Hidden Tools in Office 2003

As ubiquitous as Office is, most people use only a fraction of its features

Microsoft Office is without a doubt the killer app of the Windows era and must be the most pervasive software application of all time. Almost everyone uses it, either at work or at home. But despite its widespread adoption, only a handful of the Office suite components are typically used: Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, and PowerPoint—and to a lesser degree, Publisher 2003, InfoPath, and OneNote. As one of the most feature-rich products ever made, Office has far more features than most people are familiar with. Of the many little-known tools in Microsoft Office 2003, here are my 10 favorites.

10. Picture Manager—In Office 2003, Microsoft Office Picture Manager replaces Photo Editor. Accessible from the Microsoft Office Tools menu, Picture Manager lets you locate, manage, edit, and share digital photos. If you've ever helped a friend try to locate pictures that he uploaded from his digital camera and promptly lost, you'll understand the value of Picture Manager.

9. Internet Free/Busy service—To share your calendar with other people across the Internet, you can use the Internet Free/Busy service (IFB). To access the IFB, go to Outlook and click Tools, Options, Calendar Options, Free/Busy options.

8. Document Scanning and Document Imaging—Microsoft Office Document Scanning and the related Microsoft Office Document Imaging work together. The scanning tool lets you use your scanner to capture images, and the imaging tool lets you view and annotate documents, rearrange multipage documents, and send document images through email. You access both tools from the Microsoft Office Tools menu.

7. Equation Editor—Expressing mathematical formulas in documents can be a challenge. Equation Editor provides a toolbar of symbols and automatically adjusts font size and spacing as you build an equation. From Microsoft Word, click Insert, Object, then select Microsoft Equation 3.0 from the Object type menu.

6. XML task pane—InfoPath and Excel aren't the only Office tools that can work with XML—you can also open and edit XML documents by using Word's XML pane. To open the pane, click View, Task Pane and select XML Structure from the drop-down box in the upper left corner of the window.

5. Research task pane—The integrated Research pane lets you easily do research as you write, without leaving Word. Click View, Task Pane, then select Research from the drop-down box in the window's upper left corner. With the pane open, you can type words or highlight document selections and look up information in an online dictionary and encyclopedia.

4. Translation task pane—The Translation task pane can quickly translate documents and words into other languages. To open the pane, first open the Research task pane, then scroll to the Translation section and select the language conversion you want from the drop-down boxes.

3. Save My Settings Wizard—The Save My Settings Wizard is great for moving all your customized Office settings to a new system. Using the wizard (access it through the Microsoft Office Tools menu), you can save your Office settings in an .ops file, then restore that file on another system.

2. Access Snapshot Viewer—Access is included only in Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, but sometimes you want to share database reports with people who don't have Access. The Access Snapshot Viewer lets a user view Access report snapshots without installing or using Access itself.

1. MS Query—I use MS Query a lot. This graphical query editor lets you build and execute queries against most ODBC/OLE DB databases and return the results to Office. You access MS Query by either running msqry32.exe or using Excel's Data, Import External Data, New Database Query option. MS Query isn't part of the default Office installation. If you need to install it, click Start, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, then select Microsoft Office. Click Change, then select Add or Remove Features. Select the Choose advanced customization of applications check box, click Next, then expand the Office Tools node. Locate MS Query, click the drop-down arrow next to it, select Run from My Computer, and click Update.

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