Archive for the ‘Office Suite’ Category
Introduced in some Office 2007 applications, the Fluent User Interface is Microsoft’s attempt to ‘expose’ (make more readily available) the commands used to work with an Office application. With Office 2010, all Office applications use this style of user interface. For the average user, the most visible aspect of the Fluent User Interface is the Ribbon, which replaced the menus and toolbar interface style of Office applications from ‘97 through to 2003.
On the positive side the Fluent User Interface does a creditable job of displaying, and making more easily available, the commands that serve the needs of the vast majority of users. In the menu/toolbar style that preceded the Fluent User Interface, some commands necessarily had to be buried in the menu structure. Only the most adventurous user stood any chance of accidentally discovering some of these commands.
The Ribbon, on the other hand makes it possible for the user to easily discover many more commands simply by exploring the contents of each tab. What users will encounter however, are differences in the appearance of the Ribbon depending on the current width of the Application window and the monitor’s resolution.
Notice the detail on the Home tab of the Excel 2010 Ribbon for example:
This is a screenshot of the Ribbon as it is displayed in a very wide window. For display purposes here, the image had to be somewhat resized. Compare that image with this one, using a narrower window:
In the first image, the Styles group has a rich assortment of buttons. In the second, the styles group has only three buttons. In to see the cell styles gallery, you have to click the Cell Styles button dropdown.
With progressively narrower windows more and more groups are collapsed to a few essential buttons which you must click in order to see all the possibilities a group offers:
Here the Styles group has been reduced to a single button:
Here, the Number and Cells groups are also reduced to single buttons:
When the window is extremely narrow, most groups are barely recognizable. Notice that none of the tabs can display their full name:
It is even possible to reach a point where there is no longer enough screen with to display the full Ribbon:
When that happens, ‘expander’ buttons appear, allowing you to navigate to hidden portions of the Ribbon.
Practically speaking, it is unlikely that you would ever use such an extremely narrow window as in the last graphic but keep in mind that screen resolution also affects how the Ribbon will display. The lower the resolution setting, the more likely it is that you will see a truncated view of the Ribbon.
Recently, a colleague distributed some rather important health and well-being statistics, illustrating the data with an exploded 3D Graph. Unfortunately, while 3D graphs are more pleasing to the eye than their flat cousins; the perspective necessary to create the 3D illusion, distorts the values being plotted.
Here’s an example using simple arbitrary data. First the exploded version:
Notice how, in the 3D version, the Cons wedge appears smaller than the Pros wedge, even though the two wedges represent exactly the same value (46%). In the flat version, on the other hand, the Pros and Cons wedges appear to have exactly the same size.
Is it the Exploded view that creates this illusion? Consider the following unexploded views. The illusion persists.
An unscrupulous presenter could easily use this illusion to distort the facts and unfairly influence his/her audience. (Remember the adage: “Figures don’t lie; liars figure”?) Think about a political race, for example. Depending on which position the presenter wants to improve the apparent advantage of, all he or she has to do is rotate the 3D chart accordingly to immediately improve the apparent advantage of the favoured position:
The Pros Have It!
The Cons Have It!
Of course, these examples include data labels to help the viewer’s interpretation. Omitting the labels can only make the dishonest presenter’s self-appointed task of deception easier.
So the next time you have to create a graph, think carefully about purpose of graphs and avoid the inevitable optical illusions inherent in 3D charts.
Here are some useful links that I have recently come across on the Web. The list is weighted in favour of Excel only because, at the moment, I am doing mostly Excel training.
A help guide to working with the Fluent User Interface (Ribbon) first introduced in Office 2007 and enhanced in Office 2010, replacing traditional menus and toolbars
BLOGS AND PEER SUPPORT SITES
A blog focusing on tips and how to techniques for getting the most out of Microsoft Office Applications
User peer support forum primarily focused on Microsoft Access but with an active Excel forum as well
Bill Jelen’s (Mr. Excel) site includes peer support forum and many pages of Excel help and tips from Mr. Excel himself
YouTube gateway to the ExcelisFun channel –hundreds of well documented videos illustrating how to do just about anything in Excel.
