User:Rewood/Microsoft Office XP Features

From WolfTech
Jump to navigation Jump to search


As usual when Microsoft unveils a new version of its software packages, it has touted the new Office XP as a crucial improvement over earlier versions.

Rather than a complete overhaul of Office 2000, what you get with Office XP is really a set of augmented features, some more important than others. The biggest changes are increased speed, reliability and collaborative abilities.

Office XP also introduces some specific new tools including smart tags, task panes, and voice recognition. Office 97 users will see this as a more major upgrade than people currently using Office 2000, but the general consensus seems to be that XP is a must if you do a lot of collaborative work.

This document will give you an introduction to suite-wide features of Office XP; for more information about specific Office applications, see handouts for individual programs.

So, What's In the Box?

With Office 2000, there were five levels: Standard Edition, Small Business Edition, Professional Edition, Premium Edition, and Developer Edition.

They differed from each other in the numbers of applications and types of tools offered (as well as in price, obviously).

The Standard Edition of Office XP ($239 upgrade, $479 new) compares to Office 2000';s Standard Edition; both contain Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.

The Professional Edition ($329 upgrade, $579 new) adds Access for a five program package.

The Professional Special Edition is obviously the edition Microsoft is pushing with a $25 rebate sweetening its $499 price tag. It includes FrontPage and Publisher in addition to the other Office programs.

Finally, Microsoft offers the Developer Edition ($549 upgrade, $799 new), which contains all seven Office programs as well as special Developers' Tools.

Unlike Office 2000, Office XP does not offer a Small Business Edition as an upgrade option; it is only available preinstalled on a new computer from a manufacturer. The Small Business Edition includes Word, Excel, Outlook, and Publisher.

One other package option that is also only available from computer manufacturers is the Professional Edition with Publisher; it adds Publisher to the five programs in the Professional Edition.

Vast Improvements: Speed and Reliability

Microsoft really delivers in the areas of improved speed and reliability. Office XP installs faster, loads programs more quickly, and opens files faster than Office 2000. In addition, Office XP has made it easier to find formatting options and has incorporated improvements that make common tasks such as moving objects between applications and setting preferences for various options in Office applications easier and faster.

Look for more information on these features under the Smart Tags and Task Panes sections of this document.

Speedy Space Savers

Office XP has a slightly different look that Microsoft claims removes visually competing elements, visually prioritizes items on a page, and increases readability. Theoretically, these changes will create a streamlined interface that increases ease of use. Reviewer opinion is split as to the appeal of the new interface, but some believe the change from a 3-D to a 2-D look contributes to the speed increase in Office XP.

Office XP has a new feature called Compress Pictures that allows users to compress images in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. This minimizes the size of the image without minimizing the visual quality of the picture. Particularly in image-heavy documents, this feature can save hard disk space and speed up your work experience.

To use this feature, select the Picture toolbar from the Toolbars option of the View menu and click on its Compress Picture icon. Choose to apply image compression to the selected pictures or all pictures in the document. Select the resolution you would like: screen resolution (96 dpi), print resolution (200 dpi), or original resolution. Check the box next to compress pictures and/or delete cropped areas of pictures and select OK.

You can also access the Compress Pictures dialog box from the Picture Formatting box. Select a picture and choose Picture from the Format menu. Choose the Picture tab and click on the Compress button in the lower left corner.

Document Recovery

In Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint, users are automatically protected by Document Recovery, which will save any open documents if an application error occurs. In case of an error, the program will display a dialog box offering to recover the document and restart the application. If you are connected to the Internet, you can also optionally upload information about the error to Microsoft with Application Error Reporting.

Application Recovery

If an Office program stops responding, you can launch the new Application Recovery by selecting Microsoft Office Tools from the Start menu. From here you can restart or close the application and manually launch the Document Recovery feature if the application has frozen too completely to offer it automatically.

Microsoft bills this as a safer method for closing an application than the previous Ctrl-Alt-Del method of bringing up the task manager or restarting the computer when things hung up. But you may be disappointed if you're itching to try these new recovery options; word is that the suite hangs up much less than earlier versions, which is certainly good news for users.

Open and Repair (Word and Excel only)

Microsoft has addressed a common complaint from earlier versions of Office:

Documents open when the system crashed sometimes became damaged or unreadable. Now if a failure in an application or the system corrupts a document or renders it unable to open, you can repair it using the Repair and Extract features. Select the file in question from the File Open menu. Click on the drop-down arrow from the Open button and choose Open and Repair.

One other reliability note:

The auto recover feature previously found in Word has been added to Excel and Publisher as well. This tool automatically saves files every so often and opens the recovered file in case of an error. To set how often to save files for Auto Recover, choose Options from the Tools menu. Click on the Save tab; select Save Auto Recover Information and set how often it should take place.

