Under The Surface (Part 2)

2/1/2013 9:21:44 AM

Missing Office 2013 Features

I'm trying to like the new Office 2013, but I just keep finding things that used to work and which now don't, for no good reason. Outlook 2007 and before had the useful ability to link any item appointment, task or whatever to one or more contacts, which was called Contact Linking. Such links let you easily skip from one contact to another related one without having to search for their company or go through a distribution list. You could create a task that linked all the people participating in it, or whom you might need to phone about it. This feature was deprecated in Outlook 2010 when the Contacts fields on forms became hidden, unless you went to the Options dialog to re-enable them. In Outlook 2013, the option has gone altogether.

Office 2013 and Office 2010

If you still want to see and use the Contacts fields on other items, you have to edit a Registry entry to get them back: specifically, you have to create a DWORD Registry entry under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\office\1S.0\ outlook\preferences called showcontactfieldobsolete and set its value to 1. Network administrators can use group policies to set this value too.

Outlook's journal is effectively dead in Office 2013: you can't get to the journal folder except via the folder list; it no longer has its own shortcut; and there are no options to control what's added to the journal, nor any button to create a new journal except from the journal folder. If you were a frequent, or even occasional, user of the journal feature, your best bet is probably to switch to OneNote, but you'd have to invent your own way of noting the time spent on any task since OneNote lacks the useful Timer function of Outlook's journal items. Nor is there an easy way to export existing journals into OneNote, because Outlook's integration with OneNote doesn't include journals at all.

The one piece of good news I can give you about Office 2013 is that Microsoft has announced that it will now include a "Dark Theme" to satisfy the thousands of users who complained that it's just too damned white. I can't, however, find anyone who has actually seen this theme who thinks it's any good. I suppose it was too much to hope for that it had removed the "feature" that puts meaningless squiggles on the title bars of all the applications. Whoever dreamed that one up and approved it deserves to be tarred and feathered and made to sit in a corner wearing a dunce's cap for a month. It's right up there with the talking paperclip and animated text in Word documents stupid, pointless and just gets in the way.

Dubbing it as the Office Home & Student 2013 RT, this news is particularly good news for everyone because, there has still not been an official tablet version of Office, which is the worlds most used Desktop Productivity and Publishing software.

Dubbing it as the Office Home & Student 2013 RT, this news is particularly good news for everyone because, there has still not been an official tablet version of Office, which is the worlds most used Desktop Productivity and Publishing software.

Visio is an Office application that's never actually sold as part of an Office suite; it's just made by the Office team at Microsoft. If you work with databases as much as I do, one of Visio's greatest strengths is for looking at SQL Server or Access databases and drawing Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERDs) for them. You can then rearrange or colour the tables on the page to group them logically and show how the database works. This feature has been in Visio for a long time, and at one point you could even make changes to the diagram and have those changes reflected back into the database to change its schema. The drawing features weren't perfect it would make relationship lines cross over each other far too many times by default, and it was too easy to break a relationship between tables by an accidental drag but it was one of the best tools for making ERDs out of databases, far better than the one built into SQL Server.

Now, with the release of Visio 2013, this whole feature has been pulled and replaced with a template that lets you draw your own ERD, in clunky big boxes, but doesn't let you reverse- engineer an existing database. I don't think I could stand to use Visio 2013 to draw even a moderately sized ERD by hand since it takes far too much time. If I have to type all the details about a database, I'd far rather type them into SQL Server first and then derive a diagram from that. Why should I have to type all these definitions twice, once for the diagram and again to create the database?

I believe there was going to be a better database diagramming tool built into Visual Studio 2012 but it was pulled, and it's now left with the poor diagramming support it inherited from SQL Server 2000. Microsoft's SQL Server Data Tools project continues to release updates every couple of months, but they don't seem to have got round to diagramming yet (http:// tools.aspx). There are other database diagramming tools available, but all the ones I've tried are too complicated, too expensive or a combination of the two.

Some of the features that have been removed were little used, according to Microsoft's telemetry, which is based on only those people who subscribe to the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). This scheme sends back data to Microsoft about how you use its software: the commands you use; whether you access them through the keyboard, the ribbon or the right-click menus. It doesn't collect any personally identifiable information, only a unique ID number assigned to your computer so it can tell the difference between one person doing something a hundred times and a hundred people doing the same thing once.

Participating in CEIP is optional, and you're usually only asked to participate once: at the first time you run an application. Participating in CEIP won't result in Microsoft tracking your documents, stealing your thoughts or sending you any email or other messages; the data is simply aggregated and used in deciding proposed changes to the Office applications in future releases. If you don't participate in CEIP then your usage patterns can't be taken into account when planning which features to enhance and which to pull, so I'd urge everyone to ensure their voice is counted by joining, See http://tinyurl. com/ngp3n - as we have seen with Microsoft's removal of the start button in Windows 8, it takes this data quite seriously indeed.

Spellcheck Woes In Word

My occasional correspondent Grace, who lives in South Africa, got in touch with me this week to ask about a problem with getting Word to spellcheck her documents: "Quite by accident I've discovered that a couple of my templates have the spellchecker switched off, but not everywhere. Even on my 'Minutes' template, where I have the same 'Heading 1' style in various table rows, some lines have spellchecking switched on and some off. I thought I had to just press Control-A to switch on the spellchecker, but this doesn't work. Now I feel my only option is to go into every style and every line on the templates and check the spellchecker. I don't understand how this has happened because at no time did I even go near the spellchecker, I admit that I brought across boilerplate text from old templates, but I've never come across this problem before. I now feel that I must check all 13 templates some have five sections before the document starts. Have you any suggestions how to fix this before I undertake this task?"

Spellcheck Woes In Word

I suggested Grace check the language settings for her documents. Some words or paragraphs might have slipped into another language for which she doesn't have a dictionary installed, which would disable spellchecking in those areas. It might also be an idea to try selecting the whole document and changing the language to, say, Italian and then back to English and then unselecting the "Do not check spelling or grammar" checkbox at the same time. Remember that the checkbox has three states: un-ticked (will check spelling); ticked (won't check); and solid (mixed setting some areas will be checked and others won't).

Another thought that occurred to me was that "Do not check spelling" can be applied to a style (a character, paragraph or linked style), which Grace might have done by accident. It's easily done if you manually apply this setting to some text and then later use the "Update Style to Match Selection" command. Unsetting "Do not check spelling" across the whole document should override any settings in the styles, but if those styles are complex particularly in the way they're linked together (one style based on another, which is based on yet another) this might not work properly. I suggested Grace check all her styles to see whether any had the "Do not check spelling" property set.

She replied that she'd checked them all and some did have the "Do not check spelling" property set, which she has removed. Correcting those styles and changing the language and spellcheck settings twice seemed to have cured this problem.

However, she had also found that some parts of her documents were in English (South Africa) and some parts in English (UK), and while she could change the language of any text in the document, she'd tried to choose English (UK) as the default language but couldn't get Word to start in that language. She was wondering whether this was the right decision.

Word takes its default language from the PC's locale settings in Control Panel, and there are details on this available in the online help for Word (see http:// I don't know what all the differences are between the en-ZA, "English (South Africa)", and en-GB, "English (UK)" locales or the Office dictionaries to know whether Grace ought to switch, but I did point out that if she switched her PC to en-GB then she'd definitely get the wrong currency symbol for a start, and would then have to manually alter that setting. I recommended that she stick with en-ZA for everything, which is how Windows and Office are designed to work.

I'd be very tempted to remove any other language and keyboard settings from Windows, so that it was using only en-ZA, unless I really needed to use another language. These suggestions apply to anyone who has multiple languages installed on their computer, even if they're just variants of the same language such as English (US) and English (UK). If you don't actually use the other language, remove it from your PC using Control Panel as you can see from the previous anecdote, this simple move might make life so much easier.

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