Lots to tell you this month.
It's great to see that Karen Clark didn't disappoint us and has followed
through with her promise to write up an article on her experiences learning
how to cross-reference figure captions across Word documents. Karen is a subscriber
who was tackling this problem. When she told me she'd finally figured out how
to make this process work, I asked her to share the info and she agreed that
she would. Be sure to check out her Linking
to a Figure Number in a Separate Document article. Thanks so much to Karen
for providing this valuable information. Remember, if you've tackled some problem
and you'd like to share the solution with us, we'd love to hear from you.
I'm also very happy to announce that we have another new author beginning this
month. Please welcome Kim
Hedrich to our TechTrax writing team. Kim is a little special in that, she's
probably the only author who joined without me begging, threatening or whining!
<smirk> Kim was a regular subscriber who has written several tutorials
for her colleagues. She contacted me and passed me a sample of her manuals and
offered them up to TechTrax to share the info with readers. But rather than
us just swiping all her great info, I asked her if she wouldn't mind joining
so she could get the proper credit. She agreed. So if Office drawing and clipart
related issues have been plaguing you, you'll want to make sure you don't miss
her articles. Thanks so much for joining us and sharing your knowledge. Welcome
from our readers this month. Some questions are related to article issues and
contain further solutions that the authors helped our readers work out. Don't
miss this additional info!
Mac Office Users
Hopefully, you know that you can check out the Library
link on the main menu above each month to see what articles have been updated
since your last visit, as well as quickly find code modules, downloads and series
articles. But one item in particular that I want to point out is the Word
Options Utility article, which tells you about Greg Chapman's free utility.
Greg has received lots of enthusiastic thank yous for this applet. But we also
received comments from some Mac users who wished they could use it. So I want
to give a big thanks to Excel MVP, John McGimpsey. He also saw the value
in this utility and contacted Greg regarding possibly converting the code to
work for Mac Word. John revised Greg's code and now we have versions of this
template available for Mac users. See the article itself for details to download
the Mac templates.
And now on to what I personally consider the biggest news this monththe
Many of the writers who volunteer their time and talents here at TechTrax,
providing you with premiere information and tutorials each month, are Microsoft
MVPs. The MVP program started in 1993. So 2003 marks the 10th anniversary
of the program. And February 2003 marked one of the most incredible summits
to date. Oh sure, we've had some great times at past summits. But by incredible,
I'm talking about the level of openness and responsiveness the MVPs enjoyed
this year from Microsoft!
I've been an MVP since 1995. During that time, I've been lucky enough to have
attended every summit offeredfive. MVPs have not always been considered
a valuable resource by Microsoft. In fact, up until a couple years ago, most
of the people at Microsoft had no idea what an MVP was! We've attended summits
where half of our meetings were spent explaining to softies (MS employees) who
we were and what we did for them. Respect for the tons of personal time we spend
providing support to MS users was not something we readily enjoyed. This fact
started to change a few years ago, thanks to a few softies who are MVP evangelists
and worked very hard to bring us to the attention of those who run the show
at Microsoft. (And yes, we do know who you evangelists are and we truly
appreciate your efforts on our behalf!)
At last year's summit, Microsoft proclaimed loudly that they do love
us! We received a lot of promises for improvement and better communication,
responsiveness and recognition from Microsoft. Cool! But was this lip service?
I'm thrilled to tell you it wasn't! At this
year's summit, Microsoft followed through with many of those promises. Many
long time MVPs literally walked away from the summit shaking their heads in
disbelief, saying "Wow!" As one MVP, Bill
Coan, put it: the 2003 MVP Summit was memorable for two reasons: 1) Microsoft
demonstrated a strong commitment to the MVP program by listening carefully to
MVPs from all product categories and by sharing with MVPs the company's vision
for the future; and, 2) The Office development team demonstrated exciting new
technologies that will enable third party software developers to build powerful
custom solutions to common business problems using Office components.
