Office Features We'd Like to See

Sure, Microsoft Office 2001 boasts a bevy of new features aimed at making the suite of productivity applications easier to use and more Mac-like. Yes, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel have become standards, indispensable applications for even the most fervent Microsoft critic. And yeah, the Entourage personal information manager adds a powerful new tool to the Office repertoire.

And yet, it's not enough.

Where are the essential tools -- the obvious tools -- that professional writers demand from Office? Probably languishing in some unheralded recycle bin up in Redmond. To add the features that Office really needs, it takes people with vision and know-how, motivated by a desire to help others as much as by the prospect of cushy royalty checks from Microsoft.

We're glad to oblige.

Auto-Analogizer: Searching for the right analogy to liven up your prose can be a dull, tedious task that takes hours . But with a few simple keystrokes, Office could produce clever, home-spun similes and metaphors that make you sound as clever as James "Scotty" Doohan. (Note: The actual Auto-Analogizer would come up with similes more clever than this one.)

Personal Excel Assistant: The next time a spreadsheet is giving you problems, just type command-shift-H and Microsoft will dispatch an employee from its Redmond headquarters to fly to your home and personally handle cooking up complex formulas, freeing you up to watch more TV.

Office Assistant Executioner: Annoyed by the unwanted appearance of the Office Assistant, the animated computer who appears in a separate window to give you advice? Don't just disable it; with our feature, you can hunt it down Quake III-style and frag away to your heart's content.

Life Optimizer for Entourage: Sure, the new PIM gives users an address book, calendar, and task list, but where's the management tool to really get things under control? The Life Optimizer would scan your calendar and ask "Don't you have better things to do with your time than this?" or "Why are you wasting your life?" It would also go through your address book and surreptitiously delete the names of people who "give me the creeps."

Buzzword Wizard: Do your PowerPoint presentations lack the punch that comes from intentional incoherence? Launch the Buzzword Wizard to insert words and phrases like "robust software solution," "integrated B-to-B partner," "impactful," and "ROI," and sit back while the venture capital funding rolls in.

Complaint Letter Wizard: Forget the letter templates included in Word's new Project Gallery feature; in an economy that seems to foster bad customer service, this is the letter wizard we really need.

Story Idea Generator: Absolutely essential!

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