More notes from The Office Guy…

I finally got my hands on Office 2016. Since then, I have spent some time exploring it and comparing it to Office 2013. Like any past Office upgrade, there are going to be some new functionalities that will take a while to discover, but sometimes a new feature jumps out at first glance. This month’s blog is about one of those types of features – the “Tell Me” feature.

In a sense, this is not a new feature. It is an improved version of an old standby in the Microsoft Office suite: built-in online help. Every version of Office has had some mechanism for a user to obtain help while working in any Office application. Traditionally, this function has been accessed by clicking an icon shaped like a question mark in the upper-right hand corner of the application screen. This would then open up a window that contained a text box where you could type a question, press the Enter key and hope that you’d get a quick (and accurate) answer.

The problem with this feature was that the results were usually links to online articles about topics that may or may not relate to what you were trying to find. Then you’d click a link to an article and find out it wasn’t what you were looking for. You could then return to the original list of article links and try another one, or you could re-phrase your original question, which would lead you to a different list of articles. Sometimes you would find what you were looking for, but I’ve often said in my classes that by the time you found your answer, you had forgotten the question! This was especially frustrating when you were just looking for the proper command button to get something done.

In all fairness, the online help gradually became more user-friendly (Does anybody remember the animated characters that would appear to help guide you? I preferred the barking dog…). But this time around, they actually made it really easy to find what you are looking for.

So, where is this feature located and how does it work? First of all, you will no longer find a question mark at the top right corner of your application window. Instead, you will see an icon that looks like a light bulb next to the last tab (usually the View Tab) with the words “Tell me what you want to do…” next to it (I’ll use Word as an example):


Let’s say you want to insert a table into your Word document, but have forgotten how to begin the process. Simply click into the Tell Me box and type the word “table”:Directions-Training-Office-2013-Tell-Me-Feature-1Notice the difference in the menu that appears. While you can still click a link to get online help articles, you also get a list of actual command buttons that directly relate to the topic. These commands are “live,” meaning you can click on the command in the menu to perform the action you were looking for:Directions-Training-Office-2013-Tell-Me-Feature-2

In addition to finding the proper command buttons, you can also add these buttons to the Quick Access Toolbar by right clicking the command in the Tell Me menu:


There you have it. Now you finally have built-in help that leads you directly to the command buttons you need without having to search through online articles that may or may not be relevant. Just “Tell me what you want to do”!