10 Word 2007 features you can skip

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Word 2007 is full of new tools and options, expanded capabilities, and significant changes. Find out what to focus on and what you can leave for another day (or month, or year...).

#1: The Font dialog box

Thanks to the new Themes feature (which is a great addition to Word 2007), you can skip working with the individual effects that go into controlling the format of your document. Themes include predesigned settings for colors, fonts, and effects, and things like sidebars and quotes have their own styles as well.

Just choose the Page Layout tab, click the Themes arrow, and select the theme you want from the gallery, shown in Figure A. The design will automatically be applied. If you want to change the theme later, simply return to the Themes gallery and make another choice. (If you want more granular control, you can still display the Font dialog box by clicking the dialog launcher in the lower-right corner of the Font group in the Home tab.) Figure A

#2: Mark As Final

The Mark As Final feature in Word 2007 (available when you point to Prepare after clicking the Office button) has potential, but in this version of Word, it doesn't pack a lot of punch. Even though you can mark your current document as final, when someone else receives the document, he or she can simply make a copy and then edit it as usual. If you want to ensure that nobody is going to change your content or alter your formatting, save the document as a PDF or XPS file instead.

#3: Save As Word XML

XML in Word 2003 was kind of a patch job. As XML became more widely used, developers knew they needed to include a way for Word users to save files in XML format and use XML data in their Word documents. The attempt to add XML to Word 2003 created huge, clunky files that you had to save intentionally in XML format by using the Save As XML command.

Although you can still, if you choose, save a file in that old Word XML format, trust me -- you won't want to do that. Today's Word is completely built on Office OpenXML, so now all the files you create and save in Word 2007 are actually saved in XML.

What does this mean to you? The short answer is that resulting files are much smaller and cleaner. The longer answer includes better security and reliability and an easier exchange with other applications (including nearly seamless integration with SharePoint sites).

The only downside to the new format is that it is incompatible with pre-2007 versions of Word, so to send a document to a Word 2003 user, you still have to use Save As and save the file in the Word 97-2003 format (or simply send your coworker a link to the Office Compatibility Pack, available free of charge on the Microsoft Downloads site).

#4: Mail Merge Wizard

If you like programs to walk you through every step of a process, you may be fond of wizards. But in Word 2007, the whole mail merge process has been given higher visibility (thanks to lots of feedback from Word users about mail merge frustrations) and assigned its own tab in the Ribbon. Now you can work through your mail merge projects, whether they are simple or complex, by following the selections on the Mailings tab (Figure B). If you still want to consult the wizard for a little extra support, you'll find it by clicking the Mailings tab, choosing Start Mail Merge, and selecting Step By Step Mail Merge Wizard at the bottom of the command list. Figure B

#5 Drawing Canvas

The Drawing Canvas was a big deal in earlier versions of Word, but it's a bit of a dinosaur in Word 2007. In this version, it is so easy to draw, arrange, group, and work with shapes and images in your Word documents that the Drawing Canvas really isn't needed to tie everything together the way it once was. Now you can assemble your shapes directly in the document, group them, and work with them as a single object. The Drawing Canvas has an annoying way of bumping everything in your document to another place on the screen, and for most custom drawings I do in Word, I prefer to draw directly on the page.

#6: Signature Line

Tucked away in the Text group of the Insert tab in Word 2007, you'll find the Signature Line command. This is another one of those features that has potential but doesn't carry a lot of clout. When you first click Signature Line, a popup message box appears, warning you that although you can use a digital signature to help identify the authenticity of a document, this type of signing may or may not hold up in court. The message points you to digital signature services on Windows Marketplace, where you can find digital services that pack a bit more punch.

#7: Web Tools

Are you wondering where Web support went in Word 2007? Although Web Layout view still exists in Word 2007, a number of the Web tools have been removed. For example, there's no longer support for adding movies or sound to your Web page (those commands used to be on the Web Tools toolbar), and many of the browsing buttons you could use while working in Word have been removed. (If you want, however, you can add in some navigation controls by displaying Word Options, choosing Customize, and selecting All Commands.)

You can still save a document as a Web page and view it in Web Layout view so that you know what it will look like when you save it. But for more detailed Web work, you may want to check out Microsoft Expression Web, the new replacement for FrontPage. Another alternative is to use the (awesome) new blogging feature to publish your thoughts directly to a blog. You'll find Word 2007's blogging capability tucked away in the Publish options. Click the Office button, choose Publish, and click Blog to get started.

#8: Document Map

Okay, well, this one is a bit of a red herring. I wouldn't suggest that you skip the Document Map if it's a feature you use often, because it's actually one of my favorite ways to navigate (and review) long documents in Word. But if you like quick and easy methods for reviewing your long documents, you'll love the new Thumbnails view (Figure C). Now you can look over the section headings in Document Map and then switch to Thumbnails view (click the View tab and click Thumbnails in the Show/Hide group) to get a miniature view of each page in layout form. This enables you to see how your document flows, check the placement of tables and pictures, and just generally get a feel for whether your document is ready to roll. Figure C

#9: Microsoft Clip Organizer

This may be personal opinion shining through, but it's hard to imagine that the Microsoft Clip Organizer really makes anybody's life easier. The process for searching for and adding pictures and clipart is seamless in Word 2007, and the increased prevalence of DSL and T1 connections makes grabbing images online easier than ever. Unless your job (or your hobby) requires you to gather huge collections of images that you are sure you will use again later, why take the time to set up, sort through, and manage all those image files in Microsoft Clip Organizer? (If you're a media file maven, consider switching to Windows Vista -- the media file management features alone make it worth the stress of upgrading.)

#10 Document Properties

By clicking the Office button, choosing Prepare, and clicking Properties in Word 2007, you can display the Document Properties area at the top of your document and enter information about the file -- such as your name, the title, the status, and a brief description. That's fine if you have a lot of time to kill and don't expect other people to actually read the document. But if you simply want to make sure the author's name appears on the doc and that it's tagged appropriately so you can find it again later in a search, you can do that quickly and easily when you save the file. To add the author's name and tags, simply click in the respective boxes in the Save As dialog box, shown in Figure D, name the doc, and save it by clicking Save. Easier and faster, with fewer keystrokes. Nice. Figure D

Katherine Murray is the author of many computer books (including the in-the-box documentation for Microsoft Office 2007 Professional and Small Business Editions). She also writes digital lifestyle articles for various Microsoft sites and publishes a blog called BlogOffice that shares Microsoft Office ideas, how-to's, and tips.

Additional Office 2007 "10 things" resources