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Chapter 3. Help! > Getting Quick Help

Getting Quick Help

Microsoft has built a large Help content base for Office applications over the years. Microsoft has also simplified the content to a degree, which is both good and bad. It’s good in that inexperienced users can often find quick answers to simple questions, but it’s bad in the sense that some of the higher-level content has been eliminated. Office 2003 applications merge this lower-level content with additional content on the Internet to provide a more balanced approach. The following sections describe the ways you can quickly get help in an Office application.

Clicking the Question Mark

You can find quick help for commands and options with relative ease. In a dialog box, for example, you can click the Help button (the question mark button, which is beside the dialog box’s Close button) to view information about the options in the dialog box. When you click this button, the application opens the Help window for the application and displays the Help information for that dialog box (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1. The Help window shows information about the selected dialog box.

Searching for Specific Topics

Besides clicking the Help button, another way to get quick help about a command or feature is to enter a search keyword or phrase in the Type a Question for Help search text box, which appears at the right edge of the application’s menu bar (see Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2. You can click in the Type a Question for Help search text box, type a question, and press Enter to get help.

You type a keyword or phrase in the text box and press Enter. If the application determines that you are connected to the Internet, the application searches the Microsoft Web site for Help information, as shown in Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.3. Word searches the Microsoft Web site for more information.

If the computer is not connected to the Internet, the application searches its local Help documentation for topics that meet the search conditions, as shown in Figure 3.4.

Figure 3.4. An application can display Help information from its local Help content.

To view a Help topic, you just click the topic link. The application then displays the Help information in a Help window (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5. The application displays Help information in a Help window.

Pressing the F1 Key

Pressing the F1 key on the keyboard is another option for obtaining quick help. When you press F1, the Office application provides help. The Help content the application provides depends on the application and what you are doing in the application when you press F1. For example, the application might open an Assistance pane, as shown in Figure 3.6.

Figure 3.6. The Assistance pane provides links to various types of Help content and other resources.

In many cases, the application opens context-sensitive Help content. Context-sensitive Help is tied to the context of what you’re doing in the application at the moment. For example, you can choose Format, Paragraph in Word to open the Paragraph dialog box. When you press F1 with this dialog box open, Word displays Help content for formatting paragraphs (see Figure 3.7).

Figure 3.7. Word can display context-sensitive Help for formatting paragraphs.

Using the Help Menu

You can use the Help menu in an application to get help in the application. The Help menu provides the same basic Help content that you can access by pressing F1, and it also provides links to the Microsoft Web site and other resources. It also provides options for detecting and repairing problems with the application, an option to check for application updates on Microsoft’s Web site, and an option to activate the application.

The About command on the Help menu doesn’t offer help for the application itself, but it does provide access to related information (see Figure 3.8).

Figure 3.8. The About dialog box for an application displays the version and other information.

You can view the application version on the About dialog box. If you call Microsoft for help with an application, in many cases the technicians want to know what version of an application you are using and whether any service packs or other updates are installed. You can find this information in the About dialog box.

You can click System Info on the About dialog box to view information about the computer’s configuration, Office application settings, and other information, as shown in Figure 3.9. Support technicians sometimes have you open the system information to check settings or computer configuration.

Figure 3.9. You can use the System Information window to get information about the application and the system in general.

When you need to call Microsoft for help, you don’t need to rummage in your closet or desk drawer for the phone number. You can just click Tech Support on the About dialog box to open the Help pane and display product support information, including links to the Microsoft Web site and support options.


The About dialog box also includes a Disabled Items button. If the application experienced a problem and started in Safe mode, you can click Disabled Items to view the application features and add-ins that are disabled in Safe mode.

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