November 2002 > Work Smarter With Smart Tags

This Office XP feature acts as your very own personal robot.

Work Smarter With


Key to Instructions
To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we use two different typefaces.
Boldface type identifies the names of icons, agendas, URLs and application commands.
Sans serif type indicates instructions and commands that users should type and file names.

icture this: You type a name into a document and a tiny icon instantly appears next to it. When you pass your cursor over the icon, a menu unfolds that offers you options such as: Insert the person’s address and phone number, send him or her an e-mail or schedule a meeting. The icon even gives you the opportunity to tell the software never to interrupt you with these suggestions again.

If you’ve upgraded to Microsoft’s latest office suite, XP, chances are you’ve seen the icons, called Smart Tags, popping up uninvited in your documents and spreadsheets. The goal of this article is to introduce you to the new technology and show you how, if you wish to use them, they can improve your productivity. Or, if you object to such high-tech intrusion, we’ll show you how to get rid of them.

Smart Tags are all about providing quick access to information. They recognize text, numbers, actions and objects that frequently could be enhanced with more facts. When triggered, they act like personal robots that will cruise far and wide to seek data in your computer or, if you’re connected, on your network or the Internet.

Say you’re in Word and you type Jennifer M. Mueller. XP instantly recognizes the words as someone’s name and triggers a Smart Tag—the letter “i” inside a small square—into action. It looks like exhibit 1, at right, on the screen.
Exhibit 1

If you decide the targeted words don’t need further attention—such as adding an address or sending that person an e-mail—you simply ignore the tag, type on and it will disappear. But if you hover over the icon, a down arrow will appear and if you click on it, the menu in exhibit 2, below, will unfold.

You don’t have to do anything to launch the Smart Tag function. It’s automatically turned on when you install Office XP. Smart Tags are not limited to Word; they operate in Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and FrontPage.

Paste. This function is evoked in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and FrontPage. In those applications a Smart Tag will appear when you paste text or other objects. It will offer various formatting choices, depending on the application, such as keeping the style of the source from which the information was copied or matching it to that of the destination.

Exhibit 2

AutoCorrect. It’s been available in earlier versions of Office applications—Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. A Smart Tag appears when AutoCorrect makes an automatic fix, offering to undo it and even change the AutoCorrect settings on the fly, so to speak. Before Smart Tags, a user who was unhappy about an AutoCorrect change had to go into the setup menu to alter the default.

AutoFit in PowerPoint. Smart Tags appear when a user enters text into a placeholder on a slide and offers formatting options such as fitting the text to the size of the placeholder or splitting the text between two slides.

AutoFill in Excel. It’s triggered when you click and drag data from one cell to others. The Smart Tags menu offers to copy the contents, fill in the series, fill in the format only, or fill in the series without formatting.

Error Checking in Excel. It appears when a cell contains a formula error or invalid reference and offers help on the type of error in the cell and error-checking and debugging options.

Office XP contains quite a few more Smart Tag functions, but they’re “asleep” and need to be awakened in order to work. Smart Tags for recognizing names, addresses, dates, times and stock symbols can be awakened by checking the boxes for the particular tags in the AutoCorrect dialog box (more on this later). For example, if Jennifer M. Mueller’s e-mail and postal addresses were in your Outlook Contacts file and you clicked on Insert Address in her Smart Tag menu, the text in exhibit 3, at right, would appear.
Exhibit 3

Clicking on Send Mail produces the fully addressed e-mail form in Outlook shown in exhibit 4, below.

Exhibit 4

If you want to mark a calendar date, click on Schedule a Meeting and you produce Outlook’s partially filled-in appointment-creation screen as shown in exhibit 5, below.

Exhibit 5

Within Excel, the Smart Tag technology recognizes stock ticker symbols and, at your command, retrieves a stock quote, a company report, recent company news via the Internet from MSN Money Central or even a refreshable stock price (see exhibit 6, below). Thus, CPAs doing financial planning can prepare spreadsheets that track both trading and news activity. Likewise, auditors could develop spreadsheets that list their public audit clients and easily retrieve daily company news.

Exhibit 6

A caveat to using the stock symbol Smart Tag: It’s limited in the information it can retrieve, and the various functions are rather clumsy and take several steps. For a more efficient way to perform these functions, see “ The Limits of Smart Tags ,” below.

