tools to fix common problems and have some fun while you’re at it
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
October 16-22, 2007; Issue 938
High Tech Office column
Microsoft’s Office 2007
release made major changes to that widely used applications suite.
Innovative, yes, but they’re causing problems for users.
2007 introduced new default formats for Word, Excel and PowerPoint
2007: docx, xlsx and pptx, respectively. Office 2007 users sharing
files with others could poke around in the program options and change
the defaults for saving files or they could save individual files in
the older formats prior to sharing them. But too many users do neither,
and many of us are receiving e-mail attachments that we can’t read.
If you’re using Office 2000, Office XP or Office 2003, stop reading and
get the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack
find Microsoft’s link to download that add-on letting you open the new
file types in these older Office versions. If you’re using an Office
alternative, search for Word
. Microsoft’s free viewer will let you open, read and
print (but not change) new format Word files. There’s also a PowerPoint 2007 Viewer
owners are currently out of luck; Microsoft is promising a new version
of Office for Mac later this year with updates for older Mac Office
versions after that.)
Office 2007 also dropped the menus and
toolbars used in earlier versions for a so-called ribbon interface.
Microsoft gives no way to go back to the earlier style, but pschmid.net
offers a Ribbon Customizer
program, with free and paid versions. It gives Office 2007 users a
ClassicMenu ribbon: one click and the older-style menus and toolbars
reappear. If you’ve got the new version of Office, but prefer not to
have to re-learn where everything is, it’s a must-have.
The free Google Pack
(pack.google.com) collects some of Google’s best along with quality
free stuff from other sources. It lets users select what they want and
download and install it all in a single pack. It includes a tool to
keep all the various components up to date. Skip the items you already
have, like Adobe Reader, but the pack’s Spyware Doctor is among the
best free anti-spyware utilities available, and Picasa is a good tool
for organizing and working with collections of digital photos.
Not included in the Google Pack but also free is Google Earth
This lets users view much of the Earth as if from space, zooming in on
your home or workplace, tourist destinations and more. A new version
lets you move out into space. And here’s a secret: briefly pressing the
Control + Alt keys and the letter A (Command + Option + A on Macs)
takes you to a flight simulator, flying a propeller or jet-powered
plane over the Google Earth landscapes. Of course, we don’t waste time
doing this at work.
Since Windows 95, Microsoft has released a series of free “Powertoys
to help customize its various operating system versions. Most useful:
TweakUI, to tweak the user interface in a variety of ways. Separate
versions for Windows XP and for earlier Windows
are still available, but so far, nothing for users of the
new Windows Vista. Vista users may want to download TweakVI
from totalidea.com. Like the Ribbon
Customizer, there are free and paid versions. The free version works
fine for me.
too many options, but with a bit of tweaking, it let me restore the
menus to Vista’s Explorer windows and even seems to have sped up
Vista’s pokey startup.Mac users wanting to tweak: check out TinkerTool