The Word Navigation Pane

The Navigation Pane

Among the many reasons I love Word Styles, is how it makes the Navigation Pane more powerful and easier to use.

Where to Find Navigation View
Find Navigation Pane on the View Ribbon

Turn on the Navigation Pane by going to the View Tab, Show Group and checking the Navigation Pane check box.
Navigation Pane - no styles in use
Unformatted text on the page and in Navigation Pane

At this point, if your text is unformatted, the Navigation Pane will not look that useful. But, watch what happens when I add styles to the unformatted text.
Styled text appears in the Navigation Pane
Text Formatted with Styles appears both on the page and in the Navigation Page

Now the text appears in the Navigation Page in the same style hierarchy used in the document. Now I can use the Navigation Page to quickly move around the document by clicking on the text I want to jump to.
Collapsing and Expanding Text
Text can be collapsed and expanded

If there is a lot of text, it can be collapsed and expanded using the triangle buttons.
The Navigation Pane can be used for more than navigation, it can also be used to reorder/reorganize text in the document. For example, perhaps I wish to move the section on the “The Adventures of Pinocchio” after “Aladdin”. I can do this easily by clicking on that heading in the Navigation Pane and dragging it below the heading I want it to follow.
Document reording results.
Results of using the Navigation Pane to reorder my document

Not only is that heading moved but all the subtext beneath it is moved as well. Fast and easy document reorganization!


I offer Word template design services and training. Feel free to send me an email.
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One File to Many – MS Word

A few weeks ago the following request came to me: “I have also been told that there is a way to change and update several … in a bulk fashion, that would speed up the process when customizing many documents for a specific job.” Of course, I immediately started thinking about a process that would allow one to smoothly update a group of standard documents. For example; every time a new customer is being set up.

I reached for the INCLUDETEXT field in Word. In contrast to inserting a file (which takes the entire contents of a file), the INCLUDETEXT field allows you to specify text within a file, when that text has been identified by a bookmark.

The Plan

Set up a “CustomerInfo” source document. Then in my standard documents (target documents), I’d use the INCLUDETEXT field to link to the relevant pieces of information stored in the source document. Updating would be a breeze, simply change the information in the source and the next time the fields are updated in the target document all the correct information will appear. In this process, the Customer Information source document would:

  1. Always have the same file name
  2. Be stored in the same folder as the rest of the customer files. If this is not the case, then the field code in the target document will need to be adapted from my example.

The Source Document

Setting up the source document is pretty straightforward – I’d make a form detailing the information to be collected. However, bookmarks are too easy to delete when adding or updating information. I’d use content controls nested inside the bookmarks. This also takes advantage of tabbing from one control to another, making it faster to input and edit information. The controls can be grouped or placed in a table. But don’t use the Locking options when creating the control. Locking a control prevents the target document from updating.

The Target Document

I’d place the following field in the target document
{INCLUDETEXT "{FILENAME \P}\\..\\source document filename" bookmark}
Replacing the source document filename with the Customer Information filename (including the docx extension) and the bookmark with the name of the bookmark from the source document.
The {FILENAME \P}\\..\\ portion of the field extracts the path & filename of the current file and clips off the filename (using \\..\\), which allows you to substitute the source document filename. Hat tip to MS Word MVP Paul Edstein for this clever solution.

Updating

The INCLUDETEXT field is classified as a “warm” field in Word. This means it does not update automatically, but requires user intervention. The user needs to select the field and press the F9 function key to update. If multiple fields are used in the same document, use Ctrl + A to select the entire document, then press F9 to update all fields.
There are macros to update all the fields as well, but the keyboard commands are just as straightforward. Depending on the workflow, I might write a macro to loop through all the documents in a folder and force updating.

I offer Word template design services and training. Feel free to send me an email.

Excel – Previous Day Total

Here is a scenario: A running total of numbers, updated daily. You want to capture the previous day’s total, as you can see in the picture below.

Excel - Previous Day Total
Looking for the Previous Day’s total in a column of numbers

I’m showing the answer in two steps here, in real life I’d make it into one formula.
The first step is to capture the row number of the previous day’s total. Finding it using the numbers in Column C would be way too complicated. But Column B has the kind of data we can use.
Using the formula =LOOKUP(2,1/(B2:B29<>0),ROW(B:B)) captures the row.
finding the row number
Finding the row number for the previous day’s value.

What the lookup formula is doing is starting by evaluating the numbers from B2:B29 looking for values that aren’t equal to zero.
This creates an array like this: {TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;TRUE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE;FALSE}
The TRUE values will equal 1 and the FALSE values equal 0.
This means when the formula divides 1 by those values, an array looking like this is created:
{1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;1;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!;#DIV/0!}
Lookup can’t find 2 in the array, so it settles for the largest value in the array that is less than or equal to lookup_value.The ROW function tells it to return the row number from the array B2:B29.
The second step is to combine the row number with the column number and show the result using =INDIRECT("C"&D2)
And there you have it. A quick way of always finding the previous day (month, year, whatever).

