Wouldn't life be a lot easier if we only had to learn how to use one application and that was that? Like riding a bicycle for example - once you have mastered the technique then you can sit astride any of hundreds of models, from a racing bike to a BMX where, save for a few minor differences, the actual riding is pretty much the same. Not so in the big wide world of Microsoft Office applications.

While the applications that make up Office are interrelated and some aspects, such as keyboard shortcuts, will work across the board, the diversity of each application demands that skills particular to that application must be learned. For example, you may become quite adept at formatting cells in Excel, but this will not stand you in good stead for producing a slide show in PowerPoint.

To take this point further, and to demonstrate the individuality of each application, here is a selection of tips on cell formatting, word processing, email and a slide show respectively.

If you clear a cell by using the delete or backspace key then the formula or value will disappear but any other formatting or comments will still remain within the cell. If you really need to return the cell to its original format-free status then you should use the clear key and this will do exactly what it says on the tin and clear the contents of the cell completely.

One of the irritations of Word is that, when dating a letter I type the date, say 23rd June 2004, and as soon as I type the year and hit return to move on to the next part of the letter, Word automatically changes it to 23rd June 2004-06-23, adding the date to the year.

To put a stop to these shenanigans open the insert menu and select autocorrect, then autotext. Make sure that the box "Show Autocomplete Suggestions" is unchecked.

You come downstairs in the morning and see a letter on the hall carpet below the letterbox. It is addressed to you but you can't pick it up because it says on the envelope Do Not Bend (I'll wait until you have stopped groaning before continuing). The electronic equivalent of this scenario is when opening Outlook and being directed straight to your Inbox. It may be that you do not want to view your mails until later, but how do you go about changing your opening screen?

Simply go to tools/options/other, then click advanced options and find "startup in this folder". This will let you choose how you want Outlook to start.

You know how it is - you're right in the middle of your presentation and there's a fire drill. Before you leave the building you can pause the slide show by hitting the full stop key. Alternatively, you can hit the B key and the screen will turn black, or the W key to have a white screen. I do not know if hitting the O key will bring up an orange screen.

Microsoft Office is a considerable application to master. Fortunately though, learning the basics is not such a difficult task, which makes for a good start on the learning curve. And at least a basic grasp of various Office applications is, without doubt, an essential part of the prospective office worker's CV these days.

Making use of bite-sized tips such as those detailed above, and the many, many more besides, is a good way to familiarise yourself with the inner workings of Microsoft Office. So my advice would be to get on your bike and seek some Office training.