An excellent collection of Excel related links
Clever data validation example
Color Palette and the 56 Excel ColorIndex Colors:
Create an Excel UserForm
Excel Add-ins Directory:
Analytics and Visualization
Excel for Developers
Excel VBA – Reference Guide
Index of /Excel:
The Spreadsheet Page:
Excel Add-ins Directory
Use Excel spin boxes to help with financial modeling:
VBA for Microsoft Office Excel 2007
Yahoo Groups MS_Excel
Yahoo Groups Excel VBA:training.
Recently, a client asked me to facilitate a Project Management workshop. As I started to think about planning the workshop, I realized the OneNote would be an excellent tool to help with the planning.
I already had an outline of the content that this one day workshop would cover so that was my starting point for setting up the OneNote notebook. I set up the notebook with several sections:
- Major Topics
- Labs (Hands-on exercises)
- Background and Resource Materials
Thinking about these sections, it seemed to me that they naturally fell into two major categories, suggesting that the notebook should consist of two sections:
- Major Topics
- Labs (Hands-on exercises)
- Background and Resource Materials.
Now I had the basic structure for my workshop planning notebook. There was, however, one additional requirement for the notebook. Although I wasn’t collaborating with anyone else, I did want to be able to view and edit the notebook remotely. While I do most of this sort of work on a desktop computer, from time to time I also work away from home base, so to speak. Accessing the notebook remotely would allow me to review and update the workshop plan even if I were away from home.
OneNote offers a solution tailor made to my need. Rather than creating the notebook locally, I created a OneNote Web App on my SkyDrive. Once I had the notebook set up, I was able to link to it from my Android tablet using Microsoft’s OneNote Android App. Now I had the best of both worlds, ability to work with the notebook on my desktop computer exactly as if it were a local file, and ability to access the notebook anywhere I had WiFi or 4G service.
Remote access to OneNote offers a huge advantage over making manual notes and then updating the notebook later when I am back at home base. The notebook is always current with my latest changes. Making changes directly in the notebook instead of making paper notes that have to be transcribed later, saves time and effort.
OneNote is arguably one of the most versatile personal productivity tools in the Windows world. Using it as a workshop planning tool as I have described here if but one of a seemingly endless parade of possibilities. How you use OneNote to best advantage in your world is limited only by your imagination.
“Best Practices.” Now, there’s a term that is almost bound to start a heated discussion in techie circles. Well, this article isn’t really about technical best practices but rather it is about tips and pointers I have picked up over the years as guides for the efficient use of desktop applications.
Write Now – Format Later
You may be tempted, as I often am, to change the appearance of your document ‘on the fly,’ just to see how it is shaping up. The instant feedback can be gratifying but constantly stopping to format quickly adds up to a great deal of wasted time and energy.
Learn and Use Keyboard Shortcuts
Saving keystrokes and mouse clicks is what is all about. Getting to where you want to be as quickly as possible is what it is all about. One keystroke doesn’t take much time but the time spend on unnecessary keystrokes quickly adds up to minute an hours. Sure, using the mouse seems quite intuitive but, you have to take your hand off the keyboard to use the mouse and then return to the keyboard. Again tiny bits of saved time quickly add up, increasing the total time to create and finish a document.
In addition to saved time, getting there as quickly as possible has an added advantage: it reduces the risk of losing your train of thought. Occasional brief distractions don’t raise much of a risks, but the longer and more involved the distraction, the greater the risk of your forgetting what you wanted to say or how you wanted to say it.
