What is Microsoft Office?

One of the best ways to become a sought-after employee is to build strong computer skills. Effective use of Microsoft Office can help you make strong connections with co-workers and stand out as a support system for business leadership.

What is Microsoft Office?

Microsoft Office is a collection of software that makes communication within an office possible. Some of the programs under the Microsoft Office umbrella include:


With Word, you can communicate, format letters, create newsletters, and provide other structural support. Word can also mesh well with Excel to run mail merges. Once you learn to create templates and mail merges in Microsoft Word, you can generate mass documents to share information with clients.

As you work in Word, make sure you pay attention to shortcuts. Word will automate a lot of formatting if you let it. Need a numbered list? Create one in the control ribbon. It may be faster to type “1” and start your first point. Word will automatically generate a “2” and continue. Hitting enter can break the numerical formatting chain; using the Tab key can help you build an outline with multiple points within the numeric structure.

Find a printed page that contains a detailed outline and practice. How many ways can you create a numbered list? What if you want to avoid numbers? Can you find bullet points that will help you match the style and produce easy-to-read documents? Coming up with the proper formatting with as few keystrokes as possible is a terrific skill.


Excel is primarily a spreadsheet program, but even if you never need to generate a single equation, you can get a lot of use out of this program. In Excel, you can

  • Sort quickly and effectively
  • Pull portions of text from other cells
  • Remove duplicates from a mailing list
  • Create formulas like vlookup

Sorting is quite simple. If you’ve got a mailing list and want to ensure that old addresses have been pulled, you can sort it by name. Setting up your mailing list with an eye toward detailed sorting is a good idea. Instead of including First Name, Middle Initial, and Last Name in one field or cell, you may get more use out of your spreadsheet if you split this content using “text to column.”

You have many options to pull information from other cells. You can choose to split a cell on spaces or commas. This is the first step in separating the information for more effective manipulation if you have a very long list of consolidated addresses. You can also use the “LEFT” and “RIGHT” commands to remove several characters from an adjacent cell. For example, if you need to review five-character zip codes, you can pull them with this command.

When you’re practicing mailing lists or database manipulation, creating a new spreadsheet and keeping it in your personal work folder is a good idea. You can name it something simple, such as Mailing List Practice. Next, create multiple tabs in your practice spreadsheet to copy, extract, and play with the data until you’re confident.

If you need to learn to use the calculation features in Excel, finding an old checkbook or ledger is a good idea. You can learn to add, subtract, and insert lines with this. As you need more equations, you can practice those skills.

Excel offers many automatic features—practice building a calendar. Type in the number 1, then move right and type the number 2. If you highlight these two cells and pull them to the right, you’ll see 3, 4, 5, etc., fill in automatically. The same will happen on Monday and Tuesday.


PowerPoint is the flashiest feature of Office and allows you to create presentation projects. Presenters can use PowerPoints and print them into booklets. Each PowerPoint page can be uniquely laid out, though this can be overdone and start to look busy.

Your firm likely has a basic PowerPoint template that includes your logo. The primary template may also include bio information for presenters. Again, save yourself a copy of the document to practice on.

Learn to insert breaks that allow you to change the formatting. Play with the available fonts for quick recognition. Keep your work in visible mode so you can see the page breaks you’ve installed, the layout or text boxes at work in your document, and how the images are formatted.

Find a paper copy of a PowerPoint with a lot of variety and get in the habit of working to manipulate your practice document until making changes in the document is easy. When you’re invited to produce a PowerPoint, you don’t want to struggle to figure out how to change layout features or add a text box. You want the process to be seamless.


Access is another database software. It uses tables like Excel, but that’s where the similarities stop. Access is the ideal place to create a unique database. In your access table, you can make a primary key. This key is unique to the record and cannot be duplicated.

If part of your job is to help arrange bids and each bid has a unique code or number, tracking those bids in Access can reduce the risk that you’ll present a bid to your supervisor more than once. You can also track the materials needed for the bid and the supplier contact information on this database.

It’s important to note that Access doesn’t do calculations. You can import from Excel to Access and do the same in reverse but be very careful when designating your primary key.


Outlook is Microsoft Office’s calendar and email feature. The staff members you support may give you access to shared calendars. You can also add group events to these calendars. Take your time as you work through these calendars and do your best to avoid distractions when setting up such events; one poorly booked meeting can create a lot of commotion.

Set up your email folders with care as well. If you get regular notifications from the local Business Journal, create a folder for yourself and move new messages until you have time to review the latest information. The same folders can be used for local office supply store flyers.

Finally, the drag-and-drop feature for specific emails can be used to mark items on your calendar. If you need to print an agenda for a meeting and someone sends you a link to an agenda they’re working on, move it to your calendar and set the notification for a few hours before the event. That way, you can be sure you’ll print off the newest version of the agenda.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft Office has undergone some significant changes in recent years, and updates are continually offered. If you know the basics but are concerned about using the latest tips, it’s a good idea to take a Computer Operations program at Gwinnett College.

Computer Operations Program

The Computer Operations training program provides college students job-related training in various computer fields.  Gwinnett College students will complete computer training courses on the various Microsoft Office applications relating to word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation creation.  The Computer Operations diploma program also includes administrative office procedures and accounting training.

Contact us today to learn more about our Computer Operations program at Gwinnett Institute.