Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Microsoft Office 2011 Portable Genius

The Wiley Portable Genius series is designed to be a quick comprehensive guide for a experienced computer user trying to learn a new program. Instead of focusing on all functions, this book attempts to focus on those 20% of the features you'll use 80% of the time. This book is great for someone familiar with computers who has never used an Office Suite before.

Each major program of the Office Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook) is given an introduction and then a series of in-depth analyses. At the beginning, the geography of the program screen is introduced along with a survey of major menu items and preferences as well as keyboard shortcuts for these functions. For intermediate and advanced users, these intros can easily be skipped. Ideally these menu and shortcut guides should be in the last chapter of the section because new users might get intimidated with the twenty or so different ways to do a simple task.

The book's style is highly visual and focused on functions, answering "How do I" questions. Unfortunately there is often no designation between which functions are new to Office 2011 and functions that have been there since the beginning (Outlook excluded since it hasn't been on the Mac platform for a long time). In particular, Excel's new Sparklines function wasn't covered nor were the collaboration aspects of the Skydrive. While these aren't as important as printing emails or creating formulas, users upgrading from previous versions might have found some coaching useful.

The final chapters of the book briefly cover Microsoft Communicator, Remote Desktop Connection as well as using Microsoft resources to get help with the program.

Experienced users of previous versions of Office for the Mac or PC won't find much value in this book, but for novice users new to the Microsoft family of products, this book will help them transition nicely.

Pros: Adequate guide to Office 2011
Cons: Lacks coverage and specificity of new features

3 out of 5 Dogcows