Do these questions sound familiar?
• Is it true Help for Office 2003 is only available online?
• Is Microsoft attempting to eliminate Offline Help Content?
• Do you need to be connected to the Internet 24/7 just to use Help?
• Does Microsoft think everyone has high speed Internet access?
Just what was Microsoft thinking?
Consider those times when you encountered a Help page that lacked content or contained errors. Or what about those times when you attempted to find content only to discover there was nothing to be found?
Microsoft's answer to these issues was to include the capability to search online content. Granted there are a still a few issues that need to be worked out, don’t get me started on those, but the concept is good: keep Help content updated and supply new content and tutorials based on user demand.
So then, what about the initial questions? When I first started using Office 2003 I asked the same questions – especially since I don’t have high speed Internet access 24/7. Thankfully the answers are No, No, No, and No. Offline Help content is still available and the Office applications can be configured to utilize Help offline along with the ability to access online content only when you want it.
How to Tame Online Content
Manually Switch to Offline Help
Display the Search Results task pane and modify the scope of your search to Offline Help at the bottom of the task pane.
Figure 1 - Search Results task pane
Automatically Search Offline Help First
1. On the Help menu, click Customer Feedback Options
2. Select the Online Content category
3. Turn ON: Show Content and links from Microsoft Office Online
4. Turn OFF: Search online content when connected
Figure 2 - Online Content Settings
This configuration will search offline Help content first. Then to search updated content use the For additional and updated content, search Microsoft Office Online. link at the top of the Search Results pane.
Figure 3 - Search Microsoft Office Online
Additional Online Content Settings
Show content and links from Microsoft Office Online
Turning off this option will turn off all online content settings.
Note: A restart of the application is required before this change will take effect.
Show Template Help Automatically When Available
The majority of the templates available in the Template Gallery contain help specific to the template which is delivered through the Template Help task pane.
A drawback to this capability is if you customize the template for other users then turning off this option off will only prevent the Template Help task pane from surfacing on your computer. Others will encounter the task pane each time they create a new document or open a previously saved document based on the template.
This issue can be easily resolved by deleting a custom file property:
1. On the File menu, click Properties
2. Select the Custom tab
3. Select the _TemplateID property
4. Click Delete
Figure 4 - File Properties Dialog
Show Microsoft Online featured links
Turning this option off will prevent the display of links to Microsoft Office Online on the Help and Getting Started task panes.
Need to Quickly Reference a Help Page?
Both the online and offline Help pages have a link available that can be copied for future reference. The links can be pasted in Word document and used as a quick reference for your frequently accessed Help content.
1. Display the Help page
2. Right-click the background of the page and select Properties
3. Right-click the Address (URL) and click Select All
4. Right-click the selected address and select Copy
Figure 5 - Help Page Properties
Note: The same steps can be used to copy the title of the Help page as well.
Request Updated and New Help Content
Now that you have tamed the online Help content, utilize those feedback options! If you find errors or missing information, or if you found the information helpful, send your feedback to Microsoft by using the Was this information helpful? Feedback options at the bottom of the Help page. Microsoft really does listen to our feedback. Updated and new content is added to Help daily.
If you want some examples of how our feedback has been utilized then check out Is Sending Feedback to Microsoft Worth the Effort?"
Note: The feedback options are not available on offline content pages.