New Suite-Wide Features

One problem with earlier versions of Office was that it was too hard to find functions and options. Each version of Office created more options and features but also became more complex. It didn't help users that features were available if they couldn't find them (Let's see, was that under Tools, Options, Settings? Or Tools, Customize, Options? Or maybe it was on a toolbar?).

Office XP hopes to resolve that problem with the introduction of task panes and smart tags, two features that bring options to you so you don't have to hunt them down. Another new feature in Office XP is the introduction of voice recognition technology.

Finally, it also has changed the way you access Microsoft Office Help (Microsoft is hoping these changes will put an end to complaints about that pesky Office Assistant).

Task Panes

The Office Task Pane is a special window that appears on the right side of all Office programs. It looks similar to the miniature windows that appear on the left side of Internet Explorer to peruse Favorites, History, and the like. It is the new way of displaying some of the information that used to appear in dialog boxes. Instead of a dialog box appearing on top of the current document, information appears in the task pane to the side. Task Panes appear automatically when you access certain functions such as inserting clip art, copying something to the clipboard, or searching a document.

Outlook does not use task panes. Access uses them only to create new files, search, and use the clipboard. Other applications use task panes for the aforementioned functions, as well as for application-specific tasks in each program. (Refer to individual program handouts to see how Word, Excel, and PowerPoint make use of task panes.) Task panes open automatically when you select certain features in an application.

For example, if you select Format, Styles and Formatting in Word, the Styles and Formatting task pane will open at the right of the document window. If no task pane is currently open, you can open one by selecting Toolbars from the View menu and choosing Task Pane.

The default task pane, New Document, will appear on the right side of the document window, which presents the same options you used to find when selecting New from the File menu. With a task pane open, you can switch to a particular task pane available to that application by clicking on the task pane's drop down arrow and selecting the task pane you want from the menu of options. To close the task pane feature, click on the X in the upper right corner of the task pane area.

Some specific task panes

The Search task pane appears when you select Search from the drop down task pane menu or when you select Search from the File menu. The default search option is the Basic Search or you can set more specific search criteria by clicking on Advanced Search at the bottom of the task pane. (Unfortunately, Office does not always remember your search preferences and will revert to Basic Search.)

In Basic Search, enter the name of the file you want to find in the task pane's search text box and, if desirable, set the file location and type from the drop-down lists beneath Other Search Options. Use Advanced Search to set additional properties and conditions by which you want to search and enter your search criteria in the Value box. For example, you can search for files by the property, number of pages, with the condition more than and the value "10" and Office will return a list of files found that are more than 10 pages long.

To search by multiple criteria, click the Add button. When you have entered your search criteria, click the Search button to begin your search. You can access the Insert Clip Art task pane by selecting Insert Clip Art from the drop down task pane menu or by choosing Picture from the Insert menu and selecting Clip Art. To find a suitable piece of clip art, type a keyword or words into the search text box and click the Search button.

Additional search options allow you to specify the clip art collection you want to search and the type or types of media you want to find. Pieces of clip art that match your search criteria are displayed in the task pane. When you hover your mouse over an image a drop down arrow appears; click the arrow and select the appropriate action from the list, including inserting the image, copying it, deleting it, or finding images with similar styles. You can also insert the image into your document automatically by clicking directly on it. If you don't find what you need, click on Clips Online at the bottom of the task pane to access Microsoft's Online Clip Art Gallery.

The new XP version of the Office clipboard can store up to 24 pieces of cut or copied information and it uses the task pane design to keep clipboard information off to the side instead of plopping it in your way. The Clipboard task pane provides a visual representation of clipboard contents, displaying copied text or thumbnails of copied images. This makes it easy to tell what clip is what when you are copying or cutting multiple items. To paste an item from the Clipboard, simply click on it.

If you have multiple items on the clipboard, you will also see options to Paste All or Clear All. Select the Options button to turn on/off features of this task pane.

Smart Tags

Smart Tags are special shortcut drop-down menus you can access with the click of a button. Smart Tags appear automatically in a document to provide options related to certain features such as pasting and AutoCorrect, just to name a few. Smart Tags are indicated by an icon-like button and a red line beneath the text affiliated with the shortcut list of options. For example, the Paste Smart Tag lets you choose how to place the pasted text in your document by giving you options to keep source formatting, match destination formatting, or keep text only.

The Language Bar

Office XP's language bar includes a handwriting tool and a new voice recognition feature that allows you to enter information using a microphone (dictation) and to give commands to the computer using voice commands. The language bar appears by default as a floating toolbar in your Office programs. To minimize the language toolbar, click on the minus sign at the right of the bar. If you do not see the language toolbar, click on the language bar icon in your task bar and choose Show the language bar.

Most reviewers have said that, at best, the voice recognition features need some more work. It also does not work with Internet Explorer, so you can't surf hands-free. But with some training your computer will recognize voice commands.

