Adding My Book and Graphic Novel Reviews – Update 2

The project to add my already-written book and graphic novel reviews from GoodReads is going well. I spent this weekend adding bibliographic information from my graphic novels. Needless to say, I have a lot of graphic novels, which are currently stored in stacked, plastic boxes. Finding a particular book, therefore can be a bit hard. However, I want to make sure the best information possible is included. I post these reviews in the morning, before work, adding a photo-header, categories, and tags. I’m also checking the HTML and line spacing and fixing any typos that I happen to spot. I don’t want to slow down the one book and one graphic novel post per day rate, so what I’m going to do for now is put in the information I have, and update it on the weekend, when I can search for the books. It should only be five graphic novels that will need to have their bibliographic information block updated at the end of the week.

Second, I wasn’t sure what information would be most useful for the information block. I’m including artists in a single line, including the letterer, inker, penciler, etc. Should this information be broken out by job description? Some of my older graphic novels aren’t very specific or detailed about credits. Yet, I want the information to be as accurate and helpful as possible. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

And again, thank you all for your likes, it means a lot to me. Feel free to post comments and questions as well.

Adding My Book and Graphic Novel Reviews – Update

Cross-posting my book reviews from GoodReads is going much better than I initially thought. This is good! I’m posting two reviews a day – one book and one graphic novel. Yesterday, I published my book review and was working on the graphic novel review when my Internet crashed. So today, I’m thinking I will technically publish (cross-post) three reviews just to be up-to-date.

I’m also getting positive feedback on my reviews! I really appreciate it everyone! And don’t be afraid to leave comments as well as push that like button!

One other thing – as anyone who reads this blog regularly may have noticed – I’m starting with my Doctor Who book and graphic novel reviews. I decided to go with a more topic-based approach for this mini-project. So, I’m starting with my Doctor Who books and Doctor Who graphic novels. There are a lot more Doctor Who books than graphic novels, and even if/when I get caught up on reviewing my Doctor Who graphic novels – there’s still a lot more books than novels. So after the Doctor Who graphic novel reviews are posted – I’m going to post my DC Comics Graphic Novel reviews, then the Other comics. I’ll keep that more-or-less chronological too, however, as with Doctor Who, I will keep series together. Once the Doctor Who books are all posted, I’ll go back and cross-post reviews of other books, again in chronological order.

Once everything from GoodReads is cross-posted (all the reviews, that is), I’m thinking of re-reading and reviewing some Doctor Who books and some DC Comics Graphic Novels that I read years ago. Anyone with strong opinions on that, feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. Just be nice. I’m a bit too stressed right now to deal with mean people. As always, all reviews will be posted to GoodReads first. I like the site, and I really love having a reading journal. If you’ve never used the site, check it out.

Adding My Graphic Novel and Book Reviews

After much thought, I’ve decided to add my Graphic Novel and Book reviews on this blog.  I was cross-posting them to LiveJournal, and trying to deal with the technical problems, but with Live Journal going under – I wanted a second place to post my reviews. Everything will still be posted to GoodReads first, but I hope to keep a copy here as well, and to tag everything to be easily searched.

Agile Update – June 2016

Wow, has it really been a month since I’ve posted anything? I actually feel quite nervous about writing again, even though I’ve accomplished a lot in the last month. Again, as I pointed out in another post, I’ve been moved to a different shift – I now work second shift, which I really, really like. No more getting up at 6:00 am, which any time but high Summer, means getting up in pitch darkness. No more driving during rush hour traffic that doubles my commute time. And most importantly, no more being exhausted all the time by a schedule that just doesn’t fit my body clock so to speak. But it’s still an adjustment to schedule things almost reverse of a “normal” schedule.

