Microsoft has confirmed that it has completed work on Office 2007’s system code and released it to manufacturing.

Customers in US and Canada will be able to start downloading Office 2007 on 1 December. That’s one day after the company plans to officially launch the updated productivity suite along with Windows Vista.

Users in an additional 13 countries will be able to download the free 60-day trial versions "soon" after the beginning of December, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman, who declined to give further details. Those countries will include the UK and Ireland.

Customers can activate their copy of Office 2007 within the first two months by paying online or at a retail store.

With Office 2003, Microsoft’s last prior release, only Americans and Canadians were allowed to download free trials of Office through the internet.

As with Windows Vista, customers won’t be able to find Office 2007 on retail store shelves or pre-installed on PCs until early 2007, said the spokesperson, missing what many consider the key Christmas season. Also like Windows Vista, Office 2007 will be available to corporate volume licence customers via web or CD from 30 November.

Three and a half million people downloaded beta 2 of Office 2007, making it the largest Office beta program to date, said the company. The package includes a revamped user interface, greater support for non-English languages, and more collaboration tools.