Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Converting .docx, .xlsx and .pptx

Much of the world has not migration to Office 2007. You can of course set the default save format in Office 2007 to .doc, .xls, .ppt or you can explicitly specify the file format at File > Save time, but sometimes, here you are, on a machine with no Office 2007 and you need to open these new files.

  1. The Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack will endow Microsoft Office 2003 with the ability to handle these new files. Free download from Microsoft Downloads website. Note: Microsoft Office not even needed.
  2. Native Winds of Montana have a .docx to .rtf convertor.
  3. Open Office 3.0 has the ability to read Microsoft Office 2007 files.
  4. Zamzar is an online service that can convert these files
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Microsoft Project (2007) favourite topics

Microsoft Project is an interesting program. It isn’t a general program like Word or Excel, it’s aimed at creating a project, managing a project.

Task Duration vs Work vs Units calculation

When you assign and edit assignments of Resources to a Project Task, MSP’s calculation engine recalculates an answer for that task. The calculation is based on this formula:

Task Duration = Work / Units

The equation is based on these three factors. Project will calculate one factor if you change the other two.

By Default (Tools > Options), MSP sets the Tasks you create as Fixed Units. However, you can make set any Task to calculate in the following way:

  • Fixed Units
  • Fixed Work
  • Fixed Duration

One more feature is Effort Driven Scheduling – this is the default in MSP. If you assign or remove people, MSP keeps the total Work fixed. Sometimes you want to add a more people because the Work has been underestimated – in this case, you remove the tick to on Effort Driven Scheduling for that Task.

Durations by the way, come in two types. A simple number for the working duration of the task where assigned people take a break when the weekend comes on their calendar and Elapsed Duration when the task extends into the weekend even though it is non working time for the resources. See this MSP 2007 Help webpage

More:

  

Linking Tasks and Types of Links

The four Link Types are:

  • FS e.g. Dig Concrete and Pour Concrete
  • SS e.g. Pour Concrete and Level Concrete
  • FF e.g. Add wiring and Inspect Electrics
  • SF e.g. Truss Delivery and Assemble Roof

See diagrams and videos in this MSP 2007 Help webpage.

Copying Calendars and other stuff

Like Microsoft Word, MSP has a Tools > Organizer dialog. This can be used to copy Calendars and other items across MSP files.

Assigning Costs

  • Variable costs caused by use of a Resource are ride on the assignment of the Resource to the Task.
  • Fixed costs are assigned directly to the Task itself.
  • Material costs are assigned by use of the Resource (remember to type  the unit e.g. litres in the Material Label field)

 

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catch-up

Been a bit busy the past few weeks. I'm having Access 2007 crash too often on my Tosh notebook (dual core, 3Gb RAM, Vista) - it doesn't crash during VBA coding or designing the Form - moving controls, setting properties etc... It doesn't close when you save the Form. It does crash when you close the Form after Saving. Done the Allen Browne things - turned off Object Name Tracking, Decompile etc.. but still having the problem.

I removed all the Add-Ins (a few from Office Labs, one from P. Schmidt) but no joy. So I'm re-installing the Office Labs stuff.

I spot from the the RSS featured on this blog's sidebar that there are some really Wow! Powerpoint effects in templates - so grabbing those from office.microsoft.com. Also, if you are not connected to the Internet, you can't get the updated Office 2007 Help files. You can download them on another machine and run the setup on the disconnected machine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Excel tutorials in video

I was browsing through Pivot Table history (heard of but didn't look at Lotus Improv in its day) and came across DataPig's Excel Training videos. Well worth a look....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Help > About

The new Access 2007 UI is fine and all that, but where's classic Help > About?

It's now Office Button > Options > Resources > About.

Doh!

What a place to put it.

Changed in Access 2007: The Control Wizard

The Control Wizard in Access "classic" has provided VBA snippets or rather, full Sub...End Sub OnClick Procedures with error handling. People have copied the few productive lines in the procedures as well as the On Error procedure handling.

In Access 2007, the Control Wizard produces embedded macros in .accdb files. If, however, you work in a classic .mdb, the Control Wizard creates VBA code and improved VBA code over classic.

Run through making a "Close Form" button with the Control Wizard in an .mdb. You'll find that the VBA code has:

If Me.Dirty Then Me.Dirty = False
DoCmd.Close


The Me.Dirty was missing the the Classic Control Wizard.
In the .accdb, the Wizard produces a macro with a Close Action, with a Prompt To Save parameter.
I see no sign of Dirty.



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Stumbled across this presentation

No Powerpoint, just flip charts and some music. Sure works for me

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's new in Powerpoint 2007

Here's a good list at Echo's Voice with tutorials as well.

Disabling Legacy Keys

Most requests from clients and participants in training so far have been about revealing or allowing legacy menu items or keystrokes from Office "classic" to Office 2007. Ron (a veteran Excel guru) has come up with the opposite idea for Excel developers who want to lock down Excel. Disable Excel 2003 Menu Accelerators keys in Excel 2007

Ken Puls has also been at it - he has written a RibbonX book and writes how to use Sendkeys to flip a Tab on the Ribbon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Presentation Tips

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 9:  Apple CEO Stev...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeI'm slated to facilitate a Powerpoint 2007 class soon. Without presentation aids, here's Steve Jobs, circa 1991 using just a wyteboard, emphatic speaking, pushing points across.


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Access File Recovery

From time to time, we encounter Microsoft Access corruption problems (well, our clients do). There are several expert Access Recovery services. Everything Access is one of them. There is a good article there on DIY self recovery tutorial as well as setting the Encryption Type.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Access 2007 Control Layouts

Microsoft Office Access ScreenshotImage via WikipediaDeveloping in Access 2007 is a welcome change. Yes, there are gotchas and unfixed legacy annoyances from Access "classic" but there are also some warm hearted changes. The new Access Control Layouts in the Form and Report Designers are nice. We've wanted a release from the drudgery of fixing Tab Order in Controls once we reorganise our Forms and we've wanted easier alignments and sizing of Controls for a long time. Finally it's here. Not perfect but nice anyway. Read the Office writeup and see the brief video.


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Powerpoint Tips

I was just working with Teresa on Powerpoint 2007. It was a nice session. Coming back home, I notice from Presentation Zen that Seth Godin has some non technical tips for content

Monday, October 6, 2008

Access 2007: Go to a Record Combo Box Wizard

In Access classic I've run the Control Wizard during Form Design, to generate a combo box record navigator. That is, the Combo Box displays a list of record identifiers and after selection, the Form displays the relevant record. The Control Wizard that makes this always worked in class and when working.

In a recent Access 2007 class, this no longer worked. Fine, I thought, they have removed the feature - maybe they haven't translated the VBA coding to Access 2007 macro coding. But wait, let's go check Google Groups.

It appears that is the record source of the Access 2007 Form is not simply a table, but an SQL string, that third option doesn't present itself. Maybe in classic Access, that was the same deal but it never hid itself from me.




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Don't forget the Excel MVPs

Excel has dedicated and well presented bunch of Most Valued Professionals. Here's a list of them:

http://www.exceluser.com/explore/links_mvps.htm


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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Access 2007 How-Tos and Resources

Book cover of Book cover via AmazonI just came across some more Access 2007 Resources

I normally use classic Northwind 2000 (available from Microsoft or in Access 2003, should be installed on your machine already) to demonstrate Access features and techniques. Just came across Matthew MacDonald's Adventureworks database from his Missing Manual (direct zip file download) which I guess he got from SQL Server's sample data.

You Tube video demo of how to use collect responses via Access 2007 and Outlook 2007.



