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Archive for November, 2011

Dimensions of Office

Posted by Reiko on November 18, 2011

Microsoft Office is a multidimensional suite of applications.

Word is one-dimensional. Its primary purpose is to manage the construction and display of a stream of words. It can include a table of contents, charts and pictures, etc, but those are only part of the display of the most important part: the words. Most documents, like books, go in order from start to end, although digital documents can have active hyperlinks to other parts of the work or even to online sites, like a string tied to various places.

Excel is two-dimensional. Its primary use is as flat spreadsheets that can construct diagrams and calculations. Each file can have multiple spreadsheets, but only one can be activated at once. Like a piece of origami, information can be linked to multiple places in the file or even to other files.

Powerpoint is two-dimensional in a different way. It organizes information as a linear set of screens, like a graphical form of Word. Then it displays the information over time when the presentation is run.

Access is three-dimensional. It can display data in two-dimensional tables, but it can also manage the input and output of data via forms and can combine data from multiple tables using queries to produce custom results. It can handle multiple users, but it usually does so sequentially. In that mode, it isn’t always stable, so it isn’t good for very large groups of people.

Outlook is four-dimensional. Email notwithstanding, its primary purpose is time management. It sends and receives messages over time through a server and manages meetings and events on calendars. Those messages are often for the purpose of tracking who needs to do what when. It also sends scheduled reminders and tracks tasks.

Sharepoint is also four-dimensional. It has most of the theoretical capabilities of Access, because it can simulate a web-based database. It acts as a server of information to any number of people, so its temporal dimension involves people adding or editing data over time. It can interface with any of the other pieces of Access to provide a unified place to organize information in any mode.

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