Requirements for Speech Feature Before using the voice recognition feature in Office XP, you should be aware that it requires additional resources. Microsoft recommends that your computer have 128MB of RAM and a Pentium II or better processor running at at least 400MHz. This is twice the memory requirement to run the rest of Office XP. You also need a microphone with high enough quality that your computer can process your voice successfully.

Training the Speech Feature

Before you can use the speech features in Office XP, you must train the computer to recognize your voice. The training wizard will open automatically the first time you attempt to use the voice recognition features. You can also choose Training from the Tools menu on the language bar and follow the instructions.

Expect the training session to take 20-30 minutes to complete. Microsoft estimates that after your initial training session, the speech feature will recognize about 90% of your words correctly. You can do additional training to improve its accuracy at any time by returning to the training menu. To activate the voice recognition features, select Speech from the Tools menu. Select it again to turn the speech features off when you are finished with them.

Voice Dictation and Voice Commands

To begin dictating, select Dictation from the Language Bar. Speak clearly in a normal tone. The voice recognition software interprets phrases more easily than words so do not pause between each word when you speak. The computer will display text in chunks as it finishes processing your voice. If you make a mistake or the computer misunderstands your words, just keep going. You can make corrections once you have finished but can also combine typing with dictation to fix errors.

While you are dictating, a callout box appears on the language bar; it will give you feedback such as telling you when your voice is too loud or soft. To enable the voice commands feature, select Voice Commands from the Language Bar. You can use voice commands to open menus and select menu items, to navigate through dialog boxes, and to access toolbar and task pane options.

(Unfortunately, the Voice Commands feature does not work while you are dictating and you must toggle between them by clicking with your mouse.)

Handwriting Recognition

With the Handwriting feature, you can write directly into the program using a writing device or your mouse. Select Handwriting from the language bar and choose the Writing Pad to write on a specified surface at the bottom of the screen or Write Anywhere to write wherever you want on the page. In some programs you can choose whether to display your input as typewritten text or as you have drawn it by choosing Ink or Text from the Writing Pad toolbar. You can write with your mouse, a pointing device, or CAD drawing tool.


Microsoft has gotten the message; in XP, the smarmy office assistant, Clippit, is hidden by default. If you like having the office assistant around, click on the Help menu and choose Show the Office Assistant.

A new addition to Office XP is the Ask a Question box in the upper right corner of each application. Type the question or topic you want help with in the textbox and press Enter; a small drop-down box will appear with a list of potential topics. When you select your topic, the Office help window will open to give you more specific information.

Collaboration Anyone?

Some of Office XP's most hailed innovations are its improved features for collaboration. To enable many of the revision features you will need to select Track Changes from the Tools menu or from the Reviewing toolbar.

Reviewing Toolbar

To display the Reviewing Toolbar in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, select Toolbars from the View menu and choose Reviewing Toolbar. From this toolbar you can view changes by certain reviewers or by all reviewers (up to ten reviewers can work on a document).

You can choose whether to see the original document with suggested changes or the current document with revision marks. You can also step through each change and accept or reject changes individually or all at once.

Changes in Word and PowerPoint are now indicated by markup notations that look like hand-marked revisions. Revisions and comments appear at the right margin of the document, keeping changes away from the original text.

Send for Review

Word, Excel, and PowerPoint allow you to send a document to someone for review via email. When the person opens the file, reviewing tools are automatically enabled.

To send someone a document, select Send To from the File menu and choose Mail Recipient (to Review). When you open a document that has been returned from review using this feature, you will automatically see the Compare and Merge feature, which gives you the option to merge multiple revisions and comments into the original document.


One of the biggest collaborative features in XP that Microsoft has been touting is access to SharePoint Team Services through the SharePoint Portal Server.

SharePoint provides a web site through a Windows server where work teams can share documents, post meetings, announcements, and contacts, and host message boards. It facilitates easy review of all the documents the group is working on. However, at this time UNC does not support Windows servers. If you would like more information about the uses and features of SharePoint, check out the following web site, where you can watch a trailer, view demos, or access a PowerPoint presentation about SharePoint:

Specific Changes in the Suite Word 2002

People who write and use the word processing features of Office will probably find XP the most rewarding as it includes many small but convenient improvements in Word. Here are just a few examples.

1. In Word 2000, the CTRL key was used in conjunction with clicking to select a sentence; now you can use CTRL as everywhere in Office to select multiple words or phrases not necessarily next to one another. 2. Office 2000 introduced Single Document Interface, meaning each document in an Office program opened in its own window. XP gives you the option to return to Multiple Document Interface, with one window per application. In Word and Excel, select Options and View from the Tools menu and clear the check mark next to Windows in Taskbar. 3. Word 2002 introduces the Style and Formatting task pane and the Reveal Formatting task pane. These task panes, enabled by selecting them from the Format menu or the drop down menu on the task pane window, allow you to keep track of the formatting used in your document. You can see at a glance what styles and formatting has been applied to your text and paragraphs and even compare the formatting of different selections. 4. The new translator lets you look up the French or Spanish translations of words in your document. Selecting Language then Translate from the Tools menu will open the Translate task pane. Although it has options for translating selected text or the whole document, it only works well for single words. But if you want to impress your reader by using "chef d'oeuvre" instead of "masterpiece" it will do the trick.