However, that’s not why I’ve been so short of posts recently. I’ve actually been very focused on professional development. For my job I need to be A+ Certified. It’s a very basic certification from CompTIA, and one I’ve held before, though I let it lapse (re-certification is expensive, so unless it’s necessary for your job or directly related to the type of jobs you’re applying for – Why bother?) Anyway, I studied a lot in May, and June – and the week of June 12th to June 17, I was really cramming for my second test in the two-test sequence (I passed the first in January, but was unable to even schedule the second test until the Spring.) I haven’t crammed that much since I was an undergrad in college. I’d get up, study for a couple of hours, and go to work. I’d bring my book and notebook to work and study and review during every spare moment I had. But it paid off, because on the 17th I took and passed the second test becoming A+ certified.

However, because I spent so much time working on that, other things fell by the way side. I spent last week getting caught up. I also, in the midst of all that, had some medical things to deal with that were annoying and not fun, and very much not for public consumption. But anyway.

So besides the career development step of becoming A+ Certified again, I’ve taken other steps too, and plan on more for the rest of the Summer, but without formal classes.  I bought the Serif Suite of Graphic Design Programs, which are desktop, not Cloud, programs similar to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Remember that I took a couple of Adobe classes last Summer? Well, I’m going to be teaching myself Serif PagePlus, Serif WebPlus, Serif PhotoPlus, Serif Photo Stack, and Serif Draw Plus this Summer. In addition, I’ll probably spent time using Inkscape, Coral Paint Shop Pro, and maybe even Gimp, Microsoft Publisher, Scribus, and Pixlr. In other words, reviewing and learning new skills in the graphic design software I downloaded last Summer after finding out that not only was Creative Cloud out of my budget, but with it’s “Cloud” nature I wouldn’t be able to use it anyway because of the type of Internet I have. Yesterday I watched the training video for Serif Page Plus and used it to design a cover for a .pdf and EPUB I’d put together of notes and transcripts that I studied for my A+. Purely for practice. Though I should see if I can put the document on Linked In as an example of my work. I’d have to seek permission of the publisher of the actual training material, though – I just compiled everything into a single e-book. Additional watching of training videos, learning how to use the software, and practice with the software is something I’m definitely planning on.

A third area of professional development I’ve been working on since I started my new position as an IT Help Desk Technician is to read the Intercomm magazine published by the STC, the Society for Technical Communication. I’m getting caught-up on my professional reading. My membership expired at the end of last year, and I need to renew it. I might even look at their professional development opportunities, and investigate certification.

The other area of professional development I need to look at besides graphic design and technical writing is Agile and project management. I need to see what type of professional societies and maybe even certification I can look at in Agile. I love the system when it’s done right, and it fits with my other interests – professionally.

But what else have I been doing in June? Well, I spent so much time studying I didn’t read a lot of regular fiction books. But I did read a lot of graphic novels, and I’m currently reading a twelve-book series of Doctor Who novellas. All my book reviews are on GoodReads. And I added all my graphic novels to GoodReads so I have an easy-to-access list, one that’s public and shareable, and one that’s easy to reference.

And in May I joined the fitness club at work. I received a basic fitbit as a membership “gift” and I’ve been averaging 3000 – 5000 steps a day. My goal is to get closer to 6000 steps a day. I also want to start exercising in the morning. Not crack-of-dawn morning, but I don’t start work until 12:30 pm (noon-thirty) now, so I have time to do some exercise and shower before work if I try. It’s just hard to be motivated. I do walk on at least one break at work, and if the weather is bad I walk on the treadmill at work. I also have a goal to lose 20 pounds in the next six months – this is my doctor’s advice.

With all my accomplishments, though, I’ve been bad about remembering to record them. So, another goal is to get back in the habit of setting goals, recording accomplishments, and writing a weekly Agile post.

