How to format books for Kindle: Raj Chaudhuri – Guest Post


As you know I just published my first book on Kindle. I could not have done it without help from Raj Chaudhuri. Raj is my close friend and a genius on Microsoft platform. I wrote the book in Word and when I converted it to Kindle format it looked horrible. Raj came to the rescue and refined the HTML to ensure it renders properly on Kindle. We realized that this conversion has to be done by hand and it has not been documented properly anywhere. Fragmented, random posts are available but no authoritative guidance available. So I invited Raj to write this post. image

How to create content for Kindle Books

Kindle books are created in a format called AZW, which is a variation of a format called MobiPocket. AZW (or mobi) files are created from HTML source files, and can include images and some formatting. When creating books for Kindle, we need to keep in mind at least two important things about the MobiPocket format:

  1. Mobipocket content is meant to be freely reflowed, to optimally adapt to the screen size. This means that we should not plan a book with rigid formatting requirements. Things like multiple columns, tables, text flowing around images, etc. should be avoided. We should also avoid page numbers, footers and annotations.
  2. The user (rather than the publisher) chooses the font family, font size, margin size, line spacing, etc. to make the reading more comfortable. This means that we should not spend too much time choosing fonts – nor should we differentiate our text using only font family or font size. Any of these things may be unavailable on some devices, or be overridden by a user.

The Kindle Direct Publishing site allows us to upload a zip file containing an html file and supporting media files, and converts it to the AZW format automatically. The HTML file should not be too complex, and can contain some CSS styling. The CSS styles can be defined in a separate stylesheet file, which needs to be included in the zip file. All images used in the HTML file should also be included in the zip file. In general, we should limit the HTML to the following tags: p, div, h1-h9, ol/li, ul/li, img, a, b and i. CSS should be limited to margin, padding, indent and line-height. There are two lines of Amazon Kindle devices: the e-ink line and the Fire series. The e-ink ones are monochrome, and support a limited number of fonts. The Fire series support color, fonts and richer formatting options such as tables. To ensure a uniform experience across devices, we need to watch out for some factors. These are the ones I found.

  1. Use heading styles (h1-h9) and paragraphs mainly. Use div tags sparingly.
  2. Different Kindle devices have different defaults regarding how headings and paragraphs are styled. If we want uniformity, we will have to redefine the styles using CSS. This is particularly true for paragraph indents. Most kindle devices format paragraphs using a first-line indent. We can override this using the following css: p { text-indent: 0 }
  3. The fire devices support color. The e-ink devices display colored images as grayscale, and do it quite well. Some e-ink devices can also display text foreground and background colors as grayscale, but some can’t. So we should not differentiate any of our text content using color only.
  4. Bold and italic work across kindle devices.
  5. The HTML ul tag creates a bulleted list on all kindle devices. By default, text in this list is slightly indented, which is what is usually expected. The ol tag creates a numbered list on all devices except the Kindle DX. This list is also indented by default.
  6. Changing the default fonts will work on the Fire devices, but not on the e-ink ones. It’s generally better to stick with the default fonts, especially for paragraphs. We can change the fonts for the heading if we really need to.


A book will turn out better if the HTML is created by hand. But we can use Microsoft Word if we want to. These are the guidelines for using Microsoft Word. Even after using Word, it is a good idea to clean up and refine the HTML manually. There does not seem to be an automated way of doing it.

