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

Talk the talk, Speak the Word

Shauna Kelly has been a Word expert for a long time. She's written an article Word for Executives - 5 tips for senior executives whose team members use Word.

She says:

Be nice to your staff: Avoid confusing your staff by talking about a 'template' when you really mean something else.

Be nice to your staff: If you have to edit a document that someone else has worked on, press Enter once at the end of every paragraph. If you press Enter twice you'll get an empty paragraph. A document should not be littered with empty paragraphs.

Be nice to your staff: If you have to edit a document that someone else has laboured over, don't muck up the styles. NEVER click on the font or font-size drop down lists in the toolbar or ribbon. NEVER apply bold or italics to a whole paragraph to make it look like (eg) a heading.

Be nice to your staff: Don't expect your people to be able to come up with un-systematic numbering. Don't expect people to be able to skip numbers or repeat numbers. Don't ask for blue heading numbers in chapter 1 and green numbers in chapter 2. This is not the time for creative whims of fancy. Stick to simple, sequential and systematic.

Be nice to your staff: Avoid asking for a special footer on one page in the middle of a document. To do so, your staff will have to create a separate section for just that page. And, the author will have to re-arrange the section breaks whenever material is added to or deleted from the document.

Be nice to your staff: Don't ask people to create silly page numbering (eg repeating a page number, or having a different format for different parts of the document).

Be nice to your staff: If you're editing a document that someone else created, do not, ever, press Enter Enter Enter Enter to get 'past' a picture. The problem is that the picture is floating. Make it an in line picture.

Most things work in Word most of the time

Word has lots of bugs. I could name hundreds if I didn't have real work to do. But you can reasonably assume that most features of Word do work properly most of the time.

Aside from that, she has a good guide to outline numbering

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Office 2007 Migration Resources

Interactive Guides and Command Maps

Oooh Kay, they took what, out where?

With any upgrade, there are functions and features that a deprecated for new features or simply because they are incompatible with a new approach. Here is the:

Affirmative Action

Getting out the crutches

There are several add-ins, usually extra cost, that tack on the classic menus as a Tab to the Ribbon.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Notable Powerpoint Presentations

Presentation Zen has a good eye to the screen on Presentation Techniques. Here is one that is so transparent - I was listening to the speaker and then at the end, I woke up - it was a presentation and I had not realised or analysed it - I had got caught up in the content, not in the equipment or the plumbing. Excellent.

Speeding up Access by identifying most used objects

And other stuff. Garry Robinson's article. He also wrote a book on Access Security (2003) and the MSDN whitepaper on Access 2007 Security.

Interactive Portal to Development References

This portal is called the Microsoft Office Developer Interactive Map. It's a clickonce application. Enjoy!

Colouring a Textbox on a Continuous Form based on a record's value

It appears that the OnCurrent event of a Continuous Form View will action but will colour the relevant Textboxes, the same colour. The obvious way to apply formatting properties based on each record's value is to use the Conditional Format of the Textbox. The Object Model keyword for this is .FormatCondition and there are up to three OR criteria. See frice's weblog for a VBA setup example.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If I had a dollar for every time I had to number in Word

Item numbering in Word is painful. Used to be. Still is. Came across this article from www.microsystems.com

Try this video / webinar - it might work for you.

Updated: Ok, I sat through the presentation - about 45 minutes of it. The content was good, the presenter was difficult to enjoy though - maybe in the flesh, it would be different.

Turns out Word 2007 has enhanced Multi-Level Lists - the gallery presentation is more obvious, you can define named List Styles - no, not Paragraph Styles, but List Styles - they contain styles for more than one outline level.

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They moved my cheese, again

With The Ribbon, if you are a legacy power user, you will pause once in a while trying to figure out where they have moved a favourite command that you know like the back of your hand.

Excel 2007

  • Custom Lists are now in Office Button > Popular > Top Options for Working with Excel > Edit Custom Lists
  • In addition to F3 (Insert Name), you can now Formulas > Defined Names > Use in Formula
  • There is a new Formulas > Defined Names > Name Manager and the Define Name dialog now has a Scope (Workbook or Worksheet).

Word 2007

  • Manage / Organise Templates and what they contain - Developer > Document Template > Templates and Add-Ins (legacy dialog) > Organizer

Powerpoint 2007

  • Re-apply Slide Layout becomes Home > Slides > Reset

File > New > Blank

How often do you do this? Just ask for blank file? Dismiss that templates are for either Corporate trapped nine to fivers or for newbies? True, the templates that came out of the pack with Office products (not just Microsoft) were kinda superficial. But have you looked at the range of templates that Excel, Word now have? There's an Excel one that allows you to answer an electronic quiz - comes with an Evaluate button - now, a developer could write the results back to a database or database server...

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Outlook Signatures

Email Signatures in Outlook are not a cool feature. Tony seems to be having some problems invoking the Signature dialog box. The HowToGeek has an article of an additional entry point to invoking this dialog box. Own Cutajar knows where the signatures are kept.

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Getting an existing outline into Powerpoint 2007

I swear I've done the Copy and Paste job with an older version of Powerpoint but with the new version, things are a little more formal.

  1. Create a text outline in Word. Normal Style won't do - Heading 1 becomes the Slide Title and Heading 2 becomes the bullet points.
  2. In PPT 2007, Home > Slides > New Slide > Slides from Outline > select the file

Dennis O'Reilly and Tim Anderson were discussing sending the outline from Word.

Update:

I had a bulky document and just wanted to extract the Heading 2s from one section. Failed miserably with Cut from Word Outline mode and Paste into Excel. Too big a job for the Send To PowerPoint.

Hunted for a Word Feature. Got a Macro from Andrew Savikas's O'Reilly Word Hacks book.

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New in Excel 2007 - Tables, Structured Formulae

Lists have existed in Excel 2003 and earlier. They weren't hard to use but functionality was limited and visibility to end users was limited. Tables in Excel 2007 significantly expose the visibility of this mechanism, new features have been added and useability has increased.

Have a look at the video or you can download the wmv

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The Start

I've had resource websites for Microsoft Access, Excel and other PC products. It gets to a stage at a website when it all gets too hard to change and you want to leave legacy material for people to use. So,here we are.

My previous websites: