Why you probably shouldn’t use Word to create your policy documents

Flickr image "Holmes McDougall Employee Handbook" by Edinburgh City of PrintImagine you are an IT manager for an organisation that has been implementing new IT systems. You have now reached the point where you need to create and document the new IT policies and procedures. The organisation already has some general policies for IT in its staff handbook, but you need to provide more detailed information on how to use the organisation’s IT efficiently and securely.

For example, the staff handbook tells staff that customer information must be treated confidentially and only approved communication channels must used. The IT policy and procedures document will provide more detail  – that web email services (such as Yahoo Mail) must not be used to send customer information, because they often store a copy of the email even if you have deleted your sent message.

The best approach would be to have some sections in both the staff handbook and the IT policy document. In other words, the same content in different documents. Otherwise, staff would need to have two manuals open each time they wanted to check they were doing things correctly.

If you use Word, you’re likely to do this by coping the text from one Word document and pasting it into the other Word document. The problem with this approach is that when you make a change to the text, you need to remember to paste any amended sections into the other document. This make it very difficult to create customised variations of documents, such as cut down versions for managers or new staff, branch-specific versions etc. It becomes unmanageable.

One of the benefits of using some of the alternatives to Word is you can embed a piece of information into multiple documents. In a similar way to how you can use the same image in lots of different web pages, you can use the same chunk of text in lots of different documents. The advantage of this approach is that in the future you’ll only need to change the source, embedded chunk of text when it’s time to make a revision. That piece of text gets updated automatically (or semi-automatically) in all the documents that use it.

Displaying Help as a toolbar in Word

Here is an innovative way to provide users with access to documentation: a small (622KB) add-in that adds a “Get Started” tab to the Ribbon in Word 2007. The tab is a set of redirects to Word 2007 Help topics, demos, animated guides and support resources on Microsoft’s Office Online Web site. There are also “Getting Started” tabs for Excel 2007 & PowerPoint 2007.


Free tool for opening Word 2007 documents in Word 2003

Martin Lewis, the money saving expert, has just mentioned Microsoft offers a free tool for opening Word 2007 documents in Word 2003.

If your computer is using Microsoft Office 2003, XP or 2000 programs, download the Compatibility Pack from Microsoft.

You may need to install software updates before the compatibility pack. See the compatibility pack overview section for more information.