Try before you buy?

It should probably come as no surprise that Microsoft's largesse, as far as offering users a free taste of the beta of Office 2007, was short-lived. The multimillion dollar company is clearly feeling the pinch and if you haven't already downloaded the free trial then you've missed your chance - you'll now have to pay.

Admittedly, it's charging only $US1.50 per download but, given that it's benefited from all the free advice and feedback of existing beta testers, it seems a bit rich to start asking punters to cough up. Microsoft claims that with more than three million copies of the beta downloaded since it became available in May, it has exceeded its target by more than 500 per cent and needs to recoup some of the bandwidth costs by charging for the beta.

It hasn't ruled out offering future free beta copies of software but, if the opportunity arises again, the best advice is to get in quick. Existing beta users can still get free updates to the software, but it is due to be shut down in February 2007, with only limited functionality remaining. This is in line with estimates that the full version of Office 2007 will launch early 2007.

If you'd prefer to wait for the real thing, this month we complete our look at the new features of Office 2007 so you'll know what to expect.


1. Excel Formulae AutoComplete makes it easier to create formulae in Excel. To access it, click on a cell, type <=> and the start of the function, for example 'sub' for subtotal. It'll offer you possible functions; you click on the correct one. You can build a formula or multiple formulae using this method.


2. Excel Conditional Formatting allows you to highlight trends or anomalies within tables. To use conditional formatting, click on the button in the tool ribbon. Choose from the drop-down menus to highlight cells that contain certain features, are above or below a specific numerical value, or create your own rules.


3. PowerPoint allows you to easily apply a theme to a presentation using Smart Art. Select the elements to which you want to apply the theme and click on the 'Convert to Smart Art' button on the tool ribbon. You can then select the theme you want to apply and tailor colours and styles using the Design toolbar.


4. You can now set the resolution of your presentation for the type of display you are using. Click the Slide Show tab, then on the arrow next to the 'Use current resolution' menu. From here you can select the desired resolution of your fi nished presentation. Tips indicate which resolution provides clearer or faster results.


5. Outlook allows you to automatically add a fl agged message to your to-do list. Click the fl ag icon to mark a message for follow-up. You can flag a message to be followed up today or at a future date, create a custom follow up and add reminders. Right-clicking on existing flags pulls up all these options.


6. You can view multiple calendars within Outlook. Click the calendar view and upload other calendars from the Internet using the Browse Calendars Online feature in the left-hand menu. From here you can search for online calendars, automatically upload them and view them side-by-side with your own calendar.


TIPS & TRICKS

PASSWORD-PROTECTING OFFICE DOCUMENTS
You can assign a password to any Office document when you save it. In Excel, Word and PowerPoint, click Tools-Options and Security to set a password. You can choose to add a password to prevent anyone from opening or modifying the document.

EXCEL CALCULATION OPERATORS
Excel evaluates all operations within a formula using a strict left-to-right order of precedence, unless you use brackets to interrupt this order. If you want a refresher on this order, press <F1> within Excel to access the help files and search for calculation operators. Then click on the About Calculation Operators link.


HELPFUL DOWNLOADS

TIMELY REMINDERS
Outlook 2007 makes sharing calendars and calendar information online simple. But it's not the only way. Planzo provides free online calendars you can share with other members and send reminders of scheduled events to your mobile phone and via e-mail. www.planzo.com

STICKY STUFF
Sticky notes are handy but untidy. Simply Stickies 1.5 replicates their usefulness on your desktop, allowing you to 'stick' different coloured reminders on your screen. Notes are automatically saved and displayed at startup. Download a free demo or purchase the full version for $US9. www.wellcraftedsoftware.com

PASSWORD PROMPTS
Forgotten the password for an Office document? Rixler's latest decryption tool, Office Password Recovery Toolbox ($US60) can be used to decrypt up to two Microsoft Word or Excel documents protected with open passwords, and offers unlimited use for other types. www.rixler.com

LIGHTNING LAUNCHES
PS Hot Launch VVL allows you to launch applications quickly from a menu in the system tray and quick launch applications using hotkeys. Use customised hotkeys to insert frequently used text, change the volume or control any other common feature. It's available as a free download. www.pssoftlab.com


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