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I began using Microsoft Word with version 1.0, when it ran only on DOS—before Windows even existed! In the many years since, Microsoft Office has become the most popular productivity suite.

You’ve probably turned to this book because you need to get up to speed with some or all of the programs in the Office suite. Each of these programs offers lots of features, but you’ll find that most people—even computer professionals like me—often use only a fraction of each program’s capabilities. That’s all most people need.

This book focuses on the core features in each of these Office applications: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. Rather than inundate you with lots of facts about features you’ll never use, I’ve focused on the features you will use most often with each one. With this book in hand, you should have no trouble quickly becoming proficient with each one.

How This Book Is Organized

You might want to focus on one particular Office application at first because it’s the one you think you will use the most. You’ll find that easy to do because this book separates each program into its own part. This book is organized into eight main parts:

  • Part I, “Getting Your Feet Wet,” introduces you to Microsoft with a quick tour of its main programs and features. Part I also explains how to install Office, work with Office programs and documents, and get help when you need it. In this part you’ll learn how to keep Office up to date and what to do if a program crashes.

  • Part II, “Contacts, Email, and Lots More with Outlook,” covers Microsoft Outlook 2003, the program in Office that helps you work with email, manage contacts, plan a schedule, and generally keep track of your work day. In this part you’ll learn how to work with email, appointments, contacts, tasks, and notes, and also how to keep track of events by using the Journal folder.

  • Part III, “Writing with Word,” explores Word in detail. Word is the program you use to write letters, proposals, brochures, and other documents. You’ll learn in Part III not only how to create a document in Word but also how to add graphics, add character and paragraph formatting, use templates and styles, check your spelling and grammar, create mailing lists and mailmerge form letters, and more.

  • Part IV, “Number-Crunching with Excel,” provides an introduction to Excel, Office’s spreadsheet program. In this part you’ll learn how to create and enter numbers, text, formulas, and other information into a worksheet and how to format that information to add impact and make the worksheet more useful. Part IV also explains how to work with multiple worksheets, move information from one worksheet to another, add charts and graphs, and print and save Excel documents.

  • Part V, “Creating Presentations in PowerPoint,” takes you on a guided tour of PowerPoint, which enables you to create presentations for meetings, classes, or even online delivery across the Internet. In this part you’ll learn how to start a new presentation, add slides, add text and graphics to slides, and even add music, video clips, and other data to your presentation.

  • Part VI, “Organizing Data with Access,” focuses on Access, the database program in Office. In this part you’ll learn how and why to use a database, how to create databases in Access, and how to enter data. Part VI also explains how to query the database to look up information and create reports, sort and filter records, and perform calculations. You’ll also learn how to create forms to simplify entering and viewing data.

By the time you finish all the chapters in this book, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert with Microsoft Office.

Conventions Used in This Book

I hope that this book is easy enough to figure out on its own, without requiring its own instruction manual. As you read through the pages, however, it helps to know precisely how I’ve presented specific types of information.

Web Page Addresses

There are a lot of Web page addresses in this book. They’re noted as such: www.boyce.us.

Technically, a Web page address is supposed to start with http:// (as in http://www.boyce.us). Because Internet Explorer and other Web browsers automatically insert that piece of the address, however, you don’t have to type it—and I haven’t included it in the addresses in this book.

Special Elements

This book also includes a few special elements that provide additional information not included in the basic text. These elements are designed to supplement the text to make your learning faster, easier, and more efficient.


A tip is a piece of advice—a little trick, actually—that helps you use your computer more effectively or maneuver around problems or limitations.


A note is designed to provide information that is generally useful but not specifically necessary for what you’re doing at the moment. Some notes are like extended tips— interesting, but not essential.


A caution tells you to beware of a potentially dangerous act or situation. In some cases, ignoring a caution could cause you significant problems—so pay attention to them!

Let Me Know What You Think

I always love to hear from readers. If you want to contact me, feel free to email me at jim@boyce.us. I can’t promise that I’ll answer every message, but I will promise that I’ll read each one!

If you want to learn more about me and any new books I have cooking, check out my Web site, at www.boyce.us. You’ll find searchable databases containing tips on Office and Windows, with information about many of my other books. Also check out www.officeletter.com for more helpful tips about Microsoft Office.

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