Downsides of the new Word?

It doesn't remember well:

Although you can specify whether you want task panes to show at startup, it doesn't always work. It also doesn't remember what task panes you like to have open or what view (print layout, normal, etc.) you like to work with.

Excel 2002

Excel has new formula auditing tools, most significantly the Watch Window. This is a floating miniature window that shows how changes you make to one cell affect overall calculations in the worksheet. Being able to keep an eye on your formulas and cells even when the cells themselves are out of view is sure to save a lot of scrolling. To access this feature select Formula Auditing from the Tools menu and click on Show Watch Window.

Excel has also added a Draw Borders tool that lets you draw borders around cell areas with your mouse rather than going through Format commands.

PowerPoint 2002

The inclusion of task panes in PowerPoint smoothes the presentation building process. You can use the task panes to select design templates to apply to your slides, to insert graphics, and to choose slide layouts.

This is particularly nice because you can see thumbnails of what you're picking before you choose and try several choices in as many clicks. You can also choose to apply a design template to selected slides within a presentation.

Access 2002

Access 2002 now supports Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts previously found only in Excel. It also supports NET standards such as XML and has adopted multiple undo.

Publisher 2002

The biggest news is that Publisher now can open multiple files simultaneously. You can also create a new Publisher file from an existing Word file. Note: Remember that Publisher comes only with certain editions of Office XP:

  • Professional with Publisher Edition (available only from a manufacturer on a new PC);
  • Professional Special Edition; Developer Edition.

Benefits and Pitfalls of Upgrading from Office 2000

"For writers such as myself, Office XP is a must-have upgrade, and I suspect many people will have  
a hard time going back to earlier versions once they spend a few sessions with Office XP." 

Paul Thurrot's Office XP Review

"How much better can the world's best office suite get? Not much, it turns out. XP is still the  
most comprehensive on the market, but unless you need to collaborate constantly with colleagues, 
you may want to save yourself the money." 

Gregg Keizer, CNET.

As you can see, opinion on XP is split. So will you find an upgrade to Office XP valuable? Basically, if you work in an environment where collaboration is key, you will love the new reviewing features, particularly those that allow you to keep track of multiple reviewers' comments and merge them into an existing document. Also, if you use your computer primarily for writing, you will benefit from the many incremental upgrades found in Word that will make your job smoother and faster.

Otherwise, the upgrade will be most helpful for business users and groups, less so for home users. If you're lagging behind the times with an old version of Office such as 95, you might as well get yourself updated. Office XP is much less of a comprehensive upgrade for people already running Office 2000, but you might find it worth installing just for the improved reliability features. If you're not sure, you can give Office XP a trial spin with Microsoft's new 30-day trial offer.

How to Have a Successful and Useful Installation of Office XP

Installing Office XP proves easy enough, if you have enough space for it. First, be aware that Office XP will not work with Windows 95. You will have to upgrade Windows before upgrading your Office applications.

Microsoft's recommended operating system for Office XP is a Pentium III PC running Windows 2000 Professional with 128 MB of Ram. The minimum requirements depend somewhat on your system: all users need at least a Pentium-133 and 245MB of free disk space (Windows 98 and NT users need another 50MB).

Minimum Memory requirements are:

  • Windows 98: 24MB of RAM
  • Windows Me or NT: 32MB of RAM
  • Windows 2000: 64MB of RAM
  • An additional 8MB of RAM for each Office XP application running simultaneously

Don't try to skimp on memory or disk space. Low memory will make Office applications crawl and it will not install at all without sufficient disk space.

However, if you have an earlier version of Office on your computer, XP will delete those applications before it installs the latest versions. So you may have more disk space than you think at first.

Product Activation and Licensing Microsoft has adopted new procedures in an attempt to reduce software piracy. Within the first 50 times you run Office XP, you must activate it by providing your product ID code either online or by phone. You also can only install Office on two machines.

If you need to install Office more than twice (if your computer crashes, for example), you must request a code via an 800 number to allow you to do another installation. Save My Settings Wizard

This wizard makes it easy to copy your settings to another machine, as long as it's running XP as well. For example, you can save the settings from your computer at work to a file and then apply them to your machine at home. To run, from the Programs option on the Start Menu, select Microsoft Office Tools and select Save My Setting Wizard. Walk through the steps to save your settings.