The Limits of Smart Tags

Sometimes Smart Tags aren’t all that smart.

For the time being at least, Smart Tags can recognize only some stock symbols. They can’t recognize most symbols of mutual funds. Also, the information returned about a stock is limited both in what can be retrieved and how it is displayed. Fortunately, there’s a work around: You can download a free add-in function for Excel as an alternative, accomplishing the task of inserting refreshable stock-related information into a spreadsheet. Both the function and the data are available from MSN MoneyCentral at .

The function is defined as follows:
For example, if the ticker symbol for the Fidelity Capital and Income mutual fund is typed into cell A1 as FAGIX, and you wish to return the last price to the neighboring cell, B1, the function would be entered into B1 as =MSNStockQuote(A1, “Last Price”, “US”).

When you download and install the add-in function, an optional toolbar becomes available in Excel with buttons for entering it into a cell through a wizard. The spreadsheet in the screenshot below illustrates the toolbar and the function that is entered into D3.

The add-in function can retrieve 25 types of refreshable information—including last price, day’s high, size of last sale, earnings per share and price-earnings (P/E) ratio.

So far we’ve illustrated how to work with the built-in, default versions of Smart Tags. More specialized and powerful ones are available but may require a subscription fee. Various companies have partnered with Microsoft to create Smart Tags for a variety of information needs. Although some Smart Tags are very specific to certain industries, several can help CPAs in public and industry accounting. All are available for download from the Internet. Here are some of the more popular ones:

BridgeInSight. When you type an InSight vehicle symbol (for example, us; IBM) into Word or Excel, Smart Tags provide continually refreshed stock price data on the company that vehicle symbol represents: stock history, analytical charts and Bridge Financial News headlines. BridgeInSight provides information from more than 200 exchanges in over 100 countries ( ).

WestCiteLink. By typing a law citation in a Word document, the Smart Tag can retrieve the full text, the history for a case or statute, and other cases and statutes. It can also provide a table of authorities and convert the citation to a Westlaw hyperlink ( ).

LexisNexis. Three types of Word Smart Tags work with LexisNexis. The Legal Case Name tag can search for a case name, news articles, law reviews and verdict information. The Person Name tag adds to Outlook Contacts results of searches for a legal biography, property records, judgments and liens, bankruptcy records or addresses. And the Address tag adds to Outlook Contacts results of searches for addresses of people, property records, judgments, liens and bankruptcy records ( ).

Euro Currency Converter. This Microsoft product tracks 12 European currencies and the euro. Its conversion function works in Word, Excel and Outlook. The Smart Tag menu then provides various conversion options ( ).

In addition, there also are downloadable City Name Smart Tags for general news and weather about a city provided by MSNBC ( ) and flight, hotel and other travel information from Expedia ( ).

Microsoft’s eServices Web site ( ) offers links to more than 20 downloadable Smart Tags, some of which are free.

Smart Tags also can link to your own company or client information. Microsoft provides a free Smart Tag software development kit complete with code samples in Visual Basic or Visual C++. However, if you aren’t proficient in those programs or would prefer not to write code, Keylogix ( ) has developed software (ActiveDocs) that lets you customize Smart Tags through a wizard format. The process is analogous to developing a Web site using FrontPage rather than manually coding the HTML. The wizard takes you through a series of steps to define the location of the data, the data fields and the Smart Tag menus.

Distracted by Smart Tags popping up in documents? With a few exceptions, most Smart Tags can be disabled in the AutoCorrect dialog box. To get there, go to Tools and AutoCorrect Options . Select the Smart Tags tab to see a listing that includes those you have downloaded or developed. Clear the check boxes of any Smart Tags you wish to disable (see exhibit 7, below).

Exhibit 7

If you decide to keep Smart Tags, several other settings may help suit your preferences. One formats how the recognized information is visually tagged. In Excel, you may choose either to have the action icon appear whenever you point to the recognized cell, or in addition to the icon, you may want to flag the cell with color to identify it easily. In Word, recognized text will be marked with a faint dotted underline that remains visible at all times. You may decide to have the action icon appear when you point to recognized text. For details on how to evoke those defaults, see “ Smart Tags Available in Office XP ,”at the end of this article.