  1. Do NOT use any of Word’s wonderful formatting tools. Use only Heading styles, bold and italics.
  2. Do not use Word’s bullets and numbering. Write any bulleted or numbered lists as simple paragraphs, and change them later, as described in point 7.
  3. Do not paste images into the Word document. Instead, use the Insert Image command to insert them from files.
  4. Do not leave extra lines between paragraphs. Use Paragraph setting of Space Before and After to get desired spacing.
  5. You can use Word’s Table of Contents feature. Make sure the TOC is updated before the next step.
  6. Start a new topic (Heading 1) on new page. It is better to add the page break manually rather than include it as a part of Heading 1 style definition.
  7. Save the document as “Filtered HTML”. This saves the document and the associated images using minimal HTML. The HTML that Word still generates is still horrible, but this is better that saving as “HTML”.
  8. Edit the HTML using a text editor. Introduce ul and ol tags in places where you need bullets and numbering. Clear out any unneeded formatting or text. In particular, look for   elements and remove them.
  9. Word embeds a style element in the HTML file itself. It defines a number of CSS style classes, most of which we do not need. The ones we do need are as follows:
  10. MsoNormal – Word assigns this class to all paragraphs. We should ideally ensure that this class contains only margin, padding and indent styles, if at all.
  11. MsoToc1 through MsoToc9 – These are classes for the different levels in the table of contents.
  12. In Nitin’s book, we used custom CSS styles for showing Step by Step processes, additional details, pictures (centering) and spacing above and below and Generic learning. Make sure not to rely on color and font type because monochrome devices do not render it either completely or partially.

Publishing the book

Buy the book Building your book for Kindle. Yes it is 2.5 USD it does explain the process step by step. The formatting details mentioned above are sadly missing. That is why we wrote this blog. Building your book for kindle

  1. Login to Kindle Direct Publishing site and sign in.
  2. Create a new book and enter all details
  3. Create a separate book cover file and upload it.
  4. Create a zip file containing the base html file and its related image files folder. If you are using a CSS file, make sure that is a part of the zip file as well.
  5. Upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing
  6. Fill in all the details and wait. After few hours your book should be available in the store


Do post your feedback and comments. We will keep updating this post if we learn any more related best practices.

Published my first book: Ribbon Hater’s Handbook

This book explains how the Ribbon is an empowerment rather than a disappointment. Office Ribbon was introduced around for 7 years. Still most of us are still not comfortable with it. Some of us hate it actively, most of us just settle for a compromise.

Ribbon Hater's Handbook

View details on Amazon Kindle bookstore. Only available on Kindle platform.
USD 5 (INR 307).

If you don’t have a Kindle device you can still read it by downloading free Kindle Reader Apps for Windows PC/ Mac, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, iPhone or iPad devices.

Book Summary

  1. Ribbon is good for you.
  2. Read  each tooltip in each tab to learn more about great features which you may be ignoring
  3. Add commonly used buttons which don’t have keyboard shortcuts to Quick Access Toolbar (QAT)
  4. Add buttons which you need but are not available in the Ribbon to the QAT
  5. First 9 buttons get automatic shortcuts Alt 1 to Alt 9
  6. Therefore, arrange the most useful 9 buttons in QAT at first 9 positions
  7. Create Custom Ribbon and Custom QAT as per your needs
  8. Commonly used buttons go into QAT. Activity related buttons go into custom Ribbon tabs
  9. The File menu now occupies the full screen for a purpose. Explore all options there and you will be surprised how much you were missing out on.
  10. Quick Print button can be activated by using the dropdown next to the QAT
  11. You must share your customization with your colleagues using Export / Import feature
  12. IT can deploy pre-customized ribbon automatically using a login script and group policy
  13. Sometimes, you need to create a custom ribbon for a specific document.
  14. Such documents, if commonly reused, should be stored as templates.
  15. Templates can be shared using email (not recommended), SharePoint + Group Policy or SharePoint Content Types
  16. Download interactive command guides. These help you find old commands in the new UI.

Features NOT mentioned in the book

Specially for followers of this blog Smile

Double click works with some buttons

Try using it on Format Painter and Highlighter. Double clicking allows you to use the button repeatedly – it remains in the same ‘Mode’.

For example, if you want to copy formatting from one shape and apply it to multiple shapes (even across slides) – this is how you do it.

  1. Select the original shape from where you want to copy the formatting.
  2. Double click on Format Painter.
  3. Now the mouse cursor changes.
  4. Now click on one or more shapes.
  5. You can change to another slide, still it is in Format Painter mode.
  6. When you finish, press Escape.

