Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Office Management: Degunking Microsoft Office by Wayne and Christina Palaia

HELPFUL

In the latest entry in this excellent Paraglyph Press series, professional partners Wayne and Christina Palaia show us how to optimize Microsoft Office applications by getting rid of gunk, defined as
any problem that slows down your PC, decreases your productivity, creates delays in finding files, or causes your PC to freeze up or crash...
Degunking Microsoft Office follows the degunking philosophy, concentrating on making the most of the version you have, rather than upgrading or replacing software in the attempt to eliminate problems. As with the others in the series, this book provides a graduated set of degunking procedures: ten-minute, thirty-minute, one hour, three hour, half-day and all-day procedures are listed, as well as spare-minute degunking tips to help you stay ahead of the process in a busy office environment.

Like any suite of applications, Microsoft Office has built-in complexities that are not needed by every user; a major part of the degunking process is to get rid of the components you don't really need. In addition, Office has gunk-creators embedded in its defaults. To the extent that you accept default file-save locations, you are probably hiding files from yourself, storing extra copies in obscure locations, and even saving files you thought were discarded. These are the time-wasters—but the Palaias also concentrate on the time-savers built into Office, showing how to help insure recovery when things go wrong, and how to increase efficiency in the way the different applications work with each other. Finally, as all the Degunking books do, they lay out a plan for backup and recovery of critical documents and settings.
Toolbars: The way to make Toolbars work more effectively is to Customize them. Remove the tools you never call, add to the toolbar the tools you use all the time. I never save from the Toolbar, so Word, Excel and PowerPoint on my PCs have no tiny floppy-disk icons. But I do insert rows and columns a lot, so Excel has those tools ready for me to click and go.
First the manual focuses on getting the correct version of Office installed on your system, then on organizing the files and folders you will use for Office documents. The Office suite includes four applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Each of these programs has its own degunking chapter, then the authors detail using them together in an effective way.
Excel: Why do most users delete two out of three worksheets in every Excel document? Or worse, leave the two blank sheets in there, sucking space and serving no purpose—because the default number of worksheets in an Excel workbook is 3. It's a simple thing to change this default in the General tab of the Tool/Options window—and while we're at it, we can change the default location of a file-save to save future degunking steps.
Security of personal and private information (especially in shared documents) has its own chapter. "No matter how small your operation or how uninteresting you think your personal business is," the authors explain, "there are people out there just waiting for the opportunity to harm your data, violate your privacy, or inconvenience you in some way." This chapter also covers virus blocking and recovering from infections.

Next, the authors walk us through creating backups and recovery points so that the minimum is lost in a crash or other mishap. Backing up is a major part of the degunking mindset—the degunked user never assumes that nothing bad will happen. In that light, we next learn how to create a trouble-shooting path to prevent crashes and loss of data in the future when something does occur.
Did you know you can start Word in "safe mode"? When you start Word normally, it automatically loads the Normal.dot template and the Word Data Registry Key. If either file is infected by a virus or worm, for example, or damaged in some other way, you can hold down the Ctrl key as you launch Word from the desktop icon or Programs list. (No other Word windows or documents can be open when you do this.)
The final step is to find and install extra applications that help us make the most of Office. Some of these are from Microsoft, like the Malicious Software Removal Tool and the Remove Hidden Data utility. Others are third-party applications that the authors recommend, such as the Hidden File Detector that can find and help you remove everything from spyware to simply-gunky images or hidden files that can bloat Office documents.

There's a reason this book is "the #17 Early Adopter Product in Computers & Internet" on Amazon.com. It's a rational approach to getting 100% out of Microsoft Office, well-written, easy to follow, and thoroughly indexed. Put it together with Degunking Your PC, and your PC-based office will soon be gunk-free.
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