Last week, a friend who runs a small nonprofit foundation called me. I provide volunteer IT support for the foundation, and my friend asked me to recommend a desktop publishing program that wouldn't be too expensive. The foundation wanted to publish a newsletter about its fundraising activities that would also keep supporters informed about where the money goes. The plan was to self-publish the newsletter, hit the local copy center to make copies, then use volunteers to stuff envelopes.
I asked a few questions about the newsletter's purpose and content, then asked my friend why she wasn't planning to use Microsoft Word to produce the newsletter. I knew that the foundation's mailing list was in Microsoft Access and that the foundation's version of Microsoft Office (Office 2000) is capable of producing a newsletter. I pointed out that a Newsletter wizard is available for Office to help in the initial creation of newsletters, and I directed my friend to the Web site from which she could download the wizard.
After this conversation, I made a few phone calls to some other small businesses and nonprofits that I work with. I found that none was making use of the publishing features in Word, even though each had ongoing projects that could benefit from some of Word's more advanced features. None of the people I talked with were hard-core computer users, and the few who considered themselves computer-savvy had never heard of the Microsoft Office Tools Web site, available at http://office.microsoft.com .
I know that Windows Client UPDATE readers use the Office Update Web site ( http://office.microsoft.com/productupdates/default.aspx ) to make sure that the latest patches and service packs are applied to their computers, but how many of you have checked out the tools site? Aside from tools such as the Newsletter wizard (which you can find at http://search.officeupdate.microsoft.com/templategallery/ct89.asp ), the site has hundreds of interesting and useful templates for all sorts of common business and personal documents that you probably use regularly and might even be buying from your local office supply store. You can find these templates in the Office Template Gallery, at http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/templategallery .
Templates are available for more than just Word; I've used downloads from the site with Word, Excel, and Access. And these templates aren't solely for small office/home office (SOHO) or personal use--many would prove useful in a large corporation. If you've never made use of the Office Tools or Template Gallery Web sites, a visit would be well worth your time, although most of the more interesting items available require at least Office 2000. You've made a significant investment in the Microsoft Office suite, both in dollars and in the time you've taken to learn to use it. With the help of these Web sites, you can get significantly more out of the software than you might have imagined.