Microsoft released its second service pack for Office 2003, which includes Outlook 2003, this week (see the first URL below). Office 2003 SP2 consolidates more than three dozen hotfixes released since SP1 came out more than a year ago. The new pack also includes all the updates from SP1, fixes a several previously undocumented problems, and adds an important new security-related feature to Outlook.

The new feature addresses the rising incidence of phishing messages that attempt to get users to visit a Web site and supply personal data. For example, you might get a message advising that your eBay account has been suspended and that you need to provide some information to get it working again. The problem is that the message isn't really from eBay and the Web link in the message sends you to a site designed solely to gather credit card numbers or other personal information for fraudulent purposes.

Outlook 2003 SP2 fights phishing by making the links in such email messages inoperative, thus protecting users from being directed to the fraudulent site. The phishing protection feature works with Outlook 2003's built-in junk-mail feature and requires the most recent Outlook 2003 Junk E-mail Filter update (see the second URL below). Items in the Junk E-mail folder will be in plaintext format, and the links won't work. Links also won't work on suspected phishing items in other folders; the Info Bar at the top of the item will explain that the links are disabled.

Another major change in SP2 might affect applications that interact with the Outlook Calendar. The Microsoft article "Developer information about the calendar changes in Outlook 2003 Service Pack 2 and later versions" ( http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=15035:10344 ) explains that when a user receives an update to a meeting, Outlook 2003 SP2 will delete the original appointment and create a new one. (Earlier versions simply update the original appointment.) The reason for this change is to resolve problems related to meetings disappearing from the Calendar, but because a new item is created, any application that depends on using an appointment's EntryID to retrieve it will need to use a different technique. Organizations using Calendar add-ins or general synchronization applications should check with their developers or vendors and test thoroughly before deploying SP2 throughout the enterprise.

Office 2003 SP2 addresses several significant problems related to POP3 and SMTP accounts, including situations in which Outlook sends a message by using an account other than the one that the user selected. Another fixed problem is the loss of POP3 messages when a user is downloading them to a personal store (.pst) file that has exceeded the 2GB size limit for legacy .pst files.

For more details about the dozens of changes that SP2 brings to Outlook 2003, read the Microsoft article "Issues that are fixed in Outlook 2003 by Office 2003 Service Pack 2" ( http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=15037:10344 ) and download the Office2003_SP2Changes.exe package (see the third URL below). This package contains a Microsoft Excel worksheet that lists all the changes detailed in various Microsoft articles. You can filter the worksheet by product to see which changes apply to Outlook, which apply to Microsoft Word, and so forth.

Office 2003 SP2 is available from the Microsoft Office Update and Windows Update sites. Administrators who want to deploy SP2 throughout their enterprise can download it from the first link below.

Office 2003 Service Pack 2 http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=1502A:10344

Update for Outlook 2003 Junk Email Filter (KB904631) http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=15029:10344

Office2003_SP2Changes.exe package http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=15026:10344