Quick Parts in Word: Stop copy pasting from old files!

Common activity

Often we need to open an existing document, copy some part of it and paste it into another new document. Why does this happen? Because that part of text (or content) was reusable across documents.

There is a much better way to reuse text – called Quick Parts.

Solution

The solution is simple and takes only two steps:

  1. Create Quick Parts and
  2. Use the parts

Creating quick parts

Be on the lookout for text which is reusable. Select it and choose Insert – Quick Parts – Add to Quick parts gallery.

Quick Parts in Word

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You can now specify a name for the content. You can even create different categories – by activity or department, for example. Notice that this content is stored in a special file called BulidingBlocks.dotx.

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Reusing the content

Now the content is stored. You can use it in any document quickly.

Insert – Quick Parts – the content is now shown as a drop-down list. Click on it to insert it into the current document. That’s it.

Using Quick Parts

Works in Outlook also

Outlook uses Word. Therefore, the same functionality is available in Outlook as well.

Quick parts for Word and Outlook are independent of each other. For Outlook it is stored in NormalEmail.dotm file

Techie Stuff: Deploying a common building blocks file

You can easily standardize the usage of building blocks across the organization.

  1. Create a building blocks template
  2. Store it in a shared location – SharePoint or File share
  3. If it is SharePoint, map the document library as a drive in the login script
  4. Use Group Policy to change the Building Blocks template path setting to point to this mapped drive
  5. That’s it.

There is more

We also have similar use concept for tables – Quick Tables, textboxes, headers and footers. All these are stored in the same building blocks file.

PowerPoint: Manage complex slides with Selection Pane

The pain

PowerPoint slides can get crowded. If you have multiple overlapping objects, reaching the objects which are behind other objects is a very problematic area. You have to either struggle with Send to Back / Front or move the overlapping objects manually. Both methods are a compromise.

The solution: Selection Pane

Since Office 2007 Microsoft added Selection Pane. Once you know how to use it, you will wonder why you did not know this earlier. It will save you hours of struggle.

Home – Select – Selection Pane.

Powerpoint Selection Pane

It is so simple but so effective. It shows a list of all objects on the slide. The object on top is physically in front of all objects. The object at the bottom is behind all objects.

Each item can be hidden by clicking on the icon of the eye.

Selection Pane

So if you want to select and work with an object at the bottom, simple hide the objects on top.

Warning

If an object is hidden, it will not be shown in the presentation. Therefore, after your work is done, remember to choose SHOW ALL.

Change the names

Selection Pane also allows you to change the default names given to objects. Naming objects makes it easy to animate them and rearrange them. When you are creating complex slides, keep the selection pane open and change the name of an object as soon as you add it.

Powerpoint Animation Pane

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Reorder objects easily

Reordering objects is much easier using Selection Pane rather than struggling with Send to Back / Front.

You can use the up/down arrows or drag drop (2010 onwards) to reorder items. Grouped items can be moved together.

When to hide the objects permanently

If you use custom shows, you will need to see the titles of slides. If there are slides with the title textbox removed, you cannot see the title. The list only shows you slide number. This leads to a lot of confusion.

In such cases, add the title but hide it. That way the title is shown in Custom Show dialog but it is not visible in the presentation… best of both worlds!

Put it in QAT

This is a very useful feature. Add it to the Quick Access Toolbar. Other good candidates for QAT are Alignment dropdown, Format Painter, Animation Painter, Clear Formatting and SmartArt.

Also available in Word and Excel

Although it is most useful in PowerPoint, remember to use it in other products as well.

Manage business contacts with OneNote and OneDrive

Practical Problem

There are many methods available for managing contacts and visiting cards. Using a card scanner and using OCR works well. But most methods fail due to lack of discipline.

Here is what you can do. By the way, this can work for you as a person or the entire organization.

Use OneNote

    1. Create a new notebook using OneNote. DO NOT make a local notebook.
    2. Store it into OneDrive or SharePoint. This way you can access it from any mobile or pc anywhere. Name it Contacts. Create sections like personal, business, friends, recruitment, customers, etc.
    3. Everyday, take photos of new visiting cards which you received. Just use any simple mobile camera. Make sure the photos are sharp. The resolution does not matter. Even 2 Megapixel camera will be fine.
    4. Import the images into OneNote and put them in the correct section.store business contacts as scanned image
    5. Now you can search for any text in that notebook. CTRL F – find , type any text. Choose the area to search – section, this notebook or multiple notebooks.image
    6. OneNote can search for text automatically. The OCR (optical character recognition) software is built-in to OneNote. It also supports multiple languages.image
    7. If you want the full text from a visiting card, right click and choose Copy Text from Picture and paste it into any other place.image
    8. This way you can create a simple but effective contact management system!

Adding photos directly with OneNote on Mobile

OneNote is available for free on Windows Phone, Android and iOS. Using OneNote mobile makes it even more easier. Just open the notebook – Insert Picture – take a photo of the visiting cards. That’s it.

Working in a team

Share the OneNote notebook with your team members. Create a section for each person and ask them to add photos directly.

Adding the backlog

Remember that you don’t need to take the photos separately for each visiting card. You can arrange multiple cards on a table and take a photo. This way you can add all your existing cards quickly to OneNote. Make sure you add all the past cards.

Add color to your life: Outlook Color Categories

The need

Outlook is a crowded and confusing place. There are mails, meetings, tasks, contacts … in large numbers. We tend to get lost in this deluge of information.  Incoming mails and appointment requests rule your life – Others are managing your time – not you Sad smile

Using color to categorize things visually can simplify this situation and put you back in control of your time and life.

Outlook Color categories

Inbox and tasks show categories by default (Outlook 2010 onwards) as a column.

Calendar also shows color categories.

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25 colours available

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Outlook does not know how you want to use the colors available.

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Outlook Color Categories

You can and you SHOULD customize it…

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Now you can use the colors in Inbox, Tasks and …

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Calendar as well..

At a glance you can see how your time is being divided.

Outlook Color Categories

Try it NOW.

Tech Stuff

In case you goof up and create wrong categories, you can reset all to default by using a command line switch

…outlook.exe /cleancategories

Sharing = 1 copy in 1 place (SharePoint)

Recap

In the last article we saw how email misuse leads to enormous amount of inefficiency.

The solution was to share files (or any other shareable thing) by keeping a single copy at a central location.

In this article, I will explain the solution in more detail.

Storing the single copy – where?

Where to store the document? The answer is simple. It should be kept in a place which is available to all those who need it and from all places they need it from.

On the face of it, there are many solutions available – these are cloud (internet) based hard disks. DropBox, Google Drive and so on.

However, I find SharePoint to be ideally suited for business sharing and OneDrive for personal sharing.

You store the file there. And then can see it on laptop, mobile, tablet etc. That means sharing has happened across devices and it is location independent.

If you decide to share the file with others, you can choose whether they can see or edit the document. This way you can share without making copies.

Needless to say, whomever you share with can view it from any location and on any supported device.

This is how all the problems associated with email based sharing vanish instantly.

Storing a single copy – of what?

Although the current discussion is about files – the concept is by no means limited to files. Here are other things of corporate importance which are equally amenable to SharePoint based sharing.

  1. Company Holidays
  2. Corporate Event Calendars
  3. CSR activities
  4. Training Schedules
  5. Departmental Activities
  6. Statutory Submissions
  7. Investor Centric Activities
  8. Marketing / Product Launch Schedule
  9. Security Drill Schedule
  10. Common Contacts (at least at departmental level)
  11. Task lists specific to projects / departments
  12. Picture libraries (Events, Top Management, Awards, Achievements, Factories, Product Images, Advertisements, Social Campaigns, etc)
  13. OneNote notebooks shared across departments, project teams, crisis committees, etc.

Now let us get our focus back to files. But remember that everything we are discussing below is applicable to anything which can be stored in SharePoint

How to access the file if not connected?

Although this concept is fairly well known, not many people are using this as a default method of storing documents. We still prefer to create documents on the PC and then upload it to some web based drive.

One of the reasons for this is the fear of losing control over the file. If your original file is on the internet and you don’t have a connection (or a good connection), then it is as good as not having the file.

This is an unacceptable scenario. But there is an easy solution to it.

SharePoint and SkyDrive provide Sync tools for your local PC. Once installed, it acts like a folder on your local drive. You save the files to that folder and it will automatically upload and synchronize the files with the internet storage.

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This gives you best of both worlds. Central, single shared file and ability to edit when offline.

SharePoint and SkyDrive storage does not blindly copy and sync files. For Office files, it only changes the part of the document which has changed. This way you get faster sync performance and it also minimizes your bandwidth utilization.

Try this out and see the benefits for yourself.

Does your company have SharePoint?

Don’t assume that you don’t have SharePoint. Many companies have SharePoint or Office 365. But often IT does not make it available for all staff members. So it is best to check with your IT team. Ask them if they can create a Team Site for you and then give you administrator permission within that team site. This site can be used for sharing documents, data, pictures, calendars, tasks, links, notes and so on.

Common mistake

Many of us have access to SharePoint or similar internet based storage. Unfortunately, if you are not careful, you will misuse this facility. Often, people work with internet based storage like this…

  1. Create a file
  2. Save to PC
  3. Open browser
  4. Go to the SharePoint site
  5. Click Upload button
  6. Upload the file
  7. Store in SharePoint

This is absolutely WRONG. It is a misuse of SharePoint platform.

Why is this wrong? Because you already made two copies – one local and one on server. This violates our simple rule = Sharing = 1 copy.

So what is the way out? Store the file directly to SharePoint and then sync it to  your local folder so that you can edit the document even when you are not connected (Offline)>

Office 2013 makes it very simple to store documents to your SharePoint or SkyDrive folders.

The file Save As menu automatically shows the SharePoint site which is associated with your account. This way, without changing the way we save files, you are getting the benefit of centralized storage.

Sharing with Onedrive SkyDrive

The SharePoint site “MaxOffice” is shown twice because we have two independent SharePoint places mapped here.

Homework

Look at your day to day work and try finding out files and processes which benefit from this concept of sharing. For a team of your colleagues and try this out.

Unless you get the confidence of using the system well, you will not end up using these concepts and continue to send CCs with attachments!

Your biggest enemy: CCs with attachments

Till now, most of my articles focused on individual efficiency. Now it is time to introduce team efficiency.

The most commonly used application is email. Unfortunately, it is also the biggest reason for inefficiency!

No matter how much you invest in collaboration tools, cloud based storage and so on… we still happily spoil our own lives by misusing email.

In the good old days when the only way of sharing documents was email, this was fine.

But good old days are over. Bad new days are in.

Does this sound familiar?

  1. You are supposed to create a critical document (say, response to RFP or Tender) and submit it before deadline
  2. You need inputs from technical team, finance, operations and legal
  3. So you create a shell document containing the main headings and send CC to those 3 people.
  4. Congratulations, now you already have four copies of the same document. That is called IT as an enabler!
  5. Each of those people try to put some information into the respective sections… and send it back to you.
  6. More achievement! now you have four documents with same name but different content
  7. You love such challenges. You have a Post Graduate degree in Copy Paste Management.
  8. With eager enthusiasm, you indulge in the pleasure of repairing Formatting inconsistencies, tables with their own minds, adamant pictures and incongruous collection of fonts
  9. Finally a 5th copy is born
  10. Now you send that copy to all those people again… because till now they have not had a chance to see what each other has written
  11. Welcome to 9 copies
  12. Now you get 3 more replies – another round of rejuvenating Copy Paste marathon
  13. After many such iterations the document is finally ready

We are so used to it, we don’t even think it is a problem

Experience with technology has taught us that this is absolutely normal. Part of the game. Everyone does it. Boss also does the same thing. Competitor also is in the same boat.

Is there really something like “MY documents”

In business context, My Documents is a misnomer. Invariably, you will need to involve someone else for something about any business document. For review, reference, inputs… whatever.

The hard truth is that even if you created a document, it is never fully yours!

The solution: Think before you Attach

Email was designed for communication and delivery of stuff. What used to go by telegram, telex, fax, courier can now be sent by email – faster and cheaper.

That is true even today. However, over the years, we have been misusing it for doing things which are not just inefficient, but they are actually hampering business execution.

We have to actively stop this bad habit.

There are two scenarios you have to choose from….

Am I delivering the document or am I sharing it?

Delivery means you give it to someone and then forget about it. No review, update, reply… nothing.

For example, if I send a mail to my staff with their salary slip attached, it is called DELIVERY.

Sharing is different…

Sharing means I am interested in what happens to the document even after I send it to others. When you attach a document which you are interested in – you are making a big mistake… You just created a copy of the document.

So the cardinal rule of sharing is that you never make a copy. The thing being shared is always a single copy. Others who want to work with it must use the SAME copy.

Sharing = 1 copy

Now the question is… where do we keep that copy? On your own PC? Or on a departmental server?

It should be in such a place that it is accessible to everyone who needs it but it should also be secure.

Finding such a place as a replacement to email attachment will improve your efficiency.

I will explain how to do this in the next post.

But for now … remember this…

CCs with attachments are the enemy of efficiency!

PowerPoint: How to create Picture Organizational Chart in 2 minutes

The need

It is annual Planning time.  You need to create an organizational chart with pictures and designated titles and present to your boss.  But you dont want to have to manually insert each picture one by one.  How can you do that in PowerPoint?

Preparation

  1. You need pictures of people who go into the organization chart. Save these in a single folder.
  2. PowerPoint 2010 or above

Picture Organizational Chart

Simple steps to creating a Picture Organizational Chart

  1. Create a new PowerPoint presentation
  2. Add a blank slide
  3. Insert – Picture – choose all pictures from the folder and choose insert
  4. All pictures will be added and selected
  5. DO NOT disturb the selection
  6. Click on Picture Tools – Picture Layout – Choose Org Chartcreate Picture Organizational Chart in PowerPoint
  7. Now all of the pictures are arranged in a straight line. Don’t Worry!
  8. It is now converted to a SmartArtimage
  9. Click on the edit button on the left edge of the SmartArtimage
  10. Now you can see pictures and empty bullets
  11. All bullets are same level that is why the org chart is flat
  12. Choose the boss. Use Shift Alt Up arrow / Down arrow to rearrange
  13. For subordinates press TAB one or more timesSNAGHTML2d14236
  14. Rearrange and you are done!
  15. If you want, type names in each bullet
  16. Resize the SmartArt as required
  17. That’s it!

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Choose the SmartArt – SmartArt Tools menu – Design – Choose another Layout. Only two layouts in this category support pictures.

PowerPoint Picture Organizational Chart

Readjusting the visible portion of a picture

If PowerPoint chose a wrong area, click on the picture – Picture Tools – Crop. Now move the picture to select desired area. This part may have to be done repeatedly to get perfect results. Unfortunately, there is not shortcut available because PowerPoint does not know which region of the photos you want to show.

Demo files

This presentation contains three slides.

  1. Contains all pictures
  2. Contains Final Org Chart
  3. Contains Org chart in different format

Download the presentation Org Chart Demo

The pictures are royalty free – from Office Online Clipart

How to create a list of all WordPress blog posts

Lifelog

Conrad Bangkok.. Extended exposure photo…

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The need

I needed this myself. I am new to the WordPress platform.

I wanted to add a page containing all my post titles for a simple reason. I don’t want to repeat the same post. Trust me it can happen!

So I did lot of R&D and finally found this simple method. No programming is necessary.

As a result I added the All Posts page to this blog.

The solution: WordPress archives Shortcode

    1. Go to WordPress admin page
    2. Go to Pages and Add New Page
    3. In the visual editor (no need to go to the text editor) type
      [ archives order=asc]
    4. Save and publish the pageWordPress archives
    5. That’s it. The page now lists all the posts in ascending order (oldest first)All WordPress posts

There are many other options available for refining the archive list. These modifiers are documented at Archives Shortcodes.

Problem

I wanted a serial number before each post. There is a before and after tag. But it did not work as the already has a

    tag around it. So OL and LI was ignored.

Better method

Then I found a better shortcode called [ display-posts]

This one gives much more customization options.

The final shortcode gave me exactlly what I wanted.

[ display-posts wrapper=”ol” order=asc display-posts posts_per_page=”500″ include_date=”true” date_format=” : j M y” ]

Here is the final result – All Posts Page

List of blog posts in WordPress

Control who can edit what in Word with Restrict Editing

You need it, but you did not know it exists

This is a classic example of a great feature which nobody uses because nobody knows. But once you know it, you will curse yourself for not knowing it earlier.

For this feature to work, you must have Active Directory setup in your organization. If you are not sure, ask your IT team.

You specify which area can be edited by whom by using Restrict Editing

  1. Create a document
  2. Create a structure (outline) by using Headings and Subheadings using Heading stylesimage
  3. Review – Restrict Editing (older versions – Document Protection)
  4. New window (pane) opens on the right side.
  5. Choose Allow only this type of editingWord Restrict Editing
  6. By default it will be Read Only
  7. Understand the Exceptions section
  8. As of now, there is no exception. That means – for everyone it is read only
  9. Now click on More users  link
  10. Add userid or email ids of people from your organization separated by commas and click ok
  11. Now select any area in the document and choose who can edit itimage
  12. For common areas like Executive Summary, Discussion, Conclusion, Action Plan ,etc, select the Everyone option
  13. Finally click Start enforcing protection
  14. Now specify a password (long one, of course)
  15. DO NOT give this password to anyone
  16. Send the document to people (ideally store it on SharePoint and send link to people)
  17. Now whenever someone opens the file, Word asks Windows who is this person
  18. It then manages the editing or read only parts dynamically
  19. When you open it, the part you can edit can be far away. So it shows you these helpful buttons.Restrict Editing options
  20. If you use SharePoint and Word 2010 or 2013, these people can edit the document simultaneously.

This feature is there for at least 10 years!

Next time you say – I already know Office… think again!

How to select things faster in Office

The need

Selecting text, data or objects is so commonly done that we don’t even think how it is ACTUALLY being done. As a result, many methods of selecting things are inefficient. Each time you may waste few seconds, but it adds up. Based upon what I have seen, I feel most of us waste at least 15 minutes a day because we don’t use the right method of selecting things.

Ctrl A = Select All – not just in Word

All of us know CTRL A selects the whole document. Unfortunately, we never try it elsewhere.

The idea is simple. Wherever there is a logical need for selecting everything in a given context – try CTRL A

  1. Excel Table If cursor is inside a table CTRL A selects the data portion. Another CTRL A selects the header row as well. Another CTRL A selects the whole sheet. The active cell always remains the same. (will explain this in another article)
  2. Excel data : CTRL A selects contiguous block. Another CTRL A selects whole sheet.
  3. Excel Find Search Results: Selects all results. Ctrl Click can be used for unselecting individual items.
  4. In a Slide: Selects all objects. Ctrl Click for exceptions

Inclusive selection

This is useful for shapes, pictures and other objects. If there are multiple objects on a slide, Click somewhere outside any object and draw a rectangle by dragging the mouse.

Any object which is completely inside the rectangle is selected. Ctrl Click for exception.

Inclusive selection in Powerpoint

Inclusive selection in Powerpoint

Select beginning, scroll to end, Shift Click

This is useful for very long lists, long data, long portions of text, web pages etc.

Start the selection at the beginning. But don’t try to drag the mouse all the way to the end, because it is very cumbersome. Let some small portion in the beginning be selected.

Now scroll to the end point without clicking anywhere inside the document. Now press shift key and click at the end point. The entire intervening area from beginning to end will be selected.

Go To in Excel

If you know the beginning and ending of the range, you can choose F5 (Go To) and type the range like A1:D1000 and click ok.

If you have a name for the range or the table, you can type the name itself.

You can open the dropdown near the name box to move to and highlight any named item.

Go to in Excel

Triple Click

Double click selects a word. Triple click selects a paragraph in Word. Did you know that?

Shift is the selection key

If you are moving from place A to place B in the document by any method – page down, scroll, mouse scroll , whatever… and if the shift key is pressed, then it selects things.

Try this out to understand what I mean.

End mode in Excel

Make sure you have a block of data to try this out.

Selection - End mode in Excel

Look at the status bar. It should show Ready

Now press and release the END key.

Now status bar shows END mode. What does this mean? Excel now knows that you want to move the selection from the current place to the end. But it still does not know end in which direction. So it is waiting for you to clarify that. That is called End Mode.

Now you are supposed to guide Excel by just pressing and releasing up, down, right or left key. Then it will move to the end in that direction.

Of course if Shift key was pressed all along then it will SELECT from original to final position.

So if you want to select from current position (C4) to the end of the row, the exact sequence would be like this.

  1. Keep pressing SHIFT key
  2. Press and release End key
  3. Notice that End mode is active in the status bar
  4. Press and release Right arrow key
  5. Now C4 to end of the row will be selected
  6. Now release the SHIFT key

Selecting within Word tables

Lot of convenient methods of selection are available using mouse. The best way is to create a table. Move the mouse cursor slowly and whenever it changes try a single or double click.

Also try single or double click on the left side margin, just outside the table.

Summary

Of course there are hundreds of other methods of selecting effectively. This article has shown some commonly useful ones. But keep on the lookout for situations where you are selecting something repetitively. That is the place where you have to find a faster method of selection. Try to explore. I am sure you will find a better way.

If you cant, ask me.