Help by Leo, a free utility that's designed to help you with any trouble you may run into while using some very popular applications, has been updated with support for Microsoft Office 2010. It was useful at its debut, and in its latest version, Leo remains a handy, easy-to-use utility that has the potential to make using software a whole lot easier--especially for novice users. It's available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Unfortunately, though, its Office 2010 help isn't quite as complete as it could be.
In version 126.96.36.199, Help by Leo remains free for personal use only; business users can contact vendor Kryon Systems for per-seat pricing info. It provides interactive help for a handful of applications, including Microsoft Office 2007, Facebook, Firefox, and iTunes, in addition to Office 2010.
Once installed, Leo appears as a small query bar, into which you enter your help request, using any kind of language you'd like. Real-time results appear as soon as you begin typing, and the results are refined as you finish typing your query. Each result links to one of Leo's help wizards, which will deliver the answer to your query.
For the most part, I found that Leo returned results directly related to the question I asked, and the app was able to provide answers for most of my basic questions. I was disappointed, however, with its Office 2010 help--specifically when it came to using features new to the latest version of Microsoft's software. For example, a new feature in Word 2010 is the Insert Screenshot feature, which allows you to add a screenshot of another open window to a Word document. I used Leo to search for "insert screenshot," but the results it returned did not include any advice on using this new feature. Instead, it offered tips on how to insert a comment, insert the date and time, and insert a dropped cap. When I entered the same query in Microsoft's own Office help menu, I was immediately pointed in the right direction.
However, Leo often was able to answer my queries (both those entered about other applications, and those about more common Office features), and that's when the application really shone. It doesn't just send you to a text-heavy page and require that you dig through paragraphs to find out how to accomplish your task; instead, Leo literally shows you how it's done. Leo offers two options. In one, called "Do It," Leo actually accomplishes the task itself; you don't even have to touch the mouse (unless the application asks for your input). You can sit back and watch as Leo completes a task, such as creating a chart in an Excel worksheet. The other option, called "Guide me," has Leo walk you through the process, showing you where and when to click and enter info.
Also new in the latest version of Leo are reminders, occasionally delivered to users, of Leo's availability to help. Normally, this idea would drive me batty: If an application has to remind me of its usefulness, how useful can it be? But I have been testing the new version of Leo for over a week now and have yet to receive (or notice) one of these reminders. The folks at Kryon Systems say they will only be delivered when Leo hasn't been used for two days, and when they do appear--as small pop-ups from the system tray--they will only display for 30 seconds. The example messages that Kryon sent me to look at were small, thankfully. And each contains an option that allows the user to permanently disable this "feature."
All in all, Help by Leo was indeed helpful--most of the time. It did occasionally stumble, but not so often that I'd hesitate to recommend it. Leo will prove especially useful to software newbies who are intimidated by text-heavy help menus, and would benefit from the application's ability to complete tasks for them. If you're looking at this as a way to ease your transition to Office 2010 from an earlier version, though, you might be disappointed with what you find.