Office XP: productivity innovations

Perhaps the most useful is the Task Pane, a dynamic window that reacts to actions within a document as it's being created. The contents of the Task Pane vary depending on the situation, but the end result is to place appropriate functionality within easy reach.

Perhaps the most useful is the Task Pane, a dynamic window that reacts to actions within a document as it's being created. The contents of the Task Pane vary depending on the situation, but the end result is to place appropriate functionality within easy reach. For example, FrontPage 2002 might use task panes to offer new document or clipboard options, while Excel 2002 might provide search or clip-art tools. But it's Word and PowerPoint 2002 that benefit most from Task Panes, using them to bring functionality such as mail merge, translation, formatting and animation tools to the forefront. Unfortunately there's no shortcut toggle to display/hide the Data Pane, which is an oversight.

Also new to Office XP is the Smart Tag, effectively a small prompt that, like the Task Pane, reacts to specific actions. Best described as 'functionality bubbles', Smart Tags take the form of unobtrusive icons that appear in response to activities such as pasting. To access the tag's functionality, you hover over it with the mouse and a drop-down menu appears. Particularly useful is the Smart Tag for pasted objects, which allows you to select between keeping or discarding the object's formatting, but you can also use them to tune functions such as AutoCorrect.

If you're looking for an alternative to keyboard input, then Office XP has speech and handwriting recognition, although Outlook 2002 does not support it. Handwriting recognition is rather impressive: it gets even the scratchiest text input from a mouse correct, and so should have little difficulty with a stylus pointer or tablet. The same can't be said for the voice commands -- shortcut keys are both faster and quieter. If you have a scanner, the integrated Optical Character Recognition (OCR) applet is more useful, although it doesn't scan text directly into Word 2002.

The biggest threat to productivity is lost work, so Office XP is equipped with an improved application and file recovery system. A Task Pane will appear after you restart from a system crash, allowing you to see what files were open during the failure along with status indicators, so you can select those that need to be saved as well as repairing corrupt data where possible. In fact, Office XP appears pretty stable, so you may not need this feature. Still, it's good to know it's there.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All