Friday, June 27th, 2008

Start menu catastrophe in Vista

I’m starting to face facts – very soon, I’ll have to replace my production computer and that means it will need to be Vista. Until now, I’ve used a laptop running Vista when I needed to write something Vista related but frankly I don’t like Vista at all. Part of this is I don’t like the dummed down interface. I need to move around my programs and network fast, and using the default settings is like walking in treacle.

One thing I hate is the new Start menu – give me back the Windows XP Start menu please! If you know how to do it, you can get it back – Yeah! Right click the taskbar and choose Properties to display the Taskbar and Start Menu dialog. Click the Start Menu tab and click Classic Start Menu – this gives you a faux Windows XP version of the start menu – it’s not perfect but it beats the Vista version hands down.

Next up – Windows Search sucks big time and what I do to avoid using it!

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Pause a Word macro

Sometimes you need tp pause a macro and, when you do, try the Sleep function.

This involves a call to the Windows API – sounds much more difficult than it is.

In your macro, go to the General Declarations area (the top part of the module) and type this, verbatim:

Private Declare Sub Sleep Lib “kernel32” (ByVal dwMilliseconds As Long)

Now, in your routine, when you want to put a pause, type:

sleep n where n is the number of milliseconds to pause for.

So, this macro will beep, pause for 1000 milliseconds and beep again.. it does it twice just in case you missed it the first time:

sub testMyAPIcall()
sleep 1000
sleep 1000
end sub

Easy when you know how!

Helen Bradley

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Conditional formatting with Date ranges

One of the other handy features of the new conditional formatting tool in Excel 2007 is that it can handle date formatting. For example, if you have a worksheet with a series of dates in it you can highlight the dates that correspond to a period of time.

Choose Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cells Rules and choose the A Date Occurring option. You can then format cells using rules such as Yesterday, Today, in the last seven days, this month, next month, next week, etc.. When you do this cells containing dates which match this criteria will be coloured appropriately. Better still, when the date changes, the formatting on the worksheet will change accordingly.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Play Flash movies in PowerPoint 2007

It is possible to play Flash videos from inside your PowerPoint presentations at run time. This gives you additional tools that you can use to add visual effects to your slide shows. To do this you must first display the Developer tab in PowerPoint by choosing the Office button > PowerPoint Options > Popular group and enable the Show Developer tab in the Ribbon checkbox. The Developer tab provides access to the objects that you need to use to insert and play the Flash videos.

To configure a slide to play a Flash video, select the slide so it is visible in the editing area. Click the Developer tab on the ribbon and locate and click the More Controls button. From the list, select the Shockwave Flash object entry and click Ok. Drag a shape onto your slide – this will be the box in which the Flash presentation will play. Right click the shape and choose Properties. You now need to configure certain properties regarding the Flash object. For example, set the Playing property to true and the Embed Movie property to true. To configure the Flash movie that will play in the slide, set the Movie property to the full file name and path of the Shockwave movie (swf) file that you want to play and click Ok. To see the Flash movie play you will need to preview the presentation.

Helen Bradley

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Don’t tell them I told you how

I am not a big fan of all singing all dancing PowerPoint presentations. However, one of the questions I get a lot is how to make a sound track play across multiple slides in PowerPoint.

So, if you’re assaulted with bad music next time you attend a PowerPoint driven presentation, don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger.

Here’s how to do it. First add the sound clip to the slide by choosing Insert > Sound and choose your clip. Select whether the sound should play automatically or only when the icon is clicked. So far so good.

Your sound clip is now in place but it stops when you move to the next slide – not good.

To fix this, click the sound icon and in PowerPoint 2007 click the Sound > Options tab on the ribbon. Now locate the Play Sound entry and change it from Automatically to Play across slides.

This is far from being an intuitive alternative in my mind – since when did Automatically become an alternative to Play Across Slides? Frankly I want both, not either/or. Don’t stress over it though because you actually get both options.

< Note to self > – it’s Microsoft’s world, we just live in it.

Helen Bradley

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Excel – reuse chart formats

You’ve gone to all the trouble to format a chart nicely and you’d like to reuse the format again some time in the future. Instead of recreating the format each time, save it so you can apply it with a single click.

