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You might feel a little bit skeptical when you first encounter Microsoft Office 2001. After all, Office 98 ([[#R 40]]; Reviews, June 1998) was a powerful and Mac-friendly package. Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint each has more features than most of us will ever use. Word can handle everything from a shopping list to a Ph.D. candidate's thesis paper. Excel's number-crunching tools analyze baseball box scores and rocket trajectories with equal ease. So how could Microsoft possibly inspire you to upgrade again?

The answer is simple. That is, make Office applications simple, make them easier, and make them personal. With Office 2001 ($499; upgrade, $299), Microsoft introduces a new program to the venerable software suite-an e-mail and personal information manager called Entourage 2001. The company has also simplified many existing features and added a smart sprinkling of new features to existing programs. In the process, Microsoft has given the great majority of Mac users who use Office an opportunity to make some New Year's resolutions. The entire suite gives you powerful organizational tools that you can use to become more organized this year; by learning how to use the Office 2001 programs well, you can get your work done more efficiently.

So ring in 2001 right. Come with me on a tour of the new Office, and learn how it can help you better do your daily work. (To get even more information about using the new Office to get your life together, check out "Slide Show to Go" and "Organize with Entourage," both in How-to, or see our review of Office 2001, elsewhere in this issue.)

Learning to Share

It's the little things that slow us down. Say you're working in PowerPoint-you've got to open up Word just to look up a synonym. Office 2001 adds features that are shared by all (or in some cases most) of the programs in the suite-great because you no longer have to spend time figuring out which application has the feature you need and switching back and forth.

Shared Templates   When you start up any of the Office 2001 programs, you'll see the new Project Gallery, a kind of super Open dialog box (see "Create Anything"). From Project Gallery, you can create any blank Office document or choose from Office 2001's extensive collection of templates. This capability blurs the distinctions between programs-making you feel as though you're working in Office World, rather than in discrete applications-and saves you time because you don't have to return to the desktop to create a document with a different Office 2001 program.

Multiple Clipboards   How many times have you needed to copy and paste more than one item between programs? Now you can cut, copy, paste, and even drag and drop multiple items of text or graphics to and from the Office Clipboard when you're using any Office application except Entourage. Your items remain in the Office Clipboard even after you close an application or restart your Mac.

Easier Formatting   Easy-to-find features make a program more productive. Enter the Formatting Palette, which replaces Office's Formatting tool bar. You'll find this palette in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (but not in Entourage). It allows you to view and access many formatting options at once, and its clearly labeled options take away the icon guessing game. If this palette gets in the way, fear not, you can reactivate the Formatting tool bar by choosing Customize from the Tools menu and selecting the Formatting option.

Improved Dictionary   The entire Office suite now shares the new Encarta World English Dictionary. Just highlight a word and choose Dictionary from the Tools menu (or control-click on the word and choose Define from the contextual menu): up pops a window with a highlighted definition. (Definitions were unavailable in previous versions.)

Familiar Formats   Another significant feature of all Office programs is compatibility. You can save your Office 2001 documents in the Office 98 format, and you can open Office 98 documents in Office 2001. Office 2001 also reaches across the platform divide, offering full compatibility with Office 97 and 2000 for Windows files. (Microsoft Windows Outlook files, however, are not compatible with Entourage.)

Entourage Enters Office

E-mail can suck up much of your free time, and I'm not even talking about the time you spend deleting spam-I'm talking about the time you spend switching between different programs, looking for dates and names, searching through old e-mails for important instructions, and keeping track of whom you need to reply to-and when. Office 2001 gives you the ability to change all that, if you choose, with the suite's new personal information manager (PIM), Entourage. If at first glance Entourage seems familiar, that's because it's built upon Outlook Express 5.0, Microsoft's free e-mail program. Entourage's major shortcoming, however, is that it's a single-user program. Unlike Outlook for Windows, you can't share your calendar and contacts with your colleagues over a network.

What's New   Entourage has a true contact manager, modules for a calendar, a tasks list, and a section for notes. These PIM features bring time management to Office 2001 and make it easier to keep projects on track. You'll use Entourage's e-mail abilities for communication and its PIM features to schedule personal time and tasks.

