May/June 2019

Product Watch

Kutools: A Cool Suite That Makes Office Better

Daniel J. Siegel

How many times have you used Microsoft Word, Excel or Outlook and thought, “I wish the program could do that,” “that” meaning commonsense features that, for whatever reason, were not included in the products sold by Microsoft? Your wish has been granted, with a product called Kutools that adds in many of the features missing from the Microsoft Office Suite.

I discovered Kutools out of frustration. So many times I can recall my frustration at wishing that Word, Excel or PowerPoint could do something that seemed like an obvious need yet wasn’t included in the program. Almost every time I looked for a solution, the search results revealed programs called Kutools, available from the appropriately named ExtendOffice website.

Eventually I decided to try Kutools. Now my whole office uses the product. While Kutools doesn’t do everything we want, it adds so many features and options that it’s hard to believe the programmers at Microsoft either omitted them all or made the features so hard to find that you never end up using them.

How Kutools Helps

What do I mean? How about when you merged multiple lists into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet? Some were formatted with all capital letters, others were lowercase and some seemed to be formatted by gremlins? All you wanted to do was change the case to capitalize the first letter of each word. Word can do that, but Excel can’t.

Or have you ever wanted to encrypt a group of cells or a spreadsheet in Excel? Or does Excel’s limited ability to filter data frustrate you?

Further, consider the frustrations of Microsoft Word. Wouldn’t it be nice to rename a document or add a check box in one click? Or think about documents you have created from other programs that contain random breaks, indents and other annoyances in Word. Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to remove all the section breaks, or even all those breaks, with one click?

Another common complaint about all Microsoft Office documents is that each opens in a separate window, when having them open in tabs would be so much easier. While you’re at it, wouldn’t it be even better if you could also change the tab style so that it’s easier for you to see the tabs?

These are but a small sampling of all the added tools and features available from ExtendOffice and Kutools. Plus, when you purchase Kutools, it installs two tabs on the Excel and Word ribbons, one called Kutools, the other called Enterprise in Word or Kutools Plus in Excel.

The Kutools tab contains the program-specific features. As the ExtendOffice website explains, Kutools for Excel combines more than 300 advanced functions and tools into one incredibly handy add-in that will save you time and effort. Similarly, Kutools for Word is an equally powerful add-in that includes many time-consuming operations that Word users perform all the time.

And There's More

Kutools for Outlook is equally helpful. For example, many Outlook users do not have Exchange Server, so it’s difficult to create “out-of-the-office” messages. Not with Kutools for Outlook, which makes that easy. Kutools for Outlook can also create automatic carbon copies or blind carbon copies, can delete duplicate contacts and tasks, and has the ability to allow users to reply to or forward multiple emails at once.

If this isn’t enough to pique your interest, then consider the Kutools pane, which expands upon and displays Word AutoText, making it easier to create, categorize and use AutoText, Bookmarks and Captions. For Excel users, the Kutools Navigation pane is filled with handy features. The Workbook & Sheet section displays all open workbooks and spreadsheets, while the AutoText section allows for the easy creation of charts, clip art, formulas, pictures and ranges of data. Other sections facilitate view of the full range of names and columns and make using Find and Replace simple.

Because we use Word and Outlook more than Excel in our office, we regularly comment about how many features Kutools has for these programs. For example, we love the Convert List to Text feature, which converts a bulleted or numbered list (that can automatically change when you add a paragraph) to text, eliminating Word’s annoying propensity to renumber paragraphs that you want to remain numbered, such as sections of a brief or contract that have been finalized. This feature also makes it easier to add text below numbered headings without accidentally numbering other paragraphs.

The Enterprise or Kutools Plus tabs contain a wide range of additional features. In Word, for example, you can manage documents, convert one or more documents from .doc to .docx format, work with and address hyperlink issues or eliminate short last lines that often cause Word documents to print a final page with only one line of text. In Excel the Kutools Plus tab contains numerous additional Excel options, including ones that make filtering and analyzing spreadsheet data much simpler.

ExtendOffice offers five products: Kutools for Excel, Office Tab, Kutools for Outlook, Kutools for Word and Classic Menu for Office. Office Tab enables the use of tabs in Microsoft Office, enabling the programs to display documents and spreadsheets in the tab format used by web browsers. Importantly, you can disable this option from the Office Tab Center or selectively choose to open a previously tabbed document in its own window. Finally, for users who yearn for the days before the Ribbon Bar, Classic Menu restores the look and menus of Office 2003. The ExtendOffice website also contains helpful Tips and Tricks, as well as tutorials demonstrating many of the programs’ features.

Cost

The various Kutools products are licensed based upon the number of user licenses purchased, with substantial discounts for larger volume purchases. At the time of writing this column, single licenses of Kutools for Excel, Word or Outlook are $39 each, Office Tab is $29, Office Tab Enterprise is $39, Classic Menu for Office is $29.50, Classic Menu for Office Enterprise is $35, and Classic Menu for Office Home and Business is $25. There are also substantial discounts available for multiproduct licenses.

Until Microsoft’s designers include these much-needed features in their products, the Kutools Suite is an excellent, and relatively inexpensive, alternative that will save time—and time is money.

Daniel J. Siegel

Daniel J. Siegel is an attorney whose practice focuses on appellate law and providing ethical and professional guidance to other attorneys. He is also president of Integrated Technology Services, a consulting firm that assists law firms with improving their workflows. dan@danieljsiegel.com