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Office File Management for Microsoft Office XP Experts

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Office XP works especially well in the typical well-connected office, making it easy to store and retrieve Office files in a wide variety of locations. You might keep some files on your local hard disk, others on a network file server, and still others on a Web server with Microsoft's SharePoint extensions installed. In an environment this complex, having a well-thought-out storage system is the only way to stay organized. In this article, learn such techniques as how to create new files, use and customize dialog boxes, set up automatic backup and recovery options, and troubleshoot in Microsoft Office XP.
This sample chapter is excerpted from Special Edition Using Microsoft Office XP.

Setting Up Office File Storage Locations

Office XP works especially well in the typical well-connected office, making it easy to store and retrieve Office files in a wide variety of locations. You might keep some files on your local hard disk, others on a network file server, and still others on a Web server with Microsoft's SharePoint extensions installed. In an environment this complex, having a well-thought-out storage system is the only way to stay organized.

Choosing a Default Local Storage Location

Three Office versions ago, Microsoft introduced the My Documents folder. The idea was simple: to create a default location for personal data files, making it easier for users to find and back up files they create. In practice, however, the first implementations of this idea were poorly thought out, and most expert Office users simply ignored the My Documents icon on the desktop—or quickly figured out how to delete it. Since its first appearance in 1995, the My Documents folder has evolved into a standard feature of Windows; if you deleted the My Documents folder supplied by Office, you might have been startled to see it reappear when you upgraded Windows. Beginning with Windows 98, in fact, and continuing with Windows ME, 2000, and XP, the My Documents folder has become an integral part of Windows, and that icon on the Windows desktop and in the My Computer window is much more useful.

Office XP makes extensive use of the My Documents folder. Advanced users might cringe at the name, but this system folder is the default starting point for common Open and Save As dialog boxes in Office applications. It's also hard-wired to one of the default icons on the Places Bar in those dialog boxes. If you're willing to reorganize the way you store data files to take advantage of this location, you can substantially increase the odds that you'll find files you're looking for when you need them. You can also change the default location that individual Office programs use for data files; it's slightly more difficult, but still possible, to redefine the location of the My Documents folder. (Oh, and if the name bugs you, just change it.)

The exact physical location of the My Documents folder varies, depending on which Windows version you have installed:

  • On a system running Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Me without user profiles, the My Documents folder appears in the root of the system drive, usually C:\My Documents.

  • On a system running Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Me with user profiles enabled, the My Documents folder appears in the user's local profile folder, typically C:\Windows\Profiles\<username>\My Documents. (Note that you can override this option by clearing a check box in the Users dialog box of the Control Panel.)

  • On a system running Windows NT 4.0 or earlier, the My Documents shortcut opens the Personal folder in the user's local profile, typically C:\Winnt\Profiles\<username>\Personal.

  • On a system running Windows 2000 and XP, the My Documents folder appears in the Documents and Settings folder, normally C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\My Documents.

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If you use Windows 98 or Windows Me, you can safely (and quickly) eliminate the My Documents icon from the desktop: Right-click the icon and choose Remove from Desktop. Because this icon is only a shortcut with a few special properties, eliminating it does not have any effect on files stored in the physical folder to which it points. To restore the My Documents icon to the desktop on a Windows 98 system, right-click any empty space on the desktop and choose New, My Documents Folder on Desktop. In Windows Me, open the Folder Options dialog box, click the View tab, and check the Show My Documents on the Desktop box.

In all 32-bit versions except Windows 95 and NT 4.0, the My Documents icon on the desktop and in Explorer windows is actually a shell extension—a virtual folder like the My Computer and Network Neighborhood icons, not an actual physical location. Opening this shortcut opens the folder that's registered as the current user's My Documents location. To change the folder that this icon points to, right-click the My Documents icon, choose Properties, and enter the folder name in the Target text box.

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Changing the default file location in FrontPage 2002 requires hacking the Registry. Navigate to the following key: HEKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\FrontPage and change the value DefaultSave to the full path of the folder you want to use.

Then, open the following key:

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HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Frontpage\Explorer\FrontPage Explorer\Settings and change the value for Default\WebName to the same folder name.

Finally, you can change the default working folder for any individual Office application (with the exception of FrontPage), although the exact procedure is slightly different, depending on the program you're working with. Follow these steps, for example, to adjust the default document folder in Word:

  1. Choose Tools, Options, and click the File Locations tab. The dialog box shown in Figure 3.1 lets you specify a wide range of system folders.

  2. In the File Types list, select the Documents option.

  3. Click the Modify button; then use the Modify Location dialog box to browse through drives and folders. Select the correct folder and click OK.