In Excel 2003, right click your chart and choose Chart Type > Custom Types tab and click the User-Defined button. When you do this an Add button appears – click it and type a name and description for your chart when prompted to do so. Click Ok twice when you are done.

Now, in future, when you create a chart you can select this format from the Chart Wizard options or apply it to an existing chart by selecting the chart, right click and choose Chart Type > Custom Types and click User-defined. Select your format and click OK to apply it to the chart.

One word of warning, for some reason, Excel includes chart titles as a format so you’ll lose your existing chart title if you have one when you apply the new format to it. It’s not a big deal but it helps to know that it’s going to happen.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Sorting data in Excel

Sometimes the data in your worksheet doesn’t appear in the order you want it to. You can reorder the data by sorting it.

To sort data in a worksheet, select it using your mouse, or click inside the data area and press Control + Shift + * to select all the cells in the current block. In Excel 2003, choose Data, Sort and then choose the column which contains the data to sort from the Sort by: dropdown list. To sort on more than one column choose the second column from the dialog’s Then by: dropdown list. For example to produce a ‘phonebook’ type of sort, first Sort by the column containing the last name and Then by: the column containing the first name. If you do this, two people with the same last name will be grouped together but appear in alphabetical order by first name.

You can also sort in order of a custom list. So, for example, if you wanted all the people who live in Victoria to appear at the top of a list then those who live in NSW, etc.. create a custom list with the state names (or abbreviations) in the order you want to use for sorting. Then choose the State column in your data list as the Sort by: column and click Options. From the First key sort order dropdown list choose the custom list containing the state details and click Ok, and Ok again. The list will be sorted in order of the entries in your custom list and any entries which don’t match an item in the list will appear at the end, in alphabetical order.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Kiosk Presentations

You’re not always going to be there when a presentation shows. Some PowerPoint presetations are shown on computers where not one is in attendance or you might want to send an autorunning slideshow to mum to show off your latest pix.

These work if they’re set up as Kiosk presentations. You need to set the presentation so the slides more forward after a period of time and not by mouse click. Do this on the PowerPoint 2007 Animation tab. Then choose the Slide Show tab and click Set Up Show. Choose Browsed at Kiosk and make sure the Advance slides option is set to Use Timings if present. The the show will run automatically without needing attention.

There you have it, hands free PowerPoint slide shows.

Helen Bradley

Friday, March 21st, 2008

What’s in a name? Auto_Open or AutoOpen

Sometimes you wonder if the folks up at Redmond are laughing at us behind our backs. Really, do they deliberately set out to confuse us or are they just that plain disorganised?

Today my quandary involves Auto_Open and AutoOpen. These are two special macro names. The first, Auto_Open is Excel’s special named macro that runs automatically when the workbook containing it is opened. AutoOpen is the Word equivalent. It makes no sense that one has an underscore and the other doesn’t – it just makes life for us VBA folk a little more confusing than it should be.

The other macros Auto_Close and AutoClose work the same way, Auto_Close is the Excel macro name – call a macro by this name and save it in your workbook and it will run whenever you close the workbook. In Word, the name is AutoClose.

To add to the confusion, PowerPoint doesn’t support either of the naming conventions, in fact, you can’t create auto running macros in PowerPoint the same way you do in Word and Excel. The workaround is cumbersome, you need to create a PowerPoint add-in that includes the Auto_Open subroutine. Load the Add-in and PowerPoint will run the code in Auto_Open it loads and ditto for subroutine called Auto_close – it runs when the add-in is unloaded – which happens automatically when you exit PowerPoint. Learn more about how to do this in this KnowledgeBase article.

Thanks Redmond, we are now officially confused!

Helen Bradley

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Zap those hyperlinks

When you copy and paste text from the web into a Word document, typically the hyperlinks come too. If you don’t want them – if blue underlined nonsense peppering your text offends your sensibilities (as it does mine) – here are some thoughts for removing hyperlink formatting from your text.

One option is to select the link and choose Insert > Hyperlink (or press Control + K) and click the Remove Link button in the dialog. That’s the hard way in my book.