Double click DOES NOT work with shapes

This is unfortunate because we do need to draw multiple shapes of the same type quite often. But don’t worry. Right click on the shape and choose Lock Drawing Mode.

Now you can draw multiple shapes of the same type without clicking on the shape icon repeatedly.


Next Article

I will cover what I learnt while creating and publishing the Kindle Book.

Show Off Demo: OneNote and Outlook

This is a new type of article. Impress your colleagues, boss, spouses, partners, soul mates, children by showing this impressive demo! I show you the steps and tell you what to speak Smile

Before you start this demo, check the requirements

Office 2010 or Office 2013

OneNote and Outlook installed.

Outlook must have at least one mailbox configured.

Demo: Meeting notes

What you have to do is in black color. What you have to say is in blue color.

  • Open Outlook calendar
  • Click on any meeting
  • How will you take notes for this meeting? Open a blank Word document and type meeting details all over again? Obviously not!
  • Right click on the meeting, choose Meeting Notes
  • If it asks what type of notes, Choose


  • Now Outlook will ask you to choose the notebook in OneNote. Choose any one.


  • A new page will be created with meeting name.


  • Unlike Word, all the meeting details are automatically added. Did you expect that?
  • Now type some random notes. One sentence should be “Action Point Demo”
  • Let us say this is an action point which must be completed by tomorrow.
  • Right click in that sentence and choose Outlook tasks – Tomorrow

    OneNote Task demo

  • Now go to Outlook and open Tasks folder. Select Tasks. Not Follow up.
  • Point to the task which was automatically created by OneNote.


  • See – even before I finish the meeting, I already know my tasks.
  • Pause for people to appreciate the integration
  • Now when I mark this task as complete (mark the task as complete in Outlook) what do you expect?
  • Your audience will say something like, the OneNote task should be updated
  • DO NOT go to OneNote yet.
  • This is an amazing example of how these OneNote and Outlook integrate with each other. Usually we would have received the Minutes of Meetings a day later and I would have forgotten to execute my action point on time. What happens then? Delays and fire fighting! Sounds familiar?
  • One more thing – this was my own task. But what if I wanted to delegate task to someone? No problem, we could have chosen Custom task and Assigned it to someone else. That way I can still monitor the task and check for delays.
  • Wait for some response from the audience
  • Basically you have to spend at least 20 seconds before you return to OneNote
  • Now go to OneNote and notice that the Task is already marked as complete


  • That is OneNote for you. Use it next time you are in a meeting. 

    Practice this few times to perfect the demo.

    Cheat sheet

    Mark as task in OneNote – it reflects IMMEDIATELY in Outlook task folder.

    The catch is – when you mark it as complete in Outlook, it takes around 20 seconds to refresh the OneNote task status. That is why you have to mark it as complete in Outlook and kill some time by talking some relevant stuff before you return to OneNote.

    If you return to OneNote too soon, the task will not be shown as complete and the demo will fall flat Sad smile



Inefficiency Self-Audit

In a hurry?

Skip the introductory part and scroll down to the section Inefficiency Benchmarks and follow instructions.

The problem

In each of my posts, I have shown how work can be done more efficiently.

You probably already knew a method of doing it.
I am highlighting the best, fastest, smartest method. That is called Efficiency.

The problem is that there are millions of business activities we perform and there are thousands of features. I cannot help you with every activity you perform.

The question is, as an individual, how do you detect your inefficiency?

The solution: Self-Audit

inefficiency self-audit

The solution is simple. YOU must start detecting your own inefficiencies – while you work.

How to do that? By a simple process of SELF-AUDIT.

Start noticing how you work and think about what are the exact steps you are taking.

Usually, while working with Office tools, we do not notice the actual steps. We have been using it for years. So things happen automatically.

Self-Audit means consciously noticing the activities you perform. Click, Right click, Keyboard shortcut, mouse movement, repetition, Undo… everything.

Initially it will require some proactive effort. But soon it will become a habit.

Next problem: How to find if my method is inefficient?

This is a tough question to answer. Because, in most cases you know only ONE method of performing the activity or task.

Office allows you to perform most activities in many different ways. You found one method which worked for you and you stick to it lifelong.

How did you find that particular method? Most probably by trial and error.

Even if you found that method from documentation or research, there is a good chance that Microsoft has added more features to make it simpler. You have not taken any extra effort to find a better approach because your existing method is working anyway.

This is what I called Active Inefficiency!

If you know only one method, how can you say it is good or bad? Efficient or Inefficient?

You have nothing to compare it with. No benchmark.

The method which was best on day one may be the worst way of doing it today.

Inefficiency Benchmarks

Here are simple benchmarks to tell you whether your method is inefficient or efficient.
These may sound arcane at first. But just try these for next few days. I will post more explanatory articles later.

Repetition = Inefficiency

This is obvious. But still we continue to do many repetitive activities instead of trying to find a better way.

Struggle = Inefficiency

If you are struggling and fighting with the software to get something done, then it is definitely not the right way – even if it eventually works.

Feeling that you are helping Office rather than Office is helping you

You try something. It works but it does not work elegantly. Are you trying to help Office? If yes then STOP IMMEDIATELY.

Remember that Office is created to help us. Not the other way.

So if you are faced with a situation where you are helping Office do its job, that means you are not communicating correctly with the software. Stop and try to find a way of communicating correctly.

Hands in active use but brain is idling

Content is important. Not formatting. But most of us spend disproportionately more time on formatting Word and PowerPoint documents. That is inefficiency. Content comes from brain. Formatting comes from hands. So an imbalance between usage of hands v/s brain indicates inefficiency.

Small data = less time, Large / Complex data = exponentially more time

This is a corollary to repetition. Even if you use an inefficient method few times, it does not matter. But if the data becomes bigger, that inefficiency is going to take inordinate amount of your time. This is a sure way of detecting inefficient approach.

Undo = Inefficiency

If you made a mistake and pressed UNDO, then it is absolutely fine.

But in reality, we often use UNDO because you tried to do something (intentionally) and what happened was not what you expected. Therefore, to repair the damage we use UNDO. This type of UNDO usage is a sure indicator of inefficiency.

In this case UNDO is telling you that you don’t know how to do!

Again it is time to discard your current method and find a better one.


Try these benchmarks while working in the next few days. Post your feedback as comments.

In future articles, I will cover examples so that you can relate to it better.

Facebook analytics using Excel 2013 Power Query: Without programming!

In few minutes you can analyze any public Facebook page data.
Here we see how to analyze the likes and comments – instantly.

You need Excel 2010 or Excel 2013 (Professional Plus edition) or Office which is installed from Office 365.

  1. Close Excel if it is open
  2. Download a new, extremely powerful tool Power Query for Excel
  3. Install the tool
  4. Open Excel
  5. You should now see a tab called Power Query
  6. Open Power Query tab and open the From Other Sources dropdown
  7. Choose FacebookFacebook analytics using Excel 2013 Power Query
  8. Choose me and Statuses (you can choose other types as well)


    Remember that you can type any username or object id which has information accessible to you

  9. Click Ok
  10. Sign in to your Facebook account
  11. Save the credentials
  12. Now it will open a query result window and extract status update information from FB
  13. At this stage it shows few results. Later it will fetch all possible results.image
  14. Keep the columns Message, Updated Time, Likes and Comments.
  15. Remove other columns by right clicking on each column and deleting it
  16. Now we want the count of likes and comments
  17. As of now, both show Table.
  18. Notice the small icon next to the Likes and Comments column headingsSNAGHTML17052850
  19. Click on that icon and do the following for Likes and Comments
    1. Choose Aggregate and Count of ID
    2. Now the Column shows count
  20. The date time column contains locale information. We want a simple Date Time column.
  21. Right click on the Updated Time column and choose Date Timeimage
  22. On the right side pane, expand the Steps area
  23. Notice that all the steps you performed are remembered.image
  24. Click the Done button
  25. Wait for data to be fetchedimage
  26. Now you can use this data in a Pivot Table or PowerView to analyze the FB data easilyimage

    This is a PowerView chart of one FB site

  27. Here is another one as a PivotChart based upon another public siteimage


Now you can do sophisticated FB analysis without knowing any programming, FQL or Graph API syntax.

