Easy-to-use Net tools might make us all page-building fools

Wouldn't it be great to just click on a button and make the word processing,
spreadsheet, database and presentation files you've spent so many hours perfecting all
Internet-ready for your agency's Web server?


In its quest to become a player in the Internet market, Microsoft Corp. has released a
set of free, downloadable tools to do that. They're so easy, even your boss can use them.
You'll look like an expert in the Hypertext Markup Language without any training--well,
maybe not expert, but at least you'll look competent in HTML.


These tools are called Internet Assistants for the Microsoft Office application
suite--Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Schedule+. Assistants for Word, Excel and
PowerPoint have been available for several months; Access and Schedule+ assistants became
available early this month.


The Word, Excel and PowerPoint assistants have been quite useful to me for a few months
now. Each installed easily and became an integrated part of the host application,
appearing as an extra menu item. I use my applications same as always. To make an HTML
document, I simply select from the conversion menu.


I've used the Word assistant the most, to convert a lot of existing and new documents
into Web pages. You compose in Word, complete with tables and formatting, then select
File, Save As and the HTML Document file type. This saves your file with the .htm
extension recognized by Internet browsers. An option to fire off your Internet browser
from within Word shows what the document will look like on the Web.


The Excel and PowerPoint Internet Assistants have done well, too, but with occasional
burps on complex spreadsheets or presentations with embedded graphics. Simple,
straightforward spreadsheets and presentations come out best, and I encounter these more
often in my government experience.


As we all start using intranets to deploy information within agencies, tools like these
become increasingly important in our daily business. They'll enable everyone in an
organization to publish documents, spreadsheets, databases, presentations and schedules on
the Internet or intranet.


The Access assistant is especially important--no more manual rekeying and coding of
HTML tables. It uses templates created with the Word Internet Assistant to provide rich,
customizable formatting.


The assistant for Schedule+ for Windows 95 lets anyone publish professional-looking
calendar information on a Web site, and anyone with a Web browser can view it--no special
viewer required.


Download these assistants from Microsoft's Web pages at http://www.microsoft.com,  but you may
have to search a bit to find all of them.


As of early April, the Word, Excel and PowerPoint assistants could be found off the
main page under the Internet Resource Center. The Access and Schedule+ assistants were
under Products/Microsoft Office on the individual product pages. All assistants probably
will show up at http://www.microsoft.com/msoffice/InternetTools/
by the time this column appears.


While you're surfing, look for Microsoft's ActiveX Animation Player for PowerPoint for
Windows 95, a no-charge Internet browser extension that enables Office users to publish
and view live PowerPoint presentations on Web pages. You can use PowerPoint's animation,
hyperlinks, special effects and built-in sound to build dynamic, animated Web pages
without having to learn any complex programming tools.


ActiveX Animation Player speeds downloading and viewing PowerPoint effects and
presentations over the Internet by compressing files before Web-site posting.


Charles S. Kelly is a computer systems analyst at the National Science Foundation.
You can e-mail him on the Internet at ckelly@cpcug.org.
This column expresses his personal views, not the official views of NSF.


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