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7/96 How To: Applications

The App That Binds

Binder lets you treat all the elements of a
project as a single entity-even if you created
them in different apps.

By Jim Boyce

MANY OF YOUR projects probably require documents from more than one application-a spreadsheet here, a report there. In the end, all the documents form a cohesive, conceptual whole. It's a good thing your productivity suite does everything except curl your hair (and I bet it even does that once in a while). All the tools you need are right under your mouse pointer.

Now wouldn't it be great if you could get your applications to treat your documents like a homogenous data set instead of a bunch of unconnected files? Wouldn't it be nice to push one button to print all of a project's documents, even though you created each one with a different program? Of course it would, and it's easy. All you need is a binder.

Microsoft Office for Windows 95 introduced a new feature called Binder to help you organize and work with documents as a homogeneous group. In some ways, Binder is just a mechanism that knits together Office's OLE-compliant applications, providing a consistent interface for the different types of documents. But it's more than just a data container; it enables you to simplify working with multiple, related documents-even if those documents come from more than one application.

With Binder you can group multiple documents into a single binder file and bring those documents together under a single interface. You can create documents within a binder or add existing documents you created outside the binder. Once your documents are within a binder, you can edit, spell-check, print and route them as a group.

To create a binder, click on the Start a New Document button on the Office toolbar. Next, select Blank Binder from the General tab, or select a binder template from the Binders tab, and click OK. If you're not using the Office toolbar, click on Start/Programs/Microsoft Binder. If you use this method or choose Blank Binder from the General tab, Office displays an empty binder window. If you choose a binder template, Office opens a binder window containing a set of template documents.

Individual documents in a binder are called sections. The binder window consists of a binder contents pane on the left and a document pane on the right. The contents pane displays an icon for each section in the binder. The document pane shows the selected section's data. If you click on the icon for an Excel section, for instance, the document pane shows the spreadsheet's contents, just as you would see it if you were working with the document directly in Excel. To view and modify a section, click on its icon in the contents pane. Its contents will appear in the document pane, and the menu will change to reflect the parent application's menu. You can then edit the document just as you would if you were working directly with the parent application. To switch to a different section, just click on its icon in the contents pane.

You can add sections to a binder directly, and create the data in the binder. If you open a binder template, for instance, just select a section by clicking on its icon and start entering data in the template. To add a new section to the binder, just choose Section/Add. Office displays an Add Section dialog box listing all the data types Office supports, which can include document types from other OLE-compliant applications that register themselves with Office. Just select the type of section you want to add, and choose OK. Office inserts a new blank section of the type you selected.

Smooth the learning curve

You also can create a binder from existing files, which might be the best option. You're probably used to working with individual applications and documents, so working with a binder will be a new concept. You can continue to work with your applications directly and bring the documents into a binder when you're ready to finish the project. This way you won't have to contend with the lost productivity associated with learning something new. In addition, some application functions, such as Excel's AutoCalculate, aren't available when you work through a binder. So, you may need to work on a section outside of the binder to access all of a program's features.

To create a binder from existing documents, start a new blank binder and choose Section/Add From File. Office opens a standard file dialog box that lets you locate and select Office document files you've created using Word, Excel, PowerPoint or other supported applications. Select multiple documents by using the Ctrl key while clicking on the documents. Once you've made your selections, choose Add.

Whether you create sections in the binder or add them from existing files, you may occasionally need to edit the section outside of the binder, essentially placing the document in its parent application for editing. You can move the section from the binder to the parent application by selecting the section you wish to edit and choosing Section/View Outside. Office then opens the section's parent application window. When you're finished editing the section in its parent application, choose File/Close. Office will update the document in the binder. To save your binder and the data it contains, choose File/Save Binder.

The binder as reminder

So, you now have a selection of documents grouped together in a binder. What can you do besides edit them? Actually, you can do a lot. Grouping the documents into a single interface helps you track a project's documents. When updating a report, for instance, you'll remember you also need to update an associated cover letter, because both appear together in the binder. And because the sections are grouped as a single object, you can print the entire binder, rather than just individual sections (although you can work with and print individual sections as well). When you print, Office treats the sections in the binder much like pages, enabling you to print one section or all sections and control page numbering by section or by entire binder.

You can even e-mail a binder, allowing you to send an entire project to others as a single file without compressing the individual documents into an archive. You can also attach a routing slip to a binder and send it to a group of people on the network. Each person receives the binder as the previous person finishes with it. You can achieve the same results by placing the individual documents into an archive, but using a binder simplifies the process. And, because of the way they store their data, binders take up a little less disk space than their individual sections would otherwise occupy as separate document files. An Excel and a Word file that total 110KB as individual files, for instance, might require only 95KB as a binder.

Binders organize related but disconnected documents into a single document, offering an alternative to more traditional embedding techniques. For instance, instead of embedding your spreadsheet data in a report, you can still keep the source documents separate, but treat them as a whole for editing and printing. Binders offer the best of both worlds: individually created and edited documents with a common file source. And if nothing else, binders can greatly simplify tracking and printing related documents by bringing those documents under a common interface.

Contributing Editor Jim Boyce is the lead author of Special Edition: Using Windows 95 Communications (Que, 1996). Contact Jim in the "Applications" topic of WINDOWS Magazine's areas on America Online and CompuServe. To find his E-Mail ID Click Here

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