The new Backstage view in Office 2010 is a smart design strategy that enables you to find, protect, update, and share the files you create — all in one window. The three-column layout provides lots of information without packing the screen or burying the tools you need. While you’re scouting out Backstage view, be sure to try these 10 things.

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1: Find the files you want

Searching for that one missing file — the one you were just working on last week but can’t quite remember the name of — is frustrating, and many of us spend way too much time looking for things that were “right there a minute ago.” Backstage view makes it easy to find the files and folders you need by keeping track of what you’ve used when.

The Recent tab displays all the files you’ve recently used (starting with the most recent file at the top of the list), as well as the folders you’ve opened and any files or folders you’ve pinned to the top of the list. At the bottom of the tab, you’ll see the Quickly Access This Number Of Recent Documents number picker. You can use this option to specify the number of  recently used files you want to see on the Backstage view tab list. They’ll appear just under the commands in the left pane of Backstage view. You might never have to hunt for a lost file again.

2: Recover unsaved files

Have you ever closed a file without saving it because you didn’t think you’d need it… and then seconds later thought, “Oh no!” Office 2010 holds out a safety net by preserving your unsaved documents automatically. You can get to your unsaved documents by clicking Recover Unsaved Documents at the bottom of the folder list in the Recent tab or by clicking the Manage Versions button in the Info tab. When the Open dialog box appears, simply choose the file you want and click Open (and remember to save the file before you close it this time).

3: Get file information in a single click

The Info tab (Figure A) provides you with — yes, info — about your current document. In the center column, you’ll find tools that enable you to protect, check, and manage versions of the file. In the column on the right, you’ll see file properties, which tell you things like the file size, the number of words, the date the file was created, and the names of any authors working on the file. If you have Office Communicator, you will also be able to see the online status of your co-authors (a green icon means they are available; a yellow icon means they are busy; and a red icon means away). You can customize the file properties shown by clicking Show All Properties at the bottom of the list.

Figure A

You can review and enter file properties in the Info tab of Backstage view.

4: Add keywords to your files

Today, most of us don’t just create documents — we create content that can be used in Web posts, email messages, reports, and more. Reusability is the name of the game. Tagging a file is a way to ensure that the content you create will show up in searches, which means you can locate it two, four, or six months down the road when you need to compile new catalog copy or send a mailing out to your list of recent program graduates. You can add keywords to your documents by using the Document Properties in the Info tab. Click in the Tags field and type your keywords, followed by commas (for example, sales report, 2010 northwest region, computer sales, marketing) and save the file. The tags will be visible with the file properties when you use an Office 2010 file or view your file in Windows Vista or Windows 7.

5: Check file compatibility

You can have your Office 2010 program evaluate the content you’ve created and let you know whether people using other versions of Office will be able to view your tables, links, diagrams, etc. Run the Compatibility Checker by clicking the Info tab, clicking Check For Issues, and clicking Check Compatibility. The checker displays a report letting you know which features — if any — are unsupported and gives you the option of changing them.

6: Save directly to shared workspaces

If you work with files on a server or shared Web space, you can open and save files as though they were located in just another folder on your hard drive. When you click Save As, a new Workspaces folder appears in the Microsoft Word group toward the top of the left panel (Figure B). Click Workspaces to save your file to your shared space. You will be prompted for necessary permissions or login if needed.

Figure B

You can use Save As to save files directly to your shared workspace.

7: Find software information

None of us looks forward to long waits or frantic searches for information when we need to call technical support about a problem we’re having with software. Office 2010 makes finding the information you need easy by including the status of your software — including your program version, all included programs, and your serial number, in the right panel of the Home tab in Backstage view. Also in Backstage view, you can click Check For Updates to make sure you’ve downloaded the latest patches for the programs you’re using.

8: Protect your files

Office 2010 has dramatically improved its file security features, but much of what happens to safeguard your file happens behind the scenes. Developers found that many of the vulnerabilities Office users experienced occurred during the file open process. For that reason, your Office 2010 application checks a file’s security during the file opening procedure and displays an alert in the message bar if the file needs to be opened in a limited view, called Protected View.

To further protect your files in Backstage view, click Protect Document in the Info tab. This displays a range of options you can use to mark your file as final, set a password, add user permissions, and more.

9: Prepare files for sharing

The Save & Send tab in the core Office 2010 programs provides tools for saving your file in a variety of formats and sharing it through various means. You can save the file to send as an attachment to an email message, save it to the Web (using your Windows Live SkyDrive or SharePoint Workspace 2010 account), publish it to your blog, or create a PDF or XPS document. When you click your selection, the panel on the right side of Backstage view changes to offer additional choices. For example, when you click Save To Web, you will be prompted to choose the Web site you want to post to and select the destination folder for the file.

10: Preview and print in one step

In Office 2010, the preview and print process has been simplified so you can do it all — preview and print your file — in one step. Simply click the File tab to display Backstage view and click Print. On the right side of the window, you see the document as it will appear when printed. Choose the options in the center of the Print tab to let the program know your print preferences, and the preview window will change to reflect your choices. When you’ve got things the way you want them, simply click Print to print the file.