Microsoft office has become synonymous with PCs in today’s world, thanks in part to those infamous Mac Vs. PC ads. However, it is interesting to note however that the Microsoft Office suite installed on most modern computers was originally released exclusively for the Apple Macintosh back in ‘89, a year earlier than it appeared as a Windows application.
The “power six” desktop applications which now make up this suite (namely Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Outlook and Access) are widely available under the Office banner and are used in four out of five businesses according to research conducted in 2009. Proficiency in one or all of the programs shipped with Microsoft Office is clearly a boon to any employee, and skills gained with any of the Office applications can be put to good use in a great number of practical situations.
Whilst all of these desktop tools can be used to efficiently tackle projects (from personal to work-related,) there are many little-known tricks which can be employed to tie them all together. For instance, you can create a fantastic database in Excel or Access, but how do you go about importing these into Word? In the same vein, can you integrate Outlook to work with Excel?
The answer to these questions are plentiful, and with a bit of playing you’ll open up a new layer of organisation when working between these phenomenal programs. Let’s take a look at three of the many cross-uses between the main applications in Microsoft Office.
Microsoft Office Cross-functionality between Apps
Using Excel With Access
Both are powerful applications, but when deciding whether to choose Excel or Access when you want to create a database which should you choose? This is a bit of a non-question actually, since they compliment each other well and don’t have to be used exclusively of one another.
Copying data between the two is a straight-forward task, and both come with some neat little features. For instance, to bring Excel data into Access, it is simply a case of copying your workbook data and pasting it directly into a new or existing Access datasheet. The great thing about doing this is that Access is rather intuitive, and will guess at how you want the workbook data to appear (and it gets it right most of the time, right down to which cells to use as field names.)
Rather than performing this one-time conversion, you can also link to Excel data from Access, so that any changes made in your workbook will be reflected in your Access database (though it is worth noting that you won‘t be able to change information within Access, only view it.) One again, this can be performed in a few clicks using the Get external data command in the File menu.
Using Word With Outlook – Microsoft Office Cross-functionality
With Microsoft Office 2007, a lot of controversy was raised when Microsoft announced that Outlook would become a Word-based email editor. The reason this was unpopular was that this resulted in a lack of some advanced HTML functions which were supported in previous (Internet Explorer) based versions of the program.
It isn’t within the scope of this article to list all the changes Outlook 2007 brought around, but the lack of advanced formatting and animation support was a bit of a blow to people wanting advertise products and display attractive newsletters within emails. On the plus side, this hampered the efforts of spammers trying to pass themselves off as legitimate organisations, which is always a plus.
Regardless of the pros and cons of Word as an email editor, few people are aware that they can change things to suit their own preferences. It‘s a simple tip and may not have a massive impact on your everyday life, but certainly worth knowing.
To turn Microsoft Word either on or off as your default e-mail editor:
1) Within Outlook, click on the Tools menu and go into the Mail format tab within Options.
2) Use the check-box Use Microsoft Word o edit e-mail messages to toggle this option on or off.
Using Word With Excel
You can use Excel tables to insert graphics objects into Word documents to make them more visually appealing, but perhaps one of the more ingenious uses between the two applications is the Mail merge function.
If you are sending out a large amount of mail but don’t want to rely on a generic template, this is a great time-saving tool. With it you can add a touch of personality to the document without having to spend hours doing it manually:
1) Opening a new Excel worksheet, you can add a string of ‘field names’ in the first row (such as address, salutation, first name, last name, etc.) and fill out the data you want importing into your letters.
2) Open a new Word document, and head over to the Tools menu and select Mail merge. Follow the self-explanatory dialogue boxes.
3) Back into the blank document, you’ll notice a new Mail merge toolbar. You can now type your letter – whenever you come to something you wish to import from the database, hit Insert merge field in the new toolbar and select which field you’d like to use. This will be displayed a little something like this: Dear <<Salutation>> <<Last_name>>“
4) Once done, hit the Merge to new document button on the main toolbar and Word will work its magic. If you had twenty lines of data in your Excel Workbook, twenty letters will appear. These can be navigated (as they will appear if you print them) using the arrow controls in the bottom right of Word.
Microsoft Office Cross-functionality between Apps
Almost all of the Microsoft Office applications can be used functionally with one another in some sense or another, and this is no accident. Office is specifically designed to make life easier, both when using the programs individually and together. We’ve only covered a few of the ways in which you can improve cross-functionality, but there are tens if not hundreds more – play around, surprise yourself, and remember: there’s nothing you can break which can’t be easily fixed!
Tom Finnigan has writing on tech products for nearly two decades and is also an experienced interior decor expert. He frequently writes guides on both subjects, such as the one you’ve just read, on behalf of reclining sofa retailer sofasandsectionals (dot com).
Please share your Microsoft Office cross-functionality tips with us by commenting below.