Anyone who uses Microsoft Office will agree on two things: it's a powerful collection of applications, and it needs improvements.

Here are six programs that bring Office a lot closer to what it should be. The first three work across multiple Office applications, improving the much-loved and much-hated ribbon interface. The other three are application-specific, giving Outlook, Word, and Excel additional capabilities that Microsoft either didn't think of or didn't bother with.

User Interface Improvements

Office Tab
If you've ever had multiple Excel worksheets open at a time, you know the frustrations of switching among them and keeping track of which is which. The same goes for Word documents and PowerPoint presentations.'s Office Tab adds tabbed document management to those three applications, making the chore much easier. As with the tabbed web pages in your browser, you can easily switch between tabs, rearrange them, or right-click for a menu of options.

Extendoffice also sells separate tab programs for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but if you use any two of those applications, the full Office Tab program costs less.

Price: $25 (£16); 30-day free trial
Supports: Office 2003, 2007, and 2010 (does not yet support PowerPoint 2010)

Search Commands
Do you know, off-hand, which ribbon you need to change Word's AutoCorrect options? Or which Excel ribbon you need for sorting a worksheet? There's always a feature that you just know is around somewhere, but Help is a far too slow and painful way to find it.

This freebie from Microsoft Office Labs won't eliminate your need to ask such questions, but it will probably provide answers. Simply go to the Search Command and enter a keyword to bring up a row of appropriate icons. One is bound to be the item you want.

Search Commands works in the 2007 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Price: Free
Supports: Office 2007

Classic Menu for Office 2007
If you miss the old Microsoft Office user interface - the one with menus instead of ribbons - Classic Menu is a dream come true. Install it, and you're back to the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint you love.

And Addintools, the creator of this download, brings back the menu the right way: It augments the ribbon interface rather than replacing it. Classic Menu simply adds another ribbon - one with the old, familiar menus and, as a bonus, the old, familiar toolbars. It's there when you want it, but you can always click on another ribbon and use the more modern interface when the mood strikes you.

As the name implies, this program is for Office 2007. Addintools sells similar add-ons for the various Office 2010 packages.

Price: $30 (£19.25); 30-day free trial
Supports: Office 2007

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  1. Bring Office close to perfection
  2. Specific application improvements