The next version of Office will feature a search engine, PowerPoint print preview, and enhanced word-count and cut-and-paste functions.

Microsoft demonstrated the next version of its Office productivity suite yesterday, including some features that will usher in the company's .NET strategy, as well as an "Office server" product due early next year.

In addition to the next version of Office, which internally has been referred to as Office 10, Microsoft unveiled technology code-named Tahoe, which essentially will be an Office server that will foster user collaboration, according to Bob Muglia, group vice president of Microsoft's Business Productivity Group.

Tahoe will offer a Digital Dashboard-style portal, through which users can take advantage of capabilities such as indexing, advanced searching, and beefed-up storage, Muglia told financial analysts.

Muglia and an Office product manager demonstrated how Office will be able to use "Web parts," reusable Digital Dashboard software services, to access content department or company-wide, from a range of sources, including competing products such as Lotus Notes.

Tahoe should be available as a finished product in early 2001.

Features demonstrated in the next version of Office included a search engine that is incorporated into the suite; print preview capabilities in PowerPoint; and enhanced word-count and cut-and-paste features.

After the next version of Office ships, Microsoft will focus on Office .NET, which will place the suite to the world of application hosting and "software as a service," the mantra of the Redmond, Wash.-based company's .NET initiative.

"This is a step in the direction of Office as a service," Muglia said of the Office demonstrations, adding that more than 50 ASPs (application service providers) are poised to host Exchange. "This is a great opportunity to get much richer messaging and collaborative features out to customers."