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Learn to Use the Office Ribbon by Thinking Like a Gamer

Do you still struggle with the ribbon interface in Office 2007 and 2010 Beta? Do you want to discover more formatting tools in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint? Do you want to have fun in the process? Well, Microsoft has answered your prayers with an experimental add-on for Office apps which treats learning how to get around the ribbon like a computer game.

Word Ribbon Hero awards you points for trying features in Word, and offers you a variety of "challenges" to learn new ways to use the program. There are similar "Hero" add-ins for other Office apps. That probably sounds a little goofy -- and let's be honest, it is -- but it actually works. Using the Ribbon Hero makes you smile, and it motivates you to keep learning new stuff in Office in the same way that you keep playing Peggle or Bejeweled just to see if you can get a better score the next time.

Ribbon Hero lives in the Home tab of the ribbon and displays your current score, which increases every time you do something that you've never done before. Change the color of text? 2 points. Clear the formatting on a block of text? Another 4 points. Just running up the points might be enough to get you to explore parts of the ribbon you've never tried before.

It gets even more interesting when you click the Hero button and try one of the challenges. These mini-games ask you to make specific changes to your document. If you do it, you get even more points.

Of course, you can also share your score on Facebook.

I honestly think this is an innovative way to master the Office ribbon, and Microsoft should get some kudos for trying something this clever. Give it a shot: it's free, it's educational, and it's fun.

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