Registered users of Microsoft's Excel 5, PowerPoint 4, Word 6, or Office 4 should keep an eye on their mail for a free CD-ROM, called the Microsoft Empowerment Pack for the Macintosh. The CD includes both the System 7.5 Update 2.0 (which updates System 7.5, 7.5.1, or 7.5.2 to version 7.5.3; see TidBITS-318) and System 7.5.3 Revision 2 (which should be used on some computers running System 7.5; see TidBITS-332). According to Microsoft, System 7.5.3 makes Office applications launch faster.
The CD also offers the Word 6.0.1a update, Internet Explorer 2.0.1, a collection of cached Web sites, Internet Assistant for Word and Excel, an offer for a discount on RAM from Kingston, and more. Apparently, at a periodic business review, Bill Gates was wondering what could be done to make Mac customers happier, and this CD comes as the result of that discussion.
Registered Microsoft Office 3 users (or people owning individual applications that comprise Office 3) will receive a mail-in card that they can send in order to acquire the CD, or they can call 800/469-6520, department MCA. Unfortunately, the CD only contains English language versions of Microsoft software, and Microsoft does not currently have plans to offer it outside the United States or to create non-English language versions.
The CDs packaging oddly notes on its cover that it "may not change your world," a statement that confused and amused Adam to no end, because after opening the pack, I had rearranged its complex series of folds so the punch line, "it just might expand it," had been buried beneath several layers of cardboard. After you pry the CD out of its packaging, but before you use it, you may wish to learn from the experiences that TidBITS reader Corl Riblet reported. When Corl launched the Microsoft Empowerment Pack, he was so startled to find Microsoft Internet Explorer launching that - in a state of some alarm - he aborted the launch. Indeed, the Empowerment Pack uses Internet Explorer to run its installation system, so don't be startled!
The Empowerment Pack also fails to make an important distinction between who needs to run the Word 6.0.1a updater and who does not. If you are using Word 6.0, you almost certainly want to run the updater in order to take advantage of the many fixes version 6.01 offers. The Word Update/Product Info section of the Empowerment Pack describes some of the fixes in a general sort of way, but fails to provide a Web link or reference to the real scoop, which you can find online at:
For users of Word 6.01, version 6.0.1a adds one thing, and one thing only - it incorporates as part of the application the Word-related functionality also available through the Office 4.2x Update for Power Mac, which corrects some crashing problems on Power Macintoshes (see TidBITS-289). Installing 6.0.1a on any Macintosh makes sense as a replacement to 6.0; it does not make sense as a replacement to 6.0.1 on a 68K Mac.
I have been unable to confirm which version of the Office 4.2x Update for Power Mac was rolled into Word 6.0.1a. Versions n/a and 1.0 of the updater conflicted with the Global Village Toolbox extension and STF Technologies FAXstf software. Microsoft fixed the problem with version 1.01. According to Ric Ford's MacInTouch News Archive for 11-Jul-96, early versions of the Office 4.2x Update for Power Mac also conflict with System 7.5.3's Apple Menu Options control panel.
The Empowerment Pack installer does not permit you to choose whether to install 68K, fat, or PowerPC version of Word 6.0.1a, and according to Corl (who discussed this with a Microsoft Support engineer), the Empowerment Pack installs a fat version, so watch out if your hard disk is almost full. Reports from Corl and also on Usenet indicate that the fat version will add approximately 4 MB to the size of the Word application, if you didn't previously have the fat version installed.
Oddly, the pack fails to include additional document converters available for Word, or to make any sort of reference to such updates. You can find out more through Microsoft's online knowledge base:
I'd like to see Microsoft make such a CD an annual shipment. I'd also like to see it routinely include all the little updates associated with Office software, and include a rich and intelligent set of information and links to Microsoft's Web-based knowledge base.