So on to specifics:

6/1/2016

  • Added all of section 1.4 to Messer Notes .pdf
  • Studied Wireless in A+ book at work

6/2/2016

  • Finished adding all of Section 1 Professor Messer Video Notes to .pdf document
  • Watched video on Windows Command Line Networking Tools
  • Reviewed Doctor Who Hyperion on GoodReads

6/3/2016

  • Finished downloading and adding Section 3 & 4 of Professor Messer Notes to .pdf

6/4/2016

  • Reviewed Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880 on GoodReads
  • Added section 4 .pdfs to full .pdf notes (Professor Meser A+ Notes)
  • Reviewed All-Star Batman and Robin on GoodReads
  • Finished adding all Professor Messer Video Notes to full .pdf
  • Finished Word document on creating the .pdf, saved as .pdf, added to full .pdf, then imported the full .pdf to Calibre and converted to EPUB

6/9/2016

  • Installed Serif PagePlus program on computer

6/11/2016

  • Installed rest of Serif Software (Web Plus, Photo Plus with Stack Plus, Draw Plus)
  • Studied for A+ Exam – read Prof. Messer notes – up to and including Network Commands
  • Wrote review of Doctor Who The Nameless City on GoodReads
  • Wrote review of Batman/Superman Vol. 1 – Cross Worlds on GoodReads

6/18/2016

  • Reviewed Doctor Who – Spear of Destiny on GoodReads
  • Reviewed World of Flashpoint featuring Batman on GoodReads
  • Started adding “Doctor” tags to all Doctor Who items on GoodReads (tags are DW1, DW2, DW3, etc and First Doctor, Second Doctor, etc all the way to Twelfth Doctor)
  • Professional Development – read Intercomm (STC magazine) June 2015

6/24/2016

  • Reviewed World of Flashpoint featuring The Flash on GoodReads
  • Updated some Doctor Who books, audios, graphic novels with tags on GoodReads
  • Reviewed Doctor Who – The Root of Evil on GoodReads
  • Reviewed Doctor Who – Tip of the Tongue on GoodReads

6/25/2016

  • Watched PagePlus training video
  • Created cover for Professor Messer Video Transcripts and Notes Using PagePlus
  • Tried out homemade stuffed sweet peppers recipe (goat cheese and ground beef
  • Reviewed The World of Flashpoint featuring Green Lantern on GoodReads

I’ve been busy with the professional development and with reading and reviewing short fiction (graphic novels and Doctor Who novellas), as well as my steps on my fitbit for fitness. But I need to do more and get back in the saddle towards my goals.

 

The Advantages of Second Shift or, I am not now nor have I ever been a morning person

Long time readers of this blog know that I completed a year-long project on Agile posting updates every week. This year my updates have been sporadic at best, and in April I was ready to give up the project entirely – I was working, things were pretty good, I felt like I didn’t need to post weekly updates. A month worth of Internet problems, and a switch of providers with the chaos that creates and I thought I would just give it up, though I was still keeping track somewhat of various accomplishments (though not as well as I should). And my writing was going well, even without the regular posts.

April, however, was also chaotic in that I was informed at the beginning of the month, that April 15th would be my last day in my department. I would then by sent to two weeks of training, and then moved to another department. I was not happy about this to say the least, especially as the HR person and even my manager were very high-handed about the whole thing. It was presented as a fait accompli – “you will go to training, you will go to the other department, you have no choice in the matter”. No one said the word, “quit”, but it was pretty much understood by all involved that that would be my only other choice, and I couldn’t afford to do that.

So off I went to two weeks of training (nice thing about training it was a 7-hour day or less schedule, but I got paid the full 40 hours per week). This was followed by a week of “observing”/testing/and live testing. Much to my shock I passed the live-call testing. Not only that, but when I checked later, I had the highest scores in my class. After finding out about passing the training class, I was given my new schedule. I’d requested second shift – specifically a “retail second shift” which ends earlier at night than what many people think of as second shift (factories work a 3:00 or 3:30 pm – 11:00 pm second shift). Over my life I’ve worked in retail on-and-off for about eighteen years or more, this includes Summer jobs, second part-time jobs, “Holiday” jobs, etc. I often thought that the hours were the best part about working retail, and that it’s a real pity that you can’t actually make a living working in retail. But the pay is low, there’s no benefits, and it’s never full-time. My first choice for a new shift was 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. I got my second pick – 12:30 pm (aka noon-thirty) to 9:00 pm. The surprise was it was a Sunday to Thursday shift with Friday and Saturday off. The job is working in a IT call center. The call center is 24/7/365. My first working week I continued on the original training schedule hours (8:30 am to 5:00 pm, ugg).

However, for the past two weeks or so I’ve been on my new shift – 12:30 pm to 9:00 pm, and I honestly do love it. The first half of my shift is very busy and goes by quick, it’s often time for my first break or “lunch” (the half-hour unpaid meal break) before I know it. The second half of the shift tends to be slower, especially on Sundays and Thursdays. But it’s also quieter in the call center (except for the cleaning guy who keeps vacuuming right by my cubicle while I’m on a call!). There’s less chatter between agents and quieter talk (less volume and fewer people talking) as call center techs talk over the phone. I like the quietness of the evening hours. And that isn’t to say there’s nothing to do – I still have customers to serve and help; I’m currently studying for my second A+ test (the 802), and I have a stack of professional development magazines to read such as from the STC, etc. I’m actually enjoying my job – I help people all day, I’m solving problems all day, I get to think instead of doing mindless drudge work, and most of my customers on the phone are really nice, and even understanding when I have system problems or I’m having trouble finding the info to help them.

But what is also cool is the shift itself and my schedule. I work 12:30-9:00 pm; so I have all morning, while I’m fresh and awake, to do stuff. I generally get up about 8:00 am, I have my coffee and watch my recorded TV show from the previous night or something off my “to be watched” DVD shelf, and since I’m reviewing my DVDs as I watch them, that leads to future blog posts. After that I generally sit down at my computer and work. And just like on a Saturday (when I worked 8:00 am to 4:30 pm M-F) I’m working – taking care of the everyday things – paying bills, filing, writing blog posts, doing research, etc. Now, instead of only doing that on the weekends – I can get that “little stuff” done every day – which means not having a mountain of receipts to file, or bills to pay on-line, or even on-line shopping to do on Saturday. Having time in the morning, without having to get up even earlier in the morning, means I can write, or research, or organize, or whatever I need to do. About 10 or 10:30 am, I leave my home office, and make myself breakfast, or lunch, or brunch, or whatever you want to call a meal that you have in the morning but that has to last until at least 2:15 pm or 2:30 pm when I have my first break. Then I change from my relax clothes to work clothes. Then I read, play games on my tablet, or this week probably, study, until it’s time to leave for work at 11:40 am. Again, I work from noon-thirty to nine, and generally walk on the treadmill (or outside if it’s nice) during at least one break during work. Though, to be fair, when working days I tried to walk on one break as well. After work, I generally head home, have an after work meal, read (or play computer games on my tablet) for awhile then go to bed.

But, here’s the thing. I’m getting a lot more done, and faster, because the stack of stuff to deal with on my desk gets looked at daily, rather than once a week. I’ve gotten through most of the backlog of receipts, credit card offers, junk mail, and even catalogs. Rule of three: everything goes into one of three piles – file; deal with; or recycle/destroy/trash. The file and destroy piles get dealt with first. That is, they are filed or destroyed (ripped up, shredded, put in recycling, or trashed, depending on what the item is). Then it becomes a lot easier to actually focus on and deal with the “deal with” pile of actual bills, or things I actually really do want to order from, or items that need follow-up. And bonus, because I’m home on working days (plus all day Friday) I can actually call businesses or doctor’s offices that are only open during business hours – something that’s hard to do when you work business hours.

But I’m also getting through projects. I recently added all my graphic novels, three boxes worth, going back to 1986 (in copyright dates) to GoodReads. Most, other than the very recent ones, aren’t reviewed, but at least I have them listed in one easily accessible place, and everything is tagged, and it’s public, so I can point my friends to it as a quick list, rather than pulling out my new Excel spreadsheet (which was also updated). That sort of thing would have taken a week or two, maybe more, when I worked days. Working mornings, I completed it in one week. I just love that.

