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Up until a couple years ago, I was a fan of OpenOffice, the open-source office suite, and in particular Writer and Calc, the word processor and spreadsheet applications. I found they had all the same features as Microsoft Word and Excel, and the price ($0) was great. Sure, the interface was a bit dated and you had to hunt through endless menus to find features, but that had been my experience with all the versions of MS Office up to that point.

Then two events conspired to change my view: Microsoft released Office 2007, with a greatly revised user interface, and I took a job teaching other people how to use it! It's a bit of a challenge to teach something you don't use, so I dived in to Office 2007, and in particular Word, poking into all the nooks and crannies to master every last feature... or at least to keep one step ahead of my students. It was painful at first, abandoning the familiar menus for the new Ribbon Bar, but I must say, within a couple of months I was a convert. I truly enjoy using Office 2007 every day now. And to celebrate that, I put together a top ten list of my favourite Word 2007 features. Many have been around for a while, but are even more usable in this version, while others are new.

1. Push Pins

As you work on documents, they appear in the Recent Documents list under the Office button in the top left corner. A single click on one re-opens it for editing, until it's pushed off the bottom of the list by new arrivals. Clicking the push pin sticks the document to the list for as long as you need to work on it.

2. Table Styles

Tables are a great way to present information, and now, it's easy to make them pretty with the built-in table styles.

3. Smart Art

Attractive, easy to use, pre-created charts and diagrams come in handy and save time when I want to add some visual interest to a document, as an alternative to a table.

4. Cropping Images

I am often pasting screenshots of websites into documents, and I think they are tidier without the browser window around them. I want the viewer to focus just on the web page content. The image cropping tool is invaluable for quickly trimming an image down, without need for external image software.

5. Visual Previews

I love seeing changes happen as I make them, such as when resizing an image or previewing different styles. Such a change from the earliest versions of Word, where you waited many minutes for a page to re-render after adding an image!

6. Track Changes

When collaborating on a document, it's critical to see the changes others make. Enabling this feature makes that such a breeze.

7. Compare Documents

However, if your collaborators forget to track their changes, this feature will find them, by comparing two different versions of the same document. You can easily accept, reject and merge changes into a final version.

8. Inspect Document

After a series of revisions, changes tracked and accepted or rejected, and comments added and removed, running the Document Inspector is wise. It will let you know about any last stray changes and comments, so that the version you release is truly the final one.

Read more about issues related to tracking changes in these two blog posts:

9. Save as PDF

Not everyone has Office 2007, but most people have or can install Adobe Reader or one of several other PDF readers. You can save your document as a PDF directly from Word with no additional software required.

10. The Ribbon Bar

Last but not least, I've found that the grouping of features on the Ribbon Bar really does make sense. A skeptic at heart, I've come to enjoy using this interface over the options buried many levels deep in menus.

Have you ever sent a Word document or Excel spreadsheet out for review and asked the recipient to please, please, please either turn on Track Changes or insert Comments, so you can see their revisions, only to have the document come back with neither? If so, here are two features available in Word and Excel that will help.

First, before sending a document out for review, you can turn on Track Changes in such a way that the recipient cannot turn it off without knowing a password. To do so in Word 2007:

  1. Select the Review tab on the Ribbon Bar, click the Protect Document button, and choose the Restrict Formatting and Editing option.
  2. In the panel that appears, ignore option 1, but tick option 2 and change the drop down selector to Tracked Changes (or Comments if you prefer to only allow comments to be made).
  3. Click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button and enter a password when prompted, to allow you to turn off Tracked Changes or Comments later.
  4. Save the document and send it out for review.

The procedure is similar in Excel.

In both applications, you can also be more fine-grained in what editing you allow, such as restricting editing to speciic cells in a spreadsheet or styles in a document (e.g. the user may edit body text but not headings).

The document may be opened by the recipient as usual, but Track Changes or Comments will be enabled and may only be disabled by following the same steps as above, but disabling protection with the password.

If you had forgotten to add Track Changes (with a password) to the document that you sent, you can use the Compare option. Open your original document and the one that was edited without changes being tracked. You can then compare the two and produce a version with changes tracked, which you can then proceed to accept or reject as appropriate.


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