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.

Sort Tool with Column - Sort by circled in red and blue arrow pointing to the down arrow

    1. Once clicked, a list will appear of the column headings of the spreadsheet.

Sorting_menu_coices-showing

    1. Choose the item for sorting, for example, rather than sorting by title – sort by date.

Sorting menu in excel showing "date" as the sort value

  1. 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.

Add Level button circled in Sort Tool

    1. Another Sort By line will pop-up, as before click the down arrow to choose the column to sort by.

Excel Sorting Tool showing two levels - Date, Then Title

  1. 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 lists 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 Name and then by Product ID 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 music 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 a 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.

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.

 

How to Customize Links Inside a WordPress Post

Have you ever wanted to add links to your blog posts? The easiest way to insert a link is to copy and paste the link into your post, then highlight it and click the link button.

WP_Link_button

However, especially for long links, this simple method can result in messy-looking text.

At first, I was confused about how to update the link title while keeping the link working, especially if it was a hyperlink to a page outside WordPress. Live Journal had a Link Editing pop-up menu, but the similar-looking one for WordPress didn’t seem to work. It turns out I was doing things in the wrong order. For Live Journal I’d write my intro text, click the link button, type the words I wanted to appear as the title in the title line, and copy-and-paste the link into the hyperlink box. This never worked for WordPress.

I recently found out how to do this for WordPress. In WordPress, you actually type the short title into your post, highlight that, then click the Link button. Once the hyper-link pop-up opens, copy and paste the link into the URL box but leave the Title box blank, then click Add Link.

Link_Box

When you go back to the post you are composing, the words you’ve highlighted will be red, indicating it’s a link.

Another cool thing about WordPress is you can make internal links to other posts on your blog. Simply type the text you want in your post, highlight it, click the link button, then search for the post you want to link using the Search box. When you find the post, highlight it and click Add Link.

These two techniques allow you to add cool, “For more information see this post,” items to your posts. It also brings more interactivity to your blog and allows another way, besides categories and tags, to link posts. For readers of your blog, it means they can jump directly to additional content.

How to Create and Use Styles in Microsoft Word 2010

What are styles? Styles are a way to apply formatting to paragraphs in Microsoft Word with a single click. More importantly, by formatting your documents using styles – the documents will be consistent throughout. Consistency always looks more professional.

I’ve used styles in Word, since the XP version, but this tutorial will focus on how to create and use styles in Microsoft Office 2010 (the same techniques should work for Microsoft Office 360 or Cloud).

The first step in creating a new style is to click on the new style icon. If you don’t see a styles list or styles icon, follow the instructions in How to Customize the Quick Access Toolbar to add the Styles Icon to your Quick Access toolbar. If you have trouble with this step feel free to ask politely worded questions in the Comments.

To create a new style click the Styles Icon:

Styles_icon

At the bottom of the Styles list click the new style icon (highlighted below):

New Style

Clicking the new style icon will bring up the New Style Dialogue Box. On this first screen name your style. Use a descriptive but short name that describes what the style is for. Here I’ve named the style “Article Text”.

Styles_Dialogue1

You can also highlight a style that’s already in the Style List, and click the Modify Style icon (the two capital letter As with the pencil). If you modify an existing style, that style name will appear in the “Style based on” space, as seen above.

Next, modify the style to what you need. First, modify the paragraph options by clicking “Format”, then “Paragraph”. This will bring up the Paragraph Style Dialogue Box.

Styles3_Paragraph

Here you can set paragraph alignment, the line spacing, space after the paragraph, and even the first line indent. By setting space after at 6 pt (point) Word will automatically insert a blank line at the end of every paragraph that uses the style. It is no longer necessary to press return twice at the end of the paragraph to insert a blank line. This also avoids awkward extra spaces, such at page or column breaks. The Special box (set at “first line”, .5 above) means that each paragraph will have a five space indent at the beginning.

These options can be changed as needed. For example, in an academic paper it’s customary to set off a long quote by not only leaving lines before and after it but indenting the quote on both the right and left, with justified text, like this:

Quote_sample

Which is accomplished with the following Paragraph Settings:

Paragraph Quote

Plus setting the alignment as “Justify” and updating the font to “Bold”.

Which brings me to the next section for a Style: Font. Microsoft Word includes a large number of fonts, as well as Italic, Bold, and Underline options. You are probably used to using the bold option to emphasize a word in a document, or using the Italic option for titles of other works such as books or films. But you can also specify the font and its options using the Font Dialogue Box while creating a style.

Styles2_Font

While this might not seem remarkable for body text, where you probably aren’t going to want to use any special options other than picking your body font and size, however, it’s extremely useful when designing styles for headings, subheadings, and special formats such as captions, footnotes, long quotes, etc.

