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

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

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).

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

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.

 


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

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

Excel: Frozen

Businessman with Data

Freezing panes is a basic tool to make a large spreadsheet easier to work with. In my social media spreadsheet I like to freeze the header row into position. Then no matter how far I scroll down the sheet, the columns are labelled.

To turn on frozen panes, select the cell below the row & column you wish to freeze into position. Since I don’t want to freeze any columns, I select cell A2.

Freezing Panes using the Active Cell position" width
Freezing Panes using the Active Cell position” width

Select the View Ribbon, Click on the Freeze Panes button, and choose Freeze Panes (or Freeze Top Row in this scenario).

Freezing Panes Results
Freezing Panes Results

Now you can scroll for hundreds of rows, and each column is nicely labelled – no guessing!


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

Excel: Select Visible (1)

I built my Social Media spreadsheet in an Excel spreadsheet with all the tools I want built in (formulas, conditional formatting and data validation). Ultimately, I will transfer my information into a stripped down spreadsheet in csv (comma separated) format. This is the format that Google Calendars will accept.

When I transfer my posts to this spreadsheet, I don’t want to include any blank rows AND I only want to copy and paste once. How do I perform this little piece of magic? I use the Excel command for selecting visible cells only.

Go To Special Dialog, select Visible cells only
Go To Special Dialog, select Visible cells only

Tucked away in the Go To Special dialog is the option for selecting only the visible cells in a region. This takes what could be multiple copy/paste operations and condenses them into one step.

First filter your data so that blanks do not appear, then press the F5 function key to bring up the Go To dialog box.

Press the Special button to open the Go To Special dialog box, choose Visible cells only and press OK. Now when you copy the selected cells, only the cells you can see are copied.

In my next post I’ll show the method to put this useful button on your Quick Access Toolbar.

 


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

Excel: Filtering in action

Filtering Data
The Filter Button on the Toolbar
Finding the Filtering button

Since Excel 2007, the Filter tool has been on the Home ribbon, under the Sort and Filter drop-down. The Filter tool can be applied to any spreadsheet where every row is a new record. Excels’ guesses about what and how to filter will be more accurate if the data has a header row. Your (human) life will be easier if you give that row a little formatting to make it stand out from the data.

If your data has gaps, select all the data (including the header row) and apply the filter. Once the filter has been applied, little triangles will appear beside each header label.

Filtering Drop-Down panel
Filtering Drop-Down panel

Now you can use each header to filter the data. Click on the filter drop-down and the panel will open as you can see in the picture above. Clear the check boxes beside the entries you don’t want to see. Then click the OK button. You can spot filtered data, because the row headers will be bright blue (and row numbers will be missing as data is filtered out). The columns where filtering is applied will have a filter icon (circled in red in the picture).

Filtering Applied
Filtering Applied

Once the filters are in place, I can filter out blanks or filter blanks in to find openings in our social media schedule. I can quickly look for Posts and Tweets with images, to ensure the image information is present. I can filter down to a single subject. All of these filters make managing my posting schedule MUCH easier.


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

Excel: Looking Good in Facebook

Chalkboard with hands giving thumbs up gesture and the phrase We Like It! in background
Controlling the layout of a wordy Facebook post
Controlling the layout of a wordy Facebook post

You can see the above is a pretty long Facebook post. To force line breaks when posting to Facebook use the html tag: <BR>

To force line returns inside an Excel cell use the Alt+Enter shortcut. This way your Excel layout looks like your Facebook post.


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

Making a Zoom Background in PowerPoint

You can make a professional looking Zoom background quickly in PowerPoint. Just be sure to use a 16 x 9 dimension slide.

Oh, and flip your logo or any text on the slide. Yes, it will be mirrored. But when uploaded to Zoom as a virtual background, it will read properly for your audience.

Where to go to reverse images
Don’t forget to reverse images

After creating your slide, save it as a jpeg and then upload it to Zoom.


Looking for help with getting the most from your presentations?
Contact me at catharine@mytechgenie.ca