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When you roll out a new version of business software, your users generally don't need to learn it from the ground up. They just need to know what's different, how to take advantage of improved functionality and added features—and maybe how to configure settings to make the new version look and feel like what they're used to. In such situations, a book like The Upgrader's Guide to Microsoft Office System 2003 is ideal.
Unlike most Office reference books, which tend to be burdened with sweeping coverage of standard features that Office has supported since it was in diapers, the Upgrader's Guide targets areas of change. In the case of Office System 2003, this encompasses changes to features shared by all the applications, new capabilities and refinements that are specific to each one, added technologies such as XML support and information rights management, collaborative tools like SharePoint Services, and two new ancillary programs, InfoPath and OneNote.
Get a taste of what the Upgrader's Guide has to offer—its focus and depth of detail, how it's written, and what it looks like. Download this PDF version of Chapter 3, "What's New in Outlook 2003," courtesy of Que Publishing.
Logic and order
The Upgrader's Guide is cleanly organized, and key information is neatly pulled out and easy to find. Chapters include sensible sections like "Changes to the User Interface," "The New Menus," and "Productivity Enhancements." If a user needs to know how to package a presentation to CD-ROM, you can point to the PowerPoint chapter for a quick illustrated walk-through of the procedure. If you need to identify Access's new task panes (there are five of them), you can flip to "The New Task Panes" in the Access chapter for a list of all available task panes with the new ones flagged. If you want a crash course in how to work with XML documents in Word, you can go to the Word chapter and find sections on loading and editing an XML file, setting XML options, associating XML schema, using transformations, and saving documents in WordProcessingML format.
The structure of the Upgrader's Guide is logical and the coverage is comprehensive, beginning with discussions of what's different about Office 2003 overall and a look at features shared among applications. The book then focuses on the individual apps, with a chapter apiece on what's new in:
These chapters are followed by detailed introductions to OneNote and InfoPath and a chapter explaining information rights management. The book winds up with two appendices—a version guide and a discussion of Outlook's Business Contact Manager, a COM add-in for managing contacts, accounts, and leads.
The Upgrader's Guide plays another role besides handy support reference. The picture it paints of Office System 2003's capabilities and technologies can help decision makers identify the possible benefits and liabilities of adopting the new version. On top of that, the version guide appendix sorts out the Office editions, with a comparison table that lists which of the Office System's 11 applications are included in each package, along with corresponding licensing options. The appendix also lists the evaluation kits that Microsoft offers and recommended system requirements for each Office 2003 edition.
This book does what it does very well. It doesn't belabor familiar features or provide tutorial information for novice users. It simply identifies and explains the significant changes you'll need to be aware of as you upgrade your users to Office 2003 or weigh the value of implementing such an upgrade.
The only criticism I had of the Upgrader's Guide—and it's not really much of one—is a slight regret that the book doesn't include "What's New In…" chapters covering Visio 2003 and Project 2003. The authors note that those applications were excluded because of their specialized appeal, but I think there might have been a place for a brief look at their interoperability features within the context of this book.
Take it for a spin
Our sample chapter download will give you a sense of whether this book belongs on your shelf. It will also provide useful information on the numerous changes to Outlook 2003, including the new look and feel, intelligent grouping, dynamic distribution lists, search folders, the Rules And Alerts Wizard, additional levels of attachment blocking, and integration with SharePoint Services.
After you've had a chance to peruse the chapter, feel free to post your thoughts to the discussion below. Was the information in the chapter useful to you? Would you like TechRepublic to provide more free samples from various tech books when they come off the press? As always, we appreciate your feedback.
Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior features editor for Tech Pro Research.