Basically put, Office is a series of programmes designed to make a variety of everyday office tasks easier. Think about what kind of things an office worker might be doing. Instead of doing them manually, they now use a computer programme to complete them simply and efficiently. This could be anything from manually writing a letter to creating a manual data entry form to pass around the office. Office therefore streamlines a business by reducing the amount of time spent on each task. Let's breakdown Microsoft Office to explore the different ways it can be used.

An administrator may write and send many letters daily on behalf of their company. In the old days these would be handwritten or typed and then later word processed. This would have taken a long time to complete and have been labour intensive. Nowadays Office 2007 contains Word which allows a user to create various letters and other documents either from scratch or via templates. It will even allow you to create hundreds of letters automatically, drawing the information directly from a database containing customer addresses for the envelopes to accompany the letters. Hundreds of letters could be sent in a very short time and with minimal effort. There are plenty of ways to prevent user error such as simple spelling and grammar check functionality.

Other office workers collect and analyse lots of financial data such as analysts or those working in finance departments. In the old days people would use paper account books and an abacus! In these modern times we have Excel which is a spread sheet based program. Here you can store all the data, analyse it in many different ways and include charts and tables. Human error can be vastly reduced thanks to validation on fields to prevent people entering the wrong information. If you want to locate a particular record then you could easily search or filter the data. No calculation needs to be done more than once or manually since everything can be made automatic. Excel will automatically sum columns or rows for example and this formula can then be dragged across to other fields and columns so it does not need to be manually entered.

Most office workers will be familiar with meetings or presentations which contain elaborate slide shows to summarise the main points of the meeting. These will almost certainly be created with PowerPoint enabling the modern office to reject the white board and the oversized drawing pads of the 80s. This programme gives even the novice the ability to create professional presentations with a few simple steps.

It may be that a company has a huge list of clients and contacts with much related information such as company addresses and orders placed. This information used to be held in paper format with huge rolodexes and filing cabinets dedicated to the collection of information. With Access this data can be held on a simple programme and can be managed effectively with the use of built in reports and queries. No more tallying up columns in ledger books to find the total sales for a month! No more lost files causing havoc! An aesthetically pleasing, accurate report can be created at the touch of a button or even scheduled to automatically run overnight and email itself to the relevant parties.

When we think about how communications used to occur, one thing is particularly apparent. Compared to today they were slow! Letters sent manually would take days or even weeks to arrive. Telephone conversations would have to be meticulously recorded with pen and paper or lost to people's unreliable memories. Nowadays email dominates communication and Outlook is the Office programme allowing this. Emails can be created, sent and recorded instantly, allowing the user to search for previous emails easily. An email sent to the other side of the world will arrive instantaneously.

Remember designing posters and newsletters by hand and photocopying them manually? In the old days they would use a printing press and go through a series of manual steps to create a frankly limited design. With Publisher, the user can create, magazines, papers, invitations, newsletters etc. simply and easily and without the need for a large number of paper based drafts.

With this programme the user can create XML forms to enter data. The package allows the designer of the forms to view them and tweak them until they are perfect before putting them on the internet. These documents can then be used on the web. The final forms can look extremely sophisticated or simply depending on the requirements of the business.

Microsoft has attempted to create all their programs with a similar format so that they feel familiar, despite their different functions. Each programme is an attempt to look at a series of tasks performed by the average office worker and make it faster, simpler and better.