Media praise for Office 97 Annoyances

"Microsoft Corp.'s popular Office 97 Suite is so full of infuriating quirks that someone should write a book about it. The job turns out to take more than one volume, and publisher O'Reilly & Associates Inc. has made a lot of headway in the third and fourth titles in its series of 'Windows Annoyances' tutorials.

"Examining near-final drafts of 'Office 97 Annoyances' (due next month for $21.95) and 'Excel 97 Annoyances' (released this month at $21.95), PC Week Labs found both books well-stocked with suggestions that may cut costs of corporate support. The help is needed because, although Office may be the lingua franca of the PC-equipped workplace, it isn't an easy language to learn or to use with elegance or style.

"Like other pervasive languages, Office has grown from beginnings that never anticipated its current responsibilities. Office's history, like that of the comparably popular but equally infuriating English language, burdens users with a legacy of mixed origins and irregular rules of usage.

"Both volumes were written by Woody Leonard, Lee Hudspeth and T. J. Lee. Like William Safire's famous columns on English usage, these authors' tips reflect extensive experimentation and deep familiarity with how these products actually behave (as opposed to what their manuals say they'll do).

"These books will aid both users and corporate support staff. The level of the tutorials and recommendations ranges from the simplicity of changing annoying default settings to the challenging but also rewarding realm of streamlining tasks by means of the Office applications' embedded programming tools.

"As is the case with Office itself, the 'Annoyances' books have to address an audience of widely varying needs and abilities. The authors incline toward meeting the needs of readers who, like themselves, are above average in their expectations and in their willingness to invest a good deal of time in making Office work as they would like.

"Readers with more typical requirements may have to work a bit to see the general ideas within the specific tips, but it will be worth the effort. For example, although we don't agree with the authors' emphatic opinion that it's helpful to keep paragraph marks visible in Word, it was useful to see how the authors cleverly combined many separate program options into a single shortcut that includes display of those marks.

"Readers can use the same method to come up with their own personal views, easily accessed through a custom command, so that their preferences are neatly wrapped into a one-click operation.

"Many of the insights in the 'Annoyances' series are valuable even to users who need only the basic features of Microsoft's suite. For example, the books do a good job of laying out the limits of the macro virus protection features in Office 97, and especially of warning users about the varying options offered by different protective features in Office's tools.

"Many quirks in Office are clearly set forth in 'Office 97 Annoyances,' saving time that would otherwise be wasted in frustrating trial-and-error exploration.

"For example, the book reports (and PC Week Labs has verified) that the only way to disable pop-up tips for tool-bar icons in all Office applications is to do so from Excel. Disabling this behavior in other applications won't affect Excel, and opening Excel will incorrectly re-enable this feature in other applications until Excel is used to turn ScreenTips off.

"'Office 97 Annoyances' also clued us in to the existence of the Work menu in Word, an easily added extension to the top-level menu bar. The Work menu can accumulate a list of documents for shortcut access. Unlike the document list that's automatically offered by the File menu, file names on the Work menu aren't displaced by more recently opened files.

"The standard Work menu makes it easy to add items, but the procedure for removing items is much less obvious. 'Office 97 Annoyances' suggests a further modification to correct this oversight.

"One of the best revelations in 'Office 97 Annoyances' is that a user-written macro can 'shadow' a built-in Word command with the same name. This, combined with a fairly extensive discussion of Office's Visual Basic for Applications macro language, opens the capable but often infuriating Word to virtually unlimited adjustment of any behavior. The book accelerates this process by showing the quickest way to determine what internal command name is associated with any part of the Word user interface.

"New to Office 97 is extensive Web-style linkage, not only from local documents to the Internet but also between local and networked files. 'Office 97 Annoyances' explores the capabilities and the limits of this feature at some length.

"For example, a table summarizes the limits on 'deep hyperlinks' across documents created by different Office applications (as when linking from a Word document to a named range in a spreadsheet). Another helpful discussion explores the surprisingly powerful HTML publication features of PowerPoint.

"Finally, the weak points of Office's 'binders' and the difficulties of address-book integration are explored."

--PC WEEK, September 1997