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.

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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.

Microsoft Office Tips for Word and Excel

Excel Basics – Navigation and Freeze Panes

What is Microsoft Excel?

This is the first of three posts of knowledgeable information for working with Microsoft Excel. Excel is a spreadsheet program which is included with even the most basic versions of Microsoft Office. Excel is used for calculations, storing and working with financial data, and working with any sort of numbers in a home or office setting. Budgets, depreciation schedules, profit-and-loss statements, accounting statements, account balances, are all typical uses for Excel. I also use it for any information that looks best in a row and column format. I keep an up-to-date copy of the Doctor Who episode list in Excel, for example. Originally, I used the list to keep track of the DVD releases, but now that the entire Classic and New Series are available – I don’t need that primary purpose anymore, but it’s still good to have. Excel is also useful, for example, for lists of comics you have or need. Essentially, Excel is good for lists of highly changeable data.

One thing Excel isn’t is a true relational database. Although you can filter and sort information in Excel, that is not the same thing as being able to run queries a number of different ways, on tables that hold information separately. Microsoft Access is still a good, medium-sized relational database that is included in some versions of Microsoft Office, such as Professional 2010.

Excel Navigation

There are many common ways to move around in an Excel spreadsheet. First, you can simply click on any cell in the spreadsheet to select it. This includes blank cells.

You can use the tab key or arrow keys on your keyboard to move between cells.

To edit a cell, click, then move the mouse to the formula bar and edit in the formula bar.

Highlighted formula bar in Excel

Copy and paste is very easy in Excel, simply click the cell or cells you want to copy, press control and the letter C together (CTRL +C), click where you want to paste the information and press Enter. You do not need to use CTRL + V to paste (as in a word processing program or any other place). You can also drag and fill by clicking on the little box in the lower left corner of the cell, dragging it down several rows then releasing the mouse (this can be turned on or off in Options on the File tab).

Autofill is something you want to be careful of – and you may want to turn it on or off depending on an individual spreadsheet you are working on. Autofill will fill the contents of the cell based on what you have typed previously in the spreadsheet. This means, for example, if you have a sales spreadsheet for red, blue, and yellow balloons – and you are recording the sales, once you’ve typed a few rows of data, the second you type an “r” the cell will fill with “red”, and when you type a “b” the cell will fill with “blue” etc. Which seems all well and good, however, what if you are also recording the salespeople who sell the balloons (to calculate a bonus or commission, perhaps?) and your sales people are: Jane, Joan, Jon, Jim, John, Jill, Justin, Bob, and Mary. Every time you type a “J” Excel will try to autofill the result – without knowing the difference between Joan and Jon or Jim and Jill. Since Excel can autofill based on a single letter, your “J”-heavy sales department might see inaccurate results. It might be best to turn off autofill in this case, and manually type everything. Or use copy and paste. Or even use drag and fill. I find that I use “Autofill” only about half the time, and the rest of the time I have it turned off (again, in “Options” on the “File” tab) – it really doesn’t save that much time.

Quick Tip: Navigation

Having worked as both a temporary and full-time accounting assistant, and a temporary secretary or admin asst, I’ve spent a lot of time working with Excel. For the best and speediest results when editing and updating spreadsheets – use a variety of methods to move around a spreadsheet, especially a long or complicated one; click directly on a cell you need to change, edit in the formula bar, move from cell to cell with the tab key, move around the spreadsheet with the arrow keys.

Freeze Panes

Freeze Panes is a handy feature in Excel that allows you to set part of the spreadsheet (typically the top row or left-most column or columns to not move, even when the rest of the spreadsheet does move. By default, Freeze Panes is found on the View tab in Excel 2010 and later.

Freeze Panes on Excel View Tab

Because I find freezing the top row (or occasionally the first column) to be a very useful feature in Excel, I added the shortcut button to my Excel Quick Access Toolbar. The process to Add Any Command to the Quick Access Toolbar is the same for Excel or Word in Office 2010 or later.

