Microsoft enhances productivity appsMicrosoft last week released new tools that are intended to help businesses get more bang for their buck with three of its productivity applications: FrontPage 2002, Project Standard 2002 and Visio 2002.Microsoft's Right Tools Toolkits are aimed at customers in five specific fields - human resources, accounting and finance, sales and marketing, government, and projects and process management - and are intended to help them get more use out of their software, the company says.Each tool kit includes templates that make it easier to create Web pages, charts and other documents related to the particular field, and "cheat sheets" that show how to perform common tasks more quickly, says Melanie Cosklo, lead product manager for Microsoft's productivity applications.For people working in human resources, the tool kit for FrontPage includes templates for building Web sites that provide information about benefits, recruiting and compensation. The tool kit for Project includes templates for managing a recruitment campaign and other relevant tasks, Cosklo says.Microsoft will offer five kits, each of which includes tools, templates and other resources. Many customers already might own licenses to these applications through volume licensing agreements but might not know it or be aware of what the applications can do, she says."It's a good idea because it allows them to target verticals with what is actually quite a low price point," says Rob Enderle, a research fellow with Giga Information Group. It's also good for customers, he says, because "that particular vertical can get up and running without having to do expensive custom engagements."The tool kits also give Microsoft a way to provide new features that are relevant to particular lines of business without having to cram more features into the standard versions of its applications, Cosklo says.The tool kits are based on the 2002 versions of the applications, but customers with older versions of the software can use most templates, Microsoft says.New and existing customers can register for the Microsoft Right Tools Toolkit free\u00a0of charge\u00a0here. New customers will receive a 90-day evaluation license for each application.Microsoft also announced a rebate program for the three applications. Customers who don't already own the applications might be eligible for a $50 rebate on Microsoft Project Standard 2002, a $50 rebate on Visio 2002 and a $25 rebate on FrontPage 2002 when they buy them at Amazon.com, Microsoft says.The Right Tools Toolkits and the rebates will be available through June 30, Microsoft says.Niccolai is a correspondent with the IDG News Service's San Francisco bureau.