Here you can also see the advantage of using styles – you can simply type your paper, and set the normal paragraphs with the “Article Text” style (or whatever you’ve named the style) and to update a quote you simply highlight it and click the “Long Quote” style in the Style list. Headings and subheadings styles can be created and applied just as easily. If you have several heading and subheading styles, they will be consistent if you use Styles for formatting. It’s also possible to choose your style first, then type what you need, and it will be formatted according to the style.

Try creating and using styles in Word. They save time because it’s no longer necessary to format every paragraph separately. Styles will make your formatting consistent. For example, in the Long Quote Style above the indents are set at .7. If you didn’t use a style, and you formatted the long quotes as you went, in a 30 or 40-page paper, you might have some quotes indented at .5, some at .7 and some at 1.0. But if you use the Long Quote Style for each quote – they will all be exactly the same. And if you need to change or update the formatting, all you need do is modify the style – and the change will occur throughout your document (as long as “Automatically Update” is checked.)

How to Move and Customize the Quick Access Toolbar in Microsoft Word 2010

If you were dismayed to discover that in Microsoft Office 2010 all the menus you’d memorized were gone, you are not alone. And if you also miss having the ability to add custom buttons to your toolbar, I understand and feel your pain. But, all is not lost. This post will show you how to build a Quick Access Toolbar in Microsoft Word 2010. The same techniques work in Microsoft Excel, and can even be used to put buried options easily within reach in Microsoft Access. But let’s start with Microsoft Word.

The first thing you need to do is open Word and go to the File Ribbon (Click the File tab). You do not need to have a document open to do this. Go to Options and choose Quick Access Toolbar.

File_Tab_Options

The first thing you’ll want to do, is override the default placement of the Quick Access Toolbar above the Ribbon. Leaving the toolbar there makes it difficult to see (it almost hides) and difficult to get to (the Ribbon is in the way). Unless you intend to hide the ribbon entirely, simply click “Show the Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon”. A checkmark will appear next to the statement. Click “OK” to save (to apply the change).

 

Move Quick access Toolbar Below Ribbon

Next, after again going to File → Options → Quick Access Toolbar to re-open the dialogue box, in the Choose Commands From section, use the pull-down menu to select, All Commands. This will give you a very long alphabetical list of all Word commands. The list is long, but it’s the easiest way to find the commands you want to place on your toolbar.

Choose All Commands

Next, decide what commands you want on your toolbar. I suggest commands that not only you use frequently but that are buried in obscure places – making them difficult to access. I’ll talk more about commands you might want to add later. The illustration below shows how to add the Insert Hyperlink Command. Simply click the command in the command list on the left, click ADD, then click OK. Several commands can be added, to build your custom Quick Access Toolbar. The up and down arrows actually control where the commands are on the toolbar from left to right. So, in the illustration below, Open is to the left, followed by Save, followed by Save As, and so on to the right. When done, click OK to save all your changes.

Adding Insert Hyperlink

 

And there you have it – a custom toolbar, containing your most used commands, and/or commands that can be difficult to find or get to in Word 2010. Here is an example of how the Quick Access Toolbar looks (highlighted in yellow – additional commands can be reached by click the arrows circles in red).

Toolbar

 

Items that it can be handy to include:

  • Save As – The new Word really buries this one. If, like me, you often re-name files right in Word, so you can keep a previous version intact – this is a must-have. I always had a custom button for it in older versions of Word.
  • Insert Symbol – Why going poking around the insert page, trying to find this? Especially when you need it in the middle of document to correctly spell a name that uses accent marks of some sort? The Omega Sign is used for the Insert Symbol button – and besides letters with accent marks, it allows using the degree symbol (as in degrees Fahrenheit), copyright, registered trademark, and trademark symbols, arrows – to delineate steps or directions, etc.
  • Table shortcuts – I often work with tables, and I actually got used to using the shortcut buttons in Excel. When I began to need to update and edit tables in Word I found having the shortcuts accessible helped tremendously. I realize it may be hard to see, but the ones on the toolbar allow the insertion and deletion of rows and columns.

However, the point is to add to the Quick Access Toolbar commands you use constantly. Secondly, to add useful commands that are difficult to locate on the ribbons or that are buried in second and third level dialogues.

 

How to Use WordPress Categories and Tags

What is the difference between categories and tags on WordPress? How does one use categories How does one use tags?  It can be a bit confusing, actually. Most blogging sites (LiveJournal, Blogger, Tumblr, etc) allow the use of tags (sometimes called labels). Tags are a way of categorizing and organizing your blog entries. If you have a good system of tags, visitors to your blog will find it easier to find what they want. If your tags are consistent, searches within your blog will bring up all the entries on a topic, which is what you want them to do.