Explore Power Query.

It has a very powerful syntax. Yes it is complex but it is extremely powerful.
We will cover more of Power Query, Power View and Power Map in future posts.

Fail safe presentation – Best practices

The Need

The more important the presentation, more things will go wrong. If you want to prevent that, you must be proactive. Here are the best practices I have learnt after delivering more than 2000 live sessions!

Here I am assuming that your presentation content is already finalized and that you are using PowerPoint 2010 or 2013.

First step is to make a copy of the presentation. Whatever is mentioned below should be done on the copy of the presentation. This way, your original presentation is not disturbed in any way, in case something goes wrong.

If you are delivering the presentation from your own laptop…

This makes the content and delivery a little safer. But still you need to do the following.

  1. Run the entire presentation without any network.
    1. Check all embedded file links. These files should open without network connectivity.
    2. Check all videos. These are embedded and therefore should run without network.
  2. Keep a copy of the entire presentation on USB drive. DO NOT just copy the presentation. See below for instructions.
  3. upload it to OneDrive, DropBox or any other storage on internet.
  4. OneDrive (or SharePoint if you have corporate network) is the best because the presentation can be shown reliably on a browser in case everything else fails.

If you are going to carry the presentation and deliver on some other PC / Laptop / Tablet

This is a dangerous situation. We must assume that you will get only a PC with some Windows version running. PowerPoint version is not guaranteed. Here are the best practices.

If you have videos, make sure you use Office 2010 and Insert Video feature

Till Office 2007, videos were never inserted – the files were linked. So if you carried the presentation file only, the video was always missing!

If you have inserted videos, use the Optimize Compatibility button

Carrying or embedding a video does not guarantee that it will run on any PC. It needs the right kind of codec to run. Of course you have no interest in learning what is a codec. Therefore, PowerPoint makes it simpler for you by converting your videos automatically to a format which will run on any Windows PC.

Choose File menu – Info – check if you see an Optimize Compatibility button.

Presentation tip - Optimize Media Compatibility

If you don’t see it, very good. One thing less to worry about.

If you see it, open it and choose Presentation Quality. It will do something. Let it finish.

Technical Note: For those who are interested, PowerPoint checks if the format requires a codec which other PCs may not have. Most common is QuickTime. Then it converts the videos which are already in your presentation to WMV format by re-rendering them. All the special effects, animation, trims etc will be preserved. It asks you to choose the quality. Choose High quality for important presentations, Medium for most presentations. Low quality is only for mobile device delivery. You may not realize it, but this is a very complex activity which is completely simplified for us by PowerPoint.

Check Hyperlinks to web sites

Connect to internet from a mobile phone or some other connection and check all links to external web sites. Do NOT use corporate network. Sometimes you link to web pages / images which are inside the corporate network and these don’t work outside your office.

If there are linked files and pictures, Package the presentation

DO NOT just copy the presentation file.

Choose File – Save and Send (2010) or Export (2013)

Presentation tip: Package Presentation for CD

In the dialog, click Options button


Make sure you put a password and Inspect the presentation for notes, comments etc. (See this article for details)

Embedding fonts and linked files is a very good feature. It ensures that your presentation will run on any PC containing PowerPoint.

Carry PowerPoint viewer

This may sound like an overkill but it is an absolute necessity. Many conferences and seminars use laptops provided by the AV agency which is running the show. These people often have very old operating system and PowerPoint versions.

If you have used new features in your presentation, most of it will either not run at all or will be horribly disfigured.

Download PowerPoint Viewer. This is the latest version as of today. It works with presentations created in all versions of PowerPoint.

Check this on internet before downloading to ensure that you are downloading the latest version.

