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Help on help: Getting REAL help for Microsoft Office

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in The Office Tech Pro

by Melissa P. Esquibel, Microsoft Certified Trainer

Did you ever feel like you needed more help after getting help in Microsoft Office? There are tips and tricks to getting the right help fast, and get you back to work.

The #1 best tip for getting help in Microsoft Office is to know what things are actually called. If you are a typical office professional, you probably click around your workspace with lightning speed. Slow down for a moment and just hover over parts of your screen. In 2003 and earlier versions, a ScreenTip will pop up and give you the name of the option or feature.

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In Office 2007, you can get even more information with expanded ScreenTip settings. Click on the Office button and select the applications options button at the bottom of the dialog box. You'll notice an option at the top for ScreenTip style. Choose the one that says "Show feature descriptions in ScreenTips.” When you know what you are asking for help on, the help is more likely to be useful.

The #2 best tip for getting help for Microsoft Office applications is to look beyond the help that is on your hard drive. Of course, you will want to make sure that your help settings automatically go to Office Online for help. This help is the most updated and comprehensive help that Microsoft provides. If you use only the help on your hard drive, it is highly likely that it is at least 2-7 years old. Better, clearer help is available. Microsoft has also added multimedia help. By that, I mean that you will find mini-video and audio tutorials on specific subjects.

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For example, mail merge in Access or creating charts in Excel. Also, don't be afraid to just key in your question to Google or Ask.com. You have to be discerning about which answers you choose, but you will get help here from people who actually work with these tools every day.

Finally, my #3 best tip for getting really good help is to have at least two learning or reference resources at your fingertips. In fact, I'll be more specific than that. You should have one resource from Microsoft Press and one from another publisher, like the Bible series by Wiley Publishing (Excel 2003 Bible, Word 2007 Bible). Where the Microsoft Press books will be very comprehensive, the others will be more apt to speak to you in plain terms. Many of these books come with CD-ROMs that allow you to add the entire contents of the manual right on your hard drive.

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  • Outlook: Beyond E-Mail to E-fficiency
  • Excel: Time-Savers for Every Skill Level
  • PowerPoint: Unleash its Power and "Wow” Features
  • Word: Tips and Techniques to Boost Productivity
  • Access: Database Management Made Easy
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