Easier still is to select the text and just press Control + Spacebar. That strips the formatting from the text – leaving it as plain text. It also works to strip formatting from any text, a handy shortcut to know.

Now, if you get hyperlinks whenever you type a URL or email address you can stop this from happening by choosing Tools > AutoCorrect Options > AutoFormat as you Type tab and disable the Internet and network paths with hyperlinks option. Now you can type all you like and the AutoFormat won’t affect your text.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

PowerPoint to Go – on your mobile or iPod

You can put a PowerPoint presentation on almost any mobile device including your iPod.

Provided your mobile device supports JPEG format images – most will – open your presentation in PowerPoint and choose File, Save As and select the JPEG format, choose All Slides and PowerPoint will save the slides as JPEG format files that you can now upload to your mobile device as you do any other photos.

If your mobile lets you play images as a slideshow – voila! PowerPoint to go!

Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Microsoft offers free accounting

I found this recently and it’s a pretty smart offer for anyone who is used to using Microsoft products and who needs an accounting tool.

Microsoft Accounting 2008 Express Edition is free and you can download it here. It includes tools for creating quotes, invoices and receipts as well as tracking expenses and managing online bank accounts. It has two main attractions, one is that it’s free and second – with the look and feel of other Microsoft products its easy to get up and running.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

No new line in PowerPoint

When you are entering text on a PowerPoint slide if you want to create a new line but not apply a bullet to it press Shift + Enter at the end of the preceding line.

This creates a new line but does not start a new paragraph which is the trigger for the bullet to be created.

This also works in Word – you can create a new line in a numbered paragraph but without adding a new number by pressing Shift + Enter.

Helen Bradley

Friday, March 7th, 2008

MS Publisher Viewer – workaround

One of the most active keyword searches that I have with my blog is for a Microsoft Publisher Viewer. If you’re familiar with Publisher you’ll know that the short answer is that there is no Publisher viewer application. If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll know I post cool stuff too.

So, with this in mind, today I have a sort of solution for the Publisher viewer program. It’s a free online PDF document creator. Visit it at Here you can upload files in a variety of formats including Microsoft Publisher and files can be up to 2Mb in size – that’s the real limit here. The file will be converted into a pdf format file and emailed direct to you.

It’s simple and effective and a workaround for the Publisher Viewer problem – you get to see and read the contents of the file and that’s what you’re looking for.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Should be easy – but it isn’t

Ok, I got this question from someone asking how to print a very large pdf file (think measured in feet not inches). They can’t print onto letter or A4 without needing a magnifying glass to see the text. Solution? Well my head says tile it and it should be a feature of the Reader software.

Nice try but no cigar! It isn’t a feature of the software. Adobe if you’re listening, you so have to add this as a feature, it’s almost inexcuable that it isn’t there. You should be able to specify the number of pages tall and wide to print a single page onto.

Ok, so next thought is a poster program. One that takes an image/file and breaks it into pieces. I’d settle for one of two methods of operation – ideally it would open a PDF file and just print it for me – ok, enter fantasy land Helen! There are poster programs but they take images and not PDFs – not entirely unexpected but it was worth a look.

Other accepted method would be for the program to operate as a printer driver. I would print from Reader to the driver and then it would handle the tiling and final printing. Good concept and, as it happens there are a few options out there. Funny thing is, most I downloaded and installed and tried didn’t work. Very strange, frustrating and annoying. Final solution worked and did so pretty well. It’s called Click2Poster and it’s from Blue Squirrel. It installs as a printer drivers so you print to it from your applicaiton. This overcomes the file compatibility issues as, provided you can open a file in something and print it, this program will capture it. Then it opens automatically (I liked this feature), with your print job on the screen. You choose how many tiles and the printer and send it off to print. It works, which by that stage of the day put it in the “miracle software” category!

The trial version slaps its own stuff on the page but shell out a measly $19.95 and all your poster printing problems will be solved. I can see it would be useful for printing large versions of your images for wall art and all sorts of things. In the meantime, my happless reader can print and read his/her pdf files so I have another happy reader. I like those!

Helen Bradley