Three Presentation Mistakes

Last weekend I attended the Southern Alberta Library Conference. I really enjoy this conference, the speakers are great and the topics really relevant to my volunteer work with the Redcliff Public Library. So what does this have to do with presentation mistakes? It was interesting to see the kind of presentation mistakes that speakers who are good at presenting make.

Mistake Number 1

Our old friend – too much text on the slide. Even good speakers do this, even though they shouldn’t. I suspect because they worry about leaving something out of their presentation.

All the sentences, all the text
All the text, nothing missing. (Dummy text courtesy the Bacon Ipsum generator)

Once again, I’d like to join my voice to all the presentation experts telling you NOT to put all your text on the slide. But, I know it will happen anyway, so what can we do to improve a slide like this?

Remove Bullets

Bullet points add nothing
Same slide – fewer bullets

If you are going to write full sentences with punctuation, then bullets are completely unnecessary. They take the viewer’s eye away from the content of the sentence. Save bullet points for sentence fragments, which is what they are designed for.

One Sentence Per Slide

One sentence per slide
Give each Sentence its’ own slide

Help the audience focus its’ attention by restricting yourself to one sentence per slide at a time.

Position Sentence Text

Control Text Wrapping
Control text wrapping to effectively position your message

There is no rule in PowerPoint (or any presentation software) that requires you to use the default text wrapping. Add line breaks to force text to wrap for greater readability and easier recall. Notice how the ham jumps out from the rest of the text, when it is forced onto its’ own line. Think about the part of the sentence you wish to emphasize and add line breaks accordingly. Also, if the sentence is on its’ own slide, there will be room to do this.

Mistake Number 2

Smart Art can cause problems of its’ own. In particular, the seductive way it shrinks text to fit into the graphic makes people forget to edit. (See mistake number 1)

Smart Art can be a problem
Smart Art isn’t as smart as you think

Also, the default colour schemes means a lovely rainbow of colours. How is this a bad thing you ask? Well, inevitably you get a colour combination like point three in the graphic above. White text on a yellow background. That’s readable on a computer monitor, but when projected onto a screen it doesn’t have enough contrast.
The rainbow effect above, does something else as well. It wastes the potential usefulness of those colours. Colour is a great way of adding organization and hierarchy to a presentation. In the slide above, perhaps green refers to free-range meat, blue to fish, yellow to poultry, red to spicy foods, and I have no idea what pink would refer to. Because there is no organization being used here, just the random default applied by Smart Art.
Ignoring the organizational impact of colour, is like leaving money on the table.

Mistake Number 3

This last mistake is a little bit of mistake 1 AND mistake 2 combined, and it comes from using Smart Art process graphics like the one below:

Smart Art Process graphic
Here is a process with multiple steps and a lot of text.
Every time, a process graphic like this leads to the speaker saying “I know this is hard to read, but”.
Hmmm, yes it IS hard to read, but I can understand the desire to help people understand the flow of a process. So why not introduce your process in a series of slides like this:
Showing a step in a process
Introduce your process in a series of slides.

In this sample slide I’ve taken the process and reduced to a smaller graphic in the top left corner. Here it will act as a map to show people where we are. I’ve toned down the colours of the steps that are not being talked about on this slide. I’ve left the bright blue alone, because we are talking about the blue step on this slide. I’ve cut out the blue step and enlarged it, so the text will be easier to read. It is easy to imagine each step in turn being featured on a separate slide and highlighted on the map.

Once again, thanks to everyone who spoke at the Southern Alberta Library Conference. I learn a lot about how to be a better library board member every time I attend. And, if you are a resident of Alberta; consider volunteering in your local library. It really is the best volunteer gig around. Such a positive environment that really makes a difference in the community!

I offer presentation design services and coaching. Feel free to send me an email.

iTunes Won’t Stop Asking For Your Password

Let’s start by agreeing that we all hate iTunes. Feel better now? Nope. Me neither.

However, I seem to have found a reliable solution for when iTunes repeatedly asks for your password. A hat tip to ytene over on the Apple forums for this.

The simple solution:

  •  Sign in
  • Go to the Account menu and Sign Out again
  • Close iTunes
  • Restart iTunes and login when requested

Hopefully, this will fix the problem.

New Windows 10 Feature

Have you ever wanted to magnify just part of your windows screen? I do this frequently and for years relied on a 3rd party app. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the transition to Windows 10. But its’ all good now, because Windows now has a builtin magnification utility.

You’ll find the Magnifier settings in Settings, Ease of Access, Magnifier. I like using the Lens as the default. You can change the size of the lens here too. Once you are set up, you can easily turn the magnifier on/off with the following shortcuts:

Windows Key ⊞ + Plus sign to turn on
Windows Key ⊞ + Esc key to turn off

Nail Down That Date!

