A donation to the Youth Benefit Golf Tournament

As you can see from the elegant cat supervising the work, the gift bags for the Youth Benefit Golf Tournament have arrived!  The proceeds of this Best Ball Tournament will go directly the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society & Redcliff Youth Centre.  Both organizations provide a safe, substance free environment for local youth; with free educational and recreational programming.

Shortcut Key bag with contents
A Bag, a quiz, some tips and a prize

Each bag has is covered in the entire alphabet of shortcut key combinations (around 55) for Microsoft Word.  You can test your knowledge! Some of my favorite Word shortcuts are on the attached card. Plus, I’ve tucked in a little bit of WebGenii swag into the bag as well.

The tricky part of designing this bag is that there are so many keyboard shortcuts for Word. So, I decided to limit myself to only the letter shortcuts.

For the list of my favorite shortcuts on the card I made sure only to pick my non-letter favorites. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite here too!

Close up of Quiz & Tip card
Close up of Quiz & Tip card

Clearly, keeping our box loving friend out of the boxes was an incentive to quick work; because the bags have all been stuffed and prepared for drop-off at the Redcliff Youth Centre.

Packed boxes with Shortcut key bag
Box with Shortcut key bag

I hope that you or your company have signed up for the  Youth Benefit Golf Tournament. Its going to be a great time for a worthwhile local cause.

 

Excel – Total at the Top

It’s that time of year again. Tax time. Now that I’ve made you sad, lets check out a formula which is very useful when adding up long columns of numbers (deductions anyone?)

Column of numbers, with accompanying total
Put the sum of the column at the TOP of the page, making it easy to find

When you have long columns of numbers of irregular length, it is often easier to have the totals display at the TOP of the page. That way, you don’t have to scroll all over the place to find them. The other advantage of this formula is that you can use it to keep an eye on your total as it accumulates, since you don’t have to know how many rows long the column will be.

The formula here is =SUM(OFFSET(A1,1,0,COUNT($A:$A),1))

Where the OFFSET & COUNT functions are used to create the range that will be summed.

The syntax for OFFSET
OFFSET(reference, rows, cols, [height], [width])
OFFSET(A1,1,0,COUNT($A:$A),1)

  • A1 is the reference cell,
  • Rows – the range begins 1 row down from A1,
  • Cols – the range begins in the same column 0,
  • Height – the number of rows to be included are counted using the COUNT function, COUNT($A:$A) counts the cells in Column A with numbers in them
  • Width – is set to 1 column (column A) wide

I have to say there is something very satisfying about seeing that total increase as each number is entered in the column.

featured image by
Antoine Dautry

Generating Random Numbers and Letters

Need to generate a random number? Excel has two formula variations that can do that for you.

The first is RAND, it generates a random value between 0 and 1. But if you need larger values, try RANDBETWEEN.

RANDBETWEEN generates random numbers between a bottom and top value that you specify.

Lastly, if you need to generate a random letter value – try this formula: =CHAR(RANDBETWEEN(65,90))

In this formula the CHAR function returns the character symbol specified by a number. Letters A-Z are between 65 and 90.

 

 

Flash Fill

Flash Fill is a new tool introduced in Excel 2013. Its a simple tool to handle a frequent problem. You have a small set of data and you need to break it apart into separate columns or join separate columns of data together.

Previously, I would have handled it with a series of text functions in Excel (LEFT, RIGHT, MID) combined with FIND and LEN if the data was complex enough. But if the data set is small, writing a formula sometimes seems like an overly complicated answer to a simple problem (why not just retype?).

Now Flash Fill is stepping in to help you handle this problem. If you give it a series of data (column orientation only) and an example of the pattern you want to extract, it will extract the data for you.

Flash Fill in action
Flash Fill captures the first names only from the adjacent column

You can see once the second name is typed in the column adjacent to the list of full names, Flash Fill is able to see the pattern and offer all the first names in the list. Pressing enter autocompletes the action and the names are filled in. To do this, there can not be more than two blank columns between the source data and the resulting column. You can use the Ctrl + e shortcut to start flash fill.

Flash Fill Icon
Note the Flash Fill Icon displaying after the Ctrl + e shortcut was used.

You can click the Flash Fill icon to display the menu, accepting the suggestions will have all the names autocomplete.

