This article continues my coverage of Excel XP’s useful new features. The link to my related supplemental Web page is at the end of this article.
10. Insert and delete columns with AutoFilter on — In Excel 2000 and prior, if AutoFilter was turned on you could not insert or delete columns. You had to laboriously turn AutoFilter off, do the insertion or deletion operation, and turn AutoFilter back on. With Excel XP you can now insert or delete columns with AutoFilter on.
UI: to insert, right-click a column’s heading zone and choose Insert; to delete, right-click a column’s heading zone and choose Delete.
11. Play back worksheet data — You can adjust Excel to play back (speak back) your data to you; choose either a selected range or have Excel speak your data each time you press Enter to complete a cell entry. Data can be numeric or text. The feature doesn’t read a formula to you, it reads the formula’s result; so if the cell contains the formula =AVERAGE(2,3,4) then when entered Excel reads back “three.” When speaking back a range data, you can have Excel proceed in row or column order. Speakers are required.
UI: To have Excel play back after each cell entry, select Tools, Speech, Show Text to Speech Toolbar, then on the toolbar click the Speak On Enter button.
12. Smart tags — A smart tag is an intelligent hyperlink that recognizes a data structure (like human names, addresses, phone numbers, stock ticker symbols, airport codes, and so on, depending on which Office application is the host) and supports actions based on the data type. Excel comes with recognition for stock symbols and recent Outlook email recipients. For a stock symbol you can choose from several actions: financial symbol, insert refreshable stock price, stock quotes, company report, and recent news. For information on other smart tags you can add go here:
UI: to activate this feature select Tools, AutoCorrect Options, Smart Tags, and check “Label data with smart tags”.
13. Worksheet protection — There are several new and useful worksheet protection features in Excel XP. There are now so many different protection options, it can become confusing, so it’s best to carefully study and experiment with these features before releasing a worksheet that you want to protect. Prior to Excel XP you could protect contents, objects, and scenarios. Now you can also individually protect the formatting of cells, formatting of columns, formatting of rows, insertion of columns, insertion of rows, insertion of hyperlinks, deletion of columns, deletion of rows, sorting, AutoFilter, and PivotTable reports. There’s a powerful new interface for allowing users to edit (or not) ranges. To read Microsoft’s Knowledge Base overview article of all these features:
UI: Tools, Protection, Protect Sheet and Tools, Protection, Allow Users to Edit Ranges.
14. Ask a Question — New to all the Office XP applications is an “Ask a Question” text box right on the menu bar. Look at the far right edge of the menu bar for a text box that reads “Type a question for help” with a drop-down arrow at its right edge. It accepts standard English queries, like “what is a smart tag?” When you press Enter you see a list of relevant topics along with other Help options. This Ask a Question feature is available whether you have the Office Assistant turned on or not. This edit box remembers your previous inquiries (during the current application session only). So whenever you quit an Office XP application the list of your prior questions is cleared. I suggest the next version of Office maintain a permanent history list of your last 20 or more inquiries.
UI: Click in the “Ask a Question” text box on the menu bar, type a query, press Enter.