New Office 2007 add-on makes commands easier to find
Office Labs' Search Commands makes navigating Office 2007's ribbon as easy as type and click.
Dennis O'ReillyFormer CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Microsoft claims that Office 2007's ribbon interface saves time by putting the features people use most often closer at hand. For those of us who spent years learning where those functions were in previous versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, the changes aren't the productivity boosters Microsoft envisioned.
I've done more than my share of rummaging around the ribbon in Office 2007 trying to find a particular command, and I've even used Microsoft's user-interface guides to hunt down the feature I needed. Now Microsoft Office Labs has developed the free Search Commands add-on for Office 2007 that lets you type in a command and access it in an instant.
After you download and install the add-on, the Search Commands tab is added to the ribbon. Click it (or press the Windows key and Y) and type the name of the command you need.
For example, the other day I was looking for the Reveal Formatting option in Word 2007. I eventually found it under the Display tab in Word Options (off the Office button menu). It would've been much faster for me to simply open Search Commands, type "reveal formatting," and enter the number that appears next to that option ("5" in this case).
Office Labs' only other offering to date is the Community Clips add-on designed to facilitate finding and sharing how-to videos relating to Office 2007. The site describes three other projects: one that creates a wiki on a SharePoint server, one that is intended to improve the Tablet PC pen interface, and one designed to serve as a marketplace for freelancers.
Note that all of the projects are prototypes, and Microsoft collects "usage metrics" in an attempt to enhance them, though you can opt out of sending any data to the company. I don't know about the other Office Labs projects, but Search Commands is an add-on I expect will save me quite a bit of time by slicing the ribbon to ribbons.