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How to Solve 6 Aggravating Office 2007 Behaviors

Simplify your workday with these Excel, SharePoint, and Word tips

Executive Summary:

Office 2007 has some significant annoyances, but I've managed to choose some very common ones to focus on here: documents opening in Full Screen Reading view, security warnings that disable key functionality, the inconvenience of saving to SharePoint document libraries, flaws in offline SharePoint documents, corrupted files after copying external HTML data, and document-version proliferation.

Trying to squeeze a list of Microsoft Office 2007 annoyances into two pages seems like an exercise in futility. I need more like two hundred pages! Yes, Office 2007 has some significant annoyances, but I've managed to choose some very common ones to focus on here. A few of these solutions involve manual changes to Office client configuration, but remember that you can also use Group Policy to push out these changes! See Darren Mar-Elia’s “Managing Microsoft Office 2007 with Group Policy” (InstantDoc ID 97829) for more information.

Documents Open in Full Screen Reading View
Office Word 2007 tends to open documents—particularly email attachments—in Full Screen Reading View, which removes the Ribbon and prohibits changes. (To see what I’m talking about, if you’re viewing a document in the typical Print Layout view, click the Full Screen Reading button in the lower-right corner of the Word window.) Because making changes in Full Screen Reading view isn’t possible, most users hate this view. You can turn it off entirely by switching into Full Screen Reading view, clicking View Options at the top right of the screen, and clicking Don’t Open Attachments in Full Screen.

Better yet, check out the other commands in the View Options menu! You can change whether the Full Screen Reading view displays two pages (the default) or one, increase or decrease the text size, modify the way Word displays margins, and—best of all—allow typing! Yes, by clicking the Allow Typing option, you can permit text changes in the Full Screen Reading view. Other available options include Track Changes and document-display alternatives. Add these capabilities to the Tools menu, text highlighter, and Insert Comment button at the window’s upper-left corner, and suddenly the Full Screen Reading view becomes extremely productive.

How many times have users asked you to minimize the ribbon and give them more real estate in Word? A tweaked Full Screen Reading view is your solution. Perhaps with these tips, the Full Screen Reading view will go from “most annoying” to “most loved” feature of Word 2007! Security Warnings for Office Documents
When you open an Office document that contains macros, connections to external data sources, embedded documents, or other features that could be a vector for malicious code, Office 2007 applications disable all that great functionality. The applications err on the side of security, because that’s what we (the market) have vociferously demanded that Microsoft do. Unfortunately, this application behavior means that you have to train users to spot the security warning beneath the ribbon and to enable the blocked features, as you see in Figure 1.

This annoyance is easy to fix. Inside an Office application, simply access the Trust Center Settings by clicking the Office button, clicking the app-specific Options button at the bottom of the menu (e.g., Excel Options), and choosing Trust Center on the left side of the Options dialog box. Now, click Trust Center Settings. You can trust documents based on their publisher, through the use of certificates. But a less complex, more flexible—if slightly less secure—option is to trust documents based on the documents’ locations.

Click Trusted Locations, choose Add New Location, enter the path for the trusted location (as Figure 2 shows), then click OK three times to exit each dialog box. Now, documents opened from the specified location will be trusted, and enhanced functionality will be enabled by default. Saving to SharePoint Document Libraries Requires a Long URL
When an Office user saves a document to a SharePoint document library for the first time, the user must navigate to the library, which usually requires entering most or all of a lengthy URL. This simple task is a major obstacle to end-user adoption of SharePoint libraries! If the library isn’t easy to get to, users simply won’t go there.

The solution is to create a type of shortcut to your SharePoint document libraries. Specifically, create Network Places (for XP users) or Network Locations (for Vista users) links. When a user saves a document for the first time, he or she can click the My Network Places link in an XP system’s Save dialog box or a Vista system’s Computer link, and the shortcuts become visible. With this solution, it’s just a two-click navigation to the library, rather than a long, typo-prone URL. The same Network Places/Network Locations are available in the Open dialog box, as well.

For information about deploying Network Places and Network Locations, check out my “Making Document Libraries More Accessible: Scripting Network Places and Network Locations” and “Deploying Shortcuts and Favorites to SharePoint Sites” newsletter columns. Controlling the Behavior of Offline SharePoint Documents
When you check out an Office document from a SharePoint site, Office 2007 caches a copy of the document (by default) in the SharePoint Drafts folder. This functionality lets you work on documents offline—a fantastic feature in many scenarios, particularly for laptop users.

However, the offline cache sometimes poses a problem because Office 2007 saves document changes only on the user’s local system until the document is checked in. If the user fails to check in the document, an administrator can check the document in, but changes won’t be recovered from the user’s cache. Therefore, the user is left with a changed document that can’t be checked in, and the library has a checked-in document that isn’t up to date. Most organizations can live with the risks associated with such user failure—the benefits of working offline far outweigh the risks—but might want to change the location or name of the SharePoint Drafts folder. If you prefer not to use offline caching at all, there needs to be a way to manage this functionality.

Fortunately, you can control both the location and the availability of the SharePoint Drafts folder by opening the Options dialog box from the Office button, and clicking Save link on the left side. The Offline editing options for document management server files section lets you specify a location for the Drafts folder. You can also disable caching by choosing to save changes to the web server. Pasting Text Copied from the Internet Corrupts Formatting
When you paste text from the Internet into a Word or PowerPoint document, the HTML data that you’ve copied brings with it formatting that can—at best—make the pasted text look out of place. Worse, it can corrupt the formatting of your document.

It’s always best to use the Paste Special command (rather than the Paste command) to copy “foreign” content into an Office document. Simply click the drop-down arrow under the Paste button, and choose Paste Special. Experiment with the resulting options to determine which gives you the best result. The correct choice will vary, depending on what you’ve copied and where you’re pasting it. Often, the Unformatted Text option gives you the best results because it strips out all formatting from the source and pastes only the text. Actually, unformatted is a bit of a misnomer—the text assumes the formatting of the location in the document into which it’s pasted.

Paste Special is such a useful command that I add it to my Quick Access Toolbar next to the Office Button. I also highly recommend configuring Word 2007’s Paste options. Click the Office button, choose Word Options, and click Advanced. In the Cut, copy and paste section, scroll down to the Pasting from other programs option and choose Keep Text Only. Version Proliferation
At every client site I visit, I’m witnessing a phenomenon I call version proliferation. A document is saved with a new name to indicate each change in its lifecycle, adding up to several if not dozens of document versions. The problem is exacerbated as versions are saved in file shares, emailed to other users, and otherwise proliferated around the enterprise and to outside customers or vendors.

SharePoint document libraries offer relief from version proliferation. In a document library, you can enable versioning in the library settings. Then, you can save a document with a single name, and SharePoint does the dirty work of keeping track of versions. You can go back and view or restore older versions by using the Version History command in the document library or the Version History command in the Office 2007 Office button menu.

Word 2007 adds an extra capability: It can compare versions. Using the Version History command, you can choose an older version stored in the library and Word will compare the two versions, showing what has changed and who made the changes. So, no longer do you need to have documents with names such as Contract 081015 version B rev DH.docx.
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