Microsoft has unveiled latest details of its next version of Office, which currently is undergoing its first technical beta testing. It is expected to hit the shelves in around 10 months time.

Pricing is not available for the new version of Office, referred to as Office 10 and is expected to be released in May or June of 2001, according to Lisa Gurry, a product manager with Microsoft's Office team.

Different suites are available with Office, but typically it includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and Access.

Some of the new offerings in the next version of Microsoft Office include:

Smart Tags The icons offer direction, guidance and shortcuts to Office capabilities and also provide access to relevant data.

Task Pane The pane offers access to a variety of Office functions, such as language translation assistance, a clipboard and search capabilities.

Speech recognition Technology allows users to create and edit documents using either dictation or voice command.

Hotmail and MSN Instant Messenger integration

Word Count toolbar The new toolbar will count words, characters, lines, pages or paragraphs.

Application and document recovery The function will allow users to automatically recover a document if a file, application or system error occurs.

Application error reporting Users can automatically report a problem to Microsoft or an organisation to receive assistance.

Native XML (Extensible Markup Language) support Microsoft Excel and Access now support XML as a file format.

Microsoft also has added functions that are designed to improve the collaboration on documents. In this same vein, Microsoft will offer a new Web-based application for managing team projects, information and activities.

The newest version of Office will be the first suite that is part of the Office.Net initiative that works to integrate Web services.