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Monday, Microsoft introduced Service Pack 3 for Office 2003. This 118MB download is packed full of updates, including both previous service packs and many additional updates. As usual, Microsoft says the update fixes issues involving the "big three" concerns for any Windows user: security, stability, and performance. But, what will you lose in the process?
Install SP3, and Office 2003 blocks access to a bunch of file formats, including Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro spreadsheets, .DIF and .SLK database files, PowerPoint presentations predating PowerPoint 97; very old versions of Word for Windows (1.x, 2.x) and Macintosh (4.x, 5.x) files, CorelDraw image files (.cdr), and others. Mama Microsoft says these filetypes present various security risks. The problem is, you might depend upon Office 2003 for access to these files. Fortunately, if you're not afraid of the Windows Registry (I recommend respect, but not fear), you can fiddle your system to enable Office 2003 post-SP3 to use these files. See Knowledge Base article 938810 for details.
Here are just three examples of changes that might cause you grief at home or the office:
For links to all of the changes, good, bad, and ugly, see the Description of Office 2003 SP3 page.
Office 2003 SP3 looks like a really mixed bag. If you (or your company) access legacy data files, installing SP3 will create big headaches. And, even if you don't, other changes in SP3 have the potential to make users and system administrators alike reach for their favorite pain reliever. Install SP3 at home, and you might find yourself short of playtime while you fix problems.
Before you install SP3, take the time to read all of the notes - and keep in mind that the only way to banish SP3 from your system if you change your mind later is to uninstall Office 2003 and reinstall it. Ouch! As for me, I'm going to wait a while. Microsoft's been known to issue revised versions of its service packs - and this one looks like a prime candidate for second thoughts from Redmond.
The Office 2003 SP3 download page has links to previous service packs and fixes, so you can choose the updates you need yourself.
[the following section was added 9-23-07]
You (or your company) may decide that the upgrade to Office 2003 SP3 is worthwhile, but if you need continued access to legacy file formats that SP3 kicks to the curb, there are a couple of ways around the problem without tinkering with the Windows Registry:
1. Use a standalone file conversion program, such as:
2. Run a second office suite and use it mainly for conversions, such as: