Microsoft releases its largest collection of free e-books

Microsoft releases its largest collection of free e-books

In early July, Microsoft released its “Largest collection of free Microsoft eBooks ever, including Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Office 2013, Office 365, Office 2010, SharePoint 2013, Dynamics CRM, PowerShell, Exchange Server, Lync 2013, System Center, Azure, Cloud, SQL Server and much more.” This announcement was posted in an official blog by Microsoft’s Eric Ligman, senior sales excellence manager. I have compressed the very long URL (web address) of the blog into This collection of approximately 150 e-books on contemporary Microsoft products has taken the computing world by storm, as over a million of these e-books were downloaded in the first two days following the announcement. It should be noted that while many of these e-books are new releases, other titles listed are prior releases, but still contain valuable content.

Each of these free e-books is available in one or more of the popular formats, including PDF, EPUB, MOBI, XPS, DOC, and DOCX, making them accessible to computers regardless of operating system, dedicated readers, mobile devices (tablets and smart phones). Many of these e-books can also be opened and displayed on almost all of the popular word processors as most third party word processors can open Microsoft DOC and DOCX files.

I am typing this column on my three-year-old Windows 7 PC, using Office 2010; included in this recent release of e-books are several titles that cover Windows 7 and Office 2010. Some of the e-books specifically for Windows 7 users include Windows

7 Keyboard Shortcuts, Windows 7 Power Users Guide (free download from a third-party link), Deploying Windows 7 Essential Guidance, Welcome to Windows 7, and What You Can Do Before You Call Tech Support (Windows 7) e-books are all available in PDF format.

One of my favorites on the list of Windows 7 e-books is Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts, which provides 12 pages of keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts are typically key combinations that implement Windows commands without the use of a menu or a mouse. Most users are aware that CTRL-C (simultaneous pressing the “Control” key and the letter “C”) is the shortcut to copy something, while CTRL-V will paste whatever was copied. CTRL-C and CTRL-V are but two of the hundreds of keyboard shortcuts listed. Many users are unaware that the “Windows Logo” key common on most PC and laptop keyboards (typically on the bottom-left row) controls about three dozen Windows and display functions; utilization of these “Windows logo” shortcuts can increase the usability and functionality of Windows computers. Windows Explorer, the file manager included in Windows 7, has its own list of about two dozen keyboard shortcuts, many of which I was unaware of. I found that CTRL-PERIOD (CTRL-.) will rotate an image clockwise, and CTRL-COMMA (CTRL-,) will rotate an image counter-clockwise. There are also keyboard shortcuts for those who use the Windows magnifier function, shortcuts for those items displayed in the taskbar, as well as shortcuts for Microsoft Paint, WordPad, Calculator, Windows Journal, and Windows Help. A user may learn a great deal about Windows 7 functionality by simply reviewing the list of shortcuts. Users of Windows 8 may find Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts and Work Smart: Windows 8 Shortcut Keys (a .docx file) invaluable in increasing personal productivity. Other e-books provide specific lists of keyboard shortcuts for various Microsoft products, including Word, Excel, Access, InfoPath, Publisher, SharePoint, Visio, SmartArt, OneNote, Project 2013 and PowerPoint.

This directory is rich with Office 2010 content and guides. Some of the available Office 2010 titles include Office 2010 User Resources, Getting Started with Microsoft Office 2010 – For IT Professionals, Security and Privacy for Microsoft Office 2010 Users, Planning Guide for Microsoft Office 2010 – For IT Professionals, and Microsoft Office 2010 First Look. Admittedly my Office 2010 is several years old, but users of newer versions of Office will not be disappointed with the wealth of offerings covering Office 2013 and Office 365. Among the titles available are Getting To Know Office 365, Deployment Guide for Office 2013, Office 365 Midsize Business Quick Deployment Guide, Quick Start to Office 365 for Small to Medium Businesses, Deployment Guide for Office 2013, Microsoft Office 365 for Professionals and Small Businesses: Help and How To, Office 365 – Connect and Collaborate Virtually Anywhere, Anytime, Office 365 Guides for Professionals and Small Businesses, and Microsoft Office in the Classroom.

I am not too ashamed to admit that I have been guilty in the past of having closed Office without properly saving what I had been working on; while it no longer happens to me (very much), it seems to be a common faux pas among some of my coworkers. For those of us unfortunate enough to have ever committed such an act, Microsoft has a free e-book that might help alleviate the frustration, How To Recover That Un-Saved Office Document. Simple illustrated instructions are provide to remedy many of these errors, as well as tips to minimize the likelihood of it happening again in the future. When helping others with Office, I almost universally turn on the “Auto Save and Auto Recover” function integrated into Office. I recommend that from any Office component, that the user clicks on FILE or the “Microsoft Orb” in the top-left corner, scroll to OPTIONS, and then to SAVE. I have Office auto-save whatever I am doing every 10 minutes, so that in the event of some kind of problem or lockup (that obnoxious “Not Responding” notification), the most that I can lose is my last 10 minutes of work. While I choose the 10-minute auto-save function, users who are more concerned about performance than safety can choose a high number, such as 20 minutes, and worrywarts might want to choose a smaller number, such as 5 minutes. There is a slight performance degradation in Office as it auto-saves more frequently, and slightly better performance with more infrequent saves, but one must also consider the aggravation of losing a document or other project due to a program crash or other malady. Really smart Office users will frequently use the sneaky keyboard shortcut CTRL-S to save the latest iteration of their work. I just did precisely that.

Many of the E-books posted by Microsoft are technical in nature, covering such topics as SQL, Active Directory Migration Tools, Windows Server, Lync Server, CRM, Windows Azure, “Programming Windows Store Apps with HTML, CSS, JavaScript Second Edition, and other interesting titles. For those into programming, there is also a wealth of free programming e-books, including Programming Windows Store Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, Second Edition; Programming Windows 8 Apps with HTML, CSS and JavaScript; and Programming Windows Phone 7.

For users who have recently started using Office 2013, there is an entire series of “Quick Start Guides” for Office 2013 products including Excel, Word, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Visio, PowerPoint, Project, and Publisher. These Quick Start Guides are heavily illustrated, and clearly “show and tell” how to utilize the major features of each of these products. Quick Start Guides are also available for some other Microsoft products, including the highly promoted Office 365. The Office 365 Quick Start Guide file is one of the largest E-book compilations on the list, downloadable as a 99.4 MB ZIP (compressed) file.

Users of any Microsoft Office product, 2010 or later, as well as most other contemporary Microsoft products, will likely find a wealth of useful information among these free E-books. I strongly encourage users to browse the listings, and download any e-books of interest; for free, they are one of the best deals available.