Passing a spreadsheet around between organizations has a hidden problem; one that can easily make trouble. And the trouble comes, not from the spreadsheet, but from the default date setting on the computer.

Excel uses the default date setting to interpret the order of date information. Whether its’ Month-Day-Year or Day-Month-Year, or even Year-Month-Day, that information comes from the OS date settings. These are settings that we don’t often think about once we’ve set them. And typically, they are the same throughout an organization.

But take the spreadsheet you’ve designed, that uses Month-Day-Year into a Day-Month-Year organization, and all sorts of problems crop up.

The first problem is that you might not notice immediately; if July 6, turns into June 7 – that might not jump out at you as a problem. If you are lucky, you’ll spot something weird about the 12th of Month 21 …

So how do you nail down those dates so they can’t shift? One strategy is to break up your date entry into your preferred format, and then rebuild the date using the DATE function.

The syntax for the DATE function is =DATE(year, month, day)

The Date Function
Using the Date function to reassemble a date from separate cells

Here you can see the DATE function is building a date from the values in three separate cells: A3, B3 and C3 and the formula looks like this =DATE($C3,$B3,$A3)

Another advantage of this strategy is that Data Validation can be applied to these cells; ie the day column can be restricted to whole numbers between 1 and 31, the month column to whole numbers between 1 and 12 and the year column as well. In the sample file I’m using, the column holding the complete date (D) is hidden from the user. They will only see columns A thru C. The complete (and correct) date is referenced in formulas.

An alternate strategy would be to use the DATE function to extract the correct order from a whole date typed into a cell. In this case you would need to rely on the users to enter the date consistently regardless of their date system. I would recommend a custom date format be applied and a comment to tell the user what the required date format is. Breaking the date up avoids this reliance on the user’s compliance.

Duotone Photo Technique

Duotone Photos

I’ve been showing you how to use PowerPoint to quickly create stencil and lace effects.  Now, let’s look at creating duotone photos. In addition to making a photo look very modern, duotone is a useful technique for using less than stellar photos.

a photo of a cat in a kitchen
Cat in the Kitchen

While the cat might be photogenic, the background is not. I want to move from the photo above to the duotone below, which is suitable for adding a quote.

Cats have it all quote by Rod McKuen
So true

The first step is to crop the picture as closely as possible.

Close up of cat's face
Just the handsome face here – no clutter

But unfortunately, once enlarged you see the photo is a little blurry. This won’t be a problem going forward and it shows how this technique can cope with less than perfect photos.

Going to Picture Corrections:
Brightness was set to 65%
Contrast to 100%

Picture Color: Saturation was set to zero.

Photo after adjustment
The Adjusted Photo

There is a bit of guesswork here, as I had to bring up Brightness enough to wash out the dark corner of the chair the cat is on, yet leave as much detail as possible. You’ll note that this brings out a lot of light spots on the pupils as well.

Why not just Recolor the picture to Black and White? In this case, I felt that recoloring removed too much detail from the photo. In the case of a different photo, recoloring might be the quickest and easiest method.  I’d definitely try it first and see if I liked the results.

I’ve drawn a rectangle and filled it with a bright colour for contrast, this has been placed under the photo.

Now I can make the white portion of the photo transparent, by selecting Picture Tools>Format>Color>Set Transparent Color  and clicking on a white portion of the picture.

Showing the black portion of the cat photo
The black portion of the photo remains.

What’s also hard to see in the above picture is that the photo has a lot of small grey artifacts in the borders of the fur. This is exactly what we added in when making the lace picture earlier, but here it is unwanted. An additional step is required for this photo (again for some photos it might be unnecessary).

But before I do that – I’m going to use the Ink command and touch up the pupils to remove some of the glints. Ink is only available in Office 365.

excess glint repair using Ink tool
Showing Glint repair using ink tool.

After filling in the glints on the pupils, I grouped the ink layer with the photo. Then I copied and pasted the photo (and ink layer) as a picture.  PowerPoint remembers all the photo editing done to a picture (which is why the Reset command works) and applies those steps cumulatively. I want to start fresh and apply the Recolor command to strip out the grey artifacts without losing a lot of detail. After recoloring the photo to 25% Black and White I set the White color to transparent

photo after removing artifacts
The same photo, but now with a crisper look

Again, I grouped the photo with bright background rectangle, pasted it as a picture and this time set the black portion as transparent. This is similar to the photo stencil.

transparent cat
Photo with transparent cat

In the final step, set a gradient fill in your chosen colour scheme to colour the duotone.

Using the background to colour the duotone
Setting the background of the slide to colour the duotone

The main elements of this technique are applicable to a number of photo effects. Try them out and see what you get!