It’s beginning to seem as though Microsoft has invested as much in training and support for those migrating to Office 2007 as it did in actual product development. There’s some serious preemptive damage control going on, and I continue to be amazed at all the slickly designed hand-holding mechanisms Microsoft has put in place. For example:

Get Started Tab for Excel 2007

Get Started Tab for Word 2007

Get Started Tab for PowerPoint 2007

These are free downloads from Microsoft that install a Get Started tab at the end of the Ribbon for the specified application. So, for instance, here’s the Word ribbon after I installed the download. Clicking the Get Started tab provides these options.

I’m sure the demos, discussions, and online training are compelling, but my attention was drawn to the first group, Interactive Guide. Turns out, it’s pretty useful.

Clicking Interactive Guide on the Get Started tab takes you to Microsoft Office Online. In this case, since the tab is on the Word Ribbon, you see the Interactive: Word 2003 to Word 2007 Command Reference Guide. When you can’t figure out where Word 2007 has stashed a particular option or command, just find it in the simulated Word 2003 environment and the interactive tool will show you the Office 2007 equivalent.

If you hover the mouse pointer over the command, you’ll get a screen tip, as shown above. If you click the command, the Office 2007 interface will appear as an overlay, showing you how to get to the new location of the item.

Be forewarned that some commands or options are out of reach of this tool. For example, I was hunting for the option to clear the Recent Documents list, but I couldn’t drill down past Tools | Options. It was up to me to figure out which of the many Office 2007 Options categories was hiding the setting I needed. (It’s Advanced | Display, if you’re curious.)

There is also an Outlook Get Started interactive tool, although it’s not available as an integrated tab. You can just go straight to the Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007 Command Reference Guide and select Outlook 2003 commands to find out their 2007 counterparts. (For that matter, you can access the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint interactive guides directly, too, if you don’t want to install their Get Started tabs. Just click the Help button in the application you’re interested in and type interactive in the Search field to get the link.)

And here’s an under-the-hood kicker: MSDN offers a walk-through that explains how the Get Started tab is created as an example of how to build your own custom Ribbon tabs. See Adding Resource Links to the 2007 Office Fluent Ribbon Using COM Add-Ins.