I’ve also been able to write more blog posts. And I’ve even written posts before work. That is awesome. Working days, I’d often be too tired to do much after work. Or if I did, it was like one thing and that was it. Now, I get at least two hours worth of stuff done before work, put in a full day at work, and have time for the fun things like reading, playing games on my tablet, or watching my shows without commercials.

And best of all, I feel better. I am not now, nor have I ever been a morning person. I hate mornings. Well, early mornings. Getting up at six am, to leave the house by 7:15 am really isn’t fun and I barely have time for coffee, much less anything else. And getting up any earlier is out of the question. Plus, even with being exhausted all the time, especially right after work, I’d often find the one time I wasn’t tired was when it was time to go to sleep – so I’d stay up to 11:00 or 11:30 pm or even Midnight, even though the next day I had to get up at six. And I’d end-up drinking coffee all day, rather than just a cup or two in the morning – and thus not sleep, and the vicious cycle goes on. Plus, on the weekends I’d try to catch-up on sleep – either sleeping in to 10 am, or taking long naps in the afternoon. Now, I’m not fighting my body clock. I get up at 8:00 am, a respectable time – but the time I used to have to be at work. I can stay up to 11:00 or even later and still get eight or more hours of sleep. I can get a good two hours of work done in the morning before “work”. I have time for appointments, even fun ones. Today I had an appointment at 10:30 am, another at 2:00 pm, in between I got to the comics book store where I spent far too much money, and picked up lunch for the family on the way home. Oh, and went out to dinner with my folks too. And I still have a day off tomorrow.

I’m now on a schedule that fits my body clock and my own circadian rhythm, rather than being forced into someone else’s idea of when I should be working. My drive in to work is busy, but not the bumper-to-bumper nightmare of working a quote, “normal”, unquote shift. I actually, much to my surprise and shock like my new position at my job. Both the people working on second shift, and the people I talk to on the phone are nicer, kinder, and quieter. The IT Helpdesk Call Center is a national call center, so I talk to people all over the country, which is awesome and fun. I like solving problems and helping people. And I’m much, much happier with this schedule – and I’m not so tired and exhausted all the time. That is just an awesome feeling!

And Agile – I definitely need to pick-up on tracking my accomplishments again. I’ve joined the “fitness club” at work, thus the tracking of my steps on my Fitbit. I’m getting back on track with my professional development goals. And my blog post writing is getting back on schedule.

Microsoft Office Tips for Word and Excel

Advanced Microsoft Excel – How to Use Sort and Filter

What are Sort and Filter?

Sorting and filtering are two entirely different concepts – almost opposite. But both allow you to look at your spreadsheet in different ways. Sorting allows you to see all your information a specific way. For example, the spreadsheet below is sorted by title:

Excel Spreadsheet with columns including Director Name, Date, Title, Edition, and Number of Discs

Films by Title Order

How to Sort

However, to sort by date, use Excel’s Sort and Filter Feature In-line image of Sort & Filter Button in Excel.

  1. Click on “Sort and Filter”.
  2. In the Sort and Filter Context Menu, click on “Custom Sort” – this will give you the most options.
  3. In the “Sort By” field, click on the down arrow to see the options for sorting.
  4. Sort Tool with Column - Sort by circled in red and blue arrow pointing to the down arrow

  5. Once clicked, a list will appear of the column headings of the spreadsheet.
  6. Sorting_menu_coices-showing

  7. Choose the item for sorting, for example, rather than sorting by title – sort by date.
  8. Sorting menu in excel showing "date" as the sort value

  9. Click OK to confirm the choice.

Excel will now re-organize the spreadsheet to display by the chosen field.

Excel spreadsheet of films by date order

This is simply a reorganization of data. Everything that was there when the list was displayed in Title order is still there, but displayed by Date.

How to Perform a Multi-Level Sort

Excel also allows multi-level sorts, which can be quite powerful if you understand what is going on. In a multi-level sort, think of each additional level as “and then by”. To start, I’ve reorganized my spreadsheet by Director Name – just so it is in a neutral list to start.

Film spreadsheet sorted by director name

Now, let’s create a list by Date, then alphabetical by Title.

