NORMAN — You may recall last week’s column discussing the impending demise of Microsoft Windows XP and what that means to computer owners. Unfortunately, there is more to the story, including Microsoft also ending all “mainstream” support for its hugely-popular Office 2003 package of productivity programs.
Microsoft Office is a package of programs which, depending on your version, includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, Access, and other handy programs that people depend on every day.
Microsoft Office represents what is arguably the best software ever to come from Microsoft, but it has not been without its problems. Over the years, hundreds upon hundreds of critical bug fixes and security updates have been issued to keep Office afloat.
Most all computer programs have problems but, because of its popularity and exposure worldwide, Microsoft Office has been a favorite target of computer and Internet criminals for many years. If a criminal hacker can figure out how to write, for example, a dangerous Excel or PowerPoint file, and trick you into opening it, perhaps as an email attachment, he can gain control over your system and wreck your computing life. That is why security patches and updates are released, and why it is so important to install them.
However, if there are no patches or security updates to protect a program against the bad guys, then that program is no longer safe to use. Such will be the case next spring, on April 8, 2014, when Microsoft will end all support for, not only its Windows XP operating system, but also the 2003 PC version of Microsoft Office.
Users of Apple Mac computers should be aware that support ended for Office for Mac 2008 (and previous versions) earlier this year.
When support for these products ends, that means no more updates, no more patches, no more security fixes; you will be on your own. A criminal hacker’s field day will begin, as new security problems are found, but no more fixes will be possible. That means that millions of people around the world will need to find new software to do word processing, slide show presentations, spreadsheets, and so on.