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6 downloads to improve Microsoft Office

These bring the office suite close to perfection

Anyone who uses Microsoft Office will agree on two things: It's a powerful collection of applications, and it needs improvements. Here are six downloads that bring Office a lot closer to what it should be

Specific application improvements

You have a lot of information stored in Outlook - your entire contact list, appointments, countless email messages. And the only thing you have to search it with is...Outlook.

Unless you're willing to drop $40 (£25.65) for Lookeen, that is. Then you'll have all sorts of fast, indexed searches at your fingertips. For instance, you can select an email message and click the Conversations icon to bring up all of the messages that Lookeen thinks are part of the same conversation, as well as possibly relevant appointments and contacts. Other searches will find elements added today or this week, or items that are "more like this."

It can even search outside of Outlook, making it a desktop search tool.

Price: $40 (£25.65); 14-day free trial
Supports: Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010

Word documents aren't sausages - there's nothing gross about seeing how they're made.

With Levit & James's CrossEyes, you can see exactly what's going on inside a Word document. Is that word bold and red because someone assigned a particular style to it, or simply because someone made it bold and red? That sort of difference means a lot when you're altering a document's look, especially if you're not the only person who has worked on that file.

Not every Word user needs CrossEyes; but if you have to reformat other people's work, it's a blessing.

CrossEyes is currently on version 4. Version 5, which is in public beta as I write this, supports Word 2010.

Price: $30 (£19.25); 15-day trial
Supports: Word 2003 and 2007

ASAP Utilities
This Excel add-in puts all sorts of tools onto the application's ribbon. With it, you can format the on-screen view (hiding grids, zero values, and other possibly distracting bits), select the cell with the smallest or largest number, select all the cells with errors, freeze panes on multiple sheets at once, and simultaneously save the current file and create a backup.

That's just a small sample of all the ways this tool allows you to manipulate numbers, text, links, and information. And if its vast offerings get too confusing (it's really for Excel power users), you can put your most-used options in the customisable 'My favourite tools' menu.

And if things become too frustrating, you can relieve some tension by pulling down the ribbon's Start menu and selecting Funny (error) messages. I got 'Error saving file! format drive now?'

Price: $49 (£31.40) for commercial use, after 90-day trial period; free for non-commercial use, unless "you don't want to be forced to update to the new version twice a year...or if you like this program and think it is worth the money."
Supports: Excel 2000, 2002/XP, 2003, 2007, and 2010 (32-bit)

See also: Microsoft kills Office anti-piracy program

  1. Bring Office close to perfection
  2. Specific application improvements

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