Other things which make a difference

If your job depends upon delivering presentations – mine does – then you need some extra precautions to ensure that your presentation runs EVERY TIME without a flaw.

In this case you have to do some simple and some extreme things:

  1. Bandwidth at the venue.
    This is a tricky item. You cannot control it till you reach the venue. But at least then you should check this one out thoroughly. If your presentation depends upon live bandwidth, you must test everything as soon as you arrive at the venue. Perform a full rehearsal and repeat just before the beginning of the session if possible.
    Hotels usually provide insufficient bandwidth. I find it easier to buy a local SIM card with large Internet Top Up. Unfortunately, due to thick walls of ball rooms and conference venues, the 3G / 4G may not work. You must test it before the presentation.
  2. Carry a projector. I carry my own. Epson EB1775W. 3000 Lumen and very good for upto 100 participants. This supports WiFi so you can put it anywhere and not worry about cable length. Unfortunately, I am not able to use the WIFI on Windows 8.Presentation tip: Carry your own projector
  3. Carry an plug which can connect two VGA cables. Very often the length of the VGA cable is short. It forces you to sit at the wrong spot. So carry a spare cable (10 USD approx) and a male-to-male VGA connector (costs approx 1 USD)imageThis Gender Changer is an invaluable piece to have. Many customers have two VGA cables but don’t have this adapter. With it you can extend the cable length.
  4. Batteries. Carry at least two AA, two AAA and one 9 volt battery.
    Why? Because the microphone batteries die in couple of hours. If you conduct long sessions, the batteries are a lifesaver. If you don’t carry them, it becomes a chaotic situation. You are mid way into your presentation. Everything stops. Someone scrambles to find the AV guy / gal who is invariably missing from the scene by now. They don’t get new cells, someone rushes out to buy them or request from admin… it is hilarious and sad. Just buy the cells and carry them.presentation tip - extra battery
  5. A laser pointer and clicker is useful. I use a special mouse which has all of these so I don’t need to carry it.
  6. Power Adapter is necessary if you travel internationally. The composite ones are good but usually don’t fit into artistically restrictive crevices even in the most sophisticated conference rooms. It is best to buy the dedicated adapters (2 pieces at least) as soon as you land in a country. Convenience store on the airport is the best bet as stores within the city usually do not keep such adapters.
  7. Finally, a printout of your presentation may be all that you have in case of power failure or some technical glitch.
  8. If you are using a tablet, make sure that you are carrying the VGA / HDMI adapterimage

What if everything fails?

No worries. Just go on stage and express yourself from your heart.

No amount of technology, tools and accessories can substitute for depth of knowledge, experience and passion to add value to the audience.

Doctor’s Toolkit – sneak preview

Here are my favorite tools and techniques.
This is a commonly asked question. This article is long overdue. So here it is.

Disclaimer: I have chosen these tools based upon my research.
However, it may not represent the best or latest products in that category at the time of writing this article.

