Find all 'Free Downloads' on this blog

Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.

Search Commands

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Search Commands is an Office Labs experiment designed to quickly find the commands you need in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Just search with your own words and click on the command you need.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just type "mail merge" on the Office Ribbon and all mail merge options would appear? That’s exactly what the Search Commands Add-in does.

I’d never used this, so I installed it today in order to see how it worked. And I now have that ‘Where have you been my whole life?’ moment!

One of the things I’ve noticed is that in Windows these days, I almost never use the start menu to select a programme to run. Instead, I find it easier to click the Windows key, and start to type the name - and let the Search function find the programme for me. I find it is much more efficient for me, because I let Windows do all the searching, instead of having to look at a long list of installed applications.

What this does for Office is the same - Instead of having to search for the menu option on the Ribbon, or click across multiple Ribbon tabs, all I do is go straight to the Search Commands tab, and then start to type what I’m looking for. In the example below, I typed ‘Print’, and it gave me all the menu options related to print. And the bonus I discovered is that the numbers in black circle means I just press the number key I want, and it is the same as clicking the icon (eg to get Print Preview, I just type Print5). No more mouse-keyboard-mouse jumping!

The Search Commands tool bar

The add-in that helps you find commands, options, wizards and galleries in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It also includes Guided Help, which acts as a tour guide for specific tasks.

This is probably most useful for users who have used Office 2003 for years, and are switching over (ie your staff, rather than your students), although it can be useful for students who want to explore more advanced features for apps like Excel.

Where can I find out how to use it?

Having used it for the first time this morning, I don’t think there actually any need for additional help - just install it, and try it out. The only things you need to know are:

  • You find it in extra ‘Search Commands’ Ribbon tab in Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  • The numbers in the black circle are the shortcut keys to launch that command (so when you have your search results, pressing 1 launches Quick Print)

But, just in case you really want it (or want to watch a short video before deciding whether to download it), then there's a 1 minute Search Commands tutorial on the ClipTraining blog

Where do I get Search Commands from?

The free Search Commands download is on the Microsoft Downloads website