Better together

Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system

By Tom Bunzel

If you're using the 2007 Microsoft Office system with Windows Vista, here's a tip: You can take advantage of Windows Vista features to improve the way you work in 2007 Office system programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. In this column, I'll describe how the search, mobility, security, and efficiency features of Windows Vista can help you get your work done.

Explore the new search features

Many Microsoft Office users have grown accustomed to populating their My Documents folder (renamed the Documents folder in Windows Vista) with their work files. Others clutter their desktop with recently saved files and project folders. Inevitably, this clutter leads to difficulty locating key files under rushed conditions.

Windows Vista makes the situation much more manageable. The new search capabilities mean you can locate your Microsoft Office documents more quickly than ever.

How does it work? Click the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then type a term (I used photo) in the Search box. As you type, the relevant results appear above the Search box. The search looks not only through file names but also through the text inside your documents.
Picture of the Start menu showing search results
With Windows Vista, you can search for file names and text inside your documents directly from the Start menu

Here's another timesaver: You can launch a program by typing its name in the Search box on the Start menu. For example, when you type Excel in the Search box, Microsoft Office Excel 2007 will appear as a search result. Click it to launch the program.

Get organized with the Documents folder

Like the My Documents folder in Windows XP, the Documents folder in Windows Vista is a convenient place to store all of your Microsoft Office work files. To open it, click the Start button, and then click Documents. The Documents folder has many new features, including these:

  • The Search box appears in the upper right corner of the window and is always available. Just as with the Start menu search, results are instant.

  • Icons display a thumbnail image, if available, of the actual contents of each file. (To see thumbnails of files in the 2007 Office release, make sure the Save Thumbnail check box is selected in the Save As dialog box.)

  • The Details pane, at the bottom of the Documents folder, shows more information about the selected document, including tags and other common file properties.

  • The Preview pane allows you to see the contents of many kinds of documents without opening them. To see the Preview pane, click the Organize button on the toolbar, click Layout, and then click Preview pane.

Picture of the Documents folder showing a list of Microsoft Office files
Icons in the Documents folder can display the actual contents of each file

Tag your documents so they're easier to find

Windows Vista allows you to find and organize your files based on tags you've applied to them. For example, a law firm could implement a policy that all documents should be tagged with client names, client numbers, and case numbers. In this way, users in the firm could quickly search all relevant 2007 Office system documents on a single desktop or across a network.

You can add tags to your documents when you first save them. In Office Word 2007, for example, click Save As from the File menu, and then type tags in the Tags box, separated by semicolons. You can also add tags via the Documents folder (and other folders) by using the Tags box in the Details pane. Either way, once you've tagged your documents, you can easily find them again by searching for the tags you created.

Picture of the Save As dialog box in Word 2007 showing sample words entered in the Tags box
You can use the Save As dialog box to add tags to documents; locate the documents later by searching for the tags

Move between 2007 Office system documents and other files

Another nice Windows Vista feature for 2007 Office system users and others who multitask is the ability to see thumbnails of your documents simply by moving the pointer over the taskbar—they pop up like instant previews.

Picture of a taskbar button with thumbnail preview
When 2007 Office system documents are open, you can easily preview them through their thumbnails on the taskbar

This functionality is part of the Windows Aero user experience that emphasizes clarity of vision and makes the overall Windows Vista experience eye-popping as well as productive. By seeing how the documents actually look, you can ensure that you're opening the right file.

Another Aero feature, called Windows Flip 3D, arranges your windows into a three-dimensional stack. To open Flip 3D, press the Windows logo key Picture of the Windows logo key+TAB or click the Switch between windows button Picture of the Switch between windows button on the taskbar. Then use the arrow keys on your keyboard or rotate the mouse wheel to cycle through open windows.

You'll be pleased to know that you can also continue to toggle between open programs and files by pressing ALT+TAB. Now, however, Windows shows you more meaningful thumbnails of your open windows instead of generic icons.

Picture of thumbnails that appear when you press ALT+TAB
The new ALT+TAB shows thumbnails of your open windows instead of generic icons


  • Taskbar thumbnails, Flip 3D, and ALT+TAB thumbnails won't work unless your computer is running Windows Aero, the premium visual experience of Windows Vista. Aero is not available in Windows Vista Starter or Windows Vista Home Basic. For more information, see How do I get Windows Aero?

Move between open webpages with tabbed browsing

Similar enhancements are part of Windows Internet Explorer 7, which is included with Windows Vista. Instead of forcing you to open a separate browser window for each webpage you visit, Internet Explorer 7 allows you to organize your webpages as tabs within a single window. You can move between webpages without having to switch windows. For more information, see Tabbed browsing: frequently asked questions.

