Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook: these are what make Microsoft Office the most used suite of tools on the market. But even Office has its limitations. There are issues that you run into on a daily basis that take time – time that could be better spent on other things. While you may have amazing apps that increase your productivity in other areas of your life, you may not be aware that there are also some great add-in tools for Office. Some of them are even free. Here are eight of the best, ready for quick download and immediate use.
ShapeChef is a great tool recently published by Wulfsoft. It provides templates, diagrams, graphics, and a huge set of icons for PowerPoint, and the collection keeps growing. The ShapeChef site gives you an idea of all that it has to offer. There are packages from individual to large organization, and the licenses never expire.
ShapeChef adds a library pane to your PowerPoint window for quick access. The elements are organized into categories, or you can use the search feature to find what you want. Once you have found a suitable image or icon, drag and drop it from the library pane into your PowerPoint slide. It’s that easy.
There are other benefits too. You can add your own images to the library and, of course, share with others so that everyone benefits from your creations. This feature makes it easy to maintain consistency throughout your team or organization.
The best part? No more searching all over the web for an appropriate image and worrying about attributions.
If you are sick of trying to develop flowcharts with drawing tools and arrows that never quite end up in the right place, you can give up all of that hassle by using FlowBreeze. This incredible tool is an add-in for Excel that makes it easy to create flowcharts that look completely professional.
All you need to do is enter the text and the tool automatically generates the shapes for each step. Each shape and piece of text is formatted and the symbols are perfectly aligned with connecting arrows put in place automatically. Even better, there is a “text-to-flowchart” wizard that will convert an existing Word file into a chart. With FlowBreeze you can:
- Start creating quickly using the easy-to-follow startup guide;
- Use 84 built-in formats to style your own symbols;
- Choose from 21 formats for connectors: straight, elbow, or curved;
- Insert pictures right onto the symbols;
- Export finished flowcharts in your choice of five picture formats; and
- Save charts as Excel files so that others can view and edit them.
After a 30-day free trial period, you can purchase either a single-user or site license. It’s a one-time payment.
3. ASAP Utilities
Definitely not a new kid on the block, ASAP Utilities is an Excel add-in that fills the gaps and helps with those things you can’t do with plain Excel. It has been around for 17 years and was just updated to its latest version (5.6) in December 2015. You really have to visit the ASAP Utilities site and view some of the videos that demonstrate all of its features. Then hop on over to the customer reviews page and see what the pros currently using it are saying.
There are over 300 features – too many to name here – but suffice it to say that you will save bundles of time using them. For example, have you ever wanted to transpose a column into multiple rows so that you could create a table? ASAP Utilities makes it so easy.
While the number of features may seem overwhelming, you can just pick and choose those you need as you need them. Follow the simple instructions, and ASAP Utilities will save you both time and stress.
4. Wikipedia Add-In
So, you are writing along, composing maybe an essay or a piece of content for your blog, and you need some basic information about an artist, a city, or a book. You could stop what you’re doing, go online and access Wikipedia to get that information, and then copy what you need, go back to your Word document, paste it in, and then rephrase to put it into your own words. Talk about a lot of interruption to your flow of work. And so unnecessary.
With the Wikipedia Add-in app, you can access Wikipedia information right from your Word file, saving time and hassle. When you type in your search term, the app automatically searches the Wikipedia database and provides the results in a task pane. You can then choose to view text, images, or both. Even better, you can select a quote and it will be automatically inserted into your Word document.
There are a few system requirements for this free app: Internet Explorer, plus Word or Excel 2013, Word or Excel online, or Word or Excel for iPad. That’s it.
- The Wikipedia add-in is available in over 20 languages.
- If you are looking for the quickest way of accessing reference material, there is no better tool than this.
- To get started, just access the site and click “Add.” Done and done.
5. Office Tabs
Working with multiple documents at one time is a bit of a hassle in Microsoft Office. You have to go back and forth between different windows to gather and insert information into Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
Office Tabs lets you open all the documents you need at once in a single window and view each document as a tabbed file. And it works with all editions of Microsoft Office from 2003 forward. There are three components to the tool: Tabs for Word, Tabs for Excel, and Tabs for PowerPoint, so you can pull up documents from any of those three sources to view together.
The tool allows you to work with all of the files and then close them all with one click (it’s still possible to close them individually, if needed). You can also save pending changes for all documents with a single click on “Save all.”
Just a few of the other features include:
- The ability to customize your tabs using any of the eleven styles provided;
- Whole file names (currently, if your file name is too long, it will be cut off; Office Tabs will display the full name);
- Small file size, so the performance of Office is not slowed down in any way; and
- Lots of shortcuts.
Access the site, take a look around and download either the free basic edition or the enterprise edition, which obviously offers additional features. With a permanent user license, you also get free updates and support for two years. You’ll find a tutorial on the site too.
6. Kutools for Outlook
This one offers a huge number of features to be used with Outlook designed to streamline your email-handling and save you so much time. Basically, Kutools for Microsoft Outlook provides features to simplify all the mundane tasks that you have to perform every day, such as:
- Creating automatic “out of office” replies;
- Creating automatic CC and BCC customizations for those forwards;
- Forwarding several emails at once; and
- Sorting through junk mail with better filters.
With a single click, you can also:
- Search for all emails from a sender, an email address, or a domain;
- Reply to or forward several emails all at once;
- Delete all emails from a sender or with a specific subject line;
- Delete duplicate emails, contact names or email addresses; and
- Block senders, subjects, or by body keywords.
A lifetime license will also give you free upgrades and support for two years. Multiple licenses come with discounted pricing.
If email takes up a large chunk of your work day, you need this tool.
7. E-Mail Follow-Up
This is another very simple add-in tool for Outlook. If email is an important part of your professional work, then you understand the frustration of sending an email, expecting a reply and then not getting one, or even forgetting that you sent that email and needed a reply. It’s an easy thing to forget when you’re busy. And failure to follow-up can affect productivity down the road, when you realize that you cannot move forward without that response.
E-Mail Follow-Up will make sure that you never forget about that needed reply. When you send your email, you can schedule a reminder to send a follow-up email. If you receive the reply, or even a phone call, before the calendar date you set, just delete the follow-up reminder from the calendar. It’s simple, streamlined, and will save you time checking and re-checking your sent emails to see when you sent messages and to whom those messages were sent.
This tool will add just two buttons to your Outlook message editor. For a single-user license ($24), you will get lifetime use, new versions, and support for one year. You can download a free trial version first to see if it works for you.
8. Onetastic for OneNote
Free is always good, and that is exactly what Onetastic for OneNote is. If you already have Microsoft’s digital note-taking app OneNote and love it, you will be thrilled with this add-in that gives you even more functions. Onetastic allows you to:
- Perform repeated tasks automatically,
- Download additional macros as needed,
- Set up calendar views for your OneNote pages,
- Crop or rotate printouts and images,
- Set up custom styles, just as Word does, and
- Set up menus and tables of contents.
Videos and tutorials are available on the website, along with an FAQ section.
We are all looking for ways to boost our productivity, especially at work, and we all use lots of different methods for getting more organized and less stressed. Now, however, there are tools that can streamline the work itself. That’s a big plus.