Software

10+ Microsoft Office add-ins to simplify your work

The right add-in can provide helpful features and make existing Office capabilities easier to use. Susan Harkins has rounded up a selection of handy add-ins for various Office applications.

The right add-in can provide helpful features and make existing Office capabilities easier to use. Susan Harkins has rounded up a selection of handy add-ins for various Office applications.


Add-ins are special COM files that extend the functionality of a program. In other words, they make your work simpler. Office's popularity -- and occasionally, its limitations -- makes it a perfect candidate for add-ins. Microsoft provides a number of them, but most add-ins are third-party products, and many are free. Here's a list of some of the most popular add-ins for Microsoft Office.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Save as or print to PDF or XPS

Without a doubt, one of the questions I receive most often is how to save an Access report as a PDF file. Adobe Systems created the PDF format more than a decade ago. Because of its flexibility and universal appeal, it's now an open standard.

XML Paper Specification (XPS) is an XML-based specification that supports device and resolution independence, developed by Microsoft. In other words, content isn't at the mercy of the client's browser and local settings.

Microsoft offers a free add-in for Office 2007, Microsoft 2007 Save as PDF or XPS. You might also try, PDF995, CutePDFWriter, and PrimoPDF.

2: MathType with Word

MathType is an interactive equation editor that creates mathematical notations in Word. It's flexible enough to handle Web pages, desktop publishing tools, PowerPoint presentations, and more. It's a must for anyone writing scientific, engineering, and mathematical papers.

Microsoft also offers Microsoft Math, an add-in that eases the task of creating graphs, performs calculations, and solves for variables in Word 2007.

3: Lookeen for Outlook 2003 and 2007

This search tool integrates into your local system to search all Outlook folders, including archived folders, and it's quick! You can search mail, attachments, appointments, tasks, notes, and contacts, all at the same time.

4: Search Commands

Do you support frustrated users who can't find commands and features in Office 2007? Install Search Commands on their local systems. This innovative add-in drops in a new tab that allows users to enter their own words to find commands. It's easy to implement and it works great.

5: MZ-Tools

If you write your own VBA solutions, you need MZ-Tools. This customizable add-in has a number of features that will make the time you spend coding more productive and efficient:

  • Write better code and find existing code faster.
  • Apply default properties with a single click.
  • Quickly document code by inserting custom headers into modules.
  • Automatically add line numbers and error handlers to procedures.

6: Total Access Analyzer

Total Access Analyzer analyzes your Access database objects to expose hidden problems, forgotten objects, and more. It cross-references objects and creates data flow diagrams. Use this add-in to document your code, find missing objects and variables, and uncover scoping issues. Total Access Analyzer finds errors, suggests changes, and offers tips for improving performance. It's a bit pricey, but developers who use it say it's worth it.

7: SimplyVBA Global Error Handler

SimplyVBA Global Error Handler displays effective information about each error:

  • The procedure and module where the error occurred
  • A traceable iteration through the call stack to the error

VBA developers will appreciate this add-in's robust error handling.

8: Office Live

Office Live lets you open (and save) documents in Office Live Workspace directly from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Mozilla Firefox users will need an additional plug-in. Be careful, though, as this is more than a simple add-in. It requires specific updates and will download and install them, if you haven't already.

9: Personal Folders Backup

Outlook stores all your mail, calendar items, contacts, and so on in a PST file. If something happens to it, you could lose all of your correspondence, tasks, appointments, and contact information. Backing up this file is a vital part of any maintenance routine. Personal Folders Backup is an add-in that backs up PST files at regular intervals. (If you're on Microsoft Exchange Server, this add-in probably isn't necessary, as your administrator is backing up PST files.)

10: Mail Merge Toolkit

Merging documents is a huge feature with a few limitations. Mail Merge Toolkit extends the existing merge capabilities in Outlook, Word, and Publisher so you can:

  • Personalize the subject.
  • Attach files to messages.
  • Send HTML or RTF messages, regardless of security settings.
  • Send messages from Publisher in GIF format.

