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Ask How-To Geek: Learning the Office Ribbon, Booting to USB with an Old BIOS, and Snapping Windows

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You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. Today we highlight how to master the new Office interface, USB boot a computer with outdated BIOS, and snap windows to preset locations.

Learning the New Office Ribbon

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Dear How-To Geek,

I feel silly asking this (in light of how long the new Office interface has been out) but my company finally got around to upgrading from Windows XP and Office 2000 so the new interface it totally new to me. Can you recommend any resources for quickly learning the Office ribbon and the new changes? I feel completely lost after two decades of the old Office interface. Help!

Sincerely,

Where the Hell is Everything?

Dear Where the Hell,

We think most people were with you at some point in the last few years. “Where the hell is…” could possibly be the slogan for the new ribbon interface. You could browse through some of the dry tutorials online or even get a weighty book on the topic but the best way to learn something new is to get hands on. Ribbon Hero turns learning the new Office features and ribbon layout into a game. It’s no vigorous round of Team Fortress mind you, but it’s significantly more fun than reading a training document. Check out how to install and configure Ribbon Hero here. You’ll be teaching your coworkers new tricks in no time.

Boot via USB with an Old BIOS

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Dear How-To Geek,

I’m trying to repurpose some old computers by updating them with lightweight Linux distros but the BIOS on most of the machines is ancient and creaky. How ancient? It doesn’t even support booting from a USB device! I have a large flash drive that I’ve turned into a master installation tool for jobs like this but I can’t use it. The computers in question have USB ports; they just aren’t recognized during the boot process. What can I do?

USB Bootin’ in Boise

Dear USB Bootin’,

It’s great you’re working to breathe life into old hardware! You’ve run into one of the limitations of older BIOSes, USB was around but nobody was thinking about booting off of it. Fortunately if you have a computer old enough to have that kind of BIOS it’s likely to also has a floppy drive or a CDROM drive. While you could make a bootable CDROM for your application we understand that you want to keep using the master USB installer you’ve made. In light of that we recommend PLoP Boot Manager. Think of it like a boot manager for your boot manager. Using it you can create a bootable floppy or CDROM that will enable USB booting of your master USB drive. Make a CD and a floppy version and you’ll have everything in your toolkit you need for future computer refurbishing projects. Read up on creating bootable media with PLoP Boot Manager here.

Snapping Windows to Preset Coordinates

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Dear How-To Geek,

Once upon a time I had a company laptop that came with a little utility that snapped windows to preset areas of the screen. This was long before the snap-to-side features in Windows 7. You could essentially configure your screen into a grid pattern of your choosing and then windows would neatly snap into those grids. I have no idea what it was called or if was anymore than a gimmick from the computer manufacturer, but I’d really like to have it on my new computer!

Bend and Snap in San Francisco,

Dear Bend and Snap,

If we had to guess, we’d guess your company must have had a set of laptops from Acer as the program you’re describing sounds exactly like Acer GridVista. Fortunately for you the application was extremely popular and Acer released it independently of their hardware. If, by chance, you’ve since upgraded to a multiple monitor setup the app even supports multiple monitors—many of the configurations are handy for arranging IM windows and other auxiliary communication tools. Check out our guide to installing and configuring Acer GridVista here for more information.


Have a question you want to put before the How-To Geek staff? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and then keep an eye out for a solution in the Ask How-To Geek column.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/17/11

Comments (3)

  1. TJ Fadness

    Yea, my new Acer powered computer came with that utility and my first thought was that I would use it a lot, but for some reason it’s taking away of my ability to easily move my windows around was a bit annoying. I disabled it.

  2. Surya

    Gridmove. That is the application. Not Gridvista. Gridmove is by donationcoder.

  3. Ron

    Learn the ribbon, Ribbon hero is not bad, there are lots more resources depending on version. Resources for 2007 apply for the most part to 2010 too.

    http://www.officelabs.com/projects/searchcommands/Pages/default.aspx – SEARCH Commands, Office 2007 addin. This is probably the best tool I’ve found for 2007. Unfortunately MS did not see fit to publicize it or update it for 2010

    http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/learn-where-menu-and-toolbar-commands-are-in-office-2010-HA101794130.aspx – this page as Silverlight applets that display 2003 menu, morph to 2010 ribbon showing you where to find the command. Page also has link to download spreadsheet mapping all 2003 commands to 2010

    http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/training/guides-to-the-ribbon-use-office-2003-menus-to-learn-the-office-2007-user-interface-HA010229584.aspx?CTT=3 this page as Flash applets that display 2003 menu, morph to 2007 ribbon showing you where to find the command. Page also has link to download spreadsheet mapping all 2003 commands to 2007

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