Supercharge Your Software

Office Assistants

By Rick Scott

Illustration: Mark Matcho

Word Printing Wiz

Print Wizard lets you decide which Word objects appear in your hard-copy printout.
Print Wizard lets you decide which Word objects appear in your hard-copy printout.

Word 2002 and later: With Print Wizard for Microsoft Word, you can print any document (open or not), including any part of the document (such as tables or envelopes) or a document outline. When you switch from portrait to landscape mode in Word to create a booklet, say, everything changes--margins, white space, you name it. It's a real pain to make all those changes by hand before you print. Print Wizard helps you avoid that by adjusting the print output. You can also print color documents in black to save ink or toner, and pick one of five quality levels to save still more. The wizard can even report misspellings and grammatical errors before printing begins. $10.

Drudgery-Free Documents

Word 2000 and later: Think of DataPrompter 2003 as a document automation tool with flair. It fills in key data in your letters, proposals, contracts, and other frequently needed documents by prompting you for the information that varies in each new document. Prompts can be drop-down lists, check boxes, ordinary text or numeric fields, and even data from your address book. With just one click, DataPrompter can switch pronouns between masculine and feminine, singular and plural. And it's easy to learn. $149 (30-day money-back guarantee).

Toys for Wordaholics

Word 2000 and later: Do you live in Word all day long? WordToys provides a toolbar full of shortcuts to get Word chores done, along with utilities for tasks that Microsoft forgot to cover. Collect documents into a workspace (just as in Excel) to reopen them as a group. In addition, you can save a document and a backup version automatically, and insert an accented character, symbol, or bullet graphic in a blink. And forget Word's feeble tracking of just your last nine documents opened; WordToys keeps track of dozens of them. $20 (free 30-day trial).

Word Formatting Made Easy

Word 97 and later: If you create Word documents that require extensive formatting--brochures or newsletters, for example--you may find Word's formatting idiosyncrasies baffling. CrossEyes lets you peer deep into what's going on behind the scenes. The program's colorful window helps you distinguish formatting codes (each color indicates what level of formatting the codes apply to), and you can find out which styles have been applied to selected text (a real time-saver). Understand why two headlines that look the same behave differently when you modify them; or reveal hidden text. Puzzled by what happens to formatting when you delete a paragraph mark? CrossEyes gives you the answer. $50 (free 15-day trial).

Data Manipulation Magic

Excel 2000 and later: For industrial-strength data manipulation, nothing's better than DigDB. With this add-on to Excel's main menu, you can filter data on multiple conditions, sort in multiple levels, split tables based on cell values, or insert blank rows at regular intervals. DigDB can also split rows by delimiters (to manage "Last Name, First Name" data, say), and find matching values in two ranges, among other features. Intuitive dialog boxes and wizards make difficult tasks a snap. $59 for a one-year license (free 15-day trial).

Excel With Bite

If you're fond of shading alternate rows in Excel tables, make it easy by using Power Utility Pak to pick the color and specify how often a row should change color.
If you're fond of shading alternate rows in Excel tables, make it easy by using Power Utility Pak to pick the color and specify how often a row should change color.

Excel 2000 and later: Power Utility Pak 6 adds a main menu option to Excel from which you can shade alternate rows, format comments, toggle Excel settings from a single dialog box, export a chart to a graphics file, or convert one to a picture. You can print multiple ranges, paste a calendar into your worksheet, and list all cells containing a date. You can also sort worksheets (alphabetically or in custom order), find links, and cure the biggest headache of all by converting absolute and relative addresses. $40 (free 30-day trial).

Formulas to the Nth Degree

Excel 97 and later: Excel Power Expander 4 adds to Excel a separate menu option that gives you slick automation tools for tasks from swapping rows and columns to finding duplicate rows to removing extra spaces or empty rows. The add-on's real strength lies in its 111 functions, including a heavy focus on math and trig functions, plus many scientific constants. One big annoyance, however: In the trial version, every time you use Excel Power Expander's main menu to add a function to a cell, up pops a nag screen asking you to upgrade to the paid version. Ugh. $55 (free 30-day trial).

Color Your Presentations

Sports-themed slides, anyone? Brainy Betty offers several hundred free PowerPoint presentation templates.
Sports-themed slides, anyone? Brainy Betty offers several hundred free PowerPoint presentation templates.