  1. First, click on “Sort and Filter”, then “Custom Sort”.
  2. Change “Director Name” to Date. For your own spreadsheet, pick any column to sort by.
  3. Now click “add a level”, to add the next level of sorting. Remember, Excel will sort first by the first thing chosen, and then by the next level.
  4. Add Level button circled in Sort Tool

  5. Another Sort By line will pop-up, as before click the down arrow to choose the column to sort by.
  6. Excel Sorting Tool showing two levels - Date, Then Title

  7. Click “OK”.

The result is a list sorted by Date first and then by Title.

Film list sample by date then title

It’s important to consider how you want to view data, especially with multi-level sorts. This sort list the Date first, so you need several items with the same date, before the second level goes in to affect – the title. So, for example, if you had a product list and every product had a unique ID number, sorting by “Product ID” and then “Product Name” wouldn’t be terribly useful – since Product ID was unique – you’d simply have a list by Product ID. If you reversed that idea, and listed by Product Name then Product ID, the results would depend on the products you have – if there are several of the same product but by different companies, thus having different IDs, a list by Product ID and then by Product Name might be useful. (For example, if you had a high-end grocery and sold different types of cola and each had it’s own unique Product ID.)

Excel will allow up to three levels of sorting, but remember that you want both repeated information and unique information for the sort to be meaningful. An example of a good three-level sort, might be if you had a list of all your musical CDs. You could sort by (1) Genre or Type of Music and then by (2) Artist – the band or singer, and (3) then by album title. Since you are likely to have several types of genres in your music collection, many artists, but each album has a unique title, and in the cases where titles might be the same, the artist is probably different. Such a three-level sort should work.

How to Filter

Filtering is almost the opposite of sorting. Whereas with sorting you see all information presented in different order – with filtering you are looking to “pull out” only certain types of information.

This sample excerpt spreadsheet of films in my DVD collection includes the genre of the film.

Sample film list genre included

To turn on filtering, click the sort and filter button on the ribbon, then click filter.

Sort and Filter - Filter circled on context menu

Once filter is turned on you will see little arrows next to each column.

Excel with filtering turned on

Click an arrow, such as the one next to “genre” in this example, and a “pick list” will appear showing all the categories in that column.

Excel filter by Genre, Everything Selected

By default, every unique value is listed. To apply a filter, uncheck all but the information you want to see.

Excel filtering with only "Musical" selected

Then click “OK”.

Filtered list of musicals

As you can see, rather than listing all films, the list is now limited to only musicals. You can tell the list is filtered because (a) the row counter on the far left now shows skips in the number sequence, indicating lines not shown, and (b) the filter symbol shows on the “Genre” column header.

In order to see the whole list again, go back to the filter symbol, click the arrow and choose “Select All”.

Select all - check marks appear next to each value

To turn off filtering entirely, go back to the sort and filter button, “filter” will be highlighted, click to turn it off.

Filtering is best used to view only a certain class of information.

Also, if you have a Yes/No column in your spreadsheet, you can filter to only show “yes” or only show “no”. You can even filter to only show blanks or to not show blank lines, by adding and removing check marks in the filter list.

Filtering: Yes, No, Blanks Sample

“Yes/No” filtering can be very powerful, and I use it at work all the time.

In this article, I’ve shown how to use sorting and filtering in Excel. Sorting and filtering are very useful and powerful tools for viewing the data in a spreadsheet. Mastering them will help you to get more out of your spreadsheet data.

Microsoft Office Tips for Word and Excel

Excel Basics – Formatting Sheets and Cells

Formatting Sheets

Professional spreadsheets should not look like an 8-bit game, or an Easter Egg. However, some formatting can make spreadsheets easier to read. This article will review formatting sheets and cells.

The spreadsheet itself should look professional. Excel files should be named – with short descriptive names. Your quarterly budget reports should be named “Budget First Quarter.xlsx” or “Budget January 2016.xlsx” Nothing says unprofessional like a report with a name that’s a sentence – or a file named “Book1”. Plus reasonably named files are easy to locate. And having a system – naming your monthly budget as “Budget Month Year.xlsx” makes it easy to find again. Use the “save as” feature to change the initial default name (usually “book1”, “book2”, etc.)

Not only should the spreadsheet file be reasonably named with an intelligent, relevant name, but each tab should also have a name or label.

To label tabs:

Right click the tab, then choose “rename”. Delete “sheet1” and replace with a short, descriptive name for the tab. You can also double-click on the tab and do the same thing – delete the default and rename it.

Rename Sheet Option in Excel

Deleting Sheets

Older versions of Excel, including 2010, automatically open a new workbook with three tabs. Please delete the tabs you are not using. Nothing says unprofessional like a spreadsheet with extra blank tabs named “sheet2” or “sheet3”. To delete an entire sheet: Right-click and choose “delete” – you may or may not get a pop-up asking if you really want to delete the sheet – if you do, choose “yes” and click “OK”. One of the few advantages of the newest version of Office (Office 2013 aka “Office 365”) is that when you open a new workbook you get one sheet. Which is often all you need.

Delete Sheet in Excel

What if you need additional sheets, though?

Inserting Sheets – Insert

There are two ways to add sheets.  The first is using the Insert Command.

Click the tab, click Insert on the pop-up menu, then click “Worksheet” and press the “OK” button.

Insert Sheet in Excel

Excel Insert Worksheet dialog Box

Move or Copy Sheets

Let’s say, though, you have a Yearly by Month budget in Excel, and every month you add a new “Monthly Budget” sheet. All your column labels and formulas are already entered into the “January” tab. Sure, the details will change from month-to-month, but the format is the same. With Excel, you don’t need to start over with re-creating all the formatting and formulas. Simply copy the sheet, keep the formatting and delete the data.

To copy a sheet, right-click the tab, and choose “Move or Copy”.

Move or Copy Sheet in Excel

Put a check mark in the “Make a Copy” box, (make sure in the drop list the new sheet will appear “at end” (the default is before the current sheet). If you forget this step, you can always go in and move the sheet.

Excel - Create a Copy Circled

“Move or Copy” is one of the most useful tools in Excel – you can even move sheets to a new book.

Creating a New Book Using Move or copy

Use the drop-down arrow to choose new book. Your new copy will have the default name of “book2” (or three or four, etc – depends on how many new spreadsheets you’ve created that day) be sure to save the spreadsheet with a new name.

And as it says on the tin, the move command allows you to re-arrange sheets in a multi-spreadsheet workbook.

Some versions of Excel also allow color-coding of tabs. This makes it easier to find the correct sheet in large multi-sheet workbooks. Right-click the tab and simply choose “tab color” from the menu.

Excel Tab Color

Formatting Cells

The formatting menu has several useful commands. To get to the formatting menu, right click and choose “format cells”.

Format Cells on Excel Context Menu

This button can be added to your “Custom Quick Access Toolbar” as can any of the tabs in the menu, such as formatting. There are many useful items in Format Cells, let’s go through them one at a time.

Number

Format Cells - Number

Excel was designed for crunching numbers – but it has many other uses – the Number tab allows the user to customize a row, or more likely a column, by setting how Excel views “numbers”. The most used option is to set a column to “text”. Click at the very top of the spreadsheet column (the letter), right click, choose “format cells”, choose “text” and confirm the choice by clicking “OK”.

This will force Excel to consider a column, even one with numbers, as text. Do you have a phone list for your office in Excel, but the spreadsheet tries to perform mathematical expressions with the phone numbers? Set the column to text. This command also works best if you set the column to text before entering data.

Alignment

Text Alignment Horizontal tells Excel how to align text inside cells. The default is “General” which means Excel will try to “guess” how to display data. Trust me – you usually don’t want Excel deciding for you.

For text – names, budget items, etc – you want Horizontal set to left, you can then adjust the column size to be the smallest possible. This, in turn, allows the spreadsheet to be of a reasonable size – especially if you need to print it.