Picture of Internet Explorer 7 showing tabs for multiple webpages
Use tabs in Internet Explorer 7 to move easily between open webpages

Internet Explorer 7 also integrates with Microsoft Office OneNote 2007 and Office Word 2007. To send a webpage to Office OneNote 2007, click the Tools button in Internet Explorer 7, and then click Send to OneNote. To edit webpages in Office Word 2007, click the Page button in Internet Explorer 7, and then click Edit with Microsoft Office Word.

Collaborate instantly with Windows Meeting Space

Another feature that 2007 Office system users will love is the ability to collaborate on documents using the new Windows Meeting Space, which is included with Windows Vista. Using Windows Meeting Space, you can set up meetings with up to nine other people, provided they have computers running Windows Vista. Then you can share programs, documents, or your desktop so that participants have the same view as you do. It's an excellent way to get users up and running on new 2007 Office system programs or collaborate on any team-related project. For more information, see Windows Meeting Space: frequently asked questions.

Windows Meeting Space works on small ad hoc networks or on wireless networks and doesn't require major setup.


  • Windows Meeting Space is not included in Windows Vista Starter. Users of Windows Vista Home Basic can join meetings but cannot set them up.

Picture of Windows Meeting Space
With Windows Meeting Space, you can collaborate on documents with a small group of people over a network

Synchronizing multiple versions of files

When you work in a team situation, multiple versions of a document can lead to confusion. Word 2007 works with Windows Vista to minimize conflicts among multiple drafts or versions of a document. To compare or merge multiple documents in Office Word 2007, click the Review tab. In the Compare group, click Compare and then choose the desired option.

Picture of the Compare feature in Word 2007
Use the Compare feature in Word 2007 to compare or combine different versions of documents

In addition, you can use Windows Vista to set up offline versions of your network files. That way, you can keep working on the files even if the network is unavailable. This is especially useful if you use a mobile PC. When you reconnect to the network, Windows automatically syncs the files on your computer with the files in the network folder.

Picture of a folder window showing right-click menu open and Always Available Offline command selected
Right-click a network folder and click Always Available Offline to work on your Microsoft Office network files even when the network isn't available

If working with multiple document versions is a critical part of your work, consider using Office Groove 2007, a program specifically geared to heavy-duty document collaboration and sharing.


  • The ability to sync with network folders is not included in Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, or Windows Vista Home Premium.

Coordinated RSS feeds

With Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista and Office Outlook 2007, using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds is a snap. Subscribing to feeds is a way of getting the latest information from specific websites delivered to your desktop in the same way you might subscribe to magazines—without having to manually visit each website.

When a page has available feeds, the Feeds button Picture of the Feeds button in Internet Explorer 7 turns from gray to orange to let you know. Click the Feeds button to go to the feed's page, and then click the Subscribe to this Feed button Picture of Subscribe to this Feed button on the page. When you have subscribed to a feed, it appears in Office Outlook 2007 under the RSS Feeds folder and is updated automatically. The latest news is delivered straight to you, and you can forward or delete RSS items just as you would e‑mail messages.

For more information on feeds in Windows Vista, see Using feeds (RSS). For information about RSS feeds in Office Outlook 2007, see the Read RSS Feeds article on Microsoft Office Online.

The potential of gadgetry

One of the most visually striking aspects of Windows Vista is the new Windows Sidebar, which you can populate with small programs called gadgets. Windows Vista comes with a small group of gadgets, but you can download and install many more from the online Gadget Gallery on the Microsoft website. Examples of available gadgets include live RSS monitors to locate new feeds and an Outlook gadget that shows your calendar, tasks, and the number of new e‑mail messages you have. Keep on the lookout for additional gadgets that are interoperable with the 2007 Office system.

Picture of the Windows Vista desktop showing Windows Sidebar and the Gadget Gallery
Add new gadgets to Windows Sidebar by dragging them from the Gadget Gallery

The bottom line

While Microsoft Office users can certainly upgrade to the 2007 Office system on computers running Windows XP, Windows Vista users will benefit greatly from the improved search integration, the ability to meet and collaborate quickly, and the coordination of RSS feeds with Office Outlook 2007. Add to that the increased security of the operating system, the potential of gadgets, and the eye-popping graphics of Windows Aero, and combining Windows Vista with the 2007 Office system makes a lot of sense.

About the author

Picture of columnist Tom Bunzel

Tom Bunzel is the author of Solving the PowerPoint Predicament: Using Digital Media for Effective Communication and several other computer books. He has appeared on Tech TV's "Call for Help" as "Professor PowerPoint" and has been a featured speaker at the InfoComm and PowerPoint LIVE conferences.

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