You Tube video demo on the new Control Layouts on Forms and Reports

You Tube video demo on the Navigation Pane

You Tube video demo on the Quick Access Toolbar

You Tube video demo on how to anchor textboxes and allow stretch to screen size




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Friday, September 26, 2008

Windows Vista References and Tips

Windows Vista wallpaper (by Microsoft)Image by Stijn Vogels via FlickrMicrosoft Windows Vista is no well quite well known, despite the lack of rave uproar that Windows XP was greeted with. Here are some Tips and References sites. Do be aware that some tips may be over ambitious or may be too clever in the long run - make a note of the tip before you implement it so that you remember how you got there. And as always, Backup Before You Fiddle

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Microsoft Access 2007 Tutorials on the Web

When I first started down this road to desktop databases in the 1980s with Knowledgeman, dBase II, Paradox 2.0, Reflex 1.0, I was figuratively on an isolated island of knowledge. The Web has changed that. Aside from the formal tutorials, transcripts and videos at the Microsoft Office Training portal, here are some direct links:
Table of Contents to various articles


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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Things you'd prefer not to do in Access 2007

Now that the user interface has had a major makeover in Access 2007, there are ingrained habits that you should review and think of forgetting once you leave Access "classic"

  1. When you work with the Relationships Diagram, forget about working with the ouch! ancient modal dialog interface when adding tables to the Diagram Window (do we still call it a Window when it's like a Tabbed Pane?
    Just close that modal dialog and use drag and drop from the Navigation Bar.
  2. Don't open a table and hit Create > Forms > Create Form. We didn't do it that much formally in Access classic but even for teaching or demonstration, the new functionality enhancement is over the top. The Tabbed Window proposes the tablename as the Tab Name (Form.Caption), the faint of heart now have two tabs with the same name, the tablename is used as a proposed title in a textbox in the header section of the Form. Ugh!
    Just click on Create > Forms > Form Design and DIY - it will be a cleaner process.
  3. Don't tell people that Codd and Date said you can't combine aggregates and details of transactions in a query or a table. You can.
  4. Don't tell people that Codd and Date said there ain't such a thing as a multi-valued field. Dick Pick has just signalled from beyond. Yes, you might have trouble migrating that schema or table design to Oracle, but a query easily enough displays the de-Normalized View of a Table with Multi-Valued Fields.

Interesting facets of Access 2007

When I have more time, I'll write on:

And where did I see that in Office Help

Microsoft Office Help has evolved over the years. Those of you who started with Office 4.3 will have seen Win32 Help reach a pinnacle. You could bookmark it, it was not an annoying taskpane or another window that barged around the screen all over the place, it did not have enourmous icons and gadgets and it was fast - because it was designed for Intel 486 machines, pre Pentium I.

Office Help went really bad for a while, and in Office 2007, it's not so bad. 
  • You can set it to go to the Internet (slow but richer and more updated content) or go faster on local PC installed resources.
  • There is no cutesy Office Paperclip. Bob has retired. And the intelligent prediction or understanding of what you actually want help on has of course improved given the intervening years.
  • The font size is adjustable sharp and readable.
  • The library of books that Help searches is still large (unlike the old days - if you asked an Excel specific question, it gave you an Excel specific answer) but the richness now include even expert topics like Developer Help, Training Topics and so on.
But bookmarking or putting your finger on a Help Topic isn't something that the Help team perceive as very important in your life. You can do a few things other than bookmarking:
  • Print it to paper. S'right greenie, stop screaming at me. I'll take the three A4 ring binders worth of 1990s doco to the recycle bin, Ok?
  • Print it to One Note 2007. Eh? Yes, you have to buy One Note.
  • Print it to pdf. Eh? Yes, you have to buy some sort of pdf printer driver. Jeez...
  • Print it to XPS. Hmm. Yes, even on Windows XP, the Microsoft XPS printer driver can be installed. Maybe. If IE is not broken on your machine.
  • Right click in the help content and find out the web url (if you are using online content) and save it as a web browser bookmark.

Why Office 2007

An HP LaserJet 4200 dtns printerImage via Wikipedia
Office 2007 is the current edition of Office. It was designed by I guess, the younger generation in Microsoft and for us in the industry, it's an attempt to end the "oh, there's no need to buy new Office edition / train / learn / whatever" that we have been experiencing since Office 97. The user interface in substantially different and "Office Classic Menus" are not an option except for third party tack ons.