How exactly do you Freeze Panes? And Why?

If you have a long spreadsheet, chances are you have a row at the very top that describes what is in each column (the pictures in this post have used a cleaned-up Access Export of my film list, the top row includes the Director Name, Title, Edition, etc.). But if you are editing or adding data, and the spreadsheet is very long, the top row will disappear quickly. How do you know what goes where?

Sure, it might seem obvious in a spreadsheet like the film list I’ve used as an example – but I’ve worked with extremely complicated, precise spreadsheets, where it’s vital to have information in the correct place. Spreadsheets such as Profit-and-Loss statements, Zero-balance accounting spreadsheets, even checklists with pass/fail tests consisting of five or six (or more) separate items one needs to record “yes” or “no” after looking-up information. It’s much easier to have the guide, in terms of the first row, visible. Freeze panes does that.

Simply place your cursor at the top of the spreadsheet in the first cell under the row to freeze, click the “freeze panes” button, then click “freeze top row”. If you have a spreadsheet set up where the first column doesn’t change and new information in recorded in columns and rows to the right of the first column, choose, “freeze first column”. You can tweak the two presets by using “freeze panes” – just make sure you place your cursor in the correct place. This is helpful if you need to freeze the first column and the top row, or if you have two or more “top rows” that you want to freeze.

 

Freeze Panes in Excel

Freeze Panes is an essential tool for working with Microsoft Excel.

This blog post introduced basic navigation in Microsoft Excel and how to freeze panes to make navigation of long spreadsheets easier. Future blog posts with tips and tricks for using Microsoft Excel will include how to format cells, and how to use sorting and filtering tools.

What would you like to learn about using Microsoft Excel? Feel free to leave me questions in the comments.

Microsoft Office Tips for Word and Excel

How to Create and Use a Microsoft Word Macro

What is a Macro?

A Macro is a method of automating a series of actions. Macros can be used in both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, but this tutorial will concentrate on Microsoft Word. Macros are like a very small program, however, they are even smaller than the most basic program or application.

Aren’t Macros “Viruses”?

A Macro is not a virus. It’s a program, in a sense (actually it’s smaller than a program). Macros for Microsoft Word and Excel are written in the Visual Basic scripting language (VB). Theoretically, if some unscrupulous person were to e-mail you a macro and you installed it – you could install a virus. However, Javascript, Java, Flash, Shockwave (older Flash), Frame .Net, and several other scripting languages that make the Internet work could also “hide” viruses. Just as you should avoid suspicious websites, always run anti-virus software, and run anti-spyware, and anti-adware programs on your computer – you shouldn’t install a suspicious “free” macro. But if you write the macros yourself in VB, or use the Macro Recorder in Word or Excel to create your own Macros – there shouldn’t be any problem and you shouldn’t encounter a virus. After all, Why would you put a virus in code you wrote yourself?

When to Use a Macro

It is important to give some thought as to what situations may be improved or made faster or more consistent by using Macros. Macros automate steps – to be worth it, it should be a fairly long, repetitive, series of steps. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over, with no variation, a Macro might help you. The other key to using macros is that it must be the exact same series of steps – you cannot (easily) include a variable in a macro. So if you’re writing a phone list in Word but everyone’s name and phone number are different – that is not a good candidate for a Macro. Also, there should be several steps – if it’s just one or two, a Macro probably isn’t worth setting up.

There are other ways to automate formatting of text such as with Styles. And Find and Replace is a marvelous tool that can help and automate changing certain types of text formatting (such as removing double spaces after a period and replacing them with a single space.) You can also use a Macro to automate steps in a Find and Replace sequence.

When developing Macros, stick with repetitive tasks with several identical steps – but once set-up they can save you time.

How to Create a Macro

Creating a Macro is really very easy, although they are written in Visual Basic (VB), you don’t even need to know VB to create Macros. One of the easiest ways to create a Macro is by using Microsoft’s Macro Recorder.