Tool Details
Screen recording for professional videos and screencasts doctor's toolkit
 Recorder from Techsmith for high resolution work.
SnagIt recording for short, high-resolution recording.
Windows Media Encoder 9 for regular recording of session. This is lower resolution but yields very compact videos. One hour recording is 100 mb.
Video editing Camtasia Studio for screencasts. The product has matured over time and has amazing facilities for creating learning content.
Audio editing SoundForge Pro 10
SoundForge Pro 10
 and Adobe Soundbooth (now superceded by Adobe Audition)
Ideation / Visualization Pen and paper – large paper with colored sketch pens is the best option.
OneNote with stylus for on-screen ideation and sketching.
Screen zoom Zooming the screen to highlight specific areas and show actions is very important. This enhances learning and increases the retention.
Windows key and plus / minus sign zooms in out
For more control I use ZoomIT from SysInternals. This provides annotation while zooming. Amazing tool.
HDD size management Tree size Pro for HDD size management
However large the Hard Disk is, we always run out of it. And then you want to know which folders to cleanup. This tool solves the problem elegantly: TreeSize Pro
De-fragmentation Diskeeper
Diskeeper to avoid Defragmentation
Very useful to proactively eliminate disk fragmentation. Improves performance dynamically. It is better than trying to defrag manually AFTER fragmentation has already happened.
Screen Capture Snagit for screen capture
– nothing beats it. The best. Buy it if you capture screen images regularly. Ingenious and extremely powerful. Works with DirectX (Games) as well. Records MP4 video as well without a rendering pass.
Graphic design PowerPoint, Word, Publisher, Adobe Spark, Illustrator and of course … paper and pencil
Stopwatch XNote Stopwatch Shareware. I purchased it 9 years back! Very good stopwatch and timer. Fully flexible. I use it to show how fast things can be done using Office. A demo with a timer running is much more exciting for the audience.
I also use it to time myself when I start a particular activity. It keeps you conscious of the time you are spending and helps you improve your time estimation accuracy.
Photo Editing Fairly good functionality available in PowerPoint. Technical screenshot editing is best done in SnagIt editor.
Otherwise PhotoShop is the final authority on this. After Effects can be used for creating some amazing effects on static images as well.
Sketching Autodesk sketchbook Pro for sketching
Nothing beats pen and paper. But if you have a tablet with good stylus nothing beats Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I have Surface Pro – with its amazing stylus and built-in Wacom tablet is the ultimate combination for sketching and calligraphy.
Blogging WordPress. Windows Live Writer is very good for creating and editing posts.
Windows live writer 2012 for blogging
Backup I have tried many backup tools. If you know what you want to backup, then I find a simple file copy with encryption to be the best option.
I use Vice Versa Pro for this purpose. Very comprehensive and very fast in spite of its arcane UI.
File transfer Cute FTP pro for file transfer
Cute FTP Pro
. This is the final word in FTP transfer. Yes you have to pay. But it is absolutely worth it.
Bandwidth monitoring Bandwidth Meter Pro. Now Windows 8 does give better bandwidth monitoring in Task Manager. But this tool is valuable if you want to see details and monitor paid/costly connections.
Grammar check Grammarly Add-in for Word. Very comprehensive and professional grammar checker. Of course I use it for important documents and scripts. For regular documents, Word is more than enough.
Thesaurus Word thesaurus is very handy and comprehensive. But if you want a creative way of finding the right word, nothing beats Visual Thesaurus. The dynamically moving, 3D visualization motivates you to be creative.
Special effects PowerPoint is quite powerful for many things. For screenshots, SnagIt editor is very good. It has some fade and emphasize effects which are quick and effective.
For videos I use Adobe After Effects. Ming-boggling and extremely complex to learn and use to the fullest extent. But high impact output can be created in a very short period of time. Make sure you know the rendering options well.
Adobe After Effects for video effects
Camera Canon PowerShot SX240 HS for detailed work. This is a small camera with full manual controls. I cant carry a full DSLR because my bag is already full with all sorts of stuff and very heavy (14 kg)
Tablet Surface Pro. Highly usable as a tablet and a very fast laptop. Gives 5 hours of battery life. Excellent touch and stylus functionality.
Phone Xperia Z. I like Sony workmanship and reliability.
Mouse I use the greatest mouse MS ever created. Now it is out of production but I have two more pieces with me. Presenter Mouse 8000.
Contains Screen Zoom button, Laser Pointer, Presenter for PowerPoint, media player control (Volume and Play/Pause). Works in Bluetooth radius of 60 ft.
I love it. It is like a part of my body now. I feel lost if I don’t have it while presenting on stage or working at my desk. If you see this in any store, please let me know. I want more.
Presenter Mouse 8000
Mouse pad Well, what is special about a mouse pad? There is. I use this sturdy and hard mouse pad which is washable and “almost indestructible”. Why is is important? I conduct sessions in all sorts of places. Nowadays, Mouse can work on all surfaces without a pad. But there are surfaces which are uneven or have joints with gaps. That is when a hard mouse pad is very useful.
I buy it in Singapore. It is made by BriteMat from UK
Remote Control TeamViewer for Remote control
I often provide support to some VIPs. I use TeamViewer. This product never stops amazing me. It just works and works perfectly. I have provided support on mobile phone based remote control!