Design goals and approaches

  • Change from the classic menus - casual people and newbies repeatedly found them difficult to remember and navigate, they kept getting extend and new items were stuck on without consistency, major features were not in-your-face. Microsoft hired new generation Useability Experts like Jensen Harris and only a Useability Expert could have dreamt up the Office Button, The Ribbon, and the Quick Access Toolbar - for good or bad.
  • Encourage the next generation of document looks when printed out and displayed. We have been using Arial and Times New Roman now since Windows 3, which is pre 1995 when home laser printers were 300 dpi and cost AUD 1000. Now is 2008, we have home colour laser printers costing AUD 300, 22 inch LCD screens. And still we are using Arial and Times New Roman. For two reasons - looks as well are readability for the baby boomer generation, Microsoft hired Typographers and they have given us new fonts - Calibri, Cambria (my favourite) to take advantage of the quality and technology in display and print devices of 2008
  • Allow corporates and businesses to produce a consistent look to their documents, whether from Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Access. Except that as of right now, the corporates are selectively blind and obstinate. They have taken these years to establish their hop-skip and jump look using their in house IT experts and HOD (Heads of Department). They haven't seen any snowballing in the market to good looking documents, changing their look involves re-templating all their documents, in short, they're not keen on the expense of a better look and more readable documents. Microsoft in their existing documentation supplied with the product or online has not made it easy for these corporate IT staff and freelancers to gain traction on adopting Themes and updating Styles that are heavily featured in Word, Powerpoint, Excel. It looks like it is up to independents to explain and for enlightened to find the documentation.
  • An embracing of the next generation solution to putting your files on a LAN fileserver - yes, the next generation to Microsoft, is a Microsoft product, Sharepoint Server. Putting your files on a LAN fileserver is sooo 1995 - some people are still facing a challenge with it. The next generation document storage system - we have had a wishlist for a long time. It should have document versioning, check-in, check-out, it should speak to us to explain what the document is, what it is for, who put it there, when was the last time it was modified, tell the owner that we have just opened it so that he can tell us we opened the wrong file. Additionally, it should allow us to save to it even when we are not on the office premises, allow us to congregate over a virtual water cooler or tea room so that we can tell each other little things too brief to put in an email, allow us to read a discussion thread etc... etc... Whether Sharepoint is such a device, well, the corporates have to find out - right now, it's not snowballing except to the enlightened smaller corporates who have off site workers that stay offsite.
  • Significant enhancements to Microsoft Excel - ability to use more than one core of that dual core processor that is so common now, much larger spreadsheet limits, stop-look-go conditional formatting, enhanced Tables that reduce the risk of people sorting student names but not their marks...
  • Significant work on Microsoft Access - the Access team was in maintenance mode, no new work since 1997, this was the first time there is more than one person on the team (hearsay).
  • Significant wow looking visual text elements in Microsoft Powerpoint (actually the module is across all Office programs but Powerpoint is the program that showcases the wow.
  • Major extensions and re-architecture of Microsoft Word so that there is more control over Styles and Multi-Level Lists for Word gurus. Casual and first time users may feel that the program is indeed easier to drive if nothing else.
  • Adoption of the zipped, xml document file format. Open Source champions and archivists had long contended that Microsoft files of .doc, .xls were very proprietary and restrictive. Microsoft's response is to create new file formats, using XML and zipped them (because they would be larger) and publish them as Office Open XML. Indeed in the field, the Word .docx documents are a lot smaller to transmit by email than the older .doc formats.
  • Engineering the new Office documents to clearly either contain a macro or not contain a macro. This would be one additional defensive tool against malware masquerading as a Word document that would execute more easily under the .doc file format.
  • A revised and toughened ( read painful unless understood) macro security approach using Trusted Locations.
  • More emphasis on document preparation for distribution by corporates - Digital Signatures, Rights Management, purging of authoring metadata.

The crux is, do any or all these features work for you? Does even one feature make Office 2007 a viable purchase?

Once you commit, don't forget to check out:

P.S.

Forgot to mention that quiet member of Office, Outlook 2007. It is majorly improved over earlier versions. It doesn't have an Office Button and a Ribbon on the main program, but Mail Item windows do. The major innovation is Categorisation of your items and Virtual Search Folders based on those Categorisations. I purchased third party add-ons that try to do this for Outlook 2003 and when Outlook 2007 was released, I abandoned them and just went with Outlook 2007. Third party Outlook Add-Ons and my Outlook never seem to get on well together.



