25.1. Sharing Information in Windows
Every application has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Word provides the best tools for formatting long reports , while Excel shines when crunching numbers and charting trends. PowerPoint creates slick slideshows, while Access lets you store and search vast interrelated tables of information. Software developers realized long ago that no one could create a single application that was perfectly suited for every type of document.
Note: Looking to polish your Word, PowerPoint, and Access skills? Check out Word 2007: The Missing Manual, PowerPoint 2007: The Missing Manual, and Access 2007: The Missing Manual .
However, it's not always realistic to separate different types of data. People need ways to integrate the strengths of all their favorite programs. Say you want to put an Excel chart in the middle of a Word document (or even attach a Word memo to the end of an Excel worksheet). To build this type of compound document, you need to rely on both Word and Excel. Fortunately, the programmers who built Windows had this type of data linking and sharing in mind from the very beginning, and they integrated it right into your favorite operating system's fabric.
Before you attempt any of these maneuvers, it helps to understand that you can transfer information between two programs in two different ways:
So which approach is best? Embedding and linking is the way to go if you want to combine your data from two different programs into one document (like a report in Word containing a chart from Excel). Even though both applications still need to get involved, you can create the illusion that there's only one document. Linking is also the only option if you want to create a document that updates itself automatically when a linked file changes. If a PowerPoint presentation links to an Excel spreadsheet, the charts in the presentation will be updated when you modify the numbers in the spreadsheet.
On the other hand, importing and exporting makes sense when you need to process the information contained in one application with the tools provided by another application. For example, if you have a table of information in a Word document that you want to analyze using Excel, you'll probably want to convert this table to Excel's format. If you simply embed the table inside a worksheet, you can see the data, but you can't manipulate it with formulas, charting, and other Excel features.
In this chapter, you'll consider both these approaches. First up: embedding and linking.