Here in the UK, TV viewers love their soaps. Whether on the street, in the square or down on the farm, the latest gossip and scandals keep the nation glued to their sets. Yet while some soaps are applauded for running storylines that deal with real life situations, there are sometimes lapses in credibility, as demonstrated in the imaginary scenario below.

The dust has settled since Angie's illicit affair with Bob the builder (no, not that one; this Bob has a beard) became common knowledge on the street. It looks like she is getting her life back on track and she is going upstairs to bed at the end of the episode when the doorbell rings. She sighs and trudges back down the stairs then gasps in astonishment as she opens the door to her long lost brother, Stan, who is fresh out of Parkhurst, with nowhere to live and a plan of revenge in his heart. The odd thing is that Angie has been in the soap for almost a decade and yet not once did she mention the existence of this brother.

So it is with Microsoft Office. We are all familiar with the central characters, the 'Mitchells' if you like, of Word, Excel and Outlook, but this is not the full extent of the Office family; there are more members out there. Access, PowerPoint and Publisher are pretty well known members of the family, but what about Communicator, Groove, InfoPath, One Note, and Visio? These are the long lost relatives that we know comparatively little about, so let's look at them in a little detail before they become regular characters in the ongoing Office story.

Office Communicator
The successor to Windows Messenger, Communicator has a number of useful features, including instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video, desktop sharing and greater audio-video conferencing capability.

Office Groove
This collaboration software program allows teams to work together. You can create a Groove workspace on your computer and invite others to it

Office InfoPath
This is a versatile application for the design and publishing of form templates, such as expenses, timesheets etc. InfoPath can create across a wide scale, from basic forms for use within the office, to hugely complex ones that work with databases or Web services.

Office OneNote
This note-taking and management program is a godsend for the disorganised; a digital notebook that allows the user to organise text, pictures, audio and video recordings etc in one convenient place.

Office Project
Project is powerful software that assists in all areas of the tracking and management of projects, including work, schedules and finances. It is possible to integrate Office Project 2007 tools with other Microsoft applications.

Office Visio
This is flexible software for creating and sharing diagrams, Visio works very well in conjunction with other Office applications. You can create professional looking drawings and diagrams effortlessly by dragging pre-drawn shapes (Microsoft Visio SmartShape) onto the page.

So that's a brief who's who of Office family members, and quite a diverse bunch they are too. As time goes on some of the applications that are not so well known right now, will creep into everyday use and be as commonly used as those old stalwarts Word, Excel and Outlook. In preparation for that day it would perhaps be best to learn how to use them now, before any new ones turn up on the doorstep.