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Why Access and not Excel

My creationImage by tripleascholar via Flickr People in my Intro to Access classes go through a lot of content in two days. It's always a challenge to provide the right balance of useful and useable information in balance with the existing skills, background, exposure and motivation of participants. That's what makes teaching so vital, so interesting, so alive.

Sometimes, an Excel proficient participant will ask Why is Access so complex? Why do I have to normalize tables, relate them and so on? Shouldn't the software Just Do It?

That's a valid question from their perspective and indeed, there are reasons why such and such a person or such and such a task might stay rooted in Excel rather than Access. You have to make a good choice of tool (after all, these things are just tools) for the relevant job.

Reasons to consider Access

  1. You have way too many columns in Excel. So much that you are scrolling the screen left and right until you have nausea.
  2. You have way too many rows in Excel. In Excel 2007, you can easily have more than the famous 65535 rows. But you're hitting the problem where you can't see the rows you want, you're afraid of accidentally stepping on some data whilst you are analysing and reporting and the machine is slowing down badly
  3. Your data needs more data entry validation than simply keying in and using Excel's cell validation rules allow. And Excel Forms are either not within your skill set to develop or they are not rich enough in features to do what you want.
  4. You want a no-buts simultaneous multiple operator data entry system. Excel 2007 has again upped the ante for simultaenous multiple operator data entry but there are still some buts.
  5. You have too many one to many facets in your data. One company has 1 to 50 employees. One class has 30 students. One student has four years of study, at least 3 units a year and so on.
  6. You want reports galore - you want this column here, that column there, grouped this way, aggregated that way - it's the same data but it's to be laid out differently. Yes, I know it sounds like Pivot Tables but Pivot Tables don't allow white space wherever you want it.


The big cheese



Because you have too many columns, too many facets to keep working in Excel, you can't just have Excel Plus Plus. Access has different approaches, different features, it isn't Excel Plus Plus.

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Access 2007 for newbies books

Microsoft Office Access ScreenshotImage via Wikipedia In an earlier post, I describe an Access VBA book that I just bought (reading it is another matter). Whilst teaching class, I was asked what Access 2007 books I would recommend. The Australian price for books has come down (or the price of computer books has come down) due to the currency exchange rate, so picking up a reference book, post course is an idea.

I would not recommend going to a book without going to at least a good Intro course, because a good class with participants sharing their thoughts and experience and a empathic instructor is really worth having in contrast to reading a 300 page tome.

Post course, however, a reference book is worthwhile as it is another learning approach. Which book though? A search to Amazon shows these candidates:
I'll post an update once I have thumbed through some pages. My interim advice? Pick one that does not put you to sleep or force you to wade through verbosity.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Microsoft Access Security

Access 1.Image via Wikipedia

My advice to class participants is simple -

If you don't have a need for paranoia security with Microsoft Access, stay away from implementing Access Security.

For beginners and the faint of heart, getting the database running with the features that you want is already and achievement. Putting on a security blanket makes work that much harder.

Simple file security

  • Put the database on one PC and use normal Windows workstation or Domain security to block unauthourised access.
  • If you need to share the database, get the local IT system administrator to create a confidential folder for your team and put the database there.
  • If you have no IT resources that will allow a confidential folder, then yes, you can password the database. But this is very weak security - anyone of your colleagues could take the whole file home to crack it.

Simple User Interface Security

  1. Create a menu system, set up Access so that it does not display the Database Container and Menus, Toolbars are hidden. This is weak and cooperative security but it's ok for consenting colleagues.
  2. Toughen this simple approach by disabling the bypass key (involves a little bit of programming or use of a tool)

Workgroup Security

Workgroup Security is not hard but it requires formality, discipline, on the part of the system administrator - you.

Pre-Access 2007, .mdb files only

Access 2007 Security Aspects

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Speaking Coherently

Sorry for the very abrupt previous post. Sometimes, I'm not sufficiently verbose and I am in a hurry to jot things down. I do hope that there were some tools that you had a heads up on. Whilst on The Bleeding Edge Forum (at which I am one of the administrators), I was looking at an introduction to Mozilla's Ubiquity that Stephen posted.

