NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Running Office 97 vs Office 97 At A Glance
A Book Review Face Off, by Bob Frye - September 97

For those of us that still prefer printed materials over searching through online help menus, one of the more difficult choices is which book should I chose? In this review, I'll compare two Office 97 books: the At a Glance and the Running series of books from Microsoft Press.

Office 97 At a Glance bills itself as a "visual reference ... to find the right answers, right now" on the cover, which is a good summary of this book's approach. The chapters are task focused with topics like "creating a presentation", "formatting a document", "communicating and scheduling" or "managing information." Using a two-column format, At a Glance uses well- laid out black-and-white menu illustration to guide the reader through a task step-by-step. The left column is used for short text descriptions, including tips and cross-references. I like the landscape page orientation, which makes it easy to lay the book between my keyboard and monitor, which eases head movement between reading the instruction steps and looking back at the monitor. I think this book is a good choice for first time users, or for those converting from another office suite. With its task focus and clear illustrations, you can quickly begin using Office 97.

A disadvantage to the At a Glance approach, it is limited, by necessity, to describing one approach to the most common Office tasks. If you're looking for more detail, Running Office 97 describes itself as an "in-depth reference and inside tips." This book's chapters are organized by Office 97 application: Access, Excel, Word, etc. Running is primarily text oriented, although it does include plenty of illustrations and tables. The tables give good summaries of the purpose and results of selecting various choices from drop-down menus. Inter-spaced within the text descriptions are highlighted tips. Running includes a good discussion on using the Binder and linking tools to integrate information between the different Office applications. I think this book is a good choice for advanced beginner through intermediate user. It can help you unleash the power of the Office suite.

As a bonus, Running Office 97 includes a HTML version of the book on CD-ROM. Also included on the CD is a copy of Internet Explorer 3.0 (if you don't already have a browser installed), sample files keyed to the book's text, and browser add-ons such as NetMeeting, Internet Mail and ActiveMovie. The sample files can be used for interactive training that is not possible using the printed book. . The CD-ROM version is a convenient way for multiple users to access Running as an on-line reference.

Running Microsoft Office 97, 1151 pages with included CD-ROM, lists for $39.95 and Microsoft Office 97 At a Glance, 347 pages, lists for $16.95. Microsoft Press publishes both books.

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