Numbers, especially currency, are normally set flush right. Also set the Number type to “currency” or “Accounting” (both will line up numbers by the decimal point. Both allow one to turn the currency symbol on or off and choosing the number of decimal places. Currency allows formatting negative numbers as red and enclosed in parenthesis, which is an accounting standard.

Center, Justify, and Distributed aren’t terribly useful for columns of data – but they may be useful for column headers. I’ve also used “Center” for check mark columns or Yes/No columns.

Vertical alignment – leave it at “Bottom” – this will also make “wrap text” work correctly.

Text Control

Alignment, text control circled

Wrap Text allows you to wrap a long title or item in the same cell, so it appears as two lines but it’s in the same cell. This is extremely useful for any descriptive item. It also allows you to continue to use Excel’s sorting and filtering tools which are thrown off by blank lines or text that takes up multiple rows.

Shrink to fit I don’t use – but it probably does what it says on the tin – shrinks a particular item to fit in a cell.

Merge Cells is an interesting one. I use it in my first (title or cell label) row sometimes. Merge cells will take the cells you select and merge them into something that gives the appearance of a single cell. It’s useful for setting up the labels at the top of your spreadsheet.

Orientation allows you to tip the text to the angle you select in the box. Again, this is useful for setting up your first row that describes the content of a column. If you, for example, have long column headers but short information in the column – Orientation can be used to tip the words in the first row to make the spreadsheet overall shorter and the columns narrower. Think for example of an order sheet.

Example of an Order Sheet with Tipped Text

It is even possible to color-code the columns to make the order sheet easier to use.

Color-Coded Order Sheet with Borders

Another solution would be to wrap the text in the first row – however, each column will still need to be as wide as the longest word in the item description.

Font

Font formatting in Excel is the same as in Word and most other Microsoft Office programs. One thing to point out, the Calibri Font is a compressed san serif font that works beautifully in Excel. Excel often is used to organize a lot of information in an easy-to-understand format, often, ideally a single sheet, or a series of related sheets. Calibri allows the same information (same characters) to take up less space. It’s also San-Serif so it’s easy to read, especially on-line or for numbers.

Border

Borders is a way to format cells in a spreadsheet. This includes setting a line under, for example, all the cells in the first row which describe what information is in each cell. Borders can be used to highlight a cell – such as a final price.

Fill

Fill allows the filling of cells with color. This is also easier with the shortcut button Paint Can Icon for Fills. Both the shortcut and the fill tab allow for picking color from the standard colors by clicking the “More Colors” button.

Color Picker Excel

The Fill Effects button allows building of two-color gradients.

Gradient Fill in Excel

However, in professional spreadsheets it would be a very rare occasion that would require using gradients. Remember, most professional spreadsheets should look professional, not like an Easter egg. Shading the first row of a spreadsheet, the one with the column labels, is about all you need to do. The Cookie Spreadsheet I’ve used as some samples in this tutorial is designed to be fun – something to easily illustrate a few points, and certainly order sheets are a common use for Excel – but it’s a bit colorful for business purposes. Think about the purpose and use of your spreadsheets, and don’t over design with too much color or pattern.

Text Color

In Excel, text color can be changed using the Text Color button  Text Color Button, Line Under the Letter A . Click the arrow to choose the text color you want to use. Text Colors can be used to highlight data, such as negative numbers. However, text colors should be used sparingly.

Protection

Finally the Protection tab allows you to lock and hide spreadsheets. It also has no effect until you protect the worksheet. Basically ignore this tab.

Conclusion

Excel is a powerful spreadsheet program. It has many uses, and can be used to do many things that it’s designers probably never thought it would be used for (My Doctor Who Episode List for my Master Post was made using Excel). There are many different formatting options for Excel. Some you will use all the time – setting the Number format, Alignment, Borders, and Fills; others not-so-much such as gradient fills or protecting a worksheet. Just remember that the formatting you apply to spreadsheets should enhance comprehension, readability and visibility of information and not distract from it.