Hands on with Excel, PowerPoint and Word X

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AutoRecover is a new default feature in Excel X -- one of the components of Office v. X, due later today -- that automatically saves the document a user is working on every 10 minutes.

If you lose a document (due to, say, a power outage or system crash) Excel will proceed to AutoRecover all files in reverse save order so that the focus will be on the file that was saved last. AutoRecover can be customized to save even more frequently if you wish.

Mac users prefer to use keyboard shortcuts when formatting documents. With Office 2001, many of the keyboard shortcuts were changed from what their original tasks were in Office 98, confusing some customers. To alleviate this problem, keyboard shortcuts are now customizable in Excel X, so you can set up your keyboard as you wish -- this is especially convenient when working in another Office for Mac-based app such as Word X.

Transparency in spreadsheet-based charts has long been a feature that many newspapers and magazines use to illustrate financial figures. However, the ability to add transparency has only been available through the most expensive graphics design programs, according to Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU). Now, through the power of Mac OS X's Quartz engine, you can create transparent charts, from 3D to pie charts. What's more, Quartz makes the border and lines in spreadsheet graphics such as pie charts clean and smooth thanks to anti-aliasing, making jagged lines a thing of the past.

A majority of spreadsheets are utilized for simple lists such as catalogs of CD collections, inventories and customer lists. Excel X offers the List Manager to simplify the chore of managing such lists. Common problems in handling lists include sorting, filtering, formatting, printing and summarizing data. Excel X anticipates the need to create a list and automatically offers to convert spreadsheet cells into a manageable, sortable list.

There's also a common problem with using lists: headers don't remain persistent as the list is scrolled on a monitor or when printed. Excel X tackles this problem by keeping list headers at the top of the screen or page as a user scrolls through the document or prints a multiple-page list.

PowerPoint X

Like the other components of Office v. X, PowerPoint X takes advantage of Quartz to let you create eye-popping graphics by setting a specific percentage of transparency to art.

It also incorporates QuickTime better than before. PowerPoint X includes improvements to PowerPoint movies, which lets you save your presentations as QuickTime movies. PowerPoint movies now provide a higher level of fidelity between the original presentation and the movie you create.

You can include any combination of animations, QuickTime transitions and interactive features such as action buttons and hyperlinks in your PowerPoint movies. And they can be shared with anyone who has the cross platform QuickTime Player installed. Also, if you have QuickTime installed on your Mac, you can make slides flow more smoothly during presentations by creating customized QT transitions or choosing from numerous existing ones. And Quartz's transparency features in PowerPoint X let you create new Fade In and Fade Out effects between slides.

PowerPoint X now offers a new, easier way to collect and save all your media in one PowerPoint Package. Movies, sounds and images intended for use in a presentation can be saved, stored in an individual folder and transferred intact to other users' machines and electronic media such as CD-ROMs or a network share.

Word X

Word X has a new multi-selection feature that lets you edit multiple pieces of text at the same time. Multi-Selection lets you command-click multiple selections of text within a Word document and apply formatting, spelling, researching or any other operation to the chosen selections. You can also use Find All to avoid having to use Find and Replace with text formatting enabled.

The new Clear Formatting feature offers a tool that can remove a document's formatting. Instead of removing and resetting each type of formatting individually, you can use Clear Formatting to reset characters and paragraphs, set the default text style and restore hyperlinks -- all very quickly.

Word X provides the power to create nice looking graphics by letting you set a specific percentage of transparency to any drawing or shape available in Office Art. Thanks to Mac OS X's Quartz technology, you can lay shapes and images on top of text or one another.

Contact info from the Office Address Book is accessible directly from Word X's Contact toolbar, which simplifies the task of inserting names, addresses, and phone numbers directly from within Word X. The toolbar even makes it easier to take a new contact from a Word X document, add that person to Entourage X's Address Book, and send out info using Word X's Data Merge Manager. All fields matched perfectly when we tried the merge from the Entourage address book.

Speaking of which, said manager has enhanced features and functionality, as well as a cleaner user interface, in Office X. You can now choose individual addresses from the Address Book, rather than being forced to merge the entire Address Book as before.

With Word X you can build nested tables, tables with an integrated header row, and tables with diagonal lines through cells. Nested tables are tables within table cells. This feature gives customers 100 percent file compatibility with MS Word XP, Word 2000 and Word 97 for Windows.

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This story, "Hands on with Excel, PowerPoint and Word X" was originally published by PCWorld.

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