Five tips for using Office 2010 Actions

Office 2010 Actions provide on-the-fly information from within your documents. Here's a look at how to put this feature to work.

In this age of interconnected everything, the idea of getting more information about a particular phrase on a page isn't really reaching for the moon. Online we do it all the time, by clicking links on phrases (just visit your favorite Wikipedia page), so why not incorporate that kind of functionality into your Office 2010 applications? You can use Office 2010 Actions (formerly called SmartTags) to get more information about specific items in your documents.

1: Know where to enable Actions

Your first step in adding Actions to a document is to find the option to turn them on. Click the File tab, click Options, and then click Proofing. At the top of the Options dialog box, click AutoCorrect Options and click the Actions tab. To turn on the Actions, click the Enable Additional Actions In The Right-Click Menu check box (Figure A).

Figure A

Enable Actions in the Actions tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

2: Think through the Actions you need

In the Available Actions list, click the items you want your Office document to recognize. For example, you might want to select Instant Messaging Contacts so that you can right-click a contact name in the document and send an instant message to that person right away. Or if you're working on a document that originated in another country, you could use the Measurement Converter to help you convert inches to centimeters on the fly.

3: Use Actions in real time

Once you've enabled Actions and selected the ones you want to use, you can put them into, uh... action... in your document by right-clicking the phase or value that serves as a trigger. For example, if you right-click on .5 inch and point to Additional Actions, a popup list of measurement options appears so that you can click the conversion you want (Figure B).

Figure B

Right-click an Action in the document and point to Additional Actions to see more options.

4: Go for collective Action

Although Word has the greatest number of available Actions -- enabling you to look up information on people, places, times, and more -- you will also find Actions in Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. To get to the Action settings in Outlook 2010, click the File tab, click Options, and in the Options dialog box, click Mail. Next, click the Editor Options button and click the AutoCorrect Options and the Actions tab.

5: Get fancy with it

There aren't too many Actions available with Office 2010 out of the box, but there's a huge potential for creating custom Actions on your own. You can design Actions that relate to your specific business needs -- for example, you could create an Action that recognizes the names of vendors in your database and enables you to check outstanding orders by right-clicking and pointing to Additional Actions. With a little Visual Studio know-how, you can put together custom Actions to extend the functionality of your Office 2010 documents and make life easier for all who use them.