The other Office programs use Entourage too; from within Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, you can send an open document to a friend or colleague as an e-mail attachment. Those programs also have a new button on their main tool bars, Flag For Follow Up, which lets you create a reminder in Entourage's Calendar-a Reminders box pops up in any open Office program when the time you've set arrives. This integration of time and tasks with your working documents helps you keep projects on schedule. (To learn how, see "Organize with Entourage," How-to, elsewhere in this issue.)

The Link Maker tool allows you to create links between any Entourage item and any other item or file on your Mac-even if it isn't an Office document. For example, you can link an upcoming appointment's Calendar entry to all of the files that pertain to that appointment, whether they are Word documents, Adobe Photoshop files, or contact information in Entourage's Address Book. A list of linked items allows you to quickly access all of the pieces of a project and helps keep you organized.

Entourage can also synchronize its Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Notes to your Palm handheld computer-a lifesaver if your work often takes you away from your desktop.

What's Better   In terms of e-mail features, Entourage's Address Book is the most noticeable difference from Outlook Express. Instead of the limited Address Book found in Outlook Express, Entourage sports a full-featured contact manager with all the personal-data fields you might want (you can even include a contact's photo), plus a number of customizable fields (see "Total Recall"). If your clients or friends use Office 2001, you can even attach your contact information to an e-mail message and spare them the pain of typing it into their Address Books.

You can also export mail folders from Entourage just by dragging them to your desktop; they end up as text files (in the standard MBOX format), which you can open in word processors or import into other e-mail programs.

Working with the Web   Entourage adds special Web features that make communication easier. From within the Address Book, a single click opens your Web browser and lets you get maps and driving directions for any contact address. You also have the ability to save a month (or range of months) of your Calendar as a Web page, with your appointments displayed, great if you're going on the road and want to keep track of your appointments from anywhere you have Web access-or as a way to share your calendar with friends and colleagues.

Word Works Harder

The soul of Microsoft Office has long been its word processor, Word. When Microsoft released Word 6, customers revolted over its more complicated interface. There are plenty of new goodies in Word 2001, however, that will make your work quicker and easier.

What's New   The new Click And Type feature makes vertical centering easy, letting you double-click anywhere on a page (in the Page Layout view) and start typing without having to hit the tab or return key dozens of times. Word automatically adds paragraph alignments, tabs, and any other formatting to get your text to go where you want it to. And you no longer have to open a document's header or footer from the View menu to change it; just click where the header or footer would be on the page and start typing.

Word 2001 also gives tables an efficiency overhaul. For example, you can now create nested tables (tables within tables), which translate well to the Web. Header rows can be set to automatically repeat at the top of each page. And tables can now be moved around the page with text reflowing around them.

Doing a mail merge in previous versions of Word was a process best described as tortuous. The new Data Merge Manager doesn't make mail merging a cakewalk, but it does a much better job of walking you through the process in a logical fashion.

A small new feature, Live Word Count, is sure to gladden the hearts of writers everywhere. It sits at the bottom of each document window and shows you the total number of words in your document.

What's Better   Word 2001's new Contacts tool bar is a vast improvement on Word 98's Address Book, and it shares information with Entourage's Address Book.

You can automatically insert a contact's name, address, phone, or e-mail information into your Word document or select a name and address in a letter and add it to the Address Book.

The spelling checker, grammar checker, and thesaurus have been revamped in Word 2001. I found that words Word 98 wrongly flagged as incorrect were recognized correctly in Word 2001, and the new thesaurus offered a better selection of synonyms.

Working with the Web   Word has become a fairly capable Web page editor-for an occasional quick page, it does a surprisingly good job. And that lets you worry about content instead of the vagaries of Web page rendering. The Web Page Preview feature saves your document as HTML and opens the file in your favorite Web browser, so you can see if everything is in place.

Excel Gets Easy

By making Excel do things the way you want it to, rather than the way a software designer in Redmond thinks it should, Excel's handy new features make the program easier for both novices and pros to use.

What's New   For all its number-crunching capabilities, most people use Excel primarily for handling simple lists. (You know what I'm talking about. How many of your Excel documents keep track of your CD collection and office phone lists instead of an analysis of last year's profit margin?) List management is usually a database program's job, but Microsoft has wisely decided to help us out by adding the new List Wizard and List Manager (see "Sliced and Diced Data"). The List Wizard helps you create lists; the List Manager allows you to sort a list by any column and filter data as you want.

