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Ever sought help in Microsoft Office—only to feel like you needed more help?

Melissa P. Esquibel, a Microsoft Certified Trainer who writes “The Office Tech Pro” blog, offers these tips for getting the right help fast, so you can get back to your task:

1. Know what things are actually called. If you’re typical, you probably click around your workspace with lightning speed. Slow down for a moment and 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.

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 dialogue 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.

2. Look beyond the help that is on your hard drive. Make sure your help settings automatically go to Office Online for help. This help is the most updated and comprehensive help that Microsoft provides, and it’s often available in audio or video format. If you use only the help on your hard drive, it is likely two to seven years old.

3. Have at least two learning or reference resources at your fingertips. 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.

— Adapted from “Help on help: Getting REAL help for Microsoft Office,” Melissa P. Esquibel.

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