Friday, March 23, 2007

Reason #4 why I like Office 2007: the new file format

The new file format that Office 2007 uses is an XML-based file format, which is stored on the hard disk in a compressed format. A standard ZIP-compression is used, which means that you can open Office 2007 files in a zip-compatible application.

This opens a lot of possibilities, but what I really like about it is that you can easily extract images or other embedded documents out of Word, Excel or PowerPoint files.
Better yet, this (finally!) gives me an easy way to find out why a PowerPoint presentation has a huge file size, even though I used "Compress Pictures..." before I saved.

I could put this into practice today: a colleague asked for my help because he had a PowerPoint presentation with about 30 slides, some of which contained pictures, and the file size was 11MB. Too large to send as an e-mail attachment in our organization.

I first looked at the obvious things: no master slides that were not used, no pictures that were scaled down to 25% or less, all pictures compressed and cropped... nothing that would explain the 11MB.

So I opened the file in PowerPoint 2007, saved it as an .pptx-file, opened that with WinZip and sorted the list on file size. The result? The presentation contained 6 images in .wmf-format, which apparently take a lot of space.

I could not have seen that in PowerPoint 2003: the images themselves were less than 300x300 pixels and were scaled at 100%, so everything looked OK.

After replacing the pictures with a .jpg-version, the PowerPoint presentation shrank to a mere 3 MB!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Office Quickie: View your document in multiple windows

Ever wanted to look at another slide in the same presentation while creating it? Or looking up another paragraph in the same document while working on another? Sure, you could split the window in Word 2003, but that was somewhat cumbersome and you only had a vertical split.

Enter the world of Office 2007. In Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you'll find a neat new option in the View Ribbon: New Window. One click and it opens a new window containing the same document.

You can now rearrange both views manually, or use the Arrange All button to quickly put the documents next to each other.

So now you can easily work on a slide in PowerPoint and keep an overview of where it fits in the whole presentation, e.g. by keeping the Slide Sorter view and the slide you're working on, next to each other:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

TeleText is keeping me busy

It's been 13 days since my last post... way too long, I know. The only excuse I have is that I spent some time on an online application that can create TeleText pages. Although this is an old technology (the first specs date back to 1974), it is still being used in a lot of European countries, including my home country, Belgium.

A non-profit organization I do some volunteer IT work for is providing daily TeleText pages to the one of the national TV broadcast companies. The pages are produced with a very old, DOS-based editor. Lately this editor has caused issues, as it does not seem to work properly on the new PCs they were recently installed. Obviously, the application is no longer supported.

I felt compelled to create a more modern, online editor, but to my surprise, it was difficult to find a lot of technical information about TeleText on the internet. This is probably related to the fact that TeleText started long before there was an internet, so many documents probably exist, but only in paper format. Some of these are available online, but only for paying customers or only after you register. It feels awkward and, frankly, "last-century" behavior to keep technical specifications of an open standard hidden from the world, but it probably is an indication how much we take the internet, and information on it, for granted these days.

So I've been moving more slowly than I anticipated. Stay tuned for updates on this. And yes, I will submit another Office 2007 post this week. Promised!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Word Quickie: Document Properties

When creating Office Documents, is'a good idea to fill in Document Properties. This metadata (like Title, Subject, Category, Keywords, ...) not only describes the document better, but it also will make it easier to find the document afterwards, as most desktop search programs will use the metadata to index the document.

In Office 2003, you could get to the Document Properties by selecting the Properties... from the File menu. In Office 2007, I expected it to be in the View or Review tab of the Ribbon, but it is somewhere else: you need to click the Microsoft Office button and select Prepare:

The idea behind the Prepare button is to consolidate all actions you might want to take when a document is ready to be published. There's some logic to putting the Document Properties there, although I would recommend starting with defining the Properties when creating a new document, rather than filling them in when the document is final, almost like an afterthought.

When selecting Properties, you get a pane at the top of the document for the common properties:If you need custom properties, you click the Document Properties button, to get to the Advanced Properties:
This will open a dialog box that looks very much like the Office 2003 one, with a custom tab for custom properties, but also other information like Statistics: