MS Office has so many features and functions it is overwhelming. Yet, there are hundreds (thousands) of add-ons to expand MS Office programs. What add-ons are particularly useful for lawyers? We will review a number of legal specific products, and some others that are useful for lawyers.
Does Office already do that?
The first question you should ask yourself before you install an add-on to any Microsoft Office product is “can I do this with the software already”? In many cases the answer may be yes, though not easily or effectively. You will need to do a cost benefit analysis (time vs. money) to see if paying for an add-on will effectively enhance efficiency or productivity to the point that the add-on pays for itself.
For the most part installing a plugin for Microsoft Office is pretty easy. Generally you will close all open Office applications. Many of the MS Office plugins work with Office 2007, 2010 and 2013. They are usually, but not always, compatible with Office 2016. Check version compatibility before you download the add-in. Once done, download and run the add-on software. In some cases you may need to login to an account or add a license key, though you will be prompted by the install wizard to do so. After installation and enabling the add-on (if necessary) located the icon in the Ribbon and go through the set up to choose your preferences and to familiarize yourself with the software.
To uninstall an add-on, whether because you no longer find it useful, or it is causing problems, you will need to uninstall the software. Search for “uninstall” on Windows, and go through the uninstall process. Then in the Office application goes to File – Options, choose COM add-ins, and highlight the add-in and click “Remove”.
Occasionally (and especially in MS Outlook) you will restart your Office software only to find that the new add-on does not appear. If this is the case try going into File – Options – Add-ins. You will see a list of Active Application Add-ins and Inactive Application Add-ins. Below that list you will see “Manage:” and a drop down list. Start with “COM Add-ins” and click “Go”. Find your add-in on the list and check the box next to it and then “Ok”. On occasion you may need to look in “Word add-ins” from the drop down menu in addition to the “COM Add-ins”. Generally this works with most add-ins.
If you do not see the add-in in the list of COM add-ins go back and click on the drop down menu to see “Disabled” add-ins. View the list and select the software and click “enable” to get it working again.
There are a few companies whose business model is to deliver products that extend Microsoft Office functionality. Companies like PayneGroup, TechHit, SlipStick, CodeTwo and Microsoft are all trust worth sources for Microsoft Office add-ons. Companies that build their entire software as an add-on like Lexis for Office and Form Tool also keep up with Microsoft well. There are, however, free add-ons that sound good but can really mess up your software. Always check reviews for add-ons and do a little web sleuthing before you install a free product to integrate with your primary tools of the trade! Also, if you need to pay for it, get a trial version to make sure it works as promised and is worth the money.A Word about Mac
Many of the MS Office plugins are designed for a Windows installation. Even Mac users running Word will find that most plugins are not available unless run in a Windows environment. You may find Mac equivalents, or can emulate a function with a macro or shortcut. We have noted when there is a Mac version of a plugin available.
Many of the tried and true add-ins are working on their Office 365 compatibility, which will extend their functionality to mobile and browser based Office applications. If you are looking for Office 365 add-ons the best place to check is the Office Store (https://store.office.com/) where you can browse or search for integrations and add-ins for everything from analytics to project management. Many of “apps” are ways to hook in products you already use – like Evernote – or you can get add-ins like Consistency Checker that work with installed versions of Office and/or the browser version. The Office Store has good descriptions of these third party tools and also has customer reviews for some vetting (for instance, I’m not recommending Consistency Checker based on the reviews).
Excerpted from “Legal Super Powers: Supercharge Microsoft Office with Add-ins and Apps” by Bob Ambrogi and Catherine Sanders Reach