e-mail address, Outlook will stop responding. In addition, Outlook contains a bug that causes a new Contact’s name to be displayed incorrectly when you save it to your Address Book. However, after the Contact has been saved, the name is displayed correctly in the Contact folder.

PowerPoint fixes
Service Pack 1 fixes a problem with PowerPoint that prevents you from displaying a presentation by selecting a URL in Internet Explorer. This problem only occurs when the Web site has the Anonymous option disabled and either Basic Authentication is used or Domain Authentication is used without access to an intranet. Another bug addressed in Service Pack 1 is one that causes Microsoft Graph to stop responding when you change a chart type in a PowerPoint slide.

Publisher fixes
In Microsoft Publisher, the Export As Web Page feature has been added to the program. This feature reduces the size of the Web pages created in Microsoft Publisher because the HTML code doesn’t include any internal information used by the program. Because the extraneous code is not included, the Web pages are downloaded in less time.

Installing Office XP Service Pack 1 locally
If you installed Office XP from a CD-ROM and want to update a single workstation, download the Office XP Service Pack 1 from this Web site. After downloading the 17-MB service-pack file, open the folder where it was saved and double-click on the file Oxpsp1.exe. After you accept the license agreement, the service-pack installation will begin. As part of the installation, you’re required to insert the Office XP CD-ROM. After you insert the CD-ROM, the service-pack installation will continue and the Office XP products that were installed will be configured with the new files. When the installation is complete, you’ll receive an ending message. Then you can reboot the workstation and begin using the Office products again.

Deploying Office XP Service Pack 1 on the network
If you’re installing Office XP Service Pack 1 to a network workstation that used an administrative installation stored on a file server, you’ll download a different, 40-MB file, which is found at this Microsoft Office link. After downloading the self-extracting file, double-click on it and provide the location to extract the files. Once the files have been extracted, update the administrative installation using a workstation that has the Windows Installer software installed. To begin the updates, execute this command from the Run dialog box. Remember to substitute the correct path and filenames for the MSI and MSP files.

After you execute the command, the Microsoft Office XP Administrative Installation dialog box will be displayed. You should not change the information in this dialog box. When prompted, accept the license agreement. When this procedure is finished, the administrative installation will be updated with the fixes that have been incorporated into Office XP Service Pack 1.

Next, you’ll install the updates to the network clients. To do this, execute this command on each workstation from the Run dialog box, substituting the correct path and filenames for the MSI file.

Once the installation has finished, you can restart the workstation and verify that Service Pack 1 has been installed correctly and that the individual Office products are working normally.

The updates included in Service Pack 1 are a good step toward making Office XP more secure and eliminating the little bugs that are often found in products of this scope. If you’re a savvy network administrator and have been waiting for this service pack to be released before deploying Microsoft Office XP, the time to start planning the installation has arrived. Once the new patches have been installed, Office XP will provide your users with a secure office suite packed with power and functionality.

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