Pros: Quick Steps lives up to its name by providing easy visual instructions for Outlook 2007
Cons: By its nature, it isn't a comprehensive guide.
Built in obsolescence seems to be the computer industries favorite concept. New programs are designed so that they will not run on old computers. New computers with new operating systems are designed not to run old programs. New upgraded programs don't work the way the older programs worked.
Not only do this built in obsolescence drive the computer software hardware market, but it also creates a pretty good niche for HOW - TO computer books, many not so coincidentally by Microsoft Press.
Microsoft Outlook 2007 Quick Steps
This book is a visual how to guide book published by McGraw Hill (you have enough of my money Mr. Gates) that I used as an introduction to the latest version of Microsoft Outlook. Unlike Outlook Plain & Simple by Microsoft Press, this guide book contains a chapter on the new Business Contact Manager.
There are two types of software books out there, and I have purchased each. There are the giant thick "Bibles" that cover every nuance and aspect of a program that allow you to uncover every hidden secret and unlock all the potential of a program. I like these books AFTER I have mastered the basics. The second category of software book are the basic down n' dirty how to guides that let you jump in and figure out how to learn a new program without reading for a week. Outlook 2007 Quick Steps falls into this category. At the top of the book's cover it says 1, 2 3 and Easy, Illustrated How-To.
Layout - General
All the chapters are much heavier on illustrations than text. You can actually SEE what your Outlook screen should look like and how to access the various menu commands to do what you want to do. There is just enough text to guide you simply and quickly through all the main processes in Outlook. It is also a colorful book, using bright paragraph colors in each chapter. (I.E. Chapter 1 uses bright red, chapter 5 is aqua, chapter 9 green etc.).
I found the large Outlook screen illustrations to be very easy to follow, and it helped me to quickly and easily learn all the quirks of Outlook 2007. I call them quirks only because I was perfectly used to using Outlook 2000, and wasn't exactly a willing participant in upgrading. Vista doesn't like 9 year old programs regardless of whether they were perfectly functional. Nevertheless, Quick Steps got me to appreciate and understand the new program layout.
Layout - Chapters
QuickSteps is divided into ten easy chapters.
Chapter 1 - Stepping into Outlook. The basics on how to start the program, use the navigation tools and customize Outlook. There isn't much on that last one, because Outlook isn't as customizable as it used to be, but read my program reviews for that.
Chapter 2 - Receiving and Handling E-Mail. Ah, this chapter is handy and tells you how to route all those lose weight and make money by looking at naked women e-mails right where they belong: The JUNK Mail folder. Outlook 2007 does make the process a bit easier, so I can save and sort my important e-mails and ditch the rest.
Chapter 3 - Creating and Sending E-Mail. Okay, I thought I had this one down, but Outlook actually adds a lot more customization to make your e-mail look real purty and do handy things like electronic signatures and receipt requests.
Chapter 4 - Managing Contacts This chapter not only covers regular contacts but also how to use MS's new Business Contact Manager. Basically, I found out what I used to be able to do with the old Outlook program, I could now only do using the Business Contact Manager.
Chapter 5 -Scheduling and the Calendar Ah, if you create an appointment in your contact screen it automatically shows up on your calendar. You can also set up and color code your calendar to see just where you will be. I found this handy as sometimes I have looked quickly at my calender and scheduled someone for an office meeting, failing to notice that the meeting just prior was in Boston, two hours in traffic from my office. Since Outlook 2007 uses nice bright colors, I can quicky see I will be in Boston, and won't schedule an office appoinment directly afterwards.
Chapter 6 Using Tasks Outlook has upgraded how Tasks (your to do list) can be created, assigned and categorized. This book gives you a quick and easy overview. One day, I want it to read priority task - book catamaran, get more margarita mix, attend beach party. For now, it is full of work.
Chapter 7 Using a Journal and Making Notes. This was a handy chapter, because Outlook 2007 with the business manager makes it easy to track all your client notes and keep them in a journal. It is more streamlined than my old Outlook, and this book shows quickly and easily how to use the Journal feature to keep your client information organized.
Chapter 8 - Managing Files and Folders - This chapter was also quite useful for me, I never really used the folders feature before, but it can be handy for organizing e-mails for example that don't fit with a contact. I get various e-mails on topics of interest to me (no not the viagra ads or the sex sites!, stuff like Peet's coffee offers, or articles on Aspergers)
Chapter 9 Using Forms, Labels and Mail Merge Okay, I didn't read this chapter yet, I don't use mail merge that much. If I did though, a quick perusal here shows me that I could manage this.
Chapter 10 Using Outlook in Other Ways. I was expecting instructions on frisbee or coffee coasters, but this chapter details how Outlook can now be used for RSS feeds. Say for example you loved all the reviews by Shopaholic_man on Epinions. You could subscribe to an RSS feed from Epinions and use Outlook 2007 to download the feed. How cool is that?
Price / Value
Software books can range a lot in price. I was happy that this guide book was only $16.99, less than I paid for Brady Games guide to Grand Theft Auto IV. A more practical comparison is that the Microsoft Plain & Simple Guides are $21.99. Plain and simple, Bill puts more money in his pocket teaching you how to use the programs that he wrote and shipped without comprehensive user manuals. Both the Quick Steps and the Plain & Simple Guides use a very similar graphic see it style approach.
The book is 222 pages counting the index. It was authored by Marty Matthews, Carole Matthews and Bobbi Sandberg. It was published by McGraw Hill. The book was copyrighted in 2007. The book features colored tabs on the edge of the book to quickly flip to a particular chapter.
The bottom line with books of these type isn't whether I liked the characters or whether the story kept my interest. It is, Did this book help me to use the Program? The answer is YES. I was able to get up and running with the new features and layout of Outlook 2007 and actually start using it in a productive way. All steps of any activity I needed to do was clearly laid out. I wish some of my video game guidebooks were this clear. The only thing this book didn't tell me was how to OPEN the %#@* software box! I like to have the actual disc for a program so after using the trial version rather than simply pay online and download it, I purchased a hard copy at my local Staples. The plastic box it came in was a puzzle unto itself. This book makes no mention of how to deal with the packaging. Perhaps I should have purchased Outlook for Dummies for those instructions.
Will this book help you? I think it will. I consider myself to be a fairly savvy software user, I have been able to learn and use a variety of programs. However, I am not a computer programmer, so I lack any sort of experience in trying to alter the basic program. I just use them "as is" and customize them as allowed in the basic program interface.
Simply put, this book allowed me to jump into the new program, figure out what I needed to know, and get to work. It was also five dollars cheaper than the Microsoft Press book. I could go out to Subway for lunch after buying this book with my savings. I gave the book four stars.
Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager