All posts by Darrin Jenkins

Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Find It Faster Using Microsoft Office 2010 Quick Access Toolbar

Who doesn’t like a good shortcut every now and then? I know I certainly do. If you are new to Microsoft Office 2010, then you may be struggling with the Ribbon Toolbar. It took some getting used to for me as well, however, I have become a fan. Let me give you a quick tip about a new feature in Office 2010 that you might appreciate. If you open up an Office 2010 application, you will notice there is a small toolbar located in the top left corner by default. You can see this toolbar highlighted in the picture below. This toolbar is called the “Quick Access Toolbar”.

Quick Access Toolbar

If you have trouble navigating the ribbon, you might appreciate this little feature. This “quick” toolbar allows you to add custom commands that you would find on the various tabs of the ribbon toolbar. There are a few rules you need to be aware of in regards to the “Quick Access Toolbar”. According to the Microsoft Office website:

  • You cannot increase the size of the buttons representing the commands by an option in Microsoft Office. The only way to increase the size of the buttons is to lower the screen resolution you use.
  • You cannot display the Quick Access Toolbar on multiple lines.
  • Only commands can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar. The contents of most lists, such as indent and spacing values and individual styles, which also appear on the ribbon, cannot be added to the Quick Access Toolbar. However, you can  customize the ribbon  to personalize the ribbon the way that you want it. For example, you can create custom tabs and custom groups to contain your frequently used commands.
I would like to take a moment to show you how you can add commands to the “Quick Access Toolbar”. If you look to the right of the toolbar, you will notice a black downward pointing arrow. If you click the arrow you will get a menu like the one pictured below.
Add Commands
Notice that there are several popular command choices already listed on the menu. For instance, the “Quick Print” option is one that I almost always select. If you don’t see the command that you wish to have quick access to, click the “More Commands” option. You will notice in the picture above that it is circled in red.
Once you click the “More Commands” option, you will get a dialog box like the one pictured below. There are two columns. The left side lists available commands from which you can choose. The right side shows you commands that are already added to the “Quick Access Toolbar”. In the example below, I chose commands that were listed on the “Insert Tab”. I selected the “Screen Clipping” command and clicked the “Add>>” button to move that command to my “Quick Access Toolbar”. I then clicked “OK” at the bottom of the dialog box to complete the action.
Add Command Dialog Box
You will see in the picture below that the “Screen Clipping” command has been added to my “Quick Access Toolbar”. Now, I only need to click the button to get this functionality, instead of having to navigate to the “Insert Tab” and try to find it every time that I want to use it.
Command Button Added
I hope you find this to be a useful tip. You will find this toolbar in most of the Microsoft Office 2010 applications. Hopefully it will help speed up your day and help you be more productive.
I would appreciate your feedback and maybe tips on how you might use this toolbar feature in Office 2010.

Use Microsoft Office Picture Manager for Quick Photo Edits

There are a lot of great photo editors on the market. Some are very robust and expensive, while others are free. To be honest, there are about as many photo editors out there as there are camera models. Today I would like to tell you about one that is probably sitting right under your nose and you’ve never used it. It is called “Microsoft Office Picture Manager” and it comes bundled with Microsoft Office.

I would like to show you an example of the photo editing power of Picture Manager. Let’s begin by opening a picture on our computer. Below you will see a lighthouse picture I took in Portland, Maine.

Lighthouse

Let’s say, for example, that I wanted to turn this photo black and white. This is very simple to do using Picture Manager. First, let’s open the picture in Picture Manager. Below, you will see where I right clicked the photo, then chose the “Open With” option, and then clicked “Microsoft Office Picture Manager”.

Open With Menu

Now we’ll need to click the button at the top of the window that says “Edit Pictures…” See the picture below to see what the button looks like.

Edit Button

Now, you will get a toolbar on the right side of the screen. You will notice a very large “Auto Correct” button. If you have a photo that may be a little too dark and grainy, sometimes clicking this button will help correct common color and lighting errors. In the picture below, you will notice an area highlighted under the heading “Edit using these tools”. Here are some commonly used photo editing tools. The one I would like to deal with in this tutorial is under the heading “Color”.

Toolbar Options

When you click the heading that says “Color”, you will get the menu options pictured below.

Color Menu

Using this menu, you can do some really cool things to your photo. You can also royally screw up the color balance so make sure you keep the “Undo” button handy. You will notice that there are three sliders that will allow you to use your mouse to click and drag to change the value in each box. Remember the goal of this particular tutorial is to make this photo black and white. To accomplish this we’ll need to desaturate the photo. Saturation basically is a term for how much color is in the photo. If we drag the “Saturation” slider all the way to the left, we are essentially saying we want to take all of the color out of the photo.  Now, our picture is black and white.  See the picture below.

Lighthouse Black and White

There are many other useful tools in Microsoft Office Picture Manager. You can easily fix red eye, flip and rotate pictures, and more. It may not be the most robust tool out there, but for the novice user, it is easy to use. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

From Rag-Time to Woot, Oxford English Dictionary Celebrates 100 Years

Word lovers rejoice! The Concise Oxford English Dictionary celebrates a century with the announcement of its 12th Edition today. Angus Stevenson, in a post titled “A century of defining our language“, announced the history making edition on the Oxford Dictionaries blog today.

According to the blog the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (COED for short) is a “different kind of dictionary,  one that sought primarily to cover the language of its own time.” The editor of the first edition, Henry and Hank Fowler, were quoted as saying, “we admit colloquial, facetious, slang, and vulgar expressions with freedom, merely attaching a cautionary label”.  Perhaps this is why the COED has survived even into the digital age. I must admit, I found reading through the blog very interesting. It is amazing when you consider how much the English language has changed in a relatively short amount of time.

The COED continues today to move with the times. You can now find words like cyberbullying, domestic goddess, and even woot! New meanings to old words have been added as well. For instance, the word friend now has the added meaning of  “a contact on a social networking website”.

The COED has devoted a page entirely to the centenary edition which can be found here. There is a lot of information about the history of the COED. You can watch a short video (embedded below) which provides a “quick history” of the COED.

You can even send a “photographic journey of words through the century” e-card. Pictured below you will see one of the e-cards from the year I was born. I had to laugh when I saw that year’s phrase was neighborhood watch! They must have known I was coming.

Ecard

I am glad to see that the Concise Oxford Dictionary is doing what it can to stay relevant in this technology driven world.  In a world where we are inundated by words, I think sometimes we underestimate the affect words can have. They can inspire, inform, and motivate. I believe that words, carefully chosen, can have a lasting positive impact on their reader, otherwise, I wouldn’t bother to write. I leave you with this quote from Mark Twain, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

 

“HaHa… I would hate to be this person” Facebook Scam

A new scam is making its way around the Facebook realm. The scam tries to feed on people’s curiosity by placing a post on people’s wall that reads, “HaHa… I would hate to be this person. Talk about embarrassing!!! Can you believe they posted that on their Facebook?” Below you will see a picture of what the scam looks like. It will appear in your feed as if one of your friends posted it. Don’t fall for it!

Scam PicIf you click on the link it will take you to a website that basically attempts to steal your Facebook credentials. See the picture below. Notice that the website presents itself as Facebook wanting you to login. If you do this they will steal your credentials and use your Facebook account to spread further havoc. In the picture below, you will notice the URL highlighted at the top. Notice it says, “futurejobstodayb.com/b1/b1us/”. This is not Facebook. That is a sure fire sign that this is a SCAM!

Fake Login

If you have fallen victim to such a scam, immediately change your Facebook password. To do this open Facebook, go to “Account”, then “Account Settings”, and then find the line that says “password”. There will be an “edit” link which is where you go to change your password.

There are many ways you can identify and avoid Facebook scams. Read through the articles in our Social Media section listed at the top of this web page. Be aware of oddities. For instance, if you have a friend that seldom posts gossip or doesn’t look at porn, be aware when a gossipy or pornographic link shows up on their wall. Also notice the URL of the link they want you to click. If the website name seems real strange and random, you might consider asking your friend if they meant to post that link, and if it is OK.

I hope this helps prevent some future problems for you. Please share this link with a friend and, as always, I love to hear your comments and feedback.

Get Quick Answers Using Excel’s Status Bar

There is hardly any debate to the fact that Excel is an extremely powerful tool. It can do complex formulas and calculations at mind-numbing speed. All this being said, however, in all the years I have worked in IT, I have observed that most people use it for a basic set of functions. I believe that Microsoft recognized this as well. They made it very easy for us to get answers to our common questions. The problem is, they put this tool in an uncommonly used place. Today, I would like to introduce you to Excel’s “Status Bar” and to show you how it can make your life a little easier.

What is a status bar you ask? Well, it is way down at the bottom of the screen. You know, the place that no one hardly ever looks. In the picture below, you can see Excel’s main window with the status bar highlighted.

Main Window

Several things happen in the status bar that often go unnoticed. For instance, when you hit the “Caps Lock” key on your keyboard, an indicator shows up in the status bar. It is also home to some pretty helpful tools that can help you get quick answers from your spreadsheet.

Let’s begin by selecting a column of numbers like the ones pictured below. One of the most common tasks in a spreadsheet is to sum up a column of numbers. Notice that Excel makes this very easy. Below, you will see what the status bar shows when you have a column of numbers highlighted. By default, Excel shows you the average, sum, and count of the selected numbers.

Status Bar

If you right-click the status bar, you will get a context menu which will allow you to customize which fields you need displayed.  In the picture below, you can see the different options that you have. Notice the red circled area. Here, you can add other popular functions to the status bar.

Customize

Let’s add minimum and maximum to the status bar and see what we get. If you highlight your data as pictured below, you now will notice that the status bar gives some additional information. Highlighted below, you can see the “Min” and “Max” functions. Sometimes it is nice just to be able to glean out what the smallest and largest numbers in a spreadsheet are. The status bar makes this very simple to find.

Min Max

I hope this tutorial helps to simplify some of the common tasks you perform in Excel. Of course, if you enjoy typing “=Sum(H1:K8)” every time you want to get a Sum in a column, then this tip probably isn’t for you. ;)

Let me know what you think about this tip. I love questions and comments.

TabCo Tablet Revealed

Back on August 4th, I wrote an article called “TabCo Creating a Lot of Buzz! Who Are They?“. The mysterious TabCo, which vowed to “reinvigorate” the tablet market, turns out to be Fusion Garage. That’s right, you’ve heard that name before. Can you say “Joo Joo” Tablet? The epic failure I am sure Fusion Garage would love to forget. Today they revealed the Grid 10, Grid 4, and the GridOS.

Grid 10

The Grid 10 is all about “eye candy” and it is obvious the designers wanted to create a visual experience. It boasts a 10.1″ screen with  1366 x 768 pixels. Designed to be a more “natural” navigation, the Grid 10 is completely gesture based and button free. One unique feature this tablet brings is the “wheel-based” interaction. Basically, you tap the screen with your finger and it brings up a wheel with context sensitive spokes surrounding it. Your finger turns the wheel to reveal more menu items. You tap on the menu item to activate it.

The Wheel

Below you will see the contacts. It is certainly not the typical address book one may be used to. It acts as sort of a hub for all things related to that contact. For instance, you not only get their phone number but you can also see their Tweets.

Contacts

Some other technical aspects of note is that it packs a  Nvidia Tegra II 1.2Ghz Dual Core processor, 512MB RAM, and 16GB of storage. It runs on the GridOS. It is Wi-Fi and 3G capable. It has a front facing camera that will work with its video calling feature that boasts one to one, and one to many, video calls. It also allows for HDMI connectivity.  Currently the tablet is only  available  in the U.S. It retails for $499 for wi-fi only and $599 for 3G.

The Grid 4 was an unexpected surprise from today’s announcement. It is a 4″ phone with 800 x 480 resolution. It also runs the Grid OS. It has a whopping 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash. It also has a front facing camera. It has a 4 points capacitive TFT touch screen. It comes with an impressive 16GB of storage.

Grid 4

Powering the whole thing is a new GridOS. It is built on the Android kernel so it will run Android Apps like “Angry Birds”! They claim to have rethought every process of the way a user interacts with the interface.

There was definitely a lot of pomp and circumstance when it came to marketing this new tablet. Fusion Garage has a history of epic failures however, it seems like they have done a lot of homework in the design of this new tablet. Will it “reinvigorate” the market? I doubt it. I do believe that it is a tablet worth looking at. Not to mention the Grid 4 phone which, I believe may end up being the better product before this is all said and done. Good luck Fusion Garage! I hope this goes better for you than JooJoo.

Facebook Releases Mobile Messenger

Have you ever tried to put together a birthday dinner with your friends but then realized that you weren’t sure what was the best way to contact them? If so, Facebook feels your pain. Facebook announced a new mobile app yesterday called “Messenger“.  It installs as a separate app on your mobile phone.  The goal of the app is to provide a single source for all of your messaging needs.

If you follow this link, you will be taken to the page pictured below. You will notice a button on the left side of the page that reads “Get the App”.

Facebook Messenger

If you click the “Get the App” button you will see the following screen. Just type in your mobile number and Facebook will text you a link to the appropriate place, either the Android market or the iPhone App Store.

Text Link

Once you have installed the app to your mobile phone, it really is simple to use. The app automatically gathers information on both your Facebook contacts and your mobile phone contacts. “Messenger” makes it easy to send out a group message. Now, you don’t have to worry about whether you’re sending the message to the right place, because “Messenger” will send it both as a text and a Facebook notification.

New Message
Image Courtesy of Facebook Blog

You also have the ability to add location information into the message. In the picture above you will see a small blue arrow just to the left of the “Send” button. Clicking this arrow will allow you to insert location information into your message. In the image below, you can see how your location information can be integrated into Google Maps.

Map
Image Courtesy of Facebook Blog

The “Messenger” app is currently available for both the  Android and iPhone markets, however, it only appears to be rolled out in the U.S at this time.

There are, however, a few things I would like to point out from my personal experience using the app. One thing to note is that when you send a message to a mobile number it will blast a message to that person’s Facebook account, too. In my case, the person I sent a message to got it on their mobile, their Facebook mailbox, and an email notification in their Hotmail. Some people may not like getting blasted like that. Also, the mobile message appears from a strange number, so this may be a little confusing to the person receiving it. The person I sent the message to also was confused by a “mute” link in the text. So I believe there may be a few kinks left to work out.

Facebook seems to be committed to improving the mobile experience. They also rolled out a couple of other features yesterday. One was to allow social reporting on the mobile version of Facebook. The second allows users to change their password via their mobile. Some of the changes they are making are not going over very well, as usual (there is still a lot of frustration over the new Facebook chat format). All of this being said, I believe the “Messenger” app will be a pretty nice addition to the Facebook family of products.

What do you think? Is this an app that you think you’ll use? I would love to hear your feedback.

Heeeeeeere’s Johnny! YouTube Announces Johnny Carson Channel

Heeeeeeere’s some fun news for you! YouTube’s Official Blog  announced yesterday the official    Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson  channel. For those of you who may be to young, or have lived under a rock all your life, Johnny Carson was considered the king of late night TV. For 30 years his show dominated late night TV. His show was the platform that launched the careers of many of today’s  stars. Most any late night host today will tell you of Johnny’s influence on their personal style.

YouTube Johnny Carson Channel
Courtesy of YouTube

The new YouTube channel plans to add new Carson clips each week. They are also taking requests from subscribers to their channel. When you go to the channel, make sure you take a look at Howie Mandell’s picks. He has hand picked some of his favorite videos to share with the community. He also shares some of his own personal memories of the show.

The timing of this announcement by YouTube is interesting, because Fox News also reported yesterday, in an article entitled “YouTube Joins Wal-Mart in Streaming Video“, that YouTube is in the final planning stages to offer a paid movie streaming service. According to the article, YouTube hopes to capitalize on the Android market’s success and offer it’s streaming video service hopefully before the end of the year. This seem like a natural transition for them and they certainly have the brand recognition to pull it off. Now one can only hope that this doesn’t negatively affect the YouTube service that so many of us already enjoy.

Express Your Life With Pinterest

I have to admit, I am a sucker for the visual arts. I often tell my wife that I am the reason people still spend money on billboards. I am the kind of guy that will nearly run the car off the road looking at billboard signs. You can imagine my thrill when I found a great social networking site geared towards all things visual called “Pinterest“.

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The site seeks to connect people through common interests. People post things they like that they’ve seen on the web to their “boards” and, like Twitter, people can follow your boards and you can follow theirs.

How does it work, you ask? When you first go the Pinterest website, you will be greeted with a montage of stunning images shared from all over the web. Below, you will see a picture of the main page.

Pinterest Main Page

You will notice that there is a button to “Request an Invite” from Pinterest. If you click this button, you will see the screen pictured below.

Sign Up

Shortly after submitting an invitation request, you will receive a greeting in your email with a link to sign up. You will see a screen similar to the one pictured below when you click that link. Pinterest links with an existing Facebook or Twitter account. They claim it makes it easier to find friends and share your interests. I suspect they didn’t want to reinvent the social networking wheel.

Facebook Connect

Once you have connected to your Facebook account, you are taken to a page where you can indicate certain interests that you have. If you look in the picture below, there are several categories from which to choose. Pinterest will automatically sign you up to follow certain people based on the interests that you chose. You have the option to unfollow these people at any time.

Interests

You will now have the option create pinboards of your own. Below, you will see the default suggested categories for pinboards. These are merely suggestions and you can add or delete as many as you like. Once you have added all of the pinboard categories you like, click “Create”.

Create Pinboards

Lastly, you will be given the option to install the Pinterest button to your browser. This will allow you to easily pin something to one of your boards from any website. I think this is a good idea. You don’t have to install it if you don’t want to, but then the process of adding pins is a little more manual. When you hit the Pinterest button in your browser, it automatically picks the images off of the page and gives you the choice of which image you want to pin.  Below, you will see a group of images from a website about Ayers Rock.

Pin This

When you click “Pin This” on an image, you will be taken to a dialog box like the one below. You will be given the option to pick which board you want to pin the image to. You also have the options of giving it a description, mentioning Facebook friends, and adding tags. When you are ready, click “Pin It” and you are done.

Create Pin

Pinterest is a unique way to network with people through the sharing of images. You can make wish lists, plan a wedding, plan an interior design, and much more. Frankly, it is only limited by your imagination and creativity. I hope you enjoy using Pinterest.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to comment below.

Happy Birthday WWW!

Twenty years ago today, the World Wide Web, also known as “the web”, was born at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. This event should not be confused with the Internet’s birth. According to the World Wide Web Consortium’s website, the World Wide Web is “an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing”. Tim Berners-Lee is credited with the invention of the web, along with scientist  Robert Cailliau.

Berners-Lee envisioned the concept of using hypertext to help researchers share information over the internet. According to Wikipedia, he proposed ”  to build a hypertext  project” called “WorldWideWeb” (one word, also “W3″) as a ‘web’ of ‘hypertext documents’ to be viewed by browsers,  using a  clientserver  architecture.” Berners-Lee used a computer called NeXT as the world’s first web server. On August 6, 1991, “the web” made its public debut.

Today, the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, as it is often called, sets the standards for “web” development. Tim Berners-Lee is still very active in the development of “the web” and is the Director of W3C. He was Knighted in 2004 by Queen Elizabeth. He also directs the Web Science Trust and The World Wide Web Foundation.

“The web” has transformed into a medium for the endless sharing of ideas, entertainment, and commerce. Could the men who set this idea in motion ever have envisioned the powerful influence it has become today? So today, when you check up on friends half-way around the globe on Facebook, or catch the latest gossip on some news website, take a moment to wish “the web” a very happy twentieth birthday!

TabCo Creating a Lot Of Buzz! Who Are They?

TabCo is creating a lot of buzz by touting its upcoming tablet as an “Aha!” moment for the tablet industry. In an article today labeled “Secretive TabCo Gets Closer to Big Reveal“, Ina Fried, of AllThingsD, says that TabCo is “playing a high-risk game” by the way they’re choosing to market their product. So why all the hype about this new tablet anyway?

First of all, it has to be the way they have chosen to market the tablet. They have chosen to shroud their product in mystery, all the while building anticipation for their big reveal on August 15th. Their website, whoistabco.com, basically creates a lot of hype, and begs more questions than it really answers. Yesterday they posted a video on YouTube called “Lemmings”. Below you can see the video.

The second reason for all the hype, has to be the pretty bold claims TabCo is making in regards to this new tablet.  I think it is a pretty gutsy statement to say they “reinvented the wheel”, as well as, to say they are “about to reinvigorate a market”. Bold statements like these can really come back to bite you. Let’s hope they don’t eat their words on this one.

If you dig through the TabCo website, you can start to piece together some technical specs about the new tablet. It appears to have Bluetooth, USB, wi-fi, and 4G connectivity. One statement they make about what sets them apart is “The UI, for one is like nothing else out there. It is predictive and draws its inspiration from the semantic web. The desktop is different, almost a canvas that gives you extensive flexibility to organize your life and work.”  They state that third party developers will be allowed to build applications for it. Most importantly, you will be able to play Angry Birds on it.

While there are many questions still awaiting to be answered, August 15th is just around the corner. There is a lot of speculation out there as to who might be behind this project. One major rumor is that this is Nokia behind it all. Others believe it possibly could be Google. All I know is it will be interesting to see if this new tablet is truly innovative, or if it will be just another over hyped flop. Keep checking in here for the latest information.

Keep it Forever Using Evernote’s Web Clipper

Have you ever had the frustration of finding a fantastic article on the internet, only to come back a few days later and find that it is no longer there? If so, I have a great tip for you! Download Evernote’s “Web Clipper” add on for your browser and never lose that article again. If you are not familiar with Evernote, let me describe it for you in a nutshell; it is platform- and device-independent software that allows you to take notes, create lists, capture photos, and, for the purposes of this article, capture whole web pages, storing them in a personal electronic notebook. Many articles have been written already on this site about its features so feel free to search the term Evernote in our search bar. You can also visit their website at Evernote.com.

To install the Evernote “Web Clipper”, go to evernote.com and click the “Downloads” link on the main page. Below, you will see a picture of the Evernote main page with a pointer to the link.

Evernote Downloads Link

When you click the “Downloads” link on the main page, you will be taken to a page with different downloads. Find the option that says “Web Clipper” and click it. In the picture below, you will notice that Evernote detected the browser that I was using, and gave me the appropriate extension.

Chrome Extension

One you install the appropriate extension, or add on, for your browser, you will notice a new icon in your browser’s toolbar that looks like a green square with an elephant’s head in it. Now you are ready to do some clipping! Let’s say you find a great article on Techie Buzz that you would love to keep handy. Simply navigate to the page and click the Evernote logo in your browser window. Evernote will prompt you to login. Below, you will see a picture of the dialog box with the different options afforded you.

Clip Options

As you can see from the picture above, you have several options from which to choose. The first line that you see shows the title of the web page you are looking at. Second, you have the option to pick which notebook you would like your web clipping to be put in. The last two lines allow you to put tags for searching and a description. You will see a large button at the bottom of the box that gives you the option to clip the article, the full page, or just the URL of the page. In this example I chose “Clip full page”. When you have everything set up just the way you want it, click the large green “Clip article” button.

Now you have a permanent copy of that web page stored in a note. See the picture below. I clipped an article that I previously wrote for Techie Buzz. I now have a fully functioning (links and all) copy of that whole page. How cool is that? I can even put my own notes on the page now. It is also full searchable in my Evernote application.

Clipped Page

Did I mention that you could start using Evernote’s features for FREE! Even if you decide to use the premium features, it is only $5 per month. I think this is a great bargain.  Evernote is a powerful tool and the “Web Clipper” is a great feature.  I could see this being great for gathering recipes, collaborating on a website design, keeping up with references for a paper, and much more.

How would you use this feature? I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

 

 

 

Now is the Time to Switch to Microsoft Office 2010 [Editorial]

If you are one of those people who err on the side of caution, and avoid jumping on the Microsoft bandwagon with every update, you’re not alone. Fact is, I am right there with you. For a number of reasons, I have found myself to be a late adopter when it comes to new software versions. The most pressing reason for my delay is cost. The second is the issue of training. In this article, I would like to tell you how I overcame some of my reservations and why I think now is the time to switch to Office 2010.

My first reservation with upgrading to any new version of software is cost. Office 2010 offers real bang for your buck, though! I love the fact that Microsoft offers different combinations of products in this set of Office suites. It’s not just one size fits all anymore. Below, you will see a chart that shows which products come with the different suites. For example, if you don’t use Access or Publisher, you will be better off going with the cheaper Home and Business Edition. This gives much needed flexibility for your budget.

Office 2010 Versions

In addition to the flexibility in the purchasing decision, Office 2010’s features really are great. The big feature that sold me on Office 2010 is the ability to collaborate  using Web Apps. If you have a Windows Live account (which can be set up for free) or a Windows  SharePoint  server, you can publish your Office documents straight to the web. You can literally work on your documents anywhere where you have web access. With Windows Live SkyDrive you have 25GB of FREE storage for your documents. But wait, there’s more! The graphics capabilities have improved dramatically. The addition of Sparklines in Excel is a great addition, too. I count these features as a good return on investment.

The next hurdle to upgrading that I had to overcome was the thought of having to retrain everyone in the office on how to use this new version. If you are in the same boat, allow me to put your fears to rest; this is one of the most intuitive versions of Office to date. There are also tons of resources available to help you familiarize yourself and your trainees with the new features in Office 2010. Microsoft Office’s website has an entire section dedicated to training, not to mention some great tutorials here on Techie Buzz!

Why is now the time to make the switch, though? Office 2003 is getting old. It will be 8 years old in November! Yep, I could hardly believe it myself. In fact, Microsoft ended mainstream support for Office 2003 back in April of 2009. See the chart below to learn more about Office 2003’s support schedule.

Microsoft Mainstream Support

When mainstream support ends, a lot of software developers stop making software compatible with the aging version. This is mostly because it raises their cost of development if they needed support from Microsoft for some reason.

I believe Microsoft did a lot of things right with Office 2010. Offering different versions to suit the budget, and needs, of different users was a great start. They added some really nice and useful features, key word here being useful. I hope this gives you a little more confidence if you were on the fence about making the switch to Office 2010. I am as skeptical a guy as you’ll ever meet, but I believe that this is a switch worth making. As always, I would love to hear your feedback. Feel free to comment at the bottom of this post.

Why I’m Afraid to Switch to Google Apps

Google AppsI love the idea of Google Apps. I mean, who won’t get into the idea of being able of being able to access their documents from anywhere? There are so many advantages to using Google Apps. You don’t have to invest in a costly data center to house your files. You can access your files from any web browser on any computer, as long as you’re connected to the internet. You don’t have to purchase new software upgrades every time they make an improvement. This list could go on for days. I suppose what I am trying to make clear up front is that I am not a hater. In fact, I am secretly rooting for Google; however, there are things that must change before I would move my organization in its direction.

First and foremost, Google has to get serious about customer service. It’s 2011 folks! Do we really want to regress in customer service? Lately, I have read numerous articles of nightmare encounters with Google support. People want to be able to access a human being when they have a problem. More than that, they want that human being to be equipped to assist with the problem.

Google seems to rely heavily on forums; however, for their premium options they do provide email support. When you peruse through these forums you see evidence of unanswered or inadequately answered questions. As an IT Manager, my end users will not put up with me not responding  to their requests for a few minutes, much less for hours. I feel that I am not in the minority on this one. If I moved my organization to Google Apps, and my end users experienced some of the lackluster customer service responses that I have seen on Google forums, my head would be on a platter.

Editing the Slide Master in PowerPoint 2010

Slide MasterHave you ever wanted to create a visual presentation that utilizes your company logo and color scheme? PowerPoint has great built in themes, but sometimes you just want something a little more customized. You could customize each slide with colors and logo placement, however, there is a much easier way to do this. PowerPoint has a feature called the “Slide Master” which allows you to format once, but affect every slide in the presentation.

The process of editing the “Slide Master” is pretty simple. In PowerPoint 2010, click the “View” tab above the ribbon toolbar. On the “View” tab, you will find a button that says “Slide Master”, as illustrated below.

Slide Master Button

When you are in the “Slide Master” view you, will see a blank slide with several miniature slide layouts running down the left side of the screen. Clicking on these miniatures will show you a preview of how that particular layout will appear with the edits you make here. See the picture below.

Slide Master

Let’s say you wanted to make the slide title a particular font and size. Click inside the title placeholder and highlight the text. You should see a font toolbar pop up like the one pictured below. Here, you can customize the font. You will also notice that you can edit the different levels in a bulleted list. Note, any change you make here affects every slide in the presentation. You are basically setting the defaults for this presentation.

Font Change

Let’s say that you wanted to edit the background color of the bulleted list. It is pretty easy to do. Right click in the shape area, and you will notice a little toolbar pop up, like the one pictured below. You will notice a little paint bucket icon on there with a small downward pointing arrow to the right. Click this arrow, and you will get a color selector that will allow you to choose a background color for the shape. Note, you can also do pictures, gradients, and textures.

Fill Shape Color

You might also decide that you would like to customize a different color for the main slide area. To do this, right click on the outer edge of the slide, away from any shape, and choose “Format Background” from the menu. In the picture below, you will see what the “Format Background” dialog box looks like. Like shapes, you can fill backgrounds with solid colors, gradients, pictures, or patterns.

Background Color

Once you have all of your fonts and colors the way you like it, you can move on to adding a custom logo. You can insert the logo from a picture file, or simply copy it from a website. if you like. Below, you can see what the logo file looks like when pasted into PowerPoint. Notice the “Paste Options” toolbar. There is an icon with an image attached to a clipboard. If you click this button, it will paste the picture that you have copied from a website.

Pasted Logo

Now, you have your logo in the presentation. The next step will be to find a good location for it in the presentation. In the example below, the image was positioned in the bottom right corner of the slide. This looked great on the bulleted list layout, but notice that the subtitle placeholder on the title page is covering the image up. There are a couple of things that you could do here. The easiest thing would be to resize the subtitle slide to make it small enough not to cover the logo. You may want to check the other slide layouts, as well. For example, the content layout slides completely cover the logo up in the instance pictured below. You may want to resize them, as well.

Logo Covered Up

Now, you have come to the final stretch. To get out of the “Slide Master” view, click the “View” tab and select “Normal” on the ribbon toolbar.

Normal Button

Now, each new slide you insert into the presentation will be formatted in the same way as your “Slide Master”. Below, you will see a picture showing a slide that is formatted with the edits that were done in the “Slide Master” view. Hopefully, the creative wheels are turning in your head now. How might you use this nifty feature? As always, I would love to hear your comments below.

Slide Preview