Along with this new level of appreciation and respect by Microsoft for it's
1,300+ MVPs around the world, we now really do have greater abilities
to bring user issues to the attention of those responsible for creating their
software. But allow me to say one thing that I was discussing in a user group
recently. Microsoft does listen! However, you also need to understand
a little perspective when you're complaining about a problem with software.
For starters, if you've never built software yourself...try it sometime and
try to make all your users happy! (I'll refrain from laughing at that
thought!) Secondly, realize that Microsoft gets tons of feedback from
tons of users. And as I recently pointed out to a user who complained
that one feature in Word was a total waste of space...if Microsoft did
remove that particular feature that he, obviously, felt was totally useless...I
would be one of the first people screaming at Microsoft for removing it! Because
to me, this particular feature is extremely useful. Now consider this same scenario
times a few million users. When people come to depend and run their business
on your products, you do have a big responsibility to them all to make
sure you are extremely careful when you make changes. So to all those users
who I always hear starting a sentence with "why don't they just...",
realize that it's rarely an issue of "just" being able to do
anything without careful consideration. (See Chris, we were listening
and can appreciate your comments!)
And that being said, let me also tell you that one of the best places to post
your comments, complaints, pleas for improvement, support questions and one
of the best places to get top notch support is via the Microsoft Newsgroups.
If Microsoft developers are going to look anywhere for info about issues, after
they check with their many special user groups, such as the MVPs, they'll be
checking out the Microsoft Newsgroups. So not to take you away from your current
user groups, but know that Microsoft does provide the largest free support
avenue of any software company. You can easily reach the newsgroups with a browser
or by creating a new newsgroup account in your favorite news readers (such as
Outlook Express or Free
Agent) by pointing the news server to: msnews.microsoft.com. That's
where most of the MVPs hang out, providing support, as well as gathering info
on user issues to pass back to Microsoft. And if you've ever wished you could
become an MVP, get in there and help! This is the biggest pool from which new
MVP talent is drawn. (See this article for more details about accessing the
to Get Help!)
And one more very important piece of info I need to pass along to our many blind
and disabled readers. Know that there are newsgroups related to accessibility
issues. Okay, so I recently went stomping to Microsoft screaming "and
why don't you have any accessibility newsgroups?" Turns out...they
do! Oops! Granted, they are a bit buried and I did try to find them.
But I was looking under Accessibility first. In fact, the ones currently
available are under: microsoft.public.enable.developer, microsoft.public.Win2000.enable,
microsoft.public.windowsxp.accessibility, and microsoft.public.enable.issues.
With that confusing mix of names, you can appreciate why I (and several blind
friends) were unable to find them. And there's currently no group designated
specifically for Office apps. However, I have been in contact with Microsoft
regarding these special groups and, true to their word, I have received several
responses and will even be on the phone this week discussing these groups with
one of the leads. So with luck, the future will hold a little better organization
for users with special needs.
Another problem is that not many people know what enable means. So the
few posts that are in those groups are questions like: "how do I enable
my autocorrect?" <smirk> But this is because no one has really
been monitoring these groups. I personally now subscribe to the microsoft.public.enable.issues
group and will do what I can to help provide assistance there. And I'm sure,
now that we know they're there, other MVPs will jump in an try to help out.
But I'd also like to strongly encourage all blind and disabled users to get
in there and use those groups. Spread the word! Because with few folks using
these groups, the need for this type of assistance isn't apparent. If you need
help, post your questions there so Microsoft can see you are out there
and need help. And if you're a talented user who has already won battles with
special technologies, please get in there and help provide support.
I know Alan
Wheeler is planning to jump in there. He's already been helping general
users in some of the Office groups. I'd love to see the community get it's first
accessibility MVPs this year! Unfortunately, there wasn't time this month, but
Alan has also promised an accessibility article for next month related to news
readers. In the meantime, if you need any help finding your way to these newsgroups
or need help learning to use them, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And with that, I'll leave you to explore this month's issue. Lots of great
stuff in here. Oh, and notice that we now have cover art! Big thanks to retired
Daffron, who came to our rescue and will help us jazz up our home page each
month with her creativity.
Dian D. Chapman
Editor, TechTrax Ezine