The Flash Fill menu will display if the icon is clicked
The Flash Fill Menu

Here is an even trickier scenario, in the list above some names have two middle initials. Using the “default” flash fill means only the second initial will display in those names. However if I return to any of the names on the list (with two initials) and correct the example to two initials, all of the two initials examples will be extracted.

Two initials with Flash fill
Flash Fill double initial example

I find that seriously impressive.

I can split data in a cell into multiple columns and I can also use Flash Fill to join multiple columns of data together.

Flash Fill concatenation
Joining separate columns using Flash Fill

The same technique used above. Note that I’ve been able to add commas and periods to the text as well.

Formatting via Flash Fill
Using Flash Fill to apply formatting

In the same way, I can use Flash Fill to apply formatting, in this case putting a space between the first and second part of a postal code. You can also use it to format telephone numbers and date information.

PowerPoint – Organizing your colours

I find it useful when creating a presentation that has a custom colour palette to create a custom layout like the one below:

Slide Master containing information about the Colour Palette used in presentation
Colour Palette Assignment Slide Layout – accessible via Master view, or by selecting the layout

You’ll note that the RGB values for the colours are listed, and this is because prior to PowerPoint 2013, the eyedropper tool was not available. I also find it tremendously helpful to note what I use each colour for, so that when I open this file in a couple of years from now there will be a little less detective work.

My Tech Travel Kit

I was listening to the “Gadgets” section of the 20 Minute Delay podcast and it inspired me to share my tech travel kit.

First up is the bag I carry it all in, the Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer

Photo of Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer
Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer

Other sizes are available, but this works for me. It allows me to organize the myriad pieces of cords and kit that are a part of modern life.  Here is an interior view –

Inside the Maxpedition Fatty Organizer
Maxpedition Fatty – Interior view

Next up is a Powerseed portable charger that will charge phone and tablet. One of the nice features of this model is the light. In a pinch it acts as a flashlight, and it certainly has saved me from fumbling around in an overly darkened hotel room a time or two.

Powerseed Charger photo
Powerseed Charger

This model doesn’t appear to be available anymore, but I like being able to charge multiple devices and as I said the light has been unexpectedly helpful.

Powerseed - view of ports and light photo
Powerseed – view of ports and light

Next is a nifty Bluetooth wireless speaker. The Anker SoundCore nano.  Having a speaker on hand allows me to leave the TV off, and listen to my music of choice.

Photo - Anker SoundCore Nano
Anker SoundCore Nano

This has an amazing sound to size ratio. Its volume will fill a hotel room and is very light.
Also from Anker is this 4 port USB charger.

Photo Anker Charging Block
Anker Charging Block

It saves time and weight and made a noticeable difference when I started packing only this instead of all the different phone/tablet charging blocks. The newer version has foldaway prongs.

Lastly is this small extension cord.

Photo Travel extension cord
Travel extension cord

I don’t know how many hotel rooms I’ve been in with inadequate or inaccessible wall plugs. This one came from our local Princess Auto and in addition to having yet more USB ports, I like how it’s designed to plug into itself. This makes it much easier to pack, since it’s the one item that doesn’t fit into the tech bag. BTW,  Princess Auto is often a great source for discount tech type gadgets.

 

Pictures and Transparency

In my last post, I mentioned I was working on a Jeopardy game in PowerPoint. In this game I want to present a series of visual clues before the answer is revealed. The audience is presented with the foreign cover for a popular book and has to guess the name of the book.

Book cover transition from greek to english cover version
Can you guess the book, by seeing its foreign (Greek) version cover?

I want to slowly reveal the English book cover, by gradually making the foreign cover more transparent. With this particular cover, I also wanted to crop the foreign cover image to reveal additional clues. Each clue will be revealed by a click of the mouse.

Hmm is this a problem? I can not control image transparency in PowerPoint, there is no option for this in the Picture Tools menu.

Nope, no problem at all. You can control image transparency by:

  1. Create a shape the same dimensions as your picture.
  2. Remove the outline for the shape.
  3. Change the fill option to Picture or Texture Fill and insert the picture file.
  4. Transparency will now be available

Its’ interesting that placing a picture inside a shape allows you to manipulate that picture as if it was a shape. This concept allows me to play with things like irregularly shaped (non-rectangular) images as well.

 

Thursday – PowerPoint Links

I’ve just been working on a PowerPoint template for a Jeopardy style game. I inherited this template, and as frequently happens a little cleanup is necessary to ensure the PowerPoint template works as desired.

