Tag Archives: IT

IT tips #24: How to make time-saving templates in Word

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A real template in Word is a thing of beauty and magic that can be used to save you a lot of time and make your computer do what it does best:  quickly and painlessly automate repetitive tasks.  I say real templates, because a lot of people use the word ‘template’ to mean nothing more than a Word document that just provides an example of what a document should look like. A real template ends in the file extension .dot, and when you click on it, will automatically create a new blank document based on the template.  so if someone says ‘I’m attaching a template’ and the file ends in .doc, it’s not a template. Here’s how to do it properly:

  1. Think of a document type that has that you use a lot, like a letter or invoice
  2. Start a new document in Word.
  3. Spend time creating all the fancy elements that are particular to you such as
    – Your name and address and other contact details
    – An automated field for today’s date (see instructions below)
    – Page numbers, footers, headers
    – A scan of your signature, with your name and title underneath it
    – Bank details (if it’s an invoice)
  4.  Now go to the file menu, and select ‘Save As’
  5. From the dialog box that appears, look down to the ‘Format’ field, and change the Format to one of the Template (.dot) options.  Choose Word 97-2004 Template if you’re sending it to someone else (just to be safe), Word Template (.dotx) if it’s only you that’s going to be using it.
  6. Give the template a memorable and useful name, and press OK to save the document (which is now not strictly a document anymore, but a template)

To use the template (these instructions are for Word for Mac 2008 – in Word for Windows, you go to File>New and then select ‘from template’ ).

1. Go to the File>Project Gallery

2. From the menu that appears, select ‘My Templates’ and the template you created will be there.

3. Click on the template. A new blank document will be created with all the features that you specified. If you inserted an automatic date field, today’s date will be inserted (see instructions below).

4. Save this new document as something meaningful on your computer.

NOTES

How to insert the date automatically every time you create a new document based on a template

1. Go to the Insert menu, and select Insert>Field 

2. Select ‘Date and Time’ and use the ‘Create Date’ option

3. Press’ Options’ and select the format that the date should have, and remember to press ‘Add to field’ and ‘OK’ afterwards

  • Templates can be very complex things: for example, I’ve got one that I use for creating units in module study guides that have to have a cover page with the company logo on, page numbering, particular heading and text styles, and so on. Clicking on ‘Template’ creates a whole new document with a cover page including all the graphics.
  • Used in conjunction with forms (see earlier post on forms), templates can be doubly powerful: you could for example create an invoice template with form  fields for all the variable data like the name of the job and the unit price and so on.
  • Another way to use templates is to drag a shortcut to the template to your desktop. That way, you click on the template shortcut and kerplang! Word starts up automatically with a shiny new document ready for you to type into. To do this, you need to know where the template it stored (see below).
  • If you need to edit the template, you need to know where templates are stored on your computer. Once you know, you then select File>Open and locate the template in question to edit it
  • To find out where your computer stores templates, on a Mac go to Preferences pane in Word and select File locations. (it’s under Tools>Options on a PC) Make a note of where the  ‘templates’ are stored. You can press ‘modify’ to put them somewhere else. Frankly, I wouldn’t though. 

 

 

 

IT tips #23: How to hide your Facebook posts from particular people

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Sometimes you want to share something on Facebook that you know might offend a person in your network because of their particular views or life circumstances. You can chose to hide your posts from that person or several people at once. You can do it before you post something, or retrospectively:

1. At the end of your post, click on the ‘Friends’ sign, and select ‘custom’

2. Underneath ‘Hide this from’ start typing the name of the person that you want to hide the post from. Their name will appear – select it.

From now on, anything you post will be hidden from this person or list of people (if you added more than one) until you revoke it, but they will not know that you’ve done it.

 

 

IT tips #22: In MS Word, how to put a landscape page into a portrait document

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NB: Please read the 26/1/2016 update at the end of this page before you try the method below!

This is the problem: you need to insert a large table in landscape format into a document that is portrait the rest of the time. You don’t want to make the whole document landscape for the sake of one page, so you need a way of putting one landscape page into a portrait document. This is how you do it. Although the instructions here are for Word for Mac 2008, the over-riding principle is the same in any version of Word – create a section break, then apply the ‘landscape’ instruction to that section only.

Instructions for putting one landscape page into a portrait document in Word

1.  At the point where you want to create the landscape page, go to Insert>Break>Section Break (Next page)

Putting a landscape page into a portrait document in Word: use a Section Break

The Section Break menu

2. Now go to File>Page setup and change the page orientation to landscape, and if you’re using a Mac, after you’ve done that, change the settings to ‘Microsoft Word’ as shown below.

Putting a landscape page into a portrait document: the Page Setup menu in Mac OS

3.  From the menu that appears, select the option to apply the changes to ‘this section’ 
Putting a landscape page into a portrait document: use "This Section" when prompted in the page setup

4. Press OK. You will now have a landscape page at the point where you made the section break

5. Make your table or whatever it is on this page.

6. When you get to the bottom of the landscape page, repeat steps 1-4 above but change the orientation back to portrait and apply it to ‘this section’. 
NOTES
  • If  you know that this is going to be the only landscape page in the whole document, you can select ‘from this point forward’ when you change the orientation back to portrait in (6) above
  • Even though they’re invisible in print-layout view, Section Breaks can be deleted. If you’re not careful, you can backspace over the section break and put your landscape page back into portrait, or vice versa. If this happens, scream and press ‘Undo’ (CTRL+Z or ⌘Z)
  • To avoid deleting section breaks accidentally, put the document temporarily in to outline view (View>Outline). This will allow you to see where the section breaks are. Once you’ve finished, go back to View>Print layout)

Update on 26th January 2016

A recent visitor to this page has pointed out that when she tries to print the resulting document, the page immediately after the landscape page has its margins corrupted, and is shifted 2.5 inches to the right, and bleeds off the page. I’ve checked this and looked on a number of forums, and sadly, it seems that this may be an intractable problem with Word and page orientation changes.  To be honest, I don’t know what the problem is, and I have no idea whether it’s all versions of Word, all tables, all documents or whatever, but be warned.

In this particular case, the table had been created with tab stops rather than a table grid, which meant there was a nice workaround. If you have tabulated data (rather than a “table”) you can try this:

  1. Select the “table”  (scare quotes are vital here: I mean  “tabulated text” not a “table” in the sense of a grid with data in it)
  2. Click on the Insert menu, and select “text Box” – this will put a text box around the selected text
  3. Click on the + handle on the top LH corner of the resulting text box
  4. Click on the “layout tab” (see below)layout grid
  5. Select “Text Direction” and choose “Rotate all text 270º (or 90º if you prefer)
  6. The text will rotate (rather than the page) – this means that the page numbers will stay in the same position (one of the unfortunate hazards of the other method, is that the page numbers end up relative to the new page orientation – i.e. in the wrong place. It is then a real pain to put them in the right place using text boxes etc.
  7. I guess if you were really keen, you could create a table with the page in portrait mode, but with columns and rows how you’d like them to be when you type in text at 90 or 270 degrees (i.e. long rows, and narrow columns). I don’t like the sound of that, but in theory, it could work if you can (ha ha) get your head round it.
  8. If you have a better way of dealing with this let me know.

Warning 

Be aware that you can’t flip a Word table around like this: it only changes the direction of the text, not the table grid. I’m thinking that the only real workaround if you have a complex table that has to have a grid, and can’t be done with tabs alone, is to export the table as a graphic, and then import the graphic and rotate it into the portrait page as required.

IT tips #21: Drag your most-used sites on to your links bar in a browser

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I’m sure nearly everybody knows about this, but today’s tip is just a nudge to actually do it: if you have sites that you regularly visit – Facebook, email, the news, an online calendar, Amazon, favourite shops, etc. don’t waste time looking them up in your ‘favourites’. Next time you’re at one of those sites,  just drag the address into the links bar of your browser. Get rid of all the crap ones that were pre-loaded there first, so you’ve got room.

There’s a quick video below of how to do this in Chrome, but the procedure’s the same in every browser I’ve come across:

  1. Delete unwanted links from the links bar (or bookmarks bar as it’s called in Chrome) by CTRL-click  (Mac) or right click (PC) and selecting ‘delete’ for each unwanted link. This makes space for your own links.
  2. Go to  one of your favourite/most used  pages such as your web email account or Facebook, for example
  3. With the mouse, grab hold of the ‘favicon’ (the small image immediately left of the address) and drag it down to an empty space on the links bar. The cursor will turn to a + sign when you’re correctly positioned. Note: if you can’t see the links bar, it’s probably because you’ve opted to remove it from view – so go to the ‘View’ menu and make sure that the links/bookmarks bar is ticked.
  4. Let go of the mouse button (i.e. drop)
  5. Right-click/CTRL-click and edit the name of the link you just dropped  to something short and memorable (so you can get more links in the bar). I use initials – i.e. Metafilter becomes MF
  6. Next time you want to go to one of your favourite sites, just click on the icon in the links bar

NOTES

  • You can re-order the links on the bar by dragging them from left to right
  • If you have links to several pages on the same site, you can create a folder on the toolbar and drop all the links to those  pages into that folder.
  • If your links bar starts running off the right hand side of the screen, delete some links. There’s no point in a links bar where you can’t see the links.