PowerPoint 97 and later: You've seen PowerPoint's default settings a million times: those tired blue backgrounds and generic bullet points. Add some variety to your presentations with new background templates. From abstracts to animated business designs, spring themes to sports motifs, Brainy Betty is sure to have something to set your slides apart. Once you select a template, you can tweak the text formatting. The Web site also offers icons and useful advice on presentation design. Free.

Convert PowerPoint in a Flash

PowerPoint 2000 and later: If you'd like to broaden the audience for your PowerPoint presentation, convert it to streaming video, an AVI file, or a Flash presentation with Camtasia Studio. Click a toolbar button in PowerPoint, and Camtasia captures your presentation in real time (including screen transitions and annotations, such as underlining a key point with your mouse). You can add narration, video, and audio clips; then when you're ready, choose a few parameters (output size, speed, and the like) in the recording wizard, and Camtasia builds your video file quickly. It also supports formats for burning to a CD. $299 (free 30-day trial).

Repurpose Old Slides

PowerPoint 2000 and later: Why create a new presentation when you can steal--I mean, reuse--slides from existing presentations? PointCapture smoothly merges slides from other presentations into a new slide show. Find slides on your hard drive (by keyword, author, creation date, among other options), and view it in the preview panel. Check the slides you want from those matching your criteria, and with a single click, PointCapture creates a new presentation. $48 (free 10-day trial).

Anagram interprets text you've selected in an e-mail and parses the details into an Outlook entry (shown here). If it gets things wrong, you can change the Outlook item it adds.
Anagram interprets text you've selected in an e-mail and parses the details into an Outlook entry (shown here). If it gets things wrong, you can change the Outlook item it adds.

Outlook Gets Psychic

Outlook 97 and later: Highlight text from an e-mail message that describes a meeting, press a special shortcut key you create ahead of time, and Anagram adds the meeting to your Outlook calendar. Picking facts from your selected text, Anagram extracts the appointment date (including converting "tomorrow" to the proper date) and time, and then parses the highlighted message text into the appointment's comments section. Eerily accurate, Anagram smartly copies and pastes text into the right fields of the right Outlook item. $20 (45-day free trial).

Automate Outlook

Outlook 2000 and later: Bells & Whistles for Outlook saves you dozens of keystrokes by handling such pesky tasks as automatically adding a greeting to a reply, or warning if your outgoing message is missing an attachment (the program checks for variants of "attach" in your e-mail) or a subject line. Bells & Whistles simplifies pasting boilerplate text into the body of a message, and blocking attachments by file type. The program can also add time and date stamps to any message. $20 (free 15-day trial).

Tame Your E-Mail

Outlook 97 and later: Nelson E-Mail Organizer (NEO) makes Outlook even more efficient by integrating with Outlook's mail folders. From auto-sorting of messages by recipient to streamlined search functions (including saved search results) to bulk-mail filtering to the ability to group correspondents (say, by the company they work for), NEO is a gem. Take charge of your e-mail, arranging it by attachment type, message date, or sender (all mail to and from that person is in one convenient spot), among other options. Mark certain messages with a??Keep' so you don't accidentally delete them, or tell NEO to automatically put mail from important people (like your boss) into a a??Hot' folder so you can act on it first. The Pro version adds more filtering options and the ability to search across archived message stores. $40, $70 for the Pro version (free trial version with limitations).

Shortcuts Across Applications

Office 97 and later: Get more done just by typing words you can easily remember. ActiveWords Plus lets you automate multistep, cross-application tasks. Its Outlook Agent can display contact info or pull name and address data into your Word document when you type the first, last, or company name and then press a shortcut key that you define. Substitute text, retrieve frequently used documents, send e-mail to colleagues, open your favorite Web sites--just by typing a word or phrase anywhere on screen, whether on your desktop or in any application. The program can even watch your activity and suggest shortcuts. Pretty smart, huh? $50 (free 60-day trial).

Password Prospecting

All versions of Office: If you depend on Microsoft's password feature to protect your sensitive files, you may know the sinking feeling that comes when you try to open a document and realize you've forgotten the password. Advanced Office Password Recovery (AOPR) uses advanced decryption algorithms to recover passwords from all Microsoft applications, from DOS versions to Office 2003 for the PC, Mac, and Pocket PC. AOPR begins by scanning your password cache, which the company says recovers 60 percent of passwords. If that's not enough, AOPR uses a combination of dictionary and brute-force attacks. Brute force is time-consuming--the program checked nearly 735 billion combinations to find my six-character password, taking nearly 40 hours. $49 (Home version) to $199 (Pro version).

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