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Posts Tagged ‘Office Basics’

Good News! Microsoft Release Free OneNote

Microsoft have announced the release of OneNote for Mac, Android, and Windows platforms.What is OneNote, you ask? Take a minute and view this video.

OneNote has become an essential personal assistant for my day to day work. I have used it to create several notebooks, each dedicated to one aspect of what I do on a daily basis.

For example for my Office Applications training practice, I have a notebook with one section group for each client. When I am in contact with a new training client, the first thing I do is create a new section group for that client. Within that section group, I will create a new section for each training engagement I discuss with the client. Section contents include emails, notes on phone meetings and any other information relevant to the training session.

On a volunteer basis, I desktop publish a weekly bulletin. I receive content for the bulletin from a number of sources. With a quick click of a button, I forward the content as I receive it to the current week section of that notebook. When it comes time to put the bulletin together, all I have to do is go to the current week section of my bulletin notebook.

Those are just a couple of examples of how OneNote helps me keep my one-man show afloat. OneNote, however, is not just a tool for individuals. Large organizations also benefit from this easy to learn and use tool. Pfizer, for example, estimates that OneNote improves its effectiveness by 15%.

Potential uses for OneNote may not be infinite but its usefulness is really limited only by your imagination. Once you start to use it, the possibilities the you will realize for your own OneNote use will grow exponentially.

Essentials – Microsoft Office Applications

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.

438632_BLOGJPG_4N964960D5902530WTake 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.image

  • 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.