  • In Microsoft Word 2010 and later, click the developer tab. If you don’t see the developer tab, do the following:
  •  Go to the File tab, then
  • Click Options, then
  • Click “Customize Ribbon”
  • Put a check mark in “Developer” and click “OK”
  • The Developer Tab should now be visible

Developer_tab

  • Next, click the Macro Recorder button – be sure you know what steps to perform for your macro because once you hit the record button every action will go into your Macro.

Record_Macro_Button_Dev-tab

For this lesson we will create a Macro to replace hard-coded line breaks with paragraphs marks. Why? Have you ever copied a professional article, or even a fanfic from on-line to Word for off-line reading – only to have it be only three and a half or four inches wide no matter what you do? The article or story has hard-coded line breaks at the end of every single line. To make the text flow, the first step is to get rid of the hard breaks. After the line breaks are removed, extra paragraph marks can be removed separately (and manually).

By hand (without a Macro) you remove a hard break by using Find and Replace.

  • Click Find (the binoculars)
  • Choose Replace… from the pull-down menu
  • Click More>>
  • Click Special and open it with the pull down menu

Find_and_Replace_Special-button

  • Click in “Find What” then click “Manual line break” in the Special Menu

Pop-up_Menu_Special-Characters_Find-Replace

  • Click in “Replace with” then click “paragraph mark”
  • Finally, click “Replace All”.
  • Once it’s run, it will tell you how many replacements it’s made. You can close out of Find and Replace.

To create a Macro using Recorder, press the Record button, do all the steps above, close out of Find and Replace, then click “End Record”. (If you want to know how many replacements were many each time you use the Macro stop recording with clicking “Replace All”. However, you’ll need to close “find and Replace” every time you run the Macro.)

The Macro dialogue will also ask you to name your Macro and if you want to assign it to a button or keyboard combination. I usually go with “button” and have the Macro on my Quick Access toolbar. When I’ve worked in Technical Writing and had ten or so Macros for different functions, our version of Word had a new Ribbon Group with all the Macros we used for work on it. But for a home user or small business, placing buttons on the Quick Access Toolbar is fine. And of course, if you would rather use a Keyboard Combo, that is fine too.

 

Twitter Basics

Introduction

Twitter is a realtime micro-blogging public social media network. It has a 140-character limit for a Tweet, but recently removed the same limit for direct messages (more about those in a moment). Like most social networks, Twitter is free to join and can be joined by anyone. I’ve been on Twitter since 2010, and currently have 354 followers, and I follow hundreds of accounts. I also continuously read and learn about Twitter and other social media networks and run a curated board about Social Media for Business on Pinterest.

Getting Started with Twitter

To get started with Twitter go to Twitter.com and choose the new account or getting started link then follow the prompts. You’ll need to provide very little information to join the network, and you’ll need an valid e-mail address as your login. When you create your account you’ll be prompted to create your Twitter Handle – this is your username on Twitter and how you will be seen by others. You can use your name or a variation on your name (15 character limit). I found that my full name was too long for a Twitter handle and I had to use a diminutive instead. Besides using your name, you could also use your company name, your personal “brand” name, a nickname, the name of your cat, etc. but remember that your handle is your public face. When you create your account you should immediately replace the default “egg” avatar with a picture or some type of icon. You can also add a profile picture to the top your profile page. And finally, you’ll be asked to provide a profile page description and your website or blog address. The website isn’t required, but if you have one – fill it in.

Twitter as a Professional Networking Tool

Twitter has many sides to it, which is why it is not the most immediately intuitive social network to use, unlike Facebook. Since anyone can get an account on Twitter – the network is used by different people in different ways. Many celebrities are on Twitter, including writers, comic book artists, actors, musicians and people in the music business, directors and people in the film and television business, news agencies, businesses, etc. Even though the mechanics of the network are the same for everyone – different users emphasize different things with how they use Twitter. For example, many businesses use Twitter as word-of-mouth advertising. When a business does this they are concerned with “engagement” a metric that tracks how much customers interact with the business through social media including Twitter. This isn’t simply only traditional brick-and-mortar, corporate, or even internet businesses, however. Television networks such as the CW and USA require their creative teams to have a Twitter presence. Here’s CW Public Social Media Directory – note it includes all their shows and most creative people for those shows. Actors and other involved creative people who tweet about their CW shows are spreading positive good will about the show and hopefully, in CW’s eyes, increasing viewership. No longer do monolithic networks put out a product and expect the masses to absorb it without opinion. Now television viewership is more of a two way street. Viewers can express both positive and negative opinions about what they are watching – immediately, and without censorship or interpretation by a third entity. But many other companies are finding that Twitter can help improve brand reach and influence and even help bring in new customers.

However, Twitter can also be a professional networking tool – even if you have yet to start your own micro-business or small company, I’ve found that by following leaders, experts, and simply just other professional people in your business or profession, you can quickly build a professional network. And as you follow others, some of them will follow you. Also, by tweeting on professional topics, you will gain followers. Twitter, like Linked In, is the place to be in the professional sense, especially if you behave in a professional manner. And because Twitter lets you have as many accounts as you want (unlike Facebook per their terms of service) you could even create multiple accounts for different roles. Personally, I keep everything in the same account, but I don’t manage multiple accounts for others yet.

Twitter is a Public Social Media Platform

All tweets on Twitter are public (except some DMs discussed below). Everything you say in a tweet can be read by everyone else on Twitter. There is no difference between “friends” and “public”. This means you do have to think about what you’re saying. This means, for example, if you are currently job hunting, you might want to be a little careful about the content of your Tweets. It also means, if you don’t want something known – don’t tweet about it.

Also, because of the character-limited nature of Tweets, most items on Twitter aren’t necessarily original Tweets. They are Retweets, Links, occasional pictures or video, auto-posted content from other sources such as Instagram, Vine, a personal blog, or others. A Retweet (RT) is when you click the RT button on the bottom of someone else’s Tweet. This will post that Tweet to your Twitter as an RT. You can even RT a retweet someone else retweeted. So for example, my Twitter handle is @JackieOMoleski. If I see a Tweet I like, or find interesting, or even a link to a post or news article I want to read later, I’d click the Retweet button, so for example, if I RT a @BlackGirlNerds Tweet, it will appear on my timeline but as a Retweet. Similarly, if that tweet was a RT, it will show. Here’s an example:

ReTweet_ex

Here I’m retweeting @BlackGirlNerds, who are in return Retweeting @InHollywoodland. On Twitter it’s always easy to tell something is a RT, and to track who the original Tweet came from. Therefore, there should be little misunderstanding about who’s content the Tweet actually is.

By contrast, here’s an original Tweet by me – on the same topic:

Tweet ex

The difference is obvious.

Twitter also has DMs which stands for Direct Messages. A Direct Message is sent from one Twitter user to another directly, with the implication it’s private. DMs start with @username (handle) at the beginning of the Tweet. To send a DM you must follow the person you are messaging and they must follow you. Also, see the little left-pointing arrow at the bottom of every tweet (see pictures above) – clicking on that will let you reply to the Tweet. Note, however if you have any characters before the handle in your DM – the message will post to all of Twitter as a public Tweet, this includes a simple dot or period prior to the handle.  Dot@User (handle) can be used to send a message to a particular user while simultaneously sending it to your timeline as a public tweet.

It is very important to remember that Tweets are public. Don’t make the faux pas of engaging a troll, and embarrassing yourself in public.

Tweetspeak

There are a lot of acronyms, terminology, and even slang that is used on Twitter – here are a few of the most common and necessary ones to understand.

Handle – Twitter slang for your username or identity on Twitter. It’s always preceded by the @ symbol.

Hashtag – The # symbol prior to any word or group of characters without spaces makes that topic searchable.