11: Mail Merge for PowerPoint

It's hard to think of merging a PowerPoint presentation, but if you need that capability, you'll appreciate PPTools Merge. This add-in merges data from Excel tab- or comma-delimited files into PowerPoint text boxes, pictures, notes, and hyperlinks. You can merge data, pictures, movies, sounds, and external text files. For instance, you could use this add-in to print award certificates for members of your audience at the end of your program instead of printing them later and mailing them.

12: Narration Timing Tweaker

PowerPoint lets you record an audio narration to enhance (or guide) a slide show. However, it's a winner-take-all type of feature. If an event needs tweaking, you have to start from scratch and it's difficult to get it right the first or even the second time. Narration Timing Tweaker allows you to fine-tune the narration portion of a slide show.

13: OLAP PivotTable Extensions for Excel 2007

There's more to Excel 2007's PivotTables feature than Excel lets on. This add-in extends the OLAP PivotTable Extensions to include Analysis Services cubes. It doesn't actually offer more functionality, it just provides an interface to use what's already there.

14: Access 2007 Developer Extensions and Runtime

The Access 2007 Developer Extensions and Runtime add-in helps developers get a solution to market. This add-in supplies tools for packaging, deployment, licensing, and distribution agreements.

15: Blueprint for Outlook

Printing is a bit limited in Outlook, even Outlook 2007. Blueprint for Outlook adds a few printing features that Outlook ought to offer but doesn't. You can print a single page or selected text, quickly automate a custom print task, or print an attachment.

16: CrossEyes for Word

If you work with long documents, you know that formatting can take on a life of its own. CrossEyes demystifies Word's formatting codes so you can identify problems and resolve them.

17: Microsoft Outlook SMS

With the help of Microsoft Outlook SMS, you can send SMS text messages through most Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) mobile phones, connected to a PC using Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007. You enter the message in an Outlook-type message form and then send that message to a mobile phone without third-party software or a subscription to a mobile network service if you connect the phone to a PC.

18: AddInSpy

Use AddInSpy to develop new add-ins for Office and to troubleshoot existing Office add-ins. Although Microsoft offers this free download through Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN), it doesn't support it. Despite that, it's one of my favorites.


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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

29 comments
pseudopanax
pseudopanax

One add-in that saves me a bunch of time is the Folder Master from Pandali (http://pandali.com/pfm.html). It allows you to select a bunch o folders using checkboxes and Shift+Click and then you can move them somewhere. There's also a wizard to help move folders to another machine, or to Gmail.

reg_techrepublic
reg_techrepublic

For the sake of trivia, in Word, Excel and I believe PowerPoint in both Office XP and Office 2003, there is a little known (and little used, thus it was removed from 2007) way to search over Outlook data using natural language queries. For instance, "all messages in the last month from Fred about ProjectX" would do exactly what you would expect. The problem is, 1) the feature was very difficult to find and use; and 2) prior to 2007, Outlook did not index its data so it was painfully slow. To get to the feature, you need to turn on the "Search Pane", and use the various options to scope your search to your Outlook folders (excluding any file system folders or anywhere else) and also scope the search to only return Outlook items like messages and appointments. At that point you could perform your search. No surprise it was never used.

bruce1157
bruce1157

Has anybody ever heard of an add-in that allows the writer to specify/limit attachment forwarding to specific persons on the distribution "list"? I want to be able to send the attachments out of the office, but alert others in the office that the attachments have been sent (no need to bog down the server and use up space with duplicates). Any help would be appreciated.

selehn
selehn

Excellent add-in and free

info
info

If you are interested in a special PPT charting engine, I would suggest to take a look at www.think-cell.com. It's a commercial software though.

jfields.techrepublic.com
jfields.techrepublic.com

You forgot PDFCreator! Installs systems wide, works with any app that can print, more control over final document, merge output from different programs on the fly into one PDF, smaller file size than MS add-on creates, supports headers->bookmarks... Wunderbar!

XMLFRE
XMLFRE

What about XOBNI, to MHO you forgot to mention one of the most underestimated add-in for OL. www.xobni.com

gke565
gke565

You missed a new one for Outlook - xobni. It is an add-in that associates the email sender with all emails, attachments, associates into a simple sidebar. It can also connect to Linked-in, Facebook, and Hoovers to provide additional information. xobni.com

peterstowe
peterstowe

Posters/viewers may be interested in an add-in I use called Mail Manager from Oasys Sotfware. I use it to file emails from exchange/pst/public folders to folders on our fileservers. It has a fantastic built in search tool for finding emails stored on the server. No server installation needed either. We use it to keep company related emails in a central shared location and not in personal inboxes. have a look here www.oasys-software.com and click on Mail Manager. Saved my time trying to find emails.

markw
markw

Xobni is a fantastic tool for Outlook 2007. Not just search; it gives useful statistics, pulls feeds from LinkedIn and Facebook. www.xobni.com I am a big fan and a user for the past year.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

"If you?re on Microsoft Exchange Server, ... your administrator is backing up PST files" This statement is not necessarily true, certainly not definitive as phrased. Unless a user on Exchange specifically does so PST files are not used. If the user does create PST files the administrator does not normally have access to these centrally, so I would submit it is very unusual for PST files to be backed up by the administrator in an Exchange system. In fact we tell our users - backing up your PST is your responsibility. Business stuff goes in the Exchange store, which is backed up. Even if the user does not create a PST file the Auto Archive process will. Again, these are not backed up by the administrator centrally.

lnb0014
lnb0014

I have a favorite called Anti-Dupe. It deletes your Outlook duplicates in most of your folders (mail, calendar, tasks and contacts only I believe)...which if you're as un-organized or forgetful as I am, this tool really makes my world better.

rasilon
rasilon

3: Lookeen for Outlook 2003 and 2007 $40 for this? Ridiculous!! 9: Personal Folders Backup Thanks for this. Very useful. But I believe that most orgs using Exchange (and ours is one) does not support personal PST files. Hank Arnold (MVP)

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Math Type in particular caught my attention. I have a relatively long list of SI Leaders to pass this along to. Not to imply that the the others don't look interesting...

welker
welker

Damn i have seen it, downloaded it - it works. Great! Bibo

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't know about an add-in, but as a 'work around' you could: Send the message with the attachment only to those who need the attachment, then 'Reply' to the original message, and specify those who only need to know the attachment was sent. Sending a reply will strip off the attachment. Don't 'Forward'; that will keep the attachment in place.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Please tell us about XOBNI -- how it makes your life easier.

jj_bloggs
jj_bloggs

We use Mail Manager too. It works fine. I use Outlook off-line a lot when I'm travelling, and being able to file while I'm on a plane is both weird and a joy. Our IT mandate its usage because it saves money on the servers...or something!

misc
misc

This is absolutely true! I don't know how I would find notes from people, or notes with a specific file attached without Xobni. I was a former user of NEO, but Xobni gives me just what I need!

mike
mike

If i had to back up pst's for every exchange cleint i have, that would be great. I would get paid alot of money to do something that is someone elses responsibility, have a perfect reason for not administering my network, and be able to state it is "FAULT TOLERANCE" with "REDUNDANCY"

Alganon
Alganon

Here you see the beauty of competition. In Evolution (a PIM) under Linux, we have had the search feature for years, and also the power of virtual folders. OpenOffice.org has had a built in pdf feature from inception. So now MS offers pdf and its version of this idea - XPS. Make sure you do not support the XPS format, but choose the Open Standards like PDF. Just about everyone who has Internet access has a pdf reader, no need for another piece of Microcrap to get any traction.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We assist users in creating and managing .PST files on a daily basis. How do you suggest users deal with important messages they need to retain without filling their mailboxes? Or do you not have a limit on mailbox size?

