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)

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.

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.

So true

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Photo with transparent cat

In the final step, set a gradient fill in your chosen colour scheme 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!


This post is originally from 2018 If you want help with the newest and classic features in PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca

Eat Your Waffles

Ok, don’t eat the waffle chart

In a previous post, I discussed making a Button Bar Chart. That whole process really inspired me to think about simplified charts for presentations.

Which got me thinking about Waffle Charts.

Note how the smallest group stands out

Waffle charts are excellent for looking at data sets where the smallest numbers are the important ones. You can use colour (as I have above) to make those numbers stand out.

But oddly, I don’t see people using a lot of waffle charts in their presentations. And there is no template for a waffle chart in Excel.

You can find some interesting ideas about building Excel waffle charts for dashboard purposes and I recommend this article to you: Interactive Waffle Charts in Excel

However, I was looking for something different. Something that wouldn’t have me counting and colouring cells manually (shudder).

Building the Waffle

I chose to build the waffle chart using a series of conditional formatting rules. The first step was creating the formula to count the cells of the waffle.

Counting the cells in a 100 grid waffle

In case the picture is a bit small, the formula used here is:
=(MOD(ROW()+8,10)*10)+(COLUMN()-2)+1

This uses the row and column position of the cell to count from 1 to 100 in a 10 by 10 grid.

I then built on that base formula with this monster formula:

=IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=’5 Category Waffle’!$A$2,’5 Category Waffle’!$A$2, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2+’5 Category Waffle’!$A$3),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$3, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2:$A$4),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$4, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2:$A$5),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$5, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2:$A$6),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$6,0)))))

The sheet BTW is called 5 Category Waffle.

The 5 category waffle formula result

The formula checks the position number of the cell generated by the base formula and sees if it is less than or equal to the number of values in each category in column A. It then returns the value of the category in each cell.

Because I wanted to put symbols in the cell like these examples.

Talking Heads waffle chart
Bombs waffle chart

I took that monster formula and made it into a named formula.

 

 

This made building the conditional formatting rules much easier to do(simply because the conditional formatting dialog is so cramped).

Lastly, I built a series of conditional formatting rules to change the background colour of the cell based on the value returned by the formula. For the waffles using symbols, the rule formats the colour of the font, instead of the background.

A couple of additional pointers

  • To create a perfect grid, switch the view in Excel to Page Layout View. Page Layout View uses the same measurement scale for both row height and column width. Set your measurements here.
  • For the symbol waffles, use the File> Options>Advanced> Display Options for this worksheet and turn off the display of gridlines. That way when you copy the waffle, the gridlines will be invisible.

 


This post is originally from 2018. If you want help with the newest and classic features in Excel & PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca

Button Bar Chart

Simple or Complicated?

Simple or complicated? It’s been my observation that anyone can make a subject sound complicated – but it takes real understanding of a topic to simplify it in a way that is meaningful.

This is why, when I saw this sample slide below from designer Julie Terberg, I sat up and paid attention. Here is a wonderful example of a chart that is simple in a beautiful and useful way. Immediately, you can see that an audience would find this chart easy to read and understand

Julie Terberg’s Button Bar Chart from her #SlideADayProject project

I paid even more attention when I saw the way that Neil Malek put together an Excel version of the chart. Neil introduces a clever technique using shapes in data labels.

Unfortunately, Neil’s clever technique was only available in Office 2016. I wanted to build the chart in Office 2010, for the benefit of my clients still using 2010.

Button Bar Chart Slide, in PowerPoint 2010

I think that in the end, I succeeded. If you are interested in building this chart, and like me you are restricted to Office 2010, then I have a few pointers for you.

Button Bar Chart Pointers

  • Data Labels in 2010 can not use shapes. Instead, I tweaked the Shadow setting for the label, by setting the colour to match the fill on the label and the size to 150%. I left all other settings to zero. Shaping the label this way means that you can never achieve the circle that Julie used in her example. Instead, the best you can do is a lozenge shape. You can modify this when you change the font size in the label.
  • But once you’ve used the Shadow to enlarge your button, you can’t use it to shadow the data label. I solved this problem with an old fashioned solution. I made two charts (a 2016 and a 2017 chart). The two charts are grouped together. Each chart has a data label for the year and a data label for the shadow. In the example below those labels are using the 1 values. The column labelled 2016 value is the length of the bar.
Button Bar Chart Data layout
  • The Shadow column must proceed the 2016 column or your shadow will wind up on top of the 2016 label. Also format your labels in that order as well, or the shadow will temporarily be on top of the 2016 label.
  • Format your shadow and label to the same font size.
  • The Chart Element selector on the Format Tab of the Chart Tools ribbon is your friend. Its’ really the only reasonable way to select the shadow data labels once they are under the visible label.
  • Link the label text to the cell in in Excel by using the formula bar and typing in the linking formula to the cell. This allows you to update the chart, by changing the text in the cell. A bit finicky to set up; but it will save a ton of time in the long run.
  • The best way to take this chart into PowerPoint is by copying/pasting the chart – as an image. Which means that you’ll need to presize the chart in Excel, so that text is not distorted by resizing once it is pasted into PowerPoint. Again, its a bit finicky – but worth it.
  • In PowerPoint, I created a layout, with text placeholders on the left and bottom of the slide.

    Layout has text placeholders on left and bottom of slide

All in all, a pretty reasonable version of Julie’s stellar design.

If you want to follow Julie Terberg and Neil Malek on Twitter, you’ll find them here.


This post is originally from 2018. If you want help with the newest and classic features in PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 


This post is originally from 2018, looking at PowerPoint 2016. Our options for pictures and transparency have improved since then.
If you want help with the newest and classic features in PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca

Highlighting the Current Year

Here is a version of a spreadsheet that I’ve been using for a couple of years to track and plan capital purchases. A number of people review this spreadsheet and I want to make it as easy as possible for them to read the spreadsheet. You’ll notice that the Budget year is highlighted in green and items being purchased in that year are highlighted as well. This is accomplished with our friend conditional formatting and the following spreadsheet functions:

  • ADDRESS
  • ROW
  • COLUMN
  • MATCH
  • INDIRECT
  • ISBLANK
Spreadsheet with automatic highlighting
Capital Budget Spreadsheet – note the row and column (year) highlights

This spreadsheet makes use of a helper column of formulas. Rows where the value equals TRUE are highlighted.

The Helper column holds formulas
The Helper column holds formulas

Cells give a value of TRUE when there is a value for that row in the Budget Year selected in cell A1. You can see that 2017 has been selected as the Budget Year and that rows 9 and 20 have a value for that year and are highlighted as a result.

This is the formula that returns the value

=ISBLANK(INDIRECT(ADDRESS(ROW(),MATCH($A$1,$F$2:$AU$2,0)+5,3,TRUE)))=FALSE

Working from the interior of the formula outward.

MATCH($A$1,$F$2:$AU$2,0)

This looks for a match between the value in A1 and the Budget year headings which start in cell F2 and go to AU2 (the year 2033, which is incredibly optimistic – but that is another story). MATCH returns the number of the first item in that array of cells that matches the value in A1. This is why even though there are two columns for every year (a Budget column and an Actual column) MATCH will only return the Budget column, as it is the first value to match.

So the result of MATCH($A$1,$F$2:$AU$2,0) is 9

However, if I actually want to capture the column I need to to add 5 to compensate for the fact I have 5 columns (A-E) before column F and the year headings begin. This is why I’m adding 5 in the formula.

MATCH($A$1,$F$2:$AU$2,0)+5 =14

In the next step I use ADDRESS and ROW to capture the address of the cell I’m testing.

ADDRESS(ROW(),14,3,TRUE))

ROW() captures the value of the row of the cell where the formula is written. If the formula is in A3, then row() returns 3.

ADDRESS turns the cell address of the referenced cell (not its’ contents). In our example; ADDRESS(3,14,3,TRUE)=”$N3″

The ISBLANK function in the next step has a bit of a hiccup with that “$N3” string, so we use INDIRECT to convert that string to something ISBLANK can understand.

Finally, ISBLANK is used to test if there is a value in the referenced cell or not. If there is nothing in the cell ISBLANK = TRUE.

If ISBLANK = TRUE, then the last portion of the formula looks like this: TRUE does not equal FALSE, so the result of the formula in cell A3 is FALSE.

I could have put that formula into the conditional formatting dialogue – but for clarity and ease of working I choose to make the helper column instead.

In the conditional formatting dialogue I’ve used the following formula =$A3=TRUE

I’m using a simpler version of the formula in the conditional formatting dialogue to highlight the year.

=MATCH($A1,$F$2:$AU$2,0)+5=COLUMN()

In this case I find the column number of the year and test to see if it matches the column number of the current cell. If it does then the cell receives a green highlight fill.

Cell A1 uses Data Validation to offer the user a nice drop-down list of years.


This post is from 2017. The technique is still valid and very useful! If you want help with the newest and classic features in Excel drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca

Making Powerful Image Quotes

For those of you who haven’t had one of my seminars on using PowerPoint to create powerful image quotes for your social media feed; now’s the time to get out into the garden with your camera phone and take a few photos.

Chrysanthemum

You need to create a stockpile of good background photos that you can use for fresh quotes. And summertime in your garden is a great time and place to do this.

Closeups of plants and flowers make a great background for a variety of quotes – like this one I found on the Olds Municipal Library Facebook feed.

A wonderful quote from Jo Walton.

You can see how they use a transparent overlay over part of the picture to help the text stand out.

You may not have an immediate need for those pictures, but you can set them aside for later use, like this image of purple pink chrysanthemums (my chrysanthemums are looking particularly lovely this year, due to the fact I’ve just bought them).

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ― Dr. Seuss The colour of these flowers, will do nicely for a different Valentines’ Day image quote.

You don’t need a fancy camera to get these pictures, the camera on your phone will do just fine. But do make sure you take your pictures in both horizontal and vertical orientations to make sure you have more layout options later on.

When you don’t know how you’ll be using those photos, options are very good.

Don’t just focus on flowers (hehe, see what I did there), leaves and foliage are useful too.

Hey! I think I see a face in there!

Don’t forget that the same picture can be used multiple ways, once you start throwing colour filters and special effects at it.

Left is original photo – the right has the saturation cranked up.

Oh, and that image has been flipped, since I like the leaves appearing on the left side of the photo better.

A final tip, when saving your image quotes, use the PNG format, it creates fewer artifacts (small jiggly lines that make text harder to read) than JPEG.


This post is originally from 2018.  If you want help with the newest and classic features in PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca

PowerPoint – Making a Mask

Creating a mask effect in PowerPoint is easy, once you’ve located the Shape Combine command. You can add this command to the Ribbon or the Quick Access Toolbar.

Below, you see it being added to my toolbar.

Adding the Shape Combine Command to the Toolbar, alternately look for the Combine Shapes command as more options are available.The command will not be active until there are two shapes selected. Below, I’ve created a blue rectangle and a red oval. The oval shape will be cut out from the rectangle.

Blue rectangle with red oval positioned for the cut out. You may prefer to add the Combine Shapes command instead. More options are available as you can see below.

The result of the Shape Combine command, a rectangle with an oval “hole: in the center.

The result of the Combine Shapes CommandOnce the mask is created, you can dress it up. Below, I’ve changed the fill to an image of a leafy forest floor.

The forest floor has a hole in it. Now I can layer whatever image I wish (in this case a frog) under the mask. You can animate the layer underneath the mask. Can you image a wheel of creatures rotating into the viewpoint in the center of the mask? That would be great for a talk about ecology!

 


This post is originally from 2016. If you want help with the newest and classic features in PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca
Frog image via Wikipedia

Making Lace Photos

Lace

In the last post, I showed how to turn a photo into a stencil. This time, we’ll be adding a lace effect to this photo.

A Wedding Kiss photo
Wedding Kiss – Courtesy Pixabay and Peter Klaus

Using this photo:

Close up of a Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum from Windows 10 default photo set

After inserting the photo and changing the background colour, go to Picture Tools>Format>Picture Corrections. Set Sharpness to 100%. The picture may look worse at this point, but don’t worry.

The photo has had Sharpness applied to the maximum

Now, set Contrast to 100%. Yep, it definitely looks worse.

Photo with 100% Contrast applied

Select Picture Color and adjust Saturation to 0%

Photo with Saturation reduced to zero

Things are looking up again. Select Picture Tools>Format>Color>Set Transparent Color. Click on a black portion of the picture.

The photo with black portions removed

Now is the time for a little cropping and copying that will make the lace effect stand out.

Cropping and mirroring the photo, makes it look more “lace like”

And finally, layer the lace over the Wedding Kiss photo for the result.

The combined photo

This post is originally from 2018. If you want help with the newest and classic features in PowerPoint drop me a line at catharine@mytechgenie.ca