Trending – Twitter keeps it’s own statistics about how the site is used and hashtag topics that are extremely popular at any given time are said to be trending. Marketers and even fans often will try (sometimes successfully) to get a topic to trend. Also, when a hashtag gains popular use over time in the context of a political statement such as #Icantbreathe or #blacklivesmatter it’s often said to be a “trending topic” though this is a different usage than the Twitter metric or statistic.

Retweet – Explained in detail above, but a copy of someone else’s tweet sent via the RT (retweet) button to your own activity or timeline space with attribution to the original sender.

DM or Direct Message – Also explained in detail above, a “private” message between two Twitter users.

Dot@user (.@handle) – the most common way to copy a DM to your timeline, thus making it public. Another way is to place the username or handle any place in the Tweet (the end is also common) other than at the very beginning with no characters before it.

Live Tweeting or Live Tweet Event – Tweeting simultaneously to an event at the time it happens. For example, last Monday I live-tweeted the Supergirl pilot; in other words, I Tweeted reactions as I was watching it, as did many other people on Twitter. Live Tweet events normally have an “approved hashtag” (such as #Supergirl) that everyone uses in their tweets so they are linked and a search will bring up all such Tweets. Live Tweeting events sometimes include people associated with the event also live tweeting it, or answering questions. And Live Tweet events are also a lot of fun. Yes, one could live tweet from an irl event, such as a sporting event, parade, trade show, (fan or professional) convention, etc. Essentially, what makes live tweeting so much fun is the instant sense of community and the variety of perspectives. It’s also a great way to “meet” new people, find accounts to follow, and gain new followers.

Favorite – For a long time, Twitter had a “favorite” button (a star), rather than a “like” button. Twitter users used it to bookmark great Tweets. This week, Twitter change to a heart-shaped like button. My observation is that some users were upset by this. We’ll see if it lasts, and users adapt or not.

Graphic Design: One Space or Two After a Period

Recently, I have seen two rather long Facebook discussions on whether one should use two spaces after a period or one. I learned to type on a manual typewriter in seventh grade, where I was taught the two spaces after a period rule. I clearly remember, the teacher and the class repeating, “period, space space, period, space space” when learning how to type. And if you’d asked me just two years ago, I would have said “Two Spaces!” loudly and clearly. But things have changed. I’ve been studying graphic design – learning the Adobe Suite slowly, first In Design, and now Illustrator. But I have also been buying and reading books on graphic design – in an attempt to learn whatever rules there might be to good verses bad web design and graphic design in general. It’s not my very first time trying to learn something about the mysterious world of design. I took a graphic design class in college – well, half of one to be precise – half the class was photography and the other half was design. And it was… well, I liked the graphic design half, but I found it incredibly frustrating as well. I often felt like the class was in a foreign language that I didn’t speak. Part of that may have been the inexperienced teacher, part of my confusion was certainly me – that was my first year at a major university (I started at my local community college). But the result was I had the feeling that I enjoyed graphic design, but I didn’t “get it”, if you know what I mean. I’m doing so much better in my classes now – both learning the programs, and learning design from the books and websites I’ve been reading.

Also, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now, since August of 2014, and I’ve noticed that the “one space after a period” rule really makes a difference. And that difference is because of responsive design and how text flows in a blog post or on a website. I’ve actually cleaned-up some older blog posts to remove extra spaces. And I usually go through a post before I click “publish” to check for extra spaces. I’ve seen some pretty bad results when I’ve slipped back into my “period space space” habit. And it’s worth the clean look to take the time to fix it.

In her section on preparing a manuscript for print, Ellen Lupton has this to say, “Word spaces are created by the space bar. Use just one space between sentences or after a comma, colon, or semicolon. One of the first steps in typesetting a manuscript is to purge it of all double spaces.” Lupton, p. 210.

She also explains, “Design is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking. The Typographer’s art concerns not only the positive grain of letterforms, but the negative gaps between and around them. In letterpress printing, every space is constructed by a physical object, a black piece of metal or wood with no raised image. The faceless slugs of lead and slivers of copper inserted as spaces between words or letters are as physical as the relief characters around them.” Lupton, p. 91.

Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students, 2nd Ed., Princeton Architectual Press, New York (2004, 2010).

Another graphic designer, Robin Williams (no not that Robin Williams), simply references other books, “If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you read The Mac is not a typewriter or The PC is not a typewriter. If you are still typing two spaces after periods, if you are underlining text, if you are not using true apostrophes and quotation marks …, then you seriously need to read one of those books.” p. 86, The Non-Designer’s Design Book (2nd Ed.), Peachpit Press, Berkeley, CA (2004)

Even style manuals recommend a single space. The APA Style Manual has this to say about manuscript spacing:

“Space once after all punctuation as follows:

  • after commas, colons, and semicolons;
  • after punctuation at the ends of sentences;
  • after periods that separate parts of a reference citation; and
  • after the periods of the initials in personal names (e.g., J. R. Zhang).

Exception: Do not space after internal periods in abbreviations (e.g., a.m., i.e., U.S.) or around colons in ratios. – APA Style Manual

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, pp. 290-291, Section 5.11 Spacing and Punctuation (5th Ed.)  American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C. (2001)

And, surprisingly, the Chicago Manual of Style agrees,  “Word Spacing – one space or two? Like most publishers, Chicago advises leaving a single character space, not two spaces, between sentences and after colons used within a sentence [but see 14.121], and this recommendation applies to both the manuscript and the published book.” Section 2.9, p. 29, Chicago Manual of Style

Note that section 14.121 refers to correct punctuation and spacing in a Bibliography or Works Cited section – and as that section always has special rules, apart from prose and body sections of a work, and those rules are highly detailed – I’m not going to go into them. My advice is that when you are writing a paper for college, university, high school English, or publication – look it up, and look it up in the specific publication manual used for your particular situation – that is, your school, a particular journal, etc. Also, handy tip – have a copy of the publications or style manual handy, and continuously check your formatting. Never trust that your Word Processor will apply APA or CMS styling and formatting correctly.

The Chicago Manual of Style goes on to specifically recommend that all hard returns within a paragraph be eliminated and that one should never use the space bar to indent text – ever!

“Spaces, tabs, and hard returns within paragraphs. A well-structured electronic document will never include more than one consecutive character space. To indent the first line of a paragraph or items in a vertical list, use the Tab key or your software’s paragraph indention features rather than the space bar. (Also eliminate any extra character space or tab after the final punctuation at the end of a paragraph; the hard return should follow the punctuation immediately.) To achieve hanging indentation for runover lines (as in a bibliography or index), use your software’s indent features – not hard returns and tabs or spaces [see 2.22]. A tab or a hard return (i.e., a paragraph break, generally made with the Enter key) should never appear within a paragraph. For prose extracts see 2.18; for poetry, see 2.19. Section 2.11, p. 60, Chicago Manual of Style.

Chicago Manual of Style The Essesntial Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers, The. (16th Ed.) University of Chicago Press, Chicago, (2010).

Why? Why the change? Well, it has to do with two things – proportional fonts verses fixed-width fonts, and responsive design. It also has to do with Kerning, and other design tricks of the final manuscript. Typewriters had fixed-width fonts. They had to, because each key manually struck the ribbon, so it had to move independently. The letter was in the center of the metal key, and a skinny letter, such as an i, took up the same amount of space as a wide letter like a w. Mechanically, the typewriter wouldn’t have worked otherwise. This is also why the qwerty keyboard was developed, it’s an arrangement of keys specifically designed so as a fast typist hits the keyboard, and the metal keys are raised to strike the ribbon and leave an impression of ink on the paper – the keys don’t stick together. If you’ve ever typed on a manual typewriter – you instinctively know this (when you learn to type on one, accidentally hitting two keys at once just happens – you unstick the keys and move on.) If you’ve only used a computer keyboard, or you don’t 10-finger type, it’s probably a bit of a mystery.

