Should I deploy Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2) in my organization?

Every Office service pack addresses concerns related to security and stability and resolves problems reported by customers. Office 2003 SP2 contains more than 150 fixes for Outlook alone. Most are bug fixes that were previously available only as post-SP1 hotfixes and required a phone call to Microsoft. (For information about some of the major bug fixes, see the following Outlook Tips & Techniques articles: "Enabling a Global Signature in Outlook 2003," October 2005, InstantDoc ID 47211; "Using a GPO with a Hotfix to Deploy a Safe Senders List," August 2005, InstantDoc ID 46661; and "Deploying Junk Mail Filter Lists in Outlook 2003," February 2005, InstantDoc ID 45563. To read about SP2 enhancements to the Offline Address Book—OAB—see the Web-exclusive article "All About OAB v4," InstantDoc ID 48587.) But Outlook 2003 SP2 also introduces an anti-phishing feature that makes it less likely users will be duped by email messages containing links to phony commercial Web sites that try to collect personal information.

The one possible reason to hold off on SP2 is that it changes how Outlook handles meeting updates in a way that could affect the operation of custom solutions that work with the Calendar. To resolve problems with meetings disappearing in Cached Exchange Mode when users access their calendars from more than one device or have delegates managing their calendars, Microsoft modified Outlook's behavior for processing a meeting update.

When a user is online and SP2 is not installed, Outlook automatically creates a tentative appointment. When the user actually accepts the meeting request, Outlook updates the tentative appointment with the acceptance. If the user later uses a different device to delete the meeting request from the Inbox, or if a delegate deletes the request, Outlook deletes the accepted meeting, too.

Under SP2, when the user accepts a meeting, Outlook deletes the tentative appointment and saves a new, identical copy of the updated item. This new copy is no longer tied to the original meeting request, which can be safely deleted without affecting the accepted appointment. (Microsoft has also taken steps to ensure that accepting the meeting from two devices doesn't result in duplicate appointments.) A similar mechanism applies to updates to existing meetings.

The effect on custom solutions is that some shops might need to change the mechanism they use to keep track of individual Outlook items. Many third-party and custom solutions use the EntryID property as a unique key to find an appointment. However, each new appointment has its own EntryID. When the user accepts a meeting update, Outlook deletes the original appointment and creates a new one, thus breaking linkages to other applications that might be EntryID dependent.

If your organization runs an application that interfaces with the Outlook Calendar—for example, a program that synchronizes Outlook appointments with records in a database—you should check whether that program will work well with SP2 before you apply the service pack. According to Microsoft, Good Technology devices don't need patches, and Research In Motion (RIM) is working on a patch for BlackBerry devices, which might be available by the time you read this. The Microsoft article "Developer information about the calendar changes in Outlook 2003 Service Pack 2, Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 and later versions" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=899919) describes the meeting changes in detail and provides information about a registry value you can use to disable the SP2 meeting behavior.

For a detailed list of SP2 fixes, download and run the file http://download.microsoft.com/download/6/5/0/650783cf-ffbf-4d7b-96ce-d8dd4ab12f7b/office2003_sp2changes.exe, which will copy a Microsoft Excel worksheet to your system. Click in cell A4, B4, C4, or D4 and choose Data, Filter, AutoFilter. Click the down arrow on the Application heading to choose the application for which you want to view changes. Other Outlook fixes not previously described in a Microsoft article are listed in "Issues that are fixed in Outlook 2003 by Office 2003 Service Pack 2" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=906451).