Microsoft Word How-to: Working With Images

word logoFirst and foremost, you have to remember that Word is a word processor, which means that it was designed to create documents primarily made up of text. It was not designed as a page layout program, where you are trying to create image-intensive documents like brochures or flyers. Microsoft would like you to use Publisher for that, unfortunately that never really caught on and most people don't even know they have it.

Anybody having anything to do with the publishing business wouldn't be caught dead using Publisher (myself included), preferring to stick with Quark, PageMaker or InDesign. There are two problems with page layout programs - the good ones are expensive, and they all have a pretty steep learning curve (even the cheap or free ones are hard to use). So most times we attempt to do this with Word, because that is what we know and it is what we have.

Also, many times all we really want to do is to place an image on the document and get it to stick where we want it, and get the text to wrap around it in a certain way. The good news is that this is now a fairly simple exercise, using the Advanced Layout options available for images in Word.


Use paste special to copy values in Excel

excel logoSo here's the typical scenario. You've got some values in Excel that are the results of using a formula or formulas. You want to copy the resulting values to another area on the sheet, to another worksheet or to another workbook. The problem is, when you copy and then paste the information in the new location you are copying the formulas, not the values, so you don't get the information in the place that you wanted it. You then resort to, of all things, retyping. But wait, you don't really have to do that.


Refer to a cell on a different sheet in Excel

excel logoA basic ability of Excel is to be able to create a reference to the value or formula that is in a cell located on a different worksheet, or in a completely different spreadsheet file. If you are referring to a different spreadsheet (called a workbook by Excel) your reference is called a link. It's a lot easier than you would think. You can create either relative or absolute references (click here for more information) to other sheets. We'll cover referring to another sheet in the same workbook here.


Microsoft Access How-to: Splitting a Name Field into First and Last Name

access logoOn reviewing my log files I see that there are quite a few people coming in from various search engines looking for a way to split a name field into a first name and last name using Access. I know myself that this is a common issue, as many times this wasn't given much forethought when the table was originally created. Unfortunately, there is no really simple way to do this, at least that I've ever found. Fortunately, it can be done, albeit with usually less than perfect results. If you haven't ventured here before, consider this a welcome to the world of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications).


Absolute and Relative Cell References in Excel

excel logoA reference is a way to point to a cell or range of cells in Excel. In effect what you are doing is telling Excel where to look for values to use in your formulas or to place in other cells. There are several different ways to do this, the most common being the absolute and relative references. A relative reference means that Excel will change the cell your formula is pointing to if you copy or expand the cell containing the formula. An absolute reference means that the referenced cell will not change when you change the position of the cell with the formula. You can refer to cells on the same sheet you are working on, to another sheet in the current workbook, or to a sheet in a different workbook. When you refer to a cell in another workbook you are creating a link to that workbook. But let's back up a little and give a couple of simple examples of relative and absolute references.


How to sort data in Excel

excel logoSo last weekend E takes the kids to Borders for a little reward for being good (books are big in our house), and the little guy gets a book called Heckedy Peg, written by Audrey Wood, with very cool illustrations by Don Wood. The story is about a poor mother with seven children, named Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She tells the children that because they have been good she will go to town and get them whatever they want. Each child has a special request, with Monday asking for bread, Tuesday asking for a pocket knife, Wednesday asking for a china pitcher, and so on. While the mother is away a witch named Heckedy Peg comes by and tricks the children into letting her in. She then turns the children into various types of food, and takes them to her hut in the woods for her own little twisted feast. On returning and finding her children missing the mother is understandably distraught, but a blackbird takes pity on the mother and leads her to the witch's house. Once there she has to guess which child was turned into which food, and get it right the first time or else! Well, I don't want to give up the ending so I'll stop there. But I'm sure at this point you're asking 'so what on earth does this have to do with sorting data in Excel?'. Well, I'll tell you...


Having a backup strategy

Let me first say that there are many different ways to have an effective PC backup strategy. The important thing is to just have one. There are two reasons why you really need to have your computer backed up. One is to retrieve a file that you've lost, deleted, corrupted or changed (when you didn't want to). The other is to have a backup in case something happens to your hard drive or computer. The thing about any backup strategy is that you need to think about them carefully before you need them, and you really need to stick with them. In addition, you need to test them once in awhile, to make sure that you're actually saving the information you need, and that you can get it back if (when) you need it. I've tried and used many different strategies over the years, back to the days when you could back up on a floppy drive (we'll never see those days again!). It's really a moving target, as technology grinds inextricably forward so must your strategy. One thing I can guarantee is that when you do need your backup it will be completely unexpected and will come at the worst possible time. The sudden realization that your computer has gone 'belly up' and that all of your information is gone is truly gut-wrenching for someone that uses it regularly.


Microsoft Access How-to: Primary Keys, What and Why?

access logoEvery table you create in any database should have a field by which every record in that table can be uniquely identified against any other record in that same table. Say what!!??? OK, I just made that up, but when you read things about primary keys or indexes in databases that is the kind of tech-talk that makes people walk away without even trying. It's really not that complicated, trust me.


Microsoft Access How-to: Create a Table

access logoOK, so you've opened up Access a couple of times, clicked on a couple of things, and closed it right down again. It's really hard to know where to start, and reading the help files and manuals don't really seem to help much. Well, let's fix that. We'll start by creating a really simple table, which is where the 'rubber meets the road' when it comes to databases.


When to use Access versus Excel

access logoA typical question I run into is 'Why should I use Access when I can do everything I want in Excel?'. The answer is never black and white, but each of these programs have been created to address specific types of problems. I find many cases where people have used Excel for something where they really should have used Access. This usually happens because people are familiar with Excel, but not quite so comfortable with using Access. This can get you into trouble, and you really should ask yourself some questions before you get started. Here are some of the items that go through my mind when I'm trying to help someone decide which of these application should be used:



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