However, on a computer – most of the fonts are proportional, especially the most often used fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Baskerville Old Face, Garamond, Tahoma, etc.) That is to say, a skinny letter (i) takes up less space and a fat letter ( w ) takes up more. One of the few fixed-width fonts included on most any computer and in most any Word Processing program is Courier New – which is used specifically for times when a fixed-width font is needed, such as samples of software computer code in the midst of a technical report. The report will be set in a standard proportional font (at my job we used either Helvetica or Arial) but the code sections would be set apart and in Courier New.

If you want to test the difference type the sentence: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs, on a page in Microsoft Word or whatever word processor you like, then try changing the font – look at the spacing of the letters.  (If you want to make it very obvious, tack on “with the cat” after, “dogs” – the difference between the “w” and the “i” will be obvious.) If you want to see the difference, copy and paste the sentence again, and change the second sentence to Courier (or Courier New).

See below:

Proportional_Fixed-width_font_test

You can also see how much more space the fixed-width font takes, even at the same exact point size.

In professionally designed magazines, and books, as well as some websites, a graphic designer can use a program like Adobe InDesign and apply Kerning to adjust any awkward gaps or running together between letters or words due to the specifics of the actual text. Kerning is a mathematical way to adjust spacing (it’s applied by letter, but it can be used between words.) Kerning is often used in headlines, titles, logos that include words or names, or as I did in my InDesign class, when adding drop caps (capitals) to the first word on a page or in a paragraph. A drop cap is a large letter at the beginning of a word – often at the start of a page or chapter.

The second reason is responsive design. Not every screen is the same. You might read this blog post on a 17-inch widescreen monitor, similar to the one attached to my desktop machine right now; or you might read it on a 3 x 5 smartphone screen, or a 4 X 6 one, or a 7-inch tablet, 8-inch tablet, or 10-inch tablet. Apple’s introduced a smart watch. Laptops come in all different sizes – as do smart phones and tablets. Every single one of these devices has a different sized screen. If your initial website is set-up correctly, text should flow evenly and vertically so it can be read on any screen, no matter how big or how small. Other elements of the website should move around the main text. On a physically wider screen, text can stretch wider in horizontal space – but one should never, ever, ever have to scroll horizontally to read the text – but vertical scrolling is OK and expected. If your website is optimized to be responsive – the text will re-flow to fit the screen size. However, double spaces can, and do, mess up responsive design – resulting in messy text with extra indents. It can even give the impression of missing words.

So, change your habits – especially on-line use one space not two.

References

Amazon Link – Thinking with Type

Amazon Link – The Non-Designer’s Design Book (Note – this is the link to the 2nd edition, more recent editions are available)

APA Style Guide

Chicago Manual of Style (Note – website is subscription only)

Paperback and hardcover copies of the APA Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style should be available from Amazon.Com as well as any college or university book store.

Cheese and Puff Pastry Swirls

Ingredients

  • 1 Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry (1/2 box)
  • Finely shreded Cheese such as co-jack or cheddar
  • Dried Dill (optional)
  • Egg Wash

Defrost puff pastry according to package directions or in refrigerator.  Pastry should be pliable, not frozen, but not overly warm. Lay full sheet on lightly-floured, non-stick surface (I use a large, plastic cutting board). Lightly flour surface of puff pastry, and also push together seams. Be careful to not over-work pastry or it will become tough. Spread a thin layer of cheese over puff pastry.

Roll pastry into a log, with the cheese inside and pastry on the outside (like a jelly roll). Lightly coat surface of roll with egg wash.  If the edge doesn’t seem to seal, use egg wash to get it to stick. Slice into 1/4th inch slices.  Lay slices on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with dill if desired. Top surface can also be coated with a little egg wash if desired.

Bake as package directs – mine said 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Check that swirls are done.

Serve warm in bread basket.

I tried out this recipe today and it worked out really well. Easy to make and delicious! I used co-jack (Colby / Monteray Jack) cheese, but cheddar would probably work just as well.

For an Italian Twist, try Mozzarella Cheese, Basil or Italian Seasoning, and possibly tomato (well drained). I haven’t tried the Italian version yet.