April 18, 2005
Q: I have Microsoft Office and want to figure out how to create some forms and do some basic tracking of my clients. Which program should I use? — Dee
A: Microsoft Office has become the productivity suite of choice for most businesses, mainly because of the ubiquity of both Word and Excel.
Over my years, I have seen some pretty amazing things done in these programs when it comes to creating business systems that go far beyond simple word processing and spreadsheet work.
Many folks try to use the tools they are most familiar with to do all of their tasks, often with poor results. Trying to use a program that was not designed to perform the task at hand can be extremely frustrating and time consuming.
While forms can be created in Word or Excel, I don’t recommend creating them from scratch unless you have a very strong understanding of how these programs work, especially in the formatting area.
Before you attempt to reinvent the wheel in any of the Microsoft Office programs, you may want to look into a very efficient alternative.
All of the Office programs have templates that are built in and can be very useful for simple tasks.
The easiest way to access them in Word and Excel is to click on the File menu, then on New.
Depending upon your version of these programs, you will either get a dialog box that presents the templates that are installed in your system, or newer versions will have a column to the right of the document that has an option for templates.
Once the Templates dialog box is open, you will see tabs across the top that categorize the various templates into logical areas.
One of the most common templates in Word is a fax cover sheet. In fact, there are a variety of fax cover sheets to choose from that you can personalize.
You can also pull up templates for mailing labels, legal pleadings, memos, résumés, calendars, brochures, manuals, a thesis and several reports.
If you can’t find anything that came preloaded that fits the bill, you can continue your search online.
Microsoft has an entire section on their Web site devoted to templates for virtually every use.
If you go to http://office.microsoft.com/templates
(do not use www in front!) you will be redirected to a page that has hundreds of resources for using templates.
If, for instance, you wanted to use Word to create billing statements for your clients, you could go to the Business and Legal section, then click on Accounting and Reporting to find a ready-to-use template for billing statements.
If your version of Office included the Access database, you can download useful premade database programs for everything from Account Ledgers to Customer Orders to Time and Billing. (I was able to see 30 different databases by using the "Search" function and typing "Access".)
Because all of the templates can be modified by any user, be sure to visit the various resources along the right hand column of the site for tips and tricks and helpful how-to guides in creating and modifying templates for the ultimate in flexibility.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the "Computer Corner" radio show Saturdays at noon on KTAR (620 AM). Readers may send questions to email@example.com