When they launched, Office XP and Office 2003 were big leaps forward, breaking away from the look of Windows 95 and offering far greater integration between applications. If you're using Office 2003, you're probably more than content, though we have to say there's plenty to get excited about in the brand-new 2007 version.
We'd bet that no one has ever managed to use every feature of Office 2003. And we've certainly a long way to go before exhausting the workarounds, shortcuts and handy hidden functions we routinely share with you.
Here we look at how macros can automate tasks, saving valuable time. While we focus here on Microsoft Word, the principle extends to other Office apps. What certainly doesn't save you time is having to learn new software applications and ways of working.
Most time-consuming of all can be hunting down all the commonly used functions that have suddenly been relegated to the back of the pack.
Thankfully, Microsoft has addressed feature bloat with Office 2007. It's pared down the drop-down menus and without your prompting serves up the features you use most often. And both Office and Vista have vastly improved search capabilities and version control, so you needn't scrabble around looking for the most recent copy of a document you're working on.
Microsoft is confident that its SharePoint tool, which enables collaborative working between colleagues across an ad-hoc network or an intranet, will prove a hit with businesses. Imagine it as a business-focused MySpace, with ideas, meeting notes, contact details, archives, message boards and a virtual meeting area, all hosted on an individual's SharePoint page.
It's ideal for sharing resources and, as with everything else that's been touched by Vista, it's got a solid native search capability. What a contrast from the ineffectual Office Assistant.
ADD A MACRO BUTTON TO A TOOLBAR
1. You can record a macro to automate a series of steps within Word to help you work faster: to add formatting, for example. When you choose to record a macro, Word will capture every keystroke and make a macro from these steps. To begin, select Tools-Macro-Record New Macro.
2. The Record Macro dialogue will appear. Type in the name of your macro, then choose from the available storage options by clicking the down arrow. If you want the macro to be available to all documents, choose the Normal.dot template file. Click Keyboard to assign the macro to the keyboard.
3. The Customize Keyboard dialogue will open. Click in the Press New Shortcut Key field, then choose a key combination to activate your macro - hold down <Shift> and <Backspace>, for example. Choose the location for the command, then click Assign. Finally, click Close to begin recording your macro.
4. The recording toolbar will be displayed; this allows you to stop or pause while recording. Simply go through the process you want to record, then click on the Stop recording button. Word will create the macro and you can activate it whenever you click the assigned key combination.
5. By placing a macro button in a toolbar, you no longer need to remember special key combinations to execute a specific macro. To add a macro to a toolbar after creation, click on Tools-Customize, then select the Commands tab. Scroll down, select Macros from the list of Categories and choose the Save in location from the drop-down list.
6. Select the macro you want to add from the list of Commands. Drag the macro to where you want it on the toolbar and let go of the mouse button. Word will automatically create a button and label it with the name of the selected macro. If you want to change the name of the Macro button, click on the Modify Selection button.
Tips and Tricks
TOO SECURE? If you try to open Office documents and come up with a Security Warning window, you may need to adjust your office applications macro security settings. To do this, go to Tools-Options, then select the Security tab. Click the Macro Security button and select the Security level appropriate for you. Be careful when doing this though, as some users create macros that can cause harm to your computer and files.
HELPING HAND You don't have to do all the hard work yourself. MacroExpress (www.macros.com) can create all manner of macros that are triggered by any combination of shortcut keys or even according to a time you choose. Give it a try and put your feet up!
GET IT RIGHT FIRST TIME Microsoft FolderShare is a free utility for synching files and sharing them with others on an invitation basis, or simply for ensuring that you're always working on the latest version of a document - rather than the one you forgot to copy off your notebook (www.foldershare.com).
MAKING MACROS If our introduction to using and creating macros has got you thinking about the many ways you could save time by creating some of your own, give the trial version of WinTask a whirl. It'll give you a boost of inspiration and its efficiency may just rub off on you (www.wintask.com).