Microsoft has recently released the latest version of its Office suite, dubbed XP. Included in this suite is an application familiar to most home and corporate users: MS Word. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the newest version of this popular word processing application, highlighting a couple of its new features and explaining how to avoid some trouble spots for new users.

From the look of things
The aesthetic changes in Word 2002 are subtle but effective. Microsoft has updated the user interface to help features stand out a little more. Menu text is now highlighted in light blue, icons and toolbars are highlighted in a lighter gray than in the previous version, and the icon’s images have been revamped—for the better. (See Figure A.)

These changes should only benefit users, but any change can be daunting to some new users so there might be some confusion with the new look—subtle as it is.

Figure A
Word may have gotten a bit of a facelift, but many users should find the new look appealing.

Getting to know the task pane
The functionality behind the interface hasn’t changed much since Word 2000, with the only significant addition being the task pane. Located on the right of the screen, the task pane is one of Office XP’s best new features. The task pane helps users perform multiple tasks without having to scroll through multiple menus.

Figure B
Using the new task pane can help make you a Word wizard and an Office power user.

After a default installation, the following task pane items include:

  • New Document: This has all the tools you need to create a new document, open a previous document, create a new e-mail, or open a specific template.
  • Clipboard: This area allows you to see all items currently copied to the Windows clipboard.
  • Search: This function allows you to search your computer, the company network, or Microsoft Outlook for files and folders, and message for specific items.
  • Insert Clip Art: If you need to insert a graphic into your document, you can do so with this tool. It allows you to search a database of available clip art and insert what you find into your Word documents.
  • Styles And Formatting: If there are particular styles and formats that you use on a regular basis, you may find this tool quite handy.
  • Reveal Formatting: Use this tool to review the formatting of your document, such as table widths and heights and font faces and sizes.
  • Translate: If it is installed, the translator will convert your English document to German, French, Spanish, and other languages.

Integration makes Office easier to use
In this new version, Microsoft has tightened the application integration of the software bundled with Office XP. For example, in previous editions of Word, editing a document has been a hassle. The document had to be saved, placed into a new e-mail, and mailed to a reviewer. The reviewer then saved the document on his or her PC, made the necessary changes to the document, saved the document, opened a new e-mail, and sent the corrected document back to the owner.

These steps are no longer necessary with Word 2002. Once a document is ready for editing, the user clicks on File | Send To | Mail Recipient (for Review). This creates a new e-mail with the document attached and set to “tracking.” The user then selects someone to send the document.

Once the reviewer has completed the editing, the edited document can be sent back to the owner following the same process. Once the owner receives the document, the user will see the changes that have been made and the notes left by the reviewer via a distinctive new highlighting feature.

Helping your users adapt
If your organization is considering an upgrade to Office XP or just Word 2002, end-user confusion will depend heavily on which version of Office or Word your users are currently using. Many users familiar with Word 2000 should be quite comfortable with Word 2002. Most features are located in similar positions throughout both applications, and users can always customize their toolbar menus to reflect what they are used to.

However, if you’re upgrading from a version that precedes Office 2000, you may have some difficulty adjusting your users to the new look. Two items that might confuse users are:

  • Busy interface: Microsoft has made the interface of Office XP much busier than previous Office incarnations. Before performing an Office rollout, remove unused toolbars from your Office image to minimize end-user confusion.
  • New features: Some of Office XP’s new features, although extremely helpful, can be confusing at first. The task pane, for example, offers many useful options for Office power users, but it takes a while to become familiar with it. To help your end users adjust, it may be best to leave this new feature off until a user becomes more familiar with the updated software.

Share your Word 2002 tips

Let us know if you have a great Word 2002 tip. What do you like and dislike about the new Word? Post a comment or send us a note.