See also, this post on tags:  How to Tag Blog Posts.

So what are categories? Well, describing categories as “broader than” tags can be confusing. Or stating that topics you expect to use very often should be categories, while topics you use only occasionally should be tags – doesn’t really help either. Where do you draw the line? Do you use only tags?  Only categories?  What if you are just starting out?

I’d like to clear up some confusion – and save you the pain and waste of time I went through. When I started on WordPress I imported two of my other blogs:  The Movie Project from Blogger, and my Tumblr. That was mistake number one. If you are going to import several other blogs – do them one at a time. I had no idea that I had roughly 500 posts on tumblr – I haven’t been using it that long. I knew I had about 175 – 200 posts on Blogger – but they were organized and tagged and titled, so I didn’t think it would be a problem.

Surprise.

Everything imported just fine but all my tags from Blogger became categories. My tumblr tags remained tags; however, every picture, photoset, and video post lost it’s title and tags. I now had 700-or-so posts that were a mess. I’m still working on correcting it.

Anyway, I started sorting through the mess and manually fixing things. Then I discovered the Category-to-Tag converter. Oh, this will help – I thought. And it did, some. Well, mostly – except for some of the posts I had manually corrected.

So – a few things about using the automatic category-to-tag converter or tag-to-category converter.

1.  Make sure you know what direction you want to go. I’ll explain more about categories below and the Really Cool Things you can do with them, but if you are just starting you might want to start with only using tags.

2. Never, never, never use the same word or phrase as both a tag and a category. Doing this will mess things up. And the only way to fix it is by hand correcting every affected post. Actually, WordPress admins should warn about this – because using the same word or phrase as both a category and a tag creates a real mess.

3. Spend some time thinking about what you want to do. Also, if you go into your Tags list you will see tags with (0) zero posts. These are likely misspellings and typos. Or they are tags you’ve changed your mind about using.  If you have tags marked zero (0), go ahead and delete them.

4.  Unlike tags, categories will not display if you aren’t using them. So if you accidentally type in Robert Downey Jr’s name as “Robert Downy Jr” then you fix it and spell it correctly (and assign the correctly spelled category, while un-assigning the wrong one) – the bad category will still be there, but you won’t be able to see it.

Cool Things about Categories

1.  Yes, on the surface, they are for broader topics. But since WordPress has a category list widget, but only a tag cloud widget (not a tag list) – if you want everything to display in a list, even things only used once, use categories. You can shorten-up your category list by using the option for a drop-down list rather than a full one.

2.  Categories allow nesting. This is where the fun really starts. For The Movie Project, I created tags for each movie title, the main actors in each film I reviewed, many of the film directors, the film genre, even the decade the film was made. However, all of these sub-topics ended up in a single tag list, alphabetically.

So it looked like this:

Partial-tag-list Tag-list-2

As you can see – dates, actor names, titles, film genres – all mixed up.  The whole list is alphabetical, but actors are thrown in with the titles of films, etc.

And there was no good way to fix it. Sure, I could have added a letter prefix to actor’s names (A-), to titles (T-) to director’s (D-) to other information (O-).  Or used numbers (1, 2, 3, 4) but that would have made the blog unsearchable.

How to Nest WordPress Categories

First, Create a Category (or more likely, categories) for organizing your content.

I have:  Actor, Director, Title, Film Genres, Films by Decade, Imported Posts, Post Types, Bitch with Wi-Fi Topics, and (yes the poorly named) Book Culture Film Television Topics. These will be your parent categories.

Then take the tags that you want to nest under the parent categories and convert them to categories. Note:  not all tags need to be converted. Only create second-level tags where it makes sense.  You can still have specific tags on posts too. Just don’t use the same word or phrase for both categories and tags.

Next, and this is the tricky bit – if you have a lot of new categories, you might want to do this in sections, go into your category list, select the tag, then assign it to the appropriate parent.

So our new, “Robert Downey Jr” tag, gets assigned the “actor” parent.

Once all the categories are assigned parents you will have a nested list.

Nested-categories1 Nested-categories2

Is that neat or what?

Again, you can still assign individual tags to posts as well as categories. I like to use actor’s names as categories, but character names as tags, for example.

Tags

When assigning tags to any post, be consistent. Use the same tag for the same type of post – every time. Also, be sure to spell your tags correctly. Both will create consistency and make it easier to navigate your blog. Consistency also means that searches (queries) on your blog will turn up more complete, relevant results.

Tag and Categories – After the fact

Once your initial set-up is complete, be sure to use your tags and categories on new posts. You can create a new category that is already nested by adding a new category in the post and assigning it’s parent at the same time. You can also assign tags and create brand new tags.