Accessibility in Office XP

Applies to
Microsoft Office XP

Version after version, Microsoft Office improves the accessibility of its programs, making it easier for users to get their work done successfully.

What's new in Microsoft Office XP

Here's an overview of the accessibility and usability features that are new for Office XP.

Compatibility with Microsoft Assistive Technology Improved     Underlying support for assistive technology is improved in Office XP. If you use assistive technology, be sure to contact your assistive technology vendor to check the compatibility of Office XP with your specific assistive technology and to learn how to adjust your Office XP settings to optimize compatibility.

Task panes     Common tasks are now organized in panes that are displayed in place with your Office XP document, enabling you to view the document while you make changes, search, or paste items. Task panes are used with a variety of features in different programs; for example, in Microsoft Word 2002 you use the Styles and Formatting task pane to work with different formatting options, and in Microsoft PowerPoint® 2002 you use the Custom Animation task pane to add animation effects to slides.

More convenient access to Help     By using the new Ask a Question box on the menu bar of any Office XP program, you can ask Help whether or not you are running the Office Assistant.

Ability to display Rich Text Format messages in a draft font in Microsoft Outlook®     In previous versions of Outlook, Rich Text formatting didn't support high-contrast mode. For example, if a message thread included a reply colored with the default dark-blue text, the text would be nearly invisible on the black background. Now you can specify that Rich Text messages be read in a draft font, as if they were written in plain text. This eliminates conflicts with high-contrast schemes.

  1. In Outlook, click Options on the Tools menu, and then click the Mail Format tab.
  2. Click Fonts.
  3. Select the Automatically display Rich Text in draft font when using high contrast check box.

Smart tags     To save keystrokes, you may prefer to use the automatic correction features built into Office XP. New in-place buttons called smart tags enable you to immediately fine-tune automatic corrections without leaving your document, and with a minimum of keystrokes or mouse clicks.

Ability to reveal formatting attributes in Word 2002     The Reveal Formatting task pane in Word 2002 displays the formatting attributes of all the text in your document, enabling you to quickly and clearly review the formatting attributes. This is especially helpful if you're using a screen reader. For more information on revealing formatting, see Word 2002 Help.

Improved fidelity of pictures and drawings     Most Office XP programs use an improved graphics system (GDI+), so shapes have smoother outlines and adjustable levels of transparency with true blending. Digital pictures stay sharper and clearer when you resize them.

Ability to change the color of wavy underlines     In Word 2002, you can use the template to change the color of wavy underlines, such as those used to flag possible spelling and grammar errors, to one that is best visible to you. For more information, see Change the color of wavy underlines in Word.

Easier online collaboration     Office XP builds on the collaboration improvements made for Office 2000, enabling people to share documents, analyze data, and collaborate online. This helps many people who have disabilities because they can share information with colleagues in real time, without leaving their home or workplace. For more information about online collaboration, see the Help in your Office XP program.

Speech recognition     You can now use speech recognition to dictate text into any Office XP program. You can also use your voice to select menu and toolbar items, and, in the U.S. English version of Office XP, dialog box and task pane items. For more information about speech recognition, see the Help in your Office XP program.

 Note   Speech recognition in Office XP is not designed for completely hands-free operation; you'll get the best results if you use a combination of your voice and the mouse or keyboard.

Review of existing features

All of the improvements add to the capabilities that existed in previous versions of Office, such as the following:

High-contrast support and customizable color     Office programs support high-contrast color schemes, and you can also change the color of text.

Ability to size and zoom     You can zoom in to see parts of your document close-up, or zoom out to see more of the document. You can also change the size of text in any program and resize toolbar buttons and drop-down list boxes on toolbars.

Keyboard shortcuts     Nearly all features in Office programs are accessible through keyboard shortcuts, which are also customizable.

Personalized menus and toolbars     Office programs adapt to your work patterns by narrowing the number of menu and toolbar commands to those that you use most often. This results in a cleaner, customized user interface. You can also turn this feature off if you prefer.

Easier Web publishing     All of the programs in Office are designed to simplify the creation of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) documents and the publishing of information to Internet or intranet sites. Adding alternative (ALT) text descriptions for images (ALT = "text descriptions") is easy. In addition, ALT text is preserved when a document is "round-tripped" between the Web and Office programs.

Answer Wizard     Ask the Answer Wizard a question in everyday language (for example, "How do I print sideways?"), and it responds with a list of Help topics that match your question.

"Intelligent" hyperlinks     You can create a hyperlink automatically by entering the Internet address directly into a document.

More accessibility information

For information about accessibility features in individual Office XP programs, see the Help in that Office XP program. For general information about accessibility and Microsoft, see the Microsoft Accessibility Web site.