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Who’s looking out for you? If you said, “The fine folks at Data Designs Publishing!” you’d be absolutely correct. And here’s another example of it.

I’ve found a very useful free add-in for Microsoft PowerPoint. It lets you create beautiful and highly functional timelines. I know what you’re thinking: “What a great idea! I’ve sometimes needed to do that, but didn’t have a good way to accomplish it. I wonder why Microsoft didn’t build that into PowerPoint to begin with?” That will remain a question for the ages, but for right now, you can get this powerful piece of software for free. Here are a couple of examples of the types of timelines that you can create with it.

And I know what you’re thinking now, too. First, you’re thinking, “How do I get a copy of this wonderful free software?” And second you’re thinking, “Free? Wait a minute! What’s the catch?”

Oh, ye of little faith! There still are some good things in life that are free. This just happens to be one of them.

And as for the catch, yes, there is one. But it’s optional. They want to upsell you to the full-featured version of the software. The full package gives you a lot more versatility and a library of templates to start from so that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. And the cost of the upgrade is only $19.95. Chump change, especially for a product like this — a product that Sandy would have killed for back in her days as a project management consultant in the aerospace industry.

Knowing our customer base the way I do, I’m certain that either you use PowerPoint a lot and could get some real mileage out of a PowerPoint extension like this (in which case I’ve become your hero) or you work with a bunch of engineers and product specialists who live in PowerPoint and would absolutely love this program (in which case you have just become their hero and if you play your cards right you might be able to milk it for a free lunch).

The product is called Office Timeline 2012. It works with PowerPoint versions 2007, 2010, and 2013, running under any version of Windows dating back to the venerable XP. Download the installation file from You’ll have to fill out an online form giving them your name and email address to get the file. They will send you an activation code via email that you’ll need to complete the installation. Included in my email was a code for a 15% discount if I upgraded the software to the full version within seven days. That took the price down to just $16.96. Where I come from, we call that affordable.

So the next time someone asks you who’s looking out for you, look ’em in the eye and say, “The fine folks at Data Designs Publishing!”

OK, this might seem like an article way out of date, but you’d be wrong. Sure, I’m going to discuss Microsoft Office formats from more than five years ago, but you’d be surprised at how often we get asked about the new (!) Office file formats. So here’s the scoop – the one that uses a trowel, not a snow shovel scoop.

When Microsoft® released Office 2007, they introduced a new file format in their various programs that was based on Open XML. (Extensible Markup Language – do you really want more detail on that? We didn’t think so.) Microsoft’s new file format applies to Office products 2007 and beyond. The new file format was incompatible with previous versions until Microsoft released “converters” for older versions of the software, so no need to fret now – you can download the converters and all will be well with your world. (OK, maybe just a little piece your world will be well, but a little piece is better than none.)

To distinguish files using the new file format from the previous format, Microsoft added an x or an m to the extension –

of File

2003 and
Earlier Versions

2007 and
Later Versions













What’s the difference between the x and the m?

  • The x signifies an XML file with no macros
  • The m signifies an XML file that does contain macros

What’s it mean to you?

  • If your file has macros, you will need to save using the m extension.
  • Yes, files are backwards compatible, but you will need to download file converters for earlier versions of Office.

Why’d they do it? It’s a security thing largely. They say it makes for smaller files, too but I haven’t found that to be true.

Aren’t you glad you asked?