Archive for the ‘Word’ Category

Microsoft Office & Help

April 29, 2010

OK so for the most part I *love* Office 2007. I find it to be so much more user friendly now that I’ve gotten over the initial hump that was the new interface. But one of the things I did not (and do not) like is the Help button. I mean really, why make it this tiny tiny little question mark button in the upper right of the program?

That said, one of the things that I think Microsoft (for once) did a good job of was the flash tool they created for users of the previous versions. It brought up the old 2003 menu & toolbars, you clicked on the command you were looking for, and then it would show you the new Ribbon and where that command was. They just keep making that tool better! First is was only available on their website, then they created a down loadable version and now…wait for it…. an integrated version!

This is where we go back to the Help button. Thanks to the upcoming release of Office 2010, Microsoft has created an “add in” for the Ribbon that will add a new tab for Help. It will let you search help, bring up the flash tool with the old 2003 interface, and a lot more. So much better than that tiny button. It works with Office 2007 (Word, PowerPoint and Excel).

You can find it here.

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Facebook and Microsoft Office

April 22, 2010

With the upcoming release of Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft is putting a lot of time and energy into Office Live; their online version of Office. I’ve briefly played with if about a year ago but haven’t really touched it since. In my day to day life I’ve used Google Docs more for the type of collaboration that I’ve been doing. That doesn’t mean it’s better, just that it’s what works for my situation.

That said, Microsoft is turning up the heat (so to speak) with a new collaboration with Facebook, one of the most popular Social Networking tools out there. They recently announced the beta version of Docs, which allows you to create Word documents, Excel Spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentations AND share them in Facebook.

This gives you the ability to work with others on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets without leaving Facebook. I took a quick look at it and it seemed pretty slick. The only thing that kept me from diving in, and it may be a HUGE issue to some folks, was that in order to connect Docs with Facebook I had to let the application pull my Facebook information. That means my Name, Profile Picture,  list of Friends and other public information.

I haven’t decided if I want Microsoft to have this information. My Name i’m fine with but my friends? That I’m not so sure about.  So I did what I always recommend to everyone (but seldom do myself), I read the Terms of Service. A couple of things stand out:

  1. The beta can only be used for personal non-commercial service
  2. Use the service in any way that harms Microsoft or its advertisers, affiliates, resellers, distributors and/or vendors or any customer of ours or customer of our advertisers, affiliates, resellers, distributors or vendors (what exactly would constitute “harm”?)
  3. They can cancel your account or the service at anytime without notice. This isn’t so unexpected but you need to beware that if they do you have NO ACCESS to those files, so keep a backup copy somewhere else.
  4. They don’t own your content. This is a good thing

It did not, however, way what if any use they would have for my information (such as my friends list).

I’ll have to think about whether or not this would be something I’d use. So far I haven’t really had a need to collaborate with others in my Facebook network. But now that I know I can, that may change. You can get more information at docs.com

Two great things that go great together? I guess that depends on you.

Word Forms

March 23, 2010

Used to be, I’d encourage people to fore-go using Word for creating forms. And by forms I mean a document that has fields, check boxes, dropdowns, etc. Sure I could design a form in Word but then I’d just turn around and convert it into a PDF and make it a form using Acrobat. There was, I thought, a lot more flexibility with Acrobat. Of course this would require that the user have a full version of Acrobat, not just the free Reader.

Oh how times have changed. While I’m still a big fan of Acrobat and PDF forms, I’ve come to realize that they too can be limiting. The problem with PDF forms is they’re not super dynamic and anything ‘outside’ of the fields is set in stone (pretty much unless you know how to use the TouchUp tools but even then there are issues so we won’t go into that). I mean there are times when you want the fields for users to fill out AND also allow them to modify the rest of the form. Or the rest of the text needs to flow if they put in a lot of text.  This is where Word rules.

The pain is if your users want to jump from field to field. Unless you protect your document, thus eliminating the option for modifying the non-field information, tabbing between fields doesn’t work. Your users have to click into each field and lets face it, Word can be incredibly fussy here. If you don’t get it in just the right spot, it’ll do something else or nothing.

So in my current work, this is definitely the case. I have users who need Word forms but want the structure that comes along with fields in a PDF form (meaning the ability to tab from field to field).

Well if you’re brave, willing to dip you toe into coding, you can accomplish this. Using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) you can create a UserForm for your fields. What that, you say? Think of a popup dialog box where you can type in your information and when done it populates to your document. Not an easy task as it is coding but when used with bookmarks in Word it can make your users experience a little better.

Check out the resources for VBA on About.com

Is Your File Corrupt

February 4, 2010

I was helping a co-worker the other day with a Word document. She was experiencing all sorts of problems. It would look just fine on the screen but when she went to print it, all of the text on one line would be condensed into a tiny little square. This would happen throughout the document in random places. It would also do it if she converted it to a PDF.

Sounded like corruption to me. Unfortunately there is no “sure” way to test for this. You have to start over. And by that I really do mean START OVER. Do not copy one little character from that file into a new file or you could copy the corruption. Yuck!

So how does this happen and what can you do to minimize your risk? Files can become corrupt for a variety of reasons but one of the most common is because of how we do our work. Here’s what I mean:

I need to create a letter. I already have a old letter document that I want to use ‘most’ of the text from.

  • So I open it
  • go Save As
  • give it a new name
  • delete a bunch of text that I don’t need
  • type in new text that I want to replace the old text with
  • done

One the surface this doesn’t seem so bad. It’s a real time saver and I don’t have to re-type a bunch on information that I already have in an older document. Right?

Here’s the problem. The more times you go through the steps above, the move likely that your end document will start to get sloppy. What I mean by this is that “pieces” of computer code can get left behind when you delete and replace existing text with new text. That can cause corruption.

How many times has that document been copied? Your letter may be a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy …

That’s a lot of copies!

The better way is to create your base document and save it as a template. This format minimizes your risk of corruption as long as you use the template each time, not a previously saved copy of the document.

By using a template, you’re starting out with a relatively clean copy; reducing the risk of corruption. This applies to ALL file formats.