Ron_007
Ron_007

Search commands has turned out to be a godsend for speeding up work in the 2007 Ribbon Gooey (sic). It's not an "Officially supported" addon, but I really hope they create a 2010 version. There is also the Office 2007 Get Started addin - http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/training/HA102146851033.aspx?pid=CL100788241033 http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/training/HA102295841033.aspx - its not a direct addin, but worth listing. This page has links to MS Flash applets that allow you to click on a 2003 menu command and it animates showing how to find it in 2007. You can down load them or use online versions. I prefer the download version to eliminate internet delays. http://trial.trymicrosoftoffice.com/trialcanada/default.aspx?re_ms=oo&culture=en-CA ? The ultimate "add-in", free-60 day trial of the whole office 2007 package. http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=028c0fd7-67c2-4b51-8e87-65cc9f30f2ed&displaylang=en - the MS Word 2003 Redaction tool. It is not the final or best solution to redaction, but it is a step along the process before final printing in PDF format.

kent.manley
kent.manley

This is an excellent compilation of add-ins. I've been asked to find one that, to date, I've been unable to find anything approaching the functionality requested. Basically, this user wants to use their Outlook activity as a basis for performance metrics: Today (and by date), I _received_ X emails, Y of them, I _read_, I wrote _Z_ emails to XX people. She also wants to identify the individuals and groups she most communicates with. She also wants start and stop times of daily activity, i.e., when did she read the first email, when did she write the last email, and present a weekly table summary and/or graph. So far, Xobni is the closes, and it nowhere approaches this functionality.

Glenn from Iowa
Glenn from Iowa

I used to work for a Fortune 500 company that didn't support PST files - in fact, they disabled the capability through GPO and went so far as to delete the files on any workstation after 90 days' notice. They claimed PST files were prone to corruption and harder to restore, but that wasn't the main reason (see below). We not only had a mailbox size limit, but a time limit also. All messages in the inbox over 90 days were deleted and virtually all other messages in other folders on the Exchange server were deleted after 1 year. Almost nobody had an issue with size limit after the time limits were enforced. :) The main reason for this was from the legal dept: in case of a legal discovery request, they wanted to limit the number of messages to search enterprise-wide, and PST files didn't fit into that strategy. The policy was that if it was important enough to keep after 1 year, you needed to either save it to a document or print it out and keep it in a paper file. Yeah, you weren't supposed to save .msg files either, but I don't think that requirement was enforced quite so stringently. You were also strongly encouraged to save all data to a server share or SharePoint repository for pretty much the same reason, and when I left, they were moving toward having everything possible on SharePoint with explicit document retention guidelines. But even before this crackdown, PST files were discouraged, especially since many users had several PST stores on their computer. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it actually makes things easier in a lot of ways. You were forced to manage your e-mail proactively (and I was one of the ones who didn't always do this!) But it does make you realize how little you actually need to save past 1 year. Yeah, there are some things you really, really need on a long term basis, but think how much more efficient you would be if you actively managed those few things. The theory is to spend more time up front being organized and reap the efficiencies many times over when you don't have to look so hard for things you need. I'm not sure I subscribe 100% to that, but it does push some people (like me) to actively work on organization. I mean, really, how hard is it to move an e-mail to an archive folder after you have read it? But look at our cluttered inboxes, and I'll bet you don't see many of us actually do that on a regular basis. Maybe I just drank too much kool-aid, but it does make sense to me on some levels. Anywho, all that just to illustrate that there are examples out there of organizations that don't support PST files.

TTate
TTate

What you say is very true for some organizations that take a very conservative approach to e-discovery and Legal exposure. "If it's not there to begin with, it can't be found." So, limiting what is kept and where it is kept is sometimes the best business approach. If it is in email, it can be printed to PDF, saved as an MSG file and attachments saved also. The means are there - it just may not be quite as easy to use in that format as e-mail is.

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