IT tips #20: How to compile multiple documents into one Preview pdf file (Mac only)

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Update, May 18th 2015: Since I wrote this page in 2011, I’ve discovered that Apple have themselves published even better advice on their own site. So for the best instructions on how to do this, go to their page, OSX: Combing PDF documents using Preview 

For posterity, my original advice is below. The bit that was crucially missing from my advice was that you mustn’t import documents below the dividing line in the sidebar.

Using Preview on a Mac, this helps you compile a bunch of single, separate pdfs  – scans, articles, pictures, or whatever – into a single pdf. You can also re-order the individual pages or delete them.  This is the process:

  1. Open one of the files that’s going to be one of the final collection (it doesn’t matter which one)
  2. Save the file as something meaningful like ‘compiled scans’ or whatever
  3. Make sure that View>Sidebar>Show Sidebar is selected (⇧⌘D), and Thumbnails is ticked
  4. Keeping this first  file open, drop whole files, or individual pages into it as follows:
    1. For whole files: Select files in Finder and drag and drop them into the sidebar of the destination file
    2. For selected pages only: Open the  files that contain the pages that you want to include in the compiled file (Ensure that View Sidebar and Thumbnails is selected in the View>Sidebar menu in these files too).Arrange the windows on the screen so that your destination file (the one you’re going to drop all the others into) and the source file (the one containing the pages you want to drop in) are both visible.In the source file,  select the thumbnails of the page(s) that you want to add, and simply drag and drop them into the sidebar of the destination file.
  5. In the destination file, you can drag files up and down the sidebar to reorder them, or delete individual pages.
  6. Save the destination file.

 NOTES 

  • If you need a title page, make it in Word, print it to pdf, and then drag it into the destination document
  • It’s a good idea to make a blank page in Word or other program and print that to pdf so that you’ve got a blank page handy to insert where necessary – for example, you may eventually want to print this file double-sided, and if the first two pages are a double-page spread, you’ll need a blank page to start with. This is particularly relevant for music books.
  • As you can put image files into a pdf, this is also quick and dirty way to make a presentation without PowerPoint – just drop the relevant pictures and pages you need into a pdf, and wiggle them around.  You can use Preview or Acrobat to show the presentation, too.

I discovered this tip by accident – as far as I can see, there’s nothing in the menus that seems to offer you this fantastic option.

IT tips #19: How to stop procrastinating by turning the Internet off

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I don’t mind admitting that I am so easily distracted by stuff on the Internet, that if I didn’t have a program like Freedom (Windows & Mac), I probably wouldn’t get much done at all.  Freedom is a very simple utility that allows you to block your internet access for an amount of time in minutes. During this time, you won’t be able to access anything online, thus forcing you to do whatever it was that you were supposed to be doing (writing an essay, sending an invoice, tidying your room).

It costs $10, but there’s a trial version which allows you to try it five times for free.  One of the unexpected benefits of getting this software has been that I now have a much better idea of which kind of job I am likely to procrastinate on or avoid, and on days when I know I have something like that to do, I switch Freedom on for 90 minutes as soon as I turn the computer on.

IT tips #18: If you’re transcribing, get a USB foot control

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(I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m passionate about how much time they save, so I don’t mind doing so again)

If you do things like record lectures or interviews on your mobile, laptop or portable voice recorder, or want to transcribe speech from a video, what are you going to do? Press play with your hands, listen a bit, press pause with your hands, type a bit with your hands, stop, press rewind with your hands, press play again with your hands…and repeat  til insane.  You get the point: you need two pairs of hands if this is going to go anything but dead slowly.

But with a USB foot control (like the Infinity) and some free software called Express Scribe  you can sail through this kind of job.  For example, you can easily set Express Scribe to automatically go back, let’s say, one second when you release the ‘play’ pedal with your foot. That means you don’t in fact have to use the rewind button at all if you’re on a roll.

It is so much faster than any other method involving your hands alone, I would be lost without it for any transcribing job. And it’s not just speech that it’s good for – if you’re  a musician trying to work out the chord sequence or melody to a song, it’s perfect for transcribing music from audio files where you have to listen several times over to the same little bit.  Your hands never need to leave the page or keyboard that you’re working with.