Mini Charts Part 2: Sparklines Usage scenarios

In the previous article , we have explored a new kind of mini chart called Sparklines.  In this article, we will explore when and where to use Sparklines to quickly identify trends,  compare data visually and much more…

Quick Recap: Sparklines are mini charts drawn in a single cell based upon data from multiple cells. It is an easy yet effective way of comparing data.

Financial statements

Typical financial statements show data in reverse order. Current year first followed by past years.


You have to read each number from right to left and then compare them mentally to form a pattern. Then we read each row and try to correlate it with other rows.

Now see the same data with Sparklines.

Financial statement with Sparklines

Problem: Chart is visually in reverse order

Look at the Operating Income. At the first glance it looks as though it is decreasing over time. But in reality, it is increasing over time – data is in reverse order.

To avoid this visual confusion, choose the Sparkline Tools –
Axis options – Plot from right to left. Problem solved.


Comparing Quotations, Specifications, Scores

Any kind of comparison can be performed visually using Sparklines as long as the data is numeric.

Visual comparison with Sparklines

Notice how it helps you see a clear difference across the models without reading the numbers. It highlights the winner clearly and without ambiguity.

How does it happen? Because it takes the minimum value across the row as the beginning of the axis. Usually all bar charts start with zero. However in this case, the Power bar chart is starting at 177. Therefore the smaller value becomes visually insignificant.

Due to this visual contrast, it is easier to interpret the information. Of course, remember that this may lead you to underestimate actual values. If you want true to life representation of proportions, traditional charts are better.

Mini Charts: New method of visualizing data

The need

Visual data analysis usually means charts.  There are some limitations of using charts.

  • In some cases, traditional charts don’t work well. Primary and secondary Y axis allows two different scales of data to be shown visually. But more than three scales are impossible to plot.
  • Chart is a separate layer and needs to handled separately.
  • Charts occupy lot of space because there are so many elements to be shown like gridlines, axes, labels and so on.
  • If you try to reduce the chart size, the pattern gets flattened and difficult to interpret.

Visualize data with Mini Charts (Excel 2010 or above)

Fortunately, there is a new way of data visualization available in Excel (since Version 2010) – Mini charts.  Sparkline is a type of mini chart that is drawn in a single cell based upon data from multiple cells. Select one or more blank cells. Choose Insert Sparklines – Line. Select the input data. Click OK.





You can apply this to multiple rows or columns. Make sure you select the data correctly.

If you use this in a table, when more data is added to the table, new Sparkline will be automatically added. You can also increase the Sparkline by dragging it from the corner – just like formulas.

Powerful customization possible

When you Click inside the Sparkline, the Sparkline Tools tab appears. Make sure you go through EVERY option of this menu. You can then customize the visualization for your data quickly.


To show fluctuation across time? Use Line Sparkline

To show relative size of the data, use Bar Sparkline

Mini charts - Bar Sparkline

This diagram uses Line for monthly fluctuation and Bar for country specific values.

To show positive vs negative use Win/Loss

Mini charts - Win Loss

The last column is Win/Loss type of chart. It only depicts positive or negative outcome (Profit / Loss or Pass / Fail or Select / Reject). The line chart shows the fluctuation. In order to visually understand negative values, the Show Axis option puts a reference line at the zero position.

Mark the max or min values for easier interpretation

Mini charts - Mark Min or Max value

In case of bar style, the minimum value is always shown as a thin line. Negative minimum values look better in bars.

In the next article, we will explore some interesting practical scenarios for using Sparklines.

Are you leaking sensitive information via email without realizing it?


  • We create documents and send them to people outside the organization
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  • But without realizing it, inadvertently, we often leak such information all the time.
  • Don’t believe me? Read on…

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