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Office 2007: A sampler

Here's a stroll through the new face of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook 2007.

Elsa Wenzel
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Forget what you know about the Office of yesteryear. To start, most of the new applications arrange their commands within this tabbed Ribbon of icons, similar to the style of the Firefox Web browser.
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Lots of tabs are hidden until you do something that triggers them to appear. You don't see the Picture Tools Format tab until you click on a picture, for instance. See more of how the applications have changed in our Microsoft Office: Then and Now slide show.
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You'll find a slider bar for zooming in and out in the lower right corner of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007.
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Word 2007 keeps a word tally running in its lower left-hand corner.
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A Switch Windows pull-down menu lets you skip to other open documents.
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Many functions from the former File and Save menus are located beneath the Office logo, which is perched in the upper left-hand corner of the applications.
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From the Office logo, you'll find options for inspecting hidden information, such as the names of editors within metadata, checking that the document will run in older Office software, and marking a file as final.
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The Undo function has moved from the Edit menu in Office 2003 to this petite icon in the upper left-hand corner of Office 2007. Clicking the tinier arrow next to the Undo arrow opens a long list of recent changes.
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Clicking the Word Options button from the Office logo menu in Word 2007 lets you customize the way you work. Similar Options buttons appear within the other applications.
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Here's what you'll see if you shrink the application window down to an extremely small size.
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While typing in Word or composing an Outlook e-mail, clicking the right mouse button brings up formatting options. The tiny formatting toolbar seen here also fades in and out near your cursor while you type.
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If your book report or dissertation is due tomorrow, you'll need to rely on Word's References tab.
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Office 2007 software emphasizes ways to doll up documents with fancy fonts that you can preview live on the page before making a change. Similarly, its dynamic, drop-down galleries show off styles for page formatting, image effects, and charts.
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However, you don't get shape-shifting galleries for every design element. Controlling page borders and shading is done with the same dialog box as in Word 2003.
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PowerPoint 2007 is loaded with style galleries, including one for previewing animated slide transitions live on the page.
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Microsoft hoped for better-looking presentations to be a convenient truth for PowerPoint 2007 users. Many of the effects found under the Drawing Tools Format tab are designed to reflect the color themes throughout your slide show. It's a snap to alter the appearance of a slide show, although you could easily go overboard with too many clashing effects.
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SmartArt graphics let you convert bullet points into diagrams. But we didn't find the button for converting text into SmartArt was conveniently located. Once you select some text, make sure to click the tiny Smart Art icon from beneath the Home tab, or you can right-click. The big SmartArt button beneath the Insert tab won't do the trick for selected text.
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Chart Tools tabs appear on the Ribbon of Excel 2007 when you select a chart. While there are lots of options for changing a chart's appearance, some functions were hard to find, such as adding percentage values to the key in our pie chart.
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While playing with styles, you'll have to position your page to prevent the big pull-down gallery menu from obscuring the object you're changing. Although the gallery styles are designed to be "intelligent" and to reflect your page color themes, they aren't smart enough to rule out options that don't make sense for your chart. When we moused over style options for this chart, for instance, some of the choices painted all the pie segments the same color.
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Conditional Formatting, in the Styles section under the Home tab of Excel, lets you analyze spreadsheet data with colors and icons. In this spreadsheet of storm damage, for example, we were able to find that most of the storms with the most fatalities were relatively short-lived.
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Excel 2007's handy Formulas tab lets you reference complex formulas from easy-to-find pull-down menus.
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Unlike Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, the new Outlook 2007 keeps the old File and Save menus in its main interface. Outlook 2007's e-mail composition and calendar scheduling windows, however, adopt the Ribbon interface.
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At long last, Outlook lets you drag e-mails and tasks to the calendar for scheduling.
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To the right of its message pane, Outlook 2007's collapsible To-Do bar shows an overview of upcoming events and tasks.
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Added integration throughout the applications means that you can click through PowerPoint slides, as well as preview Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, from within your Outlook e-mail in-box.
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If you open an older Office file with the new Office 2007 software, some of the features are turned off until you convert the file to the new file type. Our video and Quick Guide explain how to work with Office 2007's new files.
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The Add-Ins tab appears within the applications if you have Office 2007-compatible software and plug-ins on your hard drive. Here, Word's Add-Ins tab shows that we have a third-party tool from Zoho. These buttons allow us to upload Word files to a password-protected account for Zoho's free online word processor.

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