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Using and Customizing Common Dialog Boxes

Every time you open or save a file in an Office program, you work with one of two common dialog boxes. The exact operation of the Open and Save As dialog boxes varies, depending on which version of Windows you're using:

Common dialog boxes in Windows XP have a series of shortcut icons on the left side, called the Places Bar, which are designed to speed navigation through common file locations. With a small amount of effort, you can easily customize these icons in dialog boxes used in all Office programs. To add a shortcut to the current folder to the Places Bar, right-click any empty space on the bar and choose the option at the top of the menu, as shown in Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5

Figure 3.5 Customize the Places Bar by adding shortcuts to commonly used data folders; to see more choices, right-click the Places Bar and choose Small Icons from the shortcut menu.

The default icons in Windows XP include links to the My Documents folder, to the Templates folder, and to the desktop. There's also a My Recent Documents icon, which contains shortcuts to files and folders with which you've worked. When you click this icon from within an Office program, Office displays only shortcuts appropriate to the program you're using.

In Windows XP, the Places Bar in Office 2007 programs is different from the one found in common dialog boxes for other Windows programs. In Windows Vista, by contrast, the Open and Save As dialog boxes are identical to those found in other programs. In fact, these common dialog boxes work exactly like Windows Explorer. Instead of a Places Bar, you have a Favorite Links list to the left of the file contents. You can drag the icon for any folder, drive, or network location into this area to make it available for use anywhere in Windows or Office.

In Open and Save dialog boxes, Office includes two features that make it easier to find a file by name:

  • As you type in the Filename box, the AutoComplete feature suggests names that match the characters you've typed so far. Keep typing, or use the down arrow to select an entry from the list, and then press Tab or Enter to accept it.
  • If you click in the list of files and then type a character, Office selects the first file that begins with the letter or number you typed. If you quickly type several characters in rapid succession, the selection moves to the first file that begins with those characters. If you pause for more than a second between characters, this type-ahead feature resets. As you select files in this fashion in Windows Vista, Office fills in the Filename box for you.

To adjust the display of files in the Open and Save As dialog boxes, use the Views button. The drop-down arrow lets you choose from a list of views, or you can click the button to cycle through the different icon arrangements, which match the choices available to you in Windows Explorer:

  • In Windows Vista, you can choose Icons view in a wide range of sizes; Windows XP offers a fixed-size Icons view and a Thumbnails view that is equivalent to Large Icons view in Windows Vista.
  • Tiles and List views mirror their counterparts in Windows Explorer.
  • Details view displays the filename, the date it was last modified, its type, and other information, as shown in Figure 3.6; click any heading to sort the list by that category. Click the down arrow to the right of the column heading to display a drop-down list or date control that you can use to filter or group items.
    Figure 3.6

    Figure 3.6 In Details view, you can click any heading to sort by that column, or click the down arrow to filter the list using dates or other criteria.

Three additional choices are accessible in different ways, depending on whether you're running Windows XP or Windows Vista:

  • To see summary information about the selected document in Windows Vista, click Organize, Layout, Details Pane, which opens a horizontal pane above the Filename box. In Windows XP, choose Properties from the Views menu and a similar pane appears on the right side of the dialog box.
  • To preview the contents of files without opening them, click Organize, Layout, Preview Pane, which displays a thumbnail version of the document in the right half of the dialog box as you move from file to file in the list. To enable this feature in Windows XP, choose Preview from the Views menu.
  • In the unlikely event you have access to a SharePoint server (most people don't), you can enter its URL (including the http:// prefix) address directly in the Open dialog box to display the contents of the Shared Documents folder. In Windows XP, this switches to a special view (called WebView on the Views menu).
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