Customize the Quick Access Toolbar
Generally speaking, the Quick Access Toolbar requires using your mouse. (Well that’s not entirely true because there are even keyboard shortcuts for the Quick Access Toolbar and Ribbon in Office 2007 and 2010.) Again, it is all about reducing keystrokes and reducing the time required to manage a document in favour of time available for document creation and completion. Identify the tasks you do most frequently and add shortcuts for them to the Quick Access Toolbar. For example, adding the New Document shortcut to the Quick Access Toolbar will let you create a new standard document with a single click. Without the shortcut, creating a new document requires four mouse click.
Limit Font Variety
The general guideline is that any document should only use a maximum of two font families, one for headings and one for body text. Following this rule reduces the risk that the reader will start paying attention to appearance at the expense of attention to content. Your content will have a better chance of being well-received and understood, if you avoid the temptation to use every font that you have available.
Keep in mind also that some readers with whom you may share your document may not have the same collection of fonts that you have. There is a common core of fonts that everyone has but some applications may install specialized fonts used only by the application. If the person with whom you are sharing the document does not have the application in question installed, he or she will not have that font avaialable.
Use Styles and Themes
How a document looks plays a significant role in how well the document serves its purpose. The best content in the world can be utterly obscured by a cluttered and inconsistent appearance. Styles are named collections of format settings. If you are working even with a moderately large document, if is far easier to maintain consistent formatting if you apply named styles to the content. Certainly you can apply the individual settings (font, size, colour, etc.) for the various parts of the document but this is inefficient because:
- it takes several steps to apply the settings individually vs. one step to apply a named style
- you have to remember all of the settings that apply to each part of the document vs. remembering a named style
- modifying a style changes all content to which the style has been applied
Create and Use Templates
A template is like a blueprint for a document. If you create similar documents repeatedly, using a template will give you a head start to ensuring that you have the same styles and themes available from document to document.
Using a previously created document as a model for a current one is not the same thing as using a template. First of all, you have remember to remove all content from the earlier document. Second, you risk overwriting and losing the original document if you forget to save the new one under a different name. A template gives you a clean starting place. All you need to do is add content.
Use the Application designed for the Task
This is a tough one. There is an old saying that, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Most computer users have but a few of the possible applications that are readily available. It’s natural to try to make a tool you are familiar with do the job that you have at hand. Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
You don’t have to look far to find people trying to do data management using spreadsheet software, or people using word processing to do calculated reports. The resulting inefficiencies quickly add up to hours and hours of wasted time. There may be a learning term involved in coming to terms with using the right tool for the job but the time required to learn the application will be repaid a hundred-fold in a very short time.
Share Your Insight
These are but a few points to keep in mind when you are creating new documents. Do you have some suggestions to share with the world? Join OfficeTipsAndMethods and share your insight in a Comment. You must be a member to comment; all comments are moderated before being published. Membership is free and we would never share your personal information with anyone. Use this link to register your free membership.
Cartoons ©Ron Leishman www.toonaday.com
In one of my other lives, I edit and publish the weekly bulletin for my parish church. The pastor sends me an email with most of the information to be included in the current week’s bulletin. The organist sends me another email about music selections for the week and occasionally other parishioners email me additional material.
Putting the bulletin together is largely a matter of copying content from the emails and pasting it into Microsoft Publisher. Because I am copying one ‘story’ (announcement, notice, or hymn selection) at a time, I need to keep track of what I have already included in the bulletin and what is not yet included.
Space in the bulletin is limited to what will comfortably fit onto six 8-1/2 x 5-1/2 pages. That means that some items have to be omitted. Often these omitted items could be used within the next week or two, space permitting. So I need to efficiently track those items as well.
Along the way, I started using a reply copy of the pastor’s email so the I could apply Outlook’s highlighting tool to each item as I finished adding it to Publisher. So, I could look through the reply email for anything to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. After I put that week’s bulletin to bed, I simply discarded the reply email.
Enter OneNote. A few weeks ago, while working on the bulletin, I thought, “There has to be a better way to do this.” That’s when Outlook’s OneNote shortcut caught my attention and a new and improved solution was born.