I was impressed with the clarity in the first few minutes of introduction and good use of simple, clear, large type, animated to drive ideas across. Have a look at it and think what you could do with your next PowerPoint presentation.


Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A few quick Access 2007 notes

Microsoft Office AccessImage via Wikipedia The SQL View Font in Access 2007 - it's pretty tiny, it is, on my machine. Utter Access forums discussion thread tip:

Office Button > Access Options > Object Designers > Query Design

Also, choosing Tabbed vs Overlapping Document Windows - from Bob Larson's website

The Access 2007 Ribbon Customizer by Claton Hendricks seems awfully useful to produce a Ribbon for Access 2007 whilst hiding the native one. I installed it on my Windows XP SP3 machine but it didn't work past a few Wizard screens. Hmmm.

Of course there is P. Schmid's Ribbon Customizer - I think I'll have another look at it.

MDBDoc documents .MDB objects

Update: Tony d'Ambra's Switchboard products are worth a good, long look as well. With heaps of free utilities.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Don't just sit there, come to My Places Bar

My Documents as it appears in Windows XP.Image via Wikipedia It takes a long, long time for me to get comfortable with a machine - my personal production desktop is full of nifties and tweaks. However, in my work, I move around a lot, between machines, between different profiles on the same machine and so on.

I reckon that most repetitively time consuming and unproductive thing I do when working as an Office worker or a developer or a trainer is to File > Save As and noodle around for my preferrred location. And it's not often in My Documents because that's very user profile dependent - and in my work, I switch between machines, switch between user profiles, switch between USB flash drives, switch between Network Shares.

So, whenever I get motivated enough, the Places Bar or any technique where I can get to a document, saves the wear and tear on the grey cells. On one machine, I have RecentX - love that but it's a paid-for, needs-to-be-installed utility.

Back to the Places Bar though. It's in Microsoft Office and supported by Windows XP. (Don't confuse the Office Places Bar with the Windows XP Places Bar, by the way). Nominating a folder to be a favourite is quite easy and well understood MS KB 826214 describes this and you can watch the user level video.

When I go to Windows Vista on the notebook though, the Places Bar isn't there - it's been replaced by the Vista specific dialog. That's MS KB 926167.

Update: Now back on my favourite machine, I am reminded of Melloware's Places Bar Editor, a donationware product. It handles Windows XP Places Bar and the Office Places Bar without needing to get your hands really dirty.




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Setting up your Quick Access Toolbar

For Users
The Web is such a WOW! place for sharing information. Just when I was thinking of writing a article on adding favourite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar, I spot Ron de Bruin, a veteran Excel guru and his comprehensively illustrated webpages on Adding buttons to the QAT.



Office Noir Chapter II: The Ribbon Bar



For developers and programmers
Ron's also written about Customizing the Ribbon using the Custom UI Editor which itself makes reference to a Getz-Rice article on MSDN.

For the Office Fluent Ribbon and RibbonX plumbing in-depth, visit the Office Fluent User Interface Developer Portal




Create an Excel Shortcut Menu That Writes Selections to a Text File



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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Getting Satisfaction

65536,IV: Last row, last columnImage by marklarson via Flickr I was surfing through Debra Dagliesh's Contextures Excel blog and she mentioned GetSatisfaction. I joined up to see what action was going on and participated. Guess I'll have to put up a quick post on adding the Switch Window shortcut command to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). I also noticed Kathy Jacob's Jing screencast on turning the ** to bold words in Word 2007 back on like it used to do in Word 2003.


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Windows Vista Features 1: New and Improved

Yes, I know this is an Office blog. But I thought I would write a Vista snippet from time to time. If there's anything more misunderstood than Office 2007, it's Windows Vista. Much maligned and poorly appreciated, Vista has features that slip under the radar. Yes, I know UAC (User Access Control) which is immediately obvious, but that doesn't count much for appreciation when the average user (who won't run Linux GUIs like Ubuntu, by the way) doesn't accept that limited user accounts are one of the strongest mechanisms to reduce the risk of drive by malware.