To help you visualize the problem – a picture of the game board

Jeopardy Game Board 1st slide
The Game Board

Each square hyperlinks to a separate slide with the question (and answer).

I felt there were a number of improvements I could do to make the presentation easier to use and maintain. I won’t go into every change today, but a couple of changes involved hyperlinks
(shortcut key Ctrl + K, if you are editing 25 hyperlinks, then the reason for using a shortcut key becomes obvious).

The first maintenance problem I ran into was that the previous designer had applied the hyperlink to both the shape AND the text on the shape (now there are 50 hyperlinks – if you are counting).

Button shape with text selected
Shape with text on top

They did this for a very good reason; that the text on a hyperlinked shape does not change state like normal hyperlink does (the state change shows if the link has been visited or not).

So if the slides the shapes are linked to are reordered or edited, the links have to be painstakingly tracked down and edited and since essentially the links are layered one on top of each other it is a real pain.

I had a better plan. Move the button shapes to the Slide Master (after creating a layout designed for the Game Board slide). Then insert text placeholders (yes, 25 of them) for the dollar values. Position the placeholders over each button. No hyperlinks here.

Now moving back to the Game Board slide in Normal View, I can hyperlink the text box. Text boxes behave differently from shapes, and do change state to show the link has been visited.

Another advantage of the text placeholder is that if the user inadvertently moves the text boxes, the Reset command will snap them back into position. (A definitely plus when editing 25 text boxes).

The other visual difficulty I had, was with the colours of the hyperlinks themselves. They didn’t have a strong contrast with my (new) button colour, and the visited colour was still (kinda) visible. I wanted a strong link colour and once visited I wanted the link to disappear. I could add animations, but why bother when I could solve both problems easily by changing the link colours in the Color Theme.

Theme Colour Panel PowerPoint 2016
Theme Colour Panel PowerPoint 2016

Here is the theme colour panel after I adjusted the Hyperlink and Followed Hyperlink Colours.

The colours in the theme were picked after playing with the free https://coolors.co/ app I also got some good advice from this article. The image at the top of the article is the colour palette created by the Coolors.co app – translated into RGB. I usually add this information as a layout in the slide master.

 

Social Media tips – free photo resources (2018)

Its’ time for an update on free photo resources for your social media work. I like to have them all together in one place since this is a list I use myself 😉

These sites are often offering more than photos, including clip art or vector images. Many fund themselves via premium or paid options, so search carefully to ensure that the picture you love is free.

  • Library and Archives Canada –Image Search
  • New York Public Library – Search Page
  • The Rijkmuseum in Amerstdam has digitized its collection. All of its works are free to use. Its’ policy “If you use our images for publication, then we request that you acknowledge the source (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). We would also like to receive a copy of the publication for our library.”
  • Try the Creative Commons search tool.
  • One of my favourites, Pexels.
  • University of Alberta Peel Image search.
  • Good Free Photos offers Public Domain Photos, Clipart, images, and Vectors
  • I’ve mentioned Unsplash before.
  • Not a photo resource site, but very useful is The Noun Project a great site when looking for a graphic to illustrate a concept or idea. You can pay OR give credit to the artist.
  • Rawpixel has a search specifically for public domain images.
  • Gratisography is the work of photographer Ryan McGuire. You’ll note his singular style at work.
  • IM Free  offers photos, icons and more.
  • Any internet search will probably turn up photos from Pixabay, so its probably quicker to go there directly.
  • Shopify runs a free graphics site called Burst.
  • Picjumbo offers free and a paid subscription model.
  • All photos found in the Morguefile archive are free for you to download and re-use in your work, be it commercial or not.
  • Stock Vault offers free stock photos and the opportunity to purchase via their Premium option.
  • Negative space
  • Kaboom pics claim to fame, is that the colour palette of each photo is extracted for you, useful if you are planning coordinating backgrounds or print materials.
  • Fancy Crave  All photos published on Fancycrave are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CCO) license which grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Fancycrave for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Fancycrave.
  • Stock Snap
  • Startup Stock Photos
  • Splitshire
  • Life of Pix
  • The New Old Stock focused on older pictures curated from  institutions participating in the Flickr Commons.

2018-05-17 Update:
The design tool Canva also has photos available, both paid and free – the link for searching for free photos on Canva is  https://www.canva.com/photos/tag/free+photos/