Now when each email arrives I use the OneNote shortcut to send the email to OneNote as an unfiled note. I move each unfiled note to my Bulletin notebook and put it in the Raw Materials section.
The first thing I do when I start to work on the bulletin is copy the contents of each of the raw materials pages to a new page for the current week. With Publisher and the OneNote Bulletin notebook open side by side, I select (highlight) each item to copy and then paste into an appropriate place in the Publisher document.
Then, when I return to the notebook, before selecting the next story, I click the highlighter shortcut while the section I had just copied to the bulletin is still shaded. I repeat the process, item by item, until every story in the original email is highlighted.
When an item has to be omitted from the current bulletin because of limited space, I change the highlight colour and copy the item to an Unpublished page in the notebook. When space becomes available in a future bulletin, I can easily find and use an unpublished item without having to wade through old emails looking for them
OneNote has helped me streamline producing the bulletin, helping me to do a better job as editor and publisher, and reducing the time it takes to do the job.
Incidentally, if you would like to see the final product of this process, visit our website at http://churchoftheascensionsudbury.com/Events/Bulletins/tabid/68/Default.aspx
Mouse and keyboard essentials can become second nature quite quickly, once you learn them. However, if you are new to Windows computing or have simply learned by doing, you may be missing some of the basics.
This article will focus on basic keyboard skills which all seem simple once you know how to use them but which some people find very difficult to use in the first place. The article includes some examples of shortcuts that are possible with the mouse or keyboard actions but our main interest is how to use the mouse and keyboard keys alone or in various combinations. Many times when you ask for help the article or forum post suggests that you use mouse or keyboard keys is certain ways. This article is about what these suggestions mean.
How familiar are you with your mouse? Here are some basic points to be aware of:
Right or Left
A basic windows mouse has two ‘keys,’ left and right. When you rest your right hand, palm down on the mouse, your index finger rests naturally on the left key and you second finger rests on the right. The left key is used to select or choose the item you have used the mouse to point to on the screen. The right mouse key is typically used to open a shortcut menu of choices that are appropriate to whatever it is you are doing at the moment.
Click or Drag
A Click is a single quick down and up motion of the specified mouse key. A Drag on the other hand, means that you should press and hold down the specified mouse key while you move the mouse in the desired direction.
Your mouse may have a wheel between the left and right keys. You can spin this wheel in either direction. The action spinning the wheel causes depends, in part on where you are pointing when you spin it. For example, in Word 2007, or 2010 (or any of the Office applications with the ribbon interface), spinning the wheel which change the active ribbon tab.
Different actions require different kinds of clicking. A Single Click means quickly pressing and releasing the mouse key once only.
A Double click, on the other hand, means rapidly pressing the mouse key twice. The setting for just how quickly it is necessary to repeat the click for Windows to interpret your mouse action as a double click is adjustable (see below.)
Control Panel Adjustments
Adjust double click speed
If you have difficulty double-clicking you can use the mouse properties to adjust the time between the first and second click.
Switch Left and Right
If you are left-handed you can use the mouse properties so that the mouse keys are reversed.
You can use the Mouse options in the Windows Control panel to adjust double click speed and to switch the Left and Right mouse key if you prefer to use the mouse in your left hand
A computer application is nothing more or less than a tool, a device used to do a job. Personal computer applications rely on the skills of the person using the application to get the job done. Some of these skills are application-specific, some relate to a general understanding of computer use, and some relate to the user’s general knowledge level and understanding of how to solve the problem at hand.
Some applications, like some tools, are easy to use and require only basic personal skills. Other applications, like some other tools, are more difficult to use and require higher personal skill level.
Take such a simple task as driving a nail. That is probably something you learned to do as a child. Most likely, though, when you first started trying to use a hammer, you held it, perhaps in two hands and close to the head. You had to learn that the tool works best when you hold it in one hand, close to the end of the handle, so that the hammer became like an extension of your arm. Most likely that skill is now so basic to you that you don’t even recall learning it.
