The Help Desk

Rothenberg and Shafer

The Help Desk

Rothenberg and Shafer

The Help Desk
New books dissected over email.
Dec. 2 1998 2:48 PM

Rothenberg and Shafer

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"Annihilating the Microsoft Office Assistant ... An Animated Character Who Makes Me Turn Japanese ... A Reprieve for Office Assistant"

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Dear Randall,

Setting aside for a moment the pursuit of truth and the sin of spin, let me assist you in annihilating the Microsoft Office Assistant.

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Like Satan, the Office Assistant comes in many guises: a dancing paper clip, a cute dog, an Office Logo, an Einstein-like professor, and in your case, a "computer with feet." The Japanese version of Windows includes a sexy if subservient bowing secretary as an Office Assistant option. I find her much more arousing than Lara Croft.

To disable Office Assistant's hectoring, right click on him, choose Options, and unclick the "Show Tips About" boxes. You'll never be asked again if you want help composing your letter.

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To obliterate all the Office Assistants on your system, go to \Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\Actors and move all the files with the "act" extension to a new directory. (If you don't find the "act" files in that subdirectory, search your hard drive with the Find command to locate all "*.act" files. Move them to a new directory for safe-keeping. I'm hoping that you haven't created some important data files with the "act" extension that should stay put where they are.)

On the long shot that it's not the Office Assistant feature that's bothering you but the particularly obnoxious Office Assistant fate has dealt you, let me offer this advice: Right click on him right now. Click "Choose Assistant" and click "Next" or "Back" to find a new one more to your liking to install. If you don't find the Office Assistant of your desire there, go to http://www.officeupdate.microsoft.com/index.htm#updates and scroll down to the Downloads section to harvest such lively Office Assistants as Kairu the Dolphin and others.

I've given the Office Assistant a stay of execution on my setup because he comes coupled with what my Microsoft masters call a "natural-language help system." After summoning help, "natural-language help" allows you to type in your question in plain English, and Office Assistant does its best to answer. The least intrusive of the Office Assistants, and the one that I've installed, is Office Logo Absolutely No Moving Parts (the last one on the left, above). You can install No Moving Parts by going through the "Choose Assistant" routine delineated above. If you don't find him there, download him from the Web address I provided.

I'll return later in the day to discuss Ewen, news, and spin.

Happy Computing,

Jack

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Randall Rothenberg is New York editor of
Wired magazineand the author of Where the Suckers Moon: An Advertising Story. Jack Shafer is Slate's deputy editor. This week they discuss Creating the Corporate Soul: The Rise of Public Relations and Corporate Imagery in American Big Business, by Roland Marchand (University of California Press; 470 pages; $39.95).