Complete Idiot's Guide to Running Your Small Office
with Microsoft Office
by: Howard Carson, send
by: QUE, go to the
The "Idiot's" guides
are QUE's answer to the "Dummies" series
by IDG Books. QUE is a division of Macmillan Computer
Publishing. The Idiot's and Dummies books have
been hugely popular, no doubt because of the simpler,
straightforward language used to introduce and
describe the subject matter. This entry in the
Idiot's series is a brand new title. It addresses
a need for some comprehensive guidance for SOHO
and small business owners who are just stepping
into serious decisions about computer hardware
and software. The book also provides advice about
managing a small enterprise with the latest, commonly
into four main parts, the book organizes decision
making about technology purchases and usage - everything
from modems and printers, to financial software,
office software and computer hardware - into bite-sized
The title indicates that the contents of the book only
relate to using Microsoft Office(R). But there's more here
than just Microsoft Office advice. Part 1 of the book deals
mainly with the general decision making process which occurs
when starting and managing a small business.
Part 2, Mastering Business Communication, is a wellspring
of good, thorough advice on everything from proper writing
techniques, faxing, creating reports, doing research, using
e-mail, and using the Internet. There are loads of useful
examples to get you moving in the right direction. Heed the
warnings about relying solely on the spelling and grammar
checking in Microsoft Office. Always proofread your work
(or better still, have someone else do it), before you use
Part 3 is a love-in with Microsoft Office. While it's true
that Microsoft Office is a terrifically versatile performer,
there are some things (such as desktop publishing) which
it doesn't do too well at all. In any event, the book is
supposed to be about Microsoft Office and Part 3 is a storehouse
of good advice.
Part 4 deals with time and project management using the
excellent tools supplied with Microsoft Office. As with all
those who've started and succeeded in SOHO or small business,
the author has absolutely no qualms about emphasizing the
need to use proven time and project management methods. You'll
find tried and true techniques as well as solid advice which
caters directly to those who have wrapped their office environments
around computers and software.
There are some pieces of advice offered which should be
observed with some caution. I disagree with these items,
but others (Laurie Ulrich included obviously) believe they're
OK. You be the judge: 1 - Advice about using a shredder on
financial and other confidential documents is interesting,
but it doesn't address the fact that less paper in a small
office is better. Why print sensitive stuff in the first
2 - The recommendation to have fax, voice mail, pager,
cell phone, e-mail, and regular phone all ready at hand doesn't
deal with the fact that most small business people cannot
handle the load of sorting through information coming from
too many lines of communication. You only have one mouth
to speak out of, and one pair of hands to type with. If you're
on your cell phone, how do you answer your office phone?
Use a fax machine for contract drafts, not regular communications.
Use a cell phone to stay in touch with your office or your
voice mail, not to conduct regular business. Cell phone rates
are still too expensive. Don't split long distance rates
over too many phone numbers; it dilutes your discounts. Give
people your office phone number, your fax number, and your
e-mail. If you are constantly on the road visiting clients,
use a pager rather than a cell phone and use your clients'
office phone to call your own office or the next customer.
If you have to call long distance, use a calling card which
is tied to your main number in order to take advantage of
discounts. Work smart. Work economically.
3 - The book suggests a 600 dpi laser printer for the production
of camera-ready and photocopy-ready printed output. But the
same thing can be achieved with 720dpi and higher color inkjet
and bubblejet printers. The output is better than a laser
and you get good color in the bargain.
4 - The book suggests that leasing your computer hardware
is a viable option. Every consumer watchdog in North America
and Europe says leasing is a poor deal. At tax time, you
can't deduct the depreciation of your hardware and you can't
deduct the original capitalized cost as an office expense.
5 - The book suggests there are a range of legitimate uses
for laptop computers. Stay away from laptops unless you travel
a lot. Laptops are as much as four times more costly to upgrade
than desktop computers, and they're a target for thieves.
Many IS/IT professionals refer to laptops as disposable computers,
which is a frightening way to refer to such initially expensive
6 - The book suggests renting software from public libraries
in order to 'test drive' the stuff. The book also suggests
the use of shareware products. If you're a bit of a software
novice don't do it - you don't yet really know what you're
supposed to be testing. Stick with the proven packages: Microsoft
Office, Corel WordPerfect Suite, Star Office, or the Microsoft
Works software bundled with your new computer. Stay away
from shareware and freeware until you're no longer a novice.
Cons: There's no critical comparison between Microsoft
Office and Corel WordPerfect Office. Many programmers will
take exception to Laurie Ulrich's definition for Shareware
in the glossary at the back of the book. Some of the other
glossary definitions are either incomplete, or complete non-sequiturs
(have at look at the definition of RAM for instance).
Pros: Part 4,
which deals with time and project management, is particularly
good. The book is well organized and easy
to read. Despite some criticisms, it's a good buy, a worthwhile
read, and a good guide to using Microsoft Office in your
SOHO or small business. If you're new to computers, software,
SOHO, or small business this book should go on your "must-read" list.
Check it out.
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