Lists are more popular simply because spreadsheet formulas are intimidating. But Excel's new Calculator helps you out-the scary-looking formulas haven't gone away, they're just handled by Excel. As you click on the buttons of the familiar-looking Calculator, Excel builds the formula for you. When you're done, Excel inserts the formula into the cell where you've been working.

What's Better   Excel 2001 now includes the FileMaker Pro Import Wizard. When you drag a FileMaker Pro database onto an Excel worksheet, the Import Wizard starts up and lets you specify the database fields that you want. This makes it easier to apply Excel's superb analysis tools to your sales data, for example.

Excel is also smarter about handling tabular data-data already formatted in rows and columns-from other applications. You can drag and drop or copy and paste tables from a Word document or a Web page, and the information goes neatly into Excel's columns-with little cleanup needed. This allows you to, for example, take stock prices from a financial Web site for further number crunching in Excel.

Working with the Web   If you need to access your kitchen-remodeling budget from anywhere, Excel can save your spreadsheet as an HTML table on an otherwise blank Web page.

You can even set Excel to always save a worksheet as a Web page. If you set the location for the exported file to be your Web server, you can update information on your Web site periodically and automatically. Businesses can use automatic Web updates to send salespeople current information on inventory levels or prices.

PowerPoint Performs

PowerPoint has always been a powerful-though often clumsy-presentation tool. New and improved features make PowerPoint more elegant and intuitive.

What's New   Let's face it, many of us don't sit down and think our presentations through before we fire up PowerPoint. We jump right in-writing our slides as we go along. But planning presentations was hard to do in PowerPoint 98 because the program was lim-ited to separate Outline and Notes views. PowerPoint 2001 introduces a three-pane view, in which resizable panes of the document window simultaneously show you the outline, the current slide, and the notes for that slide (see "The Long View"). Having an area for speaker notes readily available while you're building a presentation encourages you to add notes as you go-instead of frantically inserting them an hour before your lecture.

The improved PowerPoint also gives you new ways to add flash to your slide shows. You can now use images as your bullets, and some samples are included in several new PowerPoint templates.

Tables in PowerPoint 98 were bothersome; you had to create your tables in Word or Excel and import them-a real time waster. With PowerPoint 2001's new pencil tool, you just click and drag to draw table boundaries and cells.

What's Better   Fitting text on a slide has always been a maddening PowerPoint task. No longer. Turn on AutoFit Text in PowerPoint's Preferences menu, and PowerPoint automatically changes the line spacing, font size, or both to make text fit in its placeholder.

Office 98's PowerPoint Viewer, a program that let you run presentations on a machine without Office, has been ditched in favor of a better and more widespread technology: QuickTime. You can now save your presentations as cross-platform QuickTime movies, viewable by anyone with the free QuickTime Player. (See "Slide Show to Go," How-to, elsewhere in this issue.)

Working with the Web   Like the other Office 2001 programs, PowerPoint lets you export to the Web. You can now save a presentation as a Web page and post it for further reference after you give your talk.

The Last Word

The new Office leaves you no excuses for a disorganized life. With Entourage as your schedule's traffic cop, you'll roll efficiently through your appointments and to-do's. Office's intelligent embrace of the Internet means better communication with coworkers and friends. And the new features and improvements in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will shave minutes off of everyday tasks. If you learn how to use Office 2001 well-and you've taken the first step here-the price of this software upgrade can buy you the most precious commodity of all: more time.

Contributing Editor TOM NEGRINO is the author of Microsoft Office 2001 for Macs for Dummies (IDG Books, 2000).

Create Anything   The new Project Gallery lets you create any kind of Office document from within any of the Office applications. You can choose new blank documents or get a head start by using one of the many predefined document templates. Total Recall   Entourage's contact creation page lets you enter detailed contact and personal information; you can even drag in a photo in a number of formats. The Long View   PowerPoint's new Normal view has three panes that make it much easier to create and organize a presentation. You enter the slide text in the outline on the left side, seeing how the slide will look in the preview pane. This is also a good time to add speaker notes, in the bottom pane. Sliced and Diced Data Excel's List Manager lets you sort and filter the information by any of the list's columns.
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