Anyway, here's Amit describing how you can catalogue files by file sizes with Vista Windows Explorer

Traditionally, I've been reliant on Werkema's Space Monger freeware.



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Friday, August 22, 2008

Developer Webcasts and Podcasts on Office Development

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The Office 2007 Migration Planning Toolkit

As part of the Office 2007 Resource Kit, here are:
There are other downloable documents as well.

Don't forget the Office Developer Centre as well.


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Good Reads

So, I've got a wall of Microsoft Office books dating back to Excel 5.0. (My MS-DOS manuals like Wordstar, Paradox and Lotus Symphony made it to the garage). I have several editions of VBA / Access books dating back to the Four Amigos (Getz, Gilbert, Gunderloy, Litwin). I've the Eric Wells Excel VBA classics. And the Woody Leonhard Word tomes as well. I resisted buying a lot of paper for Office 2002, 2003. But with Office 2007, I've got to give in. There's so much gifting of new features and architecture in this new version, I broke down and spent some money.

Word 2007 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) is a change from the plodding, grey suited bricks. It gives more detail than I could find in Help on Quick Styles and Style / Theme management.

VBA and Macros for Microsoft Office Excel 2007 by Bill Jelen and Tracy Systrad seems very readable and full of insights. I have not come across the Excel 2007 VBA Programmer's Reference by Green, Bovey, Bulleen, Alexander - but the older edition was a keeper.

The ranks of the veteran Microsoft Access authors have been decimated. Gunderloy has gone Rails, the others may have ascended to dot Net. This new book - Access 2007 VBA Programmer's Reference is by names I am not familiar with - Hennig, Cooper, Griffith & Stein. The selection of topics looks good.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Expectations of Knowledge

Microsoft Office 2007 isn't Word, Excel, PowerPoint of 1995. In the intervening years, hardware has moved on, in leaps and bounds. It would be silly to think that the software has had little or no significant improvement. Yet, it is not uncommon for Office veterans to figure Word skills are about Cut, Copy, Paste, applying bold and underlining. Or that Excel is about =A1+B1.

Yes, certainly beginners need to be brought up to at least that level of skill. And there are still people who cannot Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V with familiarity or dexterity. But the majority of people have long passed that hurdle. Some of them are youngsters from secondary school, some are themselves veteran business users who've worked in the office for a number of years.

The folks at Microsoft have their own interests to further - i.e. to keep revenue up by improving the product, keep ahead of competitors, cross promote and interweave their product range. In so doing, they really have innovated Microsoft Office 2007.

Office 2007 isn't just a typewriter to bang out words or a calculator to kaching numbers - Office 2007 significantly draws on superior hardware and facilitates visual expectations fostered by years of exposure to high res electronic and print output.

Office 2007 won't fulfill its design aims or expectations if we don't spread the knowledge of how to use it. Driving Office 2007 in the way that one would drive Word 1.1, Excel 5 isn't going to help the business user nor the business. It certainly won't help the IT industry as well.

Find out what Office 2007 does well. Do it soon.

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Wow! Did you see that? Was that a New Feature?

Microsoft Excel (Windows)Image via Wikipedia

Let's face it. Any Office Suite program is quite a complex beast. And has had programming and development since the mid 90's or earlier. The problem is, that often, Microsoft Office gurus, whether they may be Em Vee Pee or not, think they know most facets and features well. Except that we don't. Know the program well enough.

Take this basic spreadsheet example.

Start up Excel. Any version - take your pick - '97, 2000, 2002/XP, 2003 or 2007

Type 1 in A1

Type 2 in B1

Type =A1+B1 in C1

Simple formula, right?

Copy C1 from this worksheet (probably Sheet1) to A1 on Sheet2. You should get a #REF! error. That's as expected - you've copied a formula to another sheet without copying the precedent cells.

Switch back to Sheet1 and select A1 and C1 neglecting B1 - (you do know about selecting non-contiguous blocks?)

Switch to Sheet2 and Paste with cursor on A1. What do you get? Well, you get the 1 as a value A1 and you get the 3 as value in B1. The 3 is not a formula, it has been converted automatically into a value to save you work.

