One of the many bonus features of Microsoft Office is that it has become easier to connect and collaborate with work colleagues in different locations or time zones. The range of communication options, including instant messaging (IM), voice, desktop sharing and video is set to increase in line with advances in technology. Integration with programs across the Microsoft Office system - including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Groove and SharePoint - ensures that it is now also easier to use these programs directly from any application.

And all of these capabilities are available from any location via a simple Internet connection. With security-enhanced VoIP, IM, and desktop sharing, you can be accessible whether you are in your office or travelling, helping you to communicate effectively. From placing a call using Outlook and scheduling meetings all in one easy step, Office integrates with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, making collaboration easier.

Office Communicator 2007 R2 is integrated into Office 2010, working seamlessly with the familiar Office applications you use every day. When you access the Office Communicator facilities, you'll be able to see the availability status of other people and ways to contact them, such as email and instant messaging. SharePoint is even more intimately tied to Office, and lets people collaborate on Office documents. If the person shows an available status, you can easily initiate a conversation directly through instant messaging, a voice call, or video without leaving the Office application you're using. Office allows you to quickly find and connect with colleagues without ever needing to leave your favourite Office programs.

However, with the advance of real time communications, it is easy to try to keep up with the speed of connection and forget how and what we are trying to communicate. Now is a good time to brush up on your email etiquette, for example: especially if you are going to access your Outlook 'buddy' list at moment's notice.

There are many different writing styles depending on the medium you are using. Effective business writing is critical not only to deliver clear and concise information, but also as a means of influence and making things happen. To help improve your professional credibility, it's a good idea to review how you use email as a means of communicating. Email is fast becoming the preferred method of communicating, both internally and externally as email is more flexible than traditional business letters or memos and can be formal or informal in tone.

However, it is important to treat email as a proper writing mechanism and to maintain a professional tone when writing emails. Email is useful in that it is quick, convenient and can carry supplementary information (as document attachments), and is often the preferred method of communicating both internally and externally. However, the same rules of good writing apply, especially when writing external emails.

Email writing should be given the same level of attention as any other formal communication. Email has certain advantages over other forms of written communication as it is extremely fast; it's also cheaper than most other methods of communicating; and it can be used for wide distribution communications. For example, you can send the same email to a large number of people. Email can be used to send documents as attachments; and can be sent at any time

When writing an email, always use the subject line to inform recipients of the main reason for the email, as this will help them identify important or interesting emails more quickly. As a sender, you will benefit from a clear message heading, as it will be easier to locate the message in your Sent items folder.

It's always a good idea to think carefully before writing anything. Do you really need to write an email, or would a telephone call be better? If you definitely have to write something, you may not always need a written plan but you do need to think about your writing before you begin.

Now think about the purpose of your email. Be clear about the purpose of your writing and what you hope it will achieve. You may be writing an email to colleagues inviting them to an important meeting - the purpose will affect your writing in terms of the content (the ideas and information you wish to present); and style or language (how formal or informal you are).

Knowing your audience will help you decide what and how you write. For example, are you reporting to your boss; sharing information with your colleagues; inviting a potential client to an informal event; or reporting on a high-level meeting? Your readers' position in the organisation, the use they may have for the information, and the type of information you have to present will all determine your choice of writing format, style and language.

What reaction are you hoping for from your reader? For your writing to be effective, you need to be aware of all the possible reactions and responses to what you write. You might want to write in a routine style, or a more persuasive tone.

Keep emails short and simple, and arrange your message as clearly as possible, making sure the main points stand out. If you are sending a lot of information, send it as an attachment. Keep the size of attachments to a minimum and do not send them unnecessarily.

Beware of sending personal or sensitive information and think about whether email is really the most appropriate medium for conveying your message.

Good housekeeping is vital to effective and efficient communicating. Respond to, or acknowledge, emails as soon as you receive them to save having to re-read them.

Microsoft Office has a host of tools for file sorting and storing. Contact lists, for example enable sorting and retrieving address information easily. Use the in-built features to ensure that you don't forget to read or act on your emails.

Remember to be careful of suspicious messages as they may contain viruses. Take a few moments to check the sender and message heading. If it looks strange or unusual, do not open it - send it to your IT department instead. If you have opened the message and are worried about any attachments it may have, do not open these. Delete the message immediately, as this is the main way computer viruses are spread.