In both Word and Excel, you can choose whether to save or embed the Smart Tags in the document or workbook. If you choose not to embed them, Smart Tags will not tag previously recognized information when the file is reopened. You may adjust this setting by clicking on the Save Options button beneath the Smart Tags tab within the AutoCorrect dialog box.

Finally, at any time, you may remove all Smart Tags from the document or workbook or choose to recheck the document or workbook for any recognized information. That may be useful before sending the document to someone else or when checking one you did not create.

If you have not already upgraded to Office XP, the new Smart Tag technology may persuade you to take the step. If, however, you’re already on the XP track, check out Smart Tags; they are well worth a test-drive. You may find the tags put valuable information right where you need it—in a specific document or spreadsheet.

JENNIFER M. MUELLER, PhD, is an assistant professor at Auburn University’s School of Accountancy in Alabama. Her e-mail address is .

Smart Tags Available in Office XP
Smart Tag Recognizes Actions To disable
Address In Word:

Any address

Add to contacts
Display a map
Display driving directions
Remove Smart Tag
Evoke Smart Tag Options
In Word:

Select Tools menu
Select AutoCorrect Options
Click on Smart Tags tab
Clear Addresses check box

AutoCorrect options In Word and PowerPoint:

Any fix made by AutoCorrect

Undo the change
Create an exception
Change AutoCorrect Options
In Word and PowerPoint:

Select Tools menu
Select AutoCorrect Options
Click on AutoCorrect tab
Clear Show AutoCorrect Options buttons check box

AutoFill options In Excel:

Click and drag from one cell to another

Copy cells
Fill in cells
Fill in formatting only
Fill in without formatting
In Excel:

Select Tools menu
Select Options
Click on Edit tab
Clear Show Paste Options buttons check box

AutoFit options In PowerPoint:

Text typed into a placeholder
Text pasted into a placeholder

AutoFit text to placeholder
Stop fitting text to placeholder
Split text between two slides
Continue on a new slide
Change to two-column layout
Control AutoCorrect options
In PowerPoint:

Select Tools menu
Select AutoCorrect Options
Click on AutoCorrect As You
Clear AutoFit check boxes

Date In Word:

Any date

Schedule a meeting
Show my calendar
Remove Smart Tag
Evoke Smart Tag Options
In Word:

Select Tools menu
Select AutoCorrect Options
Click on Smart Tags tab
Clear Dates check box

Error checking In Excel:

Invalid cell formula

Help on this error
Show calculation steps
Ignore error
Edit in formula bar
Error checking Options
Show formula auditing toolbar
In Excel:

Select Tools menu
Click on Error Checking tab
Clear Enable background error checking check box

Paste options In Word, FrontPage, PowerPoint and Excel:

Pasted text
Pasted objects

Available actions depend on what is pasted, application pasting from, and application pasting to

When pasting text into Word,

Keep source formatting
Match destination formatting
Keep text only
Apply style or formatting

In Word, FrontPage, PowerPoint and Excel:

Select Tools menu
Select Options
Click on Edit tab
Clear Show Paste Options buttons check box

Person In Word:

Any person's name

Send mail
Schedule a meeting
Open a contact
Add a new contact
Insert an address
Remove Smart Tag
Evoke Smart Tag Options
In Word:

Select Tools menu
Select AutoCorrect Options
Click on Smart Tags tab
Clear Person Names check box

Stock ticker symbol In Excel:

Stock ticker symbol

Insert refreshable stock price
Stock quote on MSN Money
Company report on MSN Money
Recent news on MSN Money
Remove Smart Tag
Evoke Smart Tags Options
In Word:

Select Tools menu
Select AutoCorrect Options
Click on Smart Tags tab
Clear Smart Tag Lists check box

Telephone numbers In Word:

Any telephone number

Add to contacts
Remove Smart Tag
Evoke Smart Tag Options
In Word:

Select Tools menu
Select AutoCorrect Options
Click on Smart Tags tab
Clear Telephone Numbers
check box

Note: Smart Tags that are available in Word work in Outlook if Word is the e-mail editor.


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