WOW! Was that a new feature in Excel 2007? Nope. Excel '97 has the same behaviour. There's even documentation in MSKB 210725

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Glass Half Full

I don't hear Office 2007 as having as mud being slung against it as Windows Vista. On the other hand, I don't see many Word (even MVP) websites supporting Office 2007 with new content. The Excel community seems to have got going, but that's probably because the Excel engine is the finest amongst the Office Suite packages and the 2007 version gave them the opportunity to enhance features rather than re-work existing issues.

In this week's recent encounters with Office leads in the community - i.e. in-house IT staff responsible for Microsoft Office 2007 as well as freelance trainers, I come away somewhat disappointed. Either Microsoft is not spreading the good news in a good way (accentuate the positives) or people are just too busy / stuck in the mud to figure out that there have been significant feature changes / additions to Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access.

The Ribbon is an obvious visual change to the Office 2007 Suite of programs. It's far from the only innovation or new feature though. Of course, it's natural to gripe about Microsoft changing what veterans and power users call a "good thing" - i.e. the well known and well fingered "classic" menus. But there's more, much more to Office 2008 than the Ribbon.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

There you go, PPTPlex

AAHW001038Image by fabbuki via Flickr

PPTPlex is a Microsoft Office Labs Project. Apparently, Bill Gates used it in one of his farewell presentations.

I installed it on two machines, a Vista notebook and a Windows XP SP3 desktop. There are not many buttons to click (as there should not be for a PowerPoint feature) but you need to learn how to design the display surface / background. On the Windows XP machine, I'm getting an error - logged it with the developers who are quite responsive.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The skinny on Themes and Styles

The Office 2007 team had a bit of re-working to do. Microsoft Office began life as separate products - a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation program. In Office 4.3 (why 4? I don't know) these products were packaged as one - I still remember the floppies that we used to shove in as we installed Office on Windows 3.1. Word had it's own WordBasic, Excel had Excel 4 Macros and Powerpoint could not be automated. In subsequent versions, all the Office products used VBA, tacked on via the VBA IDE, courtesy of the Visual Basic team. Menus became more consistent and so on. 

From the start, you could embed data or import / export data between these programs. But the look of the documents was not easy to make consistent until Office 2007. The way the Office 2007 team has managed to make for a consistent look to documents is to tack on Themes. That's not the hard part - they also had to renovate some long standing differences in Templates -PowerPoint being the most odd. They also have to work in with the concept of Word Styles, new Table and Multi-Level List Styles. They enhanced Excel Lists and called the new feature, Tables.

At the end of the day, we need to grasp the interplay between the new Theme architecture and whatever Styles (as interpreted by each Office program) and Templates. Here's a help page that gives a very brief skim.

More:

BTW, seems Ed Bott and Woody Leonhardt have written a concise, insightful book going by the plebian name of Using Office 2007 - it doesn't go into verbal diarrhoea but it misses details as well.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

What saves where?

 

Word, Powerpoint, Excel

On the Ribbon Store
Page Layout > Themes > Themes > Save Current Theme Saves to .thmx in
%user%\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates\Document Themes

 

Word

On the Ribbon Store
Home > Styles > Change Styles > Style Set > Save As Quick Style Set Saves to a template a template you specify.

Insert > Table > Quick Tables > Save Selection To Quick Tables Gallery

Saves to Building Blocks.dotx
Insert > Text > Quick Parts > Save Selection To Quick Parts Gallery Saves to Building Blocks.dotx
Home > Styles > Change Styles > Colors > Create New Theme Colors Relies on Quick Style template
Home > Styles > Change Styles > Fonts > Create New Theme Fonts Relies on Quick Style template

 

Element Category Template
Autotext General Normal.dotm
Bibliographies Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Cover Pages Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Equations Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Footers Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Headers Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Page Numbers Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Quick Parts General (user defined) Building Blocks.dotx
Table of Contents Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Text Boxes Built-in Building Blocks.dotx
Watermarks Built-in Building Blocks.dotx

Excel

On the Ribbon Store
Chart Tools > Design > Save As Template Saves to .crtx in
%user%\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates\Charts