The point is, whether you realize it or not, every tool, virtual or real, requires at least some skills in order to be useful in helping you to do the job at hand. When it comes to looking at the Microsoft Office Suite in this light, there are some common skillsets that apply to the whole suite. Additional skills specific to each application build on this foundation.
Here, in no particular order, are essentials for the office suite that people suggested when I asked or gleaned from my own experience.
- Know the correct way of starting and shutting down your computer.
- Know the difference between shortcuts and application icons.
I once had a client who deleted an application to make space, because “there was a much smaller version on the desktop”!
- Know what version of Windows you are using.
- Know what version of Office you have available.
Newer versions of Office and Windows have more features and do things differently than earlier versions. You can help others help you (especially in on-line forums) if you can indicate your version of Office.
- Understand the work and task at hand that you think you can use an Office application for.
Just as it is difficult to pound a nail with a backhoe, each Office application is better suited to some purposes than others.
- Mousing basics
- the difference between click and drag
- mouse pointer shapes
- how to manage Windows
- Keyboard shortcuts.
There are literally pages and pages of keyboard shortcuts. Learn the shortcuts that are most useful to you, even if you prefer to use you mouse. There are time that you can’t use the mouse but you can use a keyboard shortcut to do what you need. Keep in mind also that some keyboard shortcuts depend on the language and keyboard version you are using. A good grasp of basic keyboard shortcuts will help you with all of the Office applications. Some keyboard shortcuts are useful in or apply to just some of the applications.
- How to organize and manage your files.
Develop a standard naming and filing system for your work. You will spend far less time looking for that file that you created and saved a couple of days ago. Don’t mimic the M*A*S*H episode where Klinger filed all correspondence under C. That might work if you have only a few files but with the huge capacity of today’s storage media, it’s easy to lose track of your work and have to waste valuable minutes tracking it down.
- Know how to backup your work and preserve working versions (drafts) of work in progress.
Sure your IT department backs up your files regularly (they do, don’t they?) but if you have your own system of backing up individual files that are important to you, you will be able to recover from a disaster much more quickly than if you don’t.
- Know how to proof-read your work. Don’t pass anything along to anyone else until you have proof-read it two or three times.
Remember that it is easy to overlook typos and spelling errors if you proofread immediately after you type. Take a break from the task and go back to proofread your work several hours later or even the next day. Develop a work buddy system for proofreading someone else’s work in exchange for their proofreading yours.
- Know how to use Office’s Review tools (Spell Checker and Grammar Checker) and be aware of their limitations. Be sure to add local spellings to the dictionary if appropriate.
Automated grammar checking is still far from perfect. In English, for example, the word “place” can be used as either a noun (‘Let’s go to John’s place.’) or as a verb (‘Place the parcel on the table.’) When you do use it as a verb, the grammar checker reports that you have an incomplete sentence.
- Understand templates and how to use them to save yourself work.
- Be willing to reinforce new skills by using them frequently until they become second nature.
No doubt there are other Office essentials that could be added to this list. However, if you are just starting to learn about using Office applications, keeping these points in mind (and raising them with your trainer/instructor) will help you focus learning experience.
The basic notion for this article came from my classroom experience with people who had come to an Introduction to Excel class. Many of these people were unable to answer the question, “What type of work will you be doing in Excel?” In coming articles, I will discuss application specific essentials. I also frequently ran into (again with Excel newcomers) what seemed to be an almost mystical belief that Excel users could use the application to handle all of their math problems; these people (and perhaps their bosses) seemed to think they did not need any math skills. All they wanted to do, they said, was to learn formulas. More about that in the Essentials – Excel article.
Recently I asked a number of applications experts and users what they thought were essential skills for using Microsoft Office applications. Thanks to the UtterAccess members, and members of the Microsoft Excel Users, Microsoft MVP Professional Group, and MVP@Work groups at Linked-In who responded.