MS-Excel / Excel 2003

Taming the Smart Tags

Depending upon the type of work you do with Excel, the Smart Tags feature may appear to you to be either one of the most brilliant or one of the most useless program features. The way smart tags work in Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel is that the programs scan their documents looking for particular types of entries (called recognizers) to which it can affix a specific type of smart tag program. For example, Excel comes with three smart tag programs, one for dealing with dates, another for dealing with financial symbols used by Wall Street, and a third for dealing with personal names:

  • The Date smart tag program enables you to open your Microsoft Outlook calendar right to the date contained in the cell (assuming the date is one that the calendar program covers).
  • The Financial Symbol smart tag program enables you to get an online stock quote for the company in question from MSN Money.
  • The Person Name smart tag program enables you to add people to your Outlook Contacts list, send an e-mail message to them, or schedule a meeting with them.

When Excel identifies an entry for a particular smart tag program, it inserts a Smart Tag indicator in the lower-right corner of its cell - the indicator initially appears as a small purple triangle. To select one of the actions offered by a particular smart tag program, position the mouse pointer over its smart tag indicator and then position the mouse pointer over the Smart Tag Actions button (the one with the i enclosed in a circle) that appears to the right of the indicator and click its drop-down button.

If smart tags sound like something that would only complicate your life unnecessarily, you simply need to make sure that the smart tags option is turned off. To do this, select the Smart Tags tab in the AutoCorrect dialog box (Tools → AutoCorrect Options), and then make sure that the Label Data with Smart Tags check box is deselected before you click OK.

If, however, smart tags seem like something that might well enhance your work, you do just the opposite:

  1. On the Smart Tags tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box, select the Label Data with Smart Tags check box, and then in the Recognizers list box, select the check boxes for the smart tag programs you want to activate.
  2. If you want to suppress the appearance of the smart tag indicators in the recognized cells, choose None or Button Only from the Show Smart Tags As drop-down list.
  3. If you want to be able to save smart tags as part of the workbook file, select the Embed Smart Tags in This Workbook check box.
  4. When you're finished making your selections, click OK.
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