Thursday, April 28, 2005

Found! Office 2004 for Macintosh: The Missing Manual


There is a widely-accepted (though untrue) tale that the PC is for office work, and the Macintosh is for art. That may have been the case at some time in the past, but OSX and Office 2004 for Macintosh have given the "clumsy with words" label the lie.

Microsoft Office 2004 for Macintosh is an integrated package of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, plus Entourage for eMail and personal information management. Because the Office Suite adds tools to move data seamlessly between the applications, the Macintosh Office 2004 package is actually more useful than those old PCs to organize a small business, keep a large family on track, or develop the business plan presentation that will get you that small business loan.

It includes everything Mac OSX users need to mount up and go—except a manual.

Once again, Microsoft has put out a powerful software package with all its instructions embedded under the Help key. The problem this creates is akin to looking up a word in the dictionary when you don't know how it's spelled. Unless you have a pretty good idea what Microsoft called the function or feature you're seeking, you can search all day without getting any help from your Help index.

Mark H. Walker and Franklin Tessler have come to our rescue with Office 2004 for Macintosh: The Missing Manual. Like the other missing manuals in the Pogue Press series, this one details the program from top to bottom, describing every nuance of power and functionality. Users who have just opened the box will find step-by-step instructions here; users who are old hands with Word, Excel and Powerpoint will still find keys to taming the idiosyncrasies of these programs in their integrated Mac version.

Part One deals with Microsoft Word, giving tips on basics (including "every conceivable variation on saving"); editing and formatting in Word; styles, page layout and tables; comment layers (change tracking, comments and version notes); view mastering (Notebook, master pages and outlining); advanced topics like line numbering, bookmarks, Table of Contents and macros; and using Word as a Web browser.

Did you know that Word for Macintosh can spell-check non-English text and English text in the same document? I didn't before I read the "Gem in the Rough" sidebar in the Spelling and Grammar section. It details exactly how to set up Word so it can, for example, use the French dictionary to spell-check that long quote en Fran├žais included in a letter to your Parisian pen-pal, while still using your own English dictionary to check the rest of the text.

Part Two explains the integrated Entourage program. Entourage could give you follow-up reminders before, bringing up a Word document that needed to be sent on a particular date. It could always manage projects. But now the eMail and PIM (personal information manager) program works as a project manager, with tools to make these integration tasks easier and more Mac-like than before. The key is the Project Center, which lets you associate documents, images and folders with a project, whether they originate in Word, Excel, Powerpoint or an eMail.

The simple eMail functions of Entourage are also thoroughly described. My favorite tips here were the way to use your Mac laptop from a hotel room to "scan" your eMail, minimizing your time on that slow dial-up connection to let you download only copies of the mail you want to read, and how to organize the eMail database to allow exporting groups of messages for import into other eMail programs (including PC eMail).

Part Three shows how to use Microsoft Excel to best advantage, guiding us on the basics of spreadsheet creation; using formatting and charts; advanced topics like databases, macros, advanced formulas, pivottables and scenario managers. Although the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) feature did not make it into the OSX version of Office 2004, I was pleased to find that links into my favorite database management program, FileMaker Pro, work fine. It is only non-FileMaker ODBC links that will not work with the OSX Excel.

Part Four gives us the low-down on using the Microsoft Powerpoint program, with enough detail to please the (usually) graphics-oriented Mac user. I love the easy way the Mac version of this quintessential business program lets you change the bullet character, for example, but the real gold in this section is the step-by-step instruction on incorporating music and video in your slide-show. Here the Mac can shine, and Microsoft has done a good job of supporting the OSX system. With that, and this manual, you have the tools to produce presentations rivaling the big marketing houses.

The manual closes with an advertisement for AppleScript, detailing how to crank up the power of the Office 2004 for Macintosh suite by scripting repetitive tasks. Powerpoint is scriptable for the first time in this version. The OSX versions of Word, Excel and Entourage include enhanced access to AppleScripting. Even users who do not want to create their own scripts can find hundreds of ready-made scripts online, just waiting to be downloaded.

At over 700 pages, with a fairly-complete index, this is a reference manual. You won't want to sit down to read it on a winter's evening before the fire—but you won't want to be without it when you fire up the Mac to use Office 2004!


Please join us at BlogCritics to comment on this review.


Blogger samraat said...

4/03/2010 10:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home