D R A F T 

Desktop Application Software Standards

University of North Texas

June 6, 1997


The lack of software standards on the UNT campus for common desktop applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentation packages, and databases contributes to a number of problems that users and computing support personnel experience on a daily basis. The list of problems would be long, but a sampping of the most prevalent for word processors alone would include:

a word processing file received as an attachment to an e-mail message can't be read with the user's word processor because of file format incompatibilities

desktop systems crashing because of obsolete, unreliable software that isn't designed to operate properly on operating systems currently used on campus

poor support for the use of advanced features of a word processor because computing support personnel don't have time to learn the intricacies of multiple versions of different packages

lack of training opportunities on word processors because courses on only the most recent releases of one or at most two different packages are provided on campus

In order to reduce if not completely eliminate these and other problems, the Distributed Computing Support Management Team has developed a plan for the standardization of the most commonly-used desktop applications on the UNT campus. The goal of the plan is to foster collaborative work through file sharing using common file formats, to reduce the costs of purchasing, using, and supporting software, and ultimately to increase productivity among desktop computer users on campus.

The plan presented in this document is predicated on the "Computer Workstation and File Server Acquisition and Upgrade Process" that was approved early in 1997. That process insures a minimal level of hardware to run essential applications that define the University's business environment. In order to conform to the standards in this document, some machines on campus must be upgraded to the minimal level of machine that is described in the Computer Workstation plan for the end of 1997 (i.e., Intel 486 or better.)

Preface to the Standards

The standards below basically recommend that the campus adopt the Microsoft Office 97 suite, running under Windows 95 or Windows NT, or the Microsoft Office suite version 4.21 on Macintosh operating systems. A number of factors went into the decision to standardize on the Microsoft products:

Unlike other competing products (principally the Corel Wordperfect suite,) the separate MS Office software packages provide an integrated set of solutions to common office productivity tasks. For example, Word has a built-in interface to Access databases for mail merge operations.

Anecdotal evidence from faculty members across campus indicates that UNT students prefer the MS Office products to other packages. It will thus be more feasible to have work submitted in file formats that both students and faculty can use.

The campus' experience with the Corel WordPerfect word processor has been problematic lately, principally caused by conflicts between GroupWise and WordPerfect's use of common files. Such conflicts cause system crashes, resulting in high demands for computing support as well as loss of work by end users. Similar problems haven't been seen yet with the Microsoft products.

With the purchase of WordPerfect by Corel Corp., the campus site license of WordPerfect products doesn't extend to the latest version of Corel products. To date, Corel hasn't been willing to offer the word processor, in particular, to us at a price that is competitive with Microsoft Word.

The Computing Center expects to have a new version of the campus-wide faculty and staff e-mail package, GroupWise 5.1, operational by the end of the 1997 calendar year across the entire campus. In order to take advantage of the new and improved features of that package, users must be running either Windows 95 or Windows NT. Thus the recommendation to standardize on Microsoft's Office 97 suite fits within a general move to the newer operating systems.

Standard File Formats for Transferring Electronic Files across Campus

Word Processing: Until December 31, 1997, the file format for sharing word processing files with others on campus will be WordPerfect 5.1. That is the de-facto standard now and its use until the end of the year will give everyone on campus time to prepare for the new standard.

Starting on January 1, 1998, the word processing file transfer format on campus will be Microsoft Word 6.0. Users who aren't running a word processor that saves in this format as its standard mode should use the conversion options when saving files to use the Word 6.0 format. If the user's word processor isn't capable of saving in Word 6.0 format, the latest version of Word that the package supports should be used to export the file.

NOTE: while the standard file transfer format is Word 6.0, the word processor that will be supported will be Word 97. The earlier file format is specified to provide a means by which machines running Word 6.0, WordPerfect 6.1, and Macintosh word processors can share files.

Spreadsheet: The standard file format for transferring spreadsheet files from machine to machine is Microsoft Excel version 5.0.

Presentations: The standard file format for transferring presentation files from machine to machine is Microsoft Powerpoint 4.0.

Database: No standard file format for transferring database management system files from machine to machine is specified in this standard. However, Microsoft Access 97 is the recommended package for DBMS software.

Standard Software Packages:

Word Processing: The preferred word processing package for IBM PC-compatible microcomputers on campus is Microsoft Word 97 and its users will receive the highest level of support of any word processor in use on campus. On the Macintosh platform, Microsoft Word 6.0 is the preferred package. Microsoft Word 6.0 will also be supported on the Windows platform until December 31, 1997, at which time all users are expected to have made the migration to Word 97.

WordPerfect 6.1 will be supported on a lower-priority basis than Word 97 for an indefinite time, but users are strongly urged to adopt Word 97 as soon as practicable if they are using IBM PC-compatible machines. On Macintosh computers, WordPerfect 3.5 will also be supported on a lower-priority basis than Word 6.0 and users are urged to adopt Word 6.0.

WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS will receive only limited support until December 31, 1997 at which time it will no longer be supported on campus.

Spreadsheet: The standard software package for spreadsheet applications on campus is Microsoft Excel 97 for Windows systems and Microsoft Excel 5 for Macintosh systems.

Presentations: The standard software package for presentation applications on campus is Microsoft PowerPoint 97 on Windows systems and Microsoft PowerPoint 4 on Macintosh systems.

Database: No standard software package for database management system applications is specified in this standard. However, Microsoft Access 97 is the recommended package for personal desktop DBMS software on Windows systems. Departmental-level or mission-critical applications using database management systems should be developed in consultation with computing support personnel.

Web Browser: Two different Web browsers will be supported through the end of 1997: Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x and Netscape Navigator 3.x (and Navigator Gold,) or the latest versions of those two packages. By September 1, 1997, all computers on campus should have at least version 3.x of either one of these installed to use as a Web browser. (NOTE: UNT's new home page design is much more readable with browsers that support later versions of the hypertext markup language, as the supported browsers do.) Because Web browsers are in a state of rapid flux, the minimum standard package may change more frequently than the other classes of software listed earlier.

Transition Plan

Many persons on campus now use word processing packages other than Microsoft Word 97, so a process by which those persons may make the transition to either a new package or a newer version of Word is necessary. The following steps will ease the transition:

An increased schedule of training courses in Word 97 will be offered by the Computing Center during the transition period. Departments and/or distributed computing support centers may wish to contact Sandy Burke at ext. 3856 to arrange special training classes for groups of individuals in their areas.

A Microsoft Select agreement is in place that will make it easy for departments to purchase Word 97. Procedures are already in place within computing support teams to install the software, meter it, and make payment for it without the necessity of individual Interdepartmental Orders for each copy of the software. As of May, 1997, Word 97 costs $22 when purchased separately and when bundled into the Microsoft Office 97 Suite, the bundle costs $36 on Windows systems. The Macintosh version of Office 4.21, which contains the recommended packages mentioned above, costs $40.

Groupwise currently supports the viewing of Word 6.0 files, but not Word 97. It is anticipated that Groupwise 5.1, which will be installed by the end of December 1997, will support Word 97 viewing.

Persons who do not have Word 6 or higher after January 1, 1998 should save files from their word processing packages in the highest version format of Word that their word processor supports. Wordperfect 6.1 for Windows, for example, allows you to save a document in "MS Word for Window 6.0" format and that format should be selected when the saved file will be sent to others.