Take Control of Customizing Office
eBook Review

Take Control of Customizing Office September 2005 Version 1.01
Kirk McElhearn

TidBITS Electronic Publishing


ISBN: 0-9759503-8-X
US $10.00

Kirk McElhearn, one of the original Take Control ebook authors, has scored another hit with the recent publication of Take Control of Customizing Office.

Unlike his more general-purpose books (iPod & iTunes Garage), Take Control of Customizing Office (TCCO for short), is a tightly focused explanation of one of Microsoft Office’s most powerful, yet most obscure features; how to customize your work environment.

If you use Word merely for tapping out thank-you notes, or making to-do lists with Excel, save your ten-spot; TCCO is not going to be of much interest. But if you’re a serious Office user, one who craves the knowledge to make Office look and feel the way you, not Bill Gates, want it to, then you need to buy this ebook.

Microsoft Word allows you to customize virtually the entire user interface. The problem is that it’s well-nigh impossible to figure out on your own. I’ve been mucking around with Word since Word 1.0, and consider myself a fairly capable intensive user. But after one quick read through TCCO, I could tell I didn’t know much about the different ways to customize menus, templates, toolbars, palettes, and keyboard commands. You could spend hours slogging through the on-line Help files, and never come across many of the useful techniques McElhearn presents.

Section by section, TCCO covers customizing toolbars and menus, using keyboard shortcuts, saving typing time, and working with templates. While Word gets the lion’s share of attention, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage get plenty of good coverage. Appendix B Cool Customization Ideas, is almost worth the $10 price itself. It’s full of great suggestions for shortcuts from experienced Office customizers.

Being an ebook, TCCO takes full advantage of the PDF format, it’s full of hyperlinks, so you can jump back and forth between related sections with a mouse click. At 78 total pages, it not too large to print, but most users will want to keep it handy for quick electronic reference. Weighing in at 1.2 megabytes, you’ll hardly know it’s on your hard drive. One advantage of publishing in the ebook format is that it’s easy to update the text. Version 1.01, with additional material and corrections arrived about 10 days after version 1.0 hit the streets. All Take Control updates are free, so there’s no reason not to get the newest version.

TCCO is not a quick read, as many customizations involve numerous detailed steps. The text is well-written, and screen shots are plentiful, but most users will need to follow along carefully while at their own computer.

If there ever was a reason to back up your files, this is it! After spending several hours getting all my templates, macros, keyboard, shortcuts, and palettes just right, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing them in a crash. McElhearn does tell you where the various files are located, so you can back them up or synchronize them to a laptop.


This is the best coverage I’ve seen on this narrow subject, period. Take the time, (you’ll need plenty) to work your way through it, and you’ll have tuned up Office so it looks and runs just the way you want.

Highly recommended

MyMac rating 5 out of 5


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