  4. Click OK to close the Options dialog box and save your change.

Figure 3.1 Use the Options dialog box to adjust the default working folder for any Office program.

Follow the same basic procedure for Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, with the following exceptions: In Excel and Access, click the General tab; in PowerPoint, click the Save tab. In the box labeled Default File Location, enter the full name and path of the folder that you want to specify as the new default. Unfortunately, only Word lets you browse through drives and folders to find the one you want; with all other Office programs, you must enter the full directory path manually.

The default file location setting for each application is independent. If you set Word's default Documents folder to a location on the network, for example, Excel and PowerPoint continue to open to the default My Documents folder.

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Curiously, several other settings in Word's File Locations dialog box apply across the board to all Office applications. If you change the location of the Templates or Workgroup Templates folder in Word, that change applies to Excel and PowerPoint as well. Specifying the Workgroup Templates folder here is an ideal way to make sure that individual users always have access to the most current corporate templates in the three main Office applications. Users can continue to save and open personal templates in their own folders, but any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint template in the Workgroup Templates folder will "automagically" appear in the New dialog box of all three applications.

Behind the scenes, Office creates and uses one additional standard location, creating a group of subfolders in the Application Data folder. On a default Windows 98/Me setup without user profiles, you'll find these files at C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft. With user profiles enabled, this location is typically C:\Windows\Profiles\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft or, in Windows 2000/XP, at C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft. Office keeps separate folders for each application, special-purpose folders for use by all Office programs, and a folder for Office itself. This location is where Office stores customization data, such as your Excel Personal macro workbook, any custom templates that you create in any program (stored in the Templates folder), custom dictionaries (in the Proof folder), and Word startup templates (in the \Word\STARTUP folder).

Opening and Saving Files Over a Network

Office XP lets you work with files over a network or on the Web in much the same way that you access files and folders on a standalone PC. If you are connected to a network, contact your network administrator to find locations on the network where you're permitted to read or write files. You should get a network share address for the location, using UNC syntax (\\Server_name\Share_Name\). Unless the network administrator has restricted your rights, you can create and manage your own subfolders in this location.

Although you can type UNC-style network addresses directly into File Open or File Save As dialog boxes, doing so is usually more trouble than it's worth. For easier access, browse to the My Network Places folder (in older Windows versions, this is the Network Neighborhood) and navigate to the correct server, share, and folder.

Aside from the additional navigation steps, there is no difference between using network shares and using local drives, assuming that you have proper authorization from your network administrator.

Storing Files on the Web or an Intranet

Storing files on the Web—whether to a Web server or to an FTP server—is almost as simple as working with files on a local network. As long as you're connected to the Web, you need only the URL for the location (for example, http://www.mydomain.com/someplace or ftp://microsoft.com/incoming) and approval from the site operator to read or write to the location. You can even copy the URL from your favorite Web browser's Address box and paste it into the File Name box.

To open or save a file to a Web server or an FTP site on the Internet or an intranet, display the New Document/Worksheet/Presentation task pane and click Add Network Place (at the bottom of the pane). Follow the steps in the Add Network Place Wizard to create a shortcut to the location (see Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2 The Add Network Place Wizard lets you set up Internet or intranet locations so that they work just like regular folders.

You can also reach the Add Network Place Wizard from the My Network Places or Network Neighborhood icons in any common dialog box.

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From a technical standpoint, there are almost no differences between publishing to an intranet Web server and publishing to one on the Internet. The format of the URL that you use likely will be different—intranet servers are typically identified with a one-word name (such as http://marketing) rather than a fully qualified domain name (such as http://www.example.com). You'll likely encounter different security issues, including password-protected logins and possibly disk quotas (which limit the amount of disk space that a user can fill with Web content) on both types of server.

Working with Shared Folders on a SharePoint Server

Some editions of Office XP include an add-on called SharePoint Team Services. This software is a stripped-down version of a more powerful package called SharePoint Portal Server. You can install the SharePoint Team Services add-in on any Windows 2000/XP machine that is also running Internet Information Services. With a SharePoint server available (usually on an intranet), co-workers can share and discuss files on a Web server, using an attractive Web-based front end.

Office XP integrates exceptionally well with SharePoint servers. Depending on how the SharePoint administrator has configured the network, you can access SharePoint document libraries directly from Office XP common dialog boxes. Any document stored on a SharePoint server is available for Web Discussions as well. Use the My Network Places folder from an Office Open or Save As dialog box to work directly with a SharePoint shared folder.

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