What Are MS Office Skills?

Microsoft Office consists of several applications used in almost every field of employment, such as Word, as well as other programs for less common tasks, such as Visio and Lync. While the specific Office skills needed to complete a project vary from job to job, being able to use Word, Excel and Outlook will help in most occupations.

Woman using laptop on sofa by daughter (2-4) smiling
A mom and daughter sitting by their computer.
credit: Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images

Basic Office Skills

Word, Excel and Outlook skills are used in numerous fields of work. In Word, basic skills consist of creating, opening, saving and printing documents; inserting and formatting text and images; and working with tables and footnotes. Basic skills in Excel, used to make spreadsheets, include inserting data into cells; using data in charts and graphs; formatting, hiding and merging cells; and using simple functions such as SUM. Outlook provides three main features: an address book, a calendar and an email client. Working with Outlook requires understanding each of these features, such as scheduling appointments, checking email and assigning contacts to groups.

Advanced Office Skills

Office programs include many features that most users never touch, but skill with them is necessary or helpful for certain jobs. In Word, these include performing a mail merge, creating a table of contents, adding a digital signature and modifying a document's XML. Advanced knowledge of Excel requires understanding complex functions and how to use those functions in tandem to improve data analysis. Excel also includes Visual Basic for Applications, a programming language that allows you to perform additional analyses and speed up repetitive jobs. More complex skills in Outlook include working with shared folders, automating common tasks and managing the program's data files.

Skills in Other Programs

Some jobs require skill with Office programs other than Word, Excel and Outlook. For example, if you need to make presentations, you'll need skills in PowerPoint, including the ability to format slides, apply transitions and insert media, such as images and videos, from other programs. Other programs include Visio for creating diagrams and vector graphics, Access, which requires an understanding of creating and managing databases, and Publisher for laying out publications. Some companies use Lync for video conferencing, which requires users to understand how to use a webcam and microphone, as well as how to share documents for discussion.

Learning Office Skills

To look up specific features, press "F1" in any Office program to open the Help window, where you can search for instructions. For more comprehensive training, Microsoft offers video guides for each of the Office programs on its website; guides range in complexity from absolute beginner to expert tasks. Microsoft also publishes training guides for its programs, which it sells through the Microsoft Press Store (links in Resources). For in-person training, check with a local community college -- many offer courses on Office programs. If you're training for a particular job, make sure to take a course that uses the same version of Office as your workplace, as each iteration varies slightly.