With every release, Microsoft has tried to make its Office applications integrate more tightly with Web sites. Although HTML and Web support has improved, there’s still a long way to go. But if you use Microsoft Office and want to build Web pages, you don’t have to wait for Microsoft to finally get it right. You can use a third-party option, Research-Desk Professional.

What’s Research-Desk Professional?
Research-Desk Professional is a new product from Winferno that allows you to seamlessly integrate Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer. By doing so, you can save Web pages as Office documents, mark up Web pages, spell check and grammar check Web forms, and save a collection of Web pages and Office documents in a grouping so you can open all of the documents and Web pages with a single mouse click.

Getting ready to install Research-Desk
To install Research-Desk, you must purchase a license, which costs $59.95 (site licenses are also available). Then you must download the 4.92-MB installer program from Winferno’s Web site. If you’re not quite ready to cough up some cash, you can download a 15-day free trial. Once you’ve downloaded the installer, verify that the machine on which you plan to run Research-Desk is running Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher (6.0 is preferred).

The installation
After verifying your Internet Explorer version, double-click on the executable file that you downloaded. This will launch the Installation Wizard. Click Next to bypass the wizard’s Welcome screen and you’ll see the software’s end-user license agreement. Click Yes to accept the license agreement. The installer will prompt you for the program’s installation path. After choosing an installation path, you need to select the program group in which Research-Desk should be included.

At this point, the installation program will ask what type of icons you want for Research-Desk to create and which file associations should be used. I recommend accepting the defaults and clicking Next. After doing so, the Installation Wizard will display a summary of the installation options that you’ve chosen. Click the Install button to accept these options and begin the file-copy process. When the installer finishes copying the necessary files, click Finish to complete the process.

The initial setup
After the installation completes, go to Winferno | Start All Programs | Research-Desk Professional, and you’ll see a dialog box that asks for some basic information, such as your name, company name, and license number. All this information must be entered exactly as it’s provided to you; otherwise your registration will be rejected.

Once you’ve entered the necessary information, you will need to again accept the license agreement, tell how you heard about Research-Desk, and indicate whether you want to be sent e-mail regarding product announcements and updates. Then Research-Desk Professional will finally load.

Marking up a Web page
One of the coolest features of Research-Desk Professional is that it allows you to mark up Web pages with highlights and sticky notes. When Research-Desk Professional loads, the right half of the screen contains a Web browser. Just above the Web browser are the usual icons, plus a couple of extra buttons that you can use for marking up the page.

Saving a Web page as an Office document
Suppose that after marking up the Web page, you want to save a copy of the page as a Microsoft Office document. Choose File | Save Document As. You’ll then see the standard dialog box prompting you for a document name, path, and file type. Although the default file type is Zipped Web Page, you can choose to save the page as a Microsoft Word document.

Editing text within a Web page
Obviously, if you save a Web page as a Microsoft Word document, you can edit the contents of that page and thus make a modified version of the document. However, you can also use the power of Microsoft Office within a live Web page. Research-Desk allows you to spell and grammar check the text input area on any Web site. You can also cut and paste between the Web page and other documents.

The workspace
Research-Desk also allows you to open multiple documents and Web pages and save them as a collection. You can open or create a new document by right-clicking on the tabbed area toward the top of the screen. Then Research-Desk displays a menu asking what type of document you want to create or open. The actual choices differ depending on what’s loaded on your computer. On my system, the choices are Browser, Word Document, Excel Spreadsheet, PowerPoint Presentation, Zip Archive, File Transfer Manager, Internet Call, and E-mail Message.

Once you’ve assembled a collection of Web sites and documents, you can group those sites and documents as a collection. Doing so allows you to open everything in the entire collection with a single mouse click. To save all open documents as a collection, choose the Save Workspace As option on the File menu. You can then use the Open Workspace command to open all of the Web sites and documents collectively at a later time.

One of the main advantages to having Research-Desk treat all of the open documents as a workspace is that you can perform searches across all open documents and Web sites by using the Search Workspace command on the Edit menu.

Optimizing the Internet
Research-Desk also allows you to optimize your Internet connection. If you select the Options command from the Research-Desk Tools menu, you’ll see a series of configuration options pertaining to various Research-Desk components. These options allow you to do such things as optimize your browser for your connection speed, block pop-up ads, and block multimedia flash presentations.