Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

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Word annoyance: Insert row/column icon appears when try to select a row/column

January 26, 2020

Update: You can now turn this off in recent versions of Word for Office 365 (possibly Word 2016, and 2019 too)! Thanks to Lene Fredborg, who commented on this post (below), the solution is File > Options > Advanced, Display section, clear the Show pop-up buttons for adding rows and tables.

I’ll leave the original post here for the workaround for those on earlier versions that don’t have this option.

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Since Word 2013 (Word for Windows, not sure about Mac), you haven’t been able to select a table row or column easily from outside the row/column, without inadvertently inserting what you’re trying to select! Instead of hovering the cursor immediately to the left of the row/above the column and then clicking to select, Microsoft added these (not so) helpful tools that insert a new row/table, and you have to fiddle with the mouse a bit to move the cursor a tad further away to get table row/column select mode. I suspect they added this icon for those using touch screens, but they are more of a curse than a help to desktop users with a keyboard and mouse. More times than not, when I want to select a row/column to delete it, I end up clicking one of these ‘helpful’ icons and add a new row/column instead, which means I now have to delete two rows/columns! This is what one of these not so helpful icons looks like when you hover your cursor to the left of a row:

Outline of table with the insert row icon highlighted

A quick search of the main websites for Word issues indicates that there’s no way to turn these things off.

Possible solution

However, I did come across a way to disable them that may be useful if you have a lot of table manipulation to do, and that’s to switch to draft view, where these tools won’t appear. Switching to draft view is clumsy in itself (Microsoft inexplicably took away the Draft icon from the icons on the right of the status bar several versions ago), but it may be the solution you need if you’re fiddling with the rows/columns on a large table or on several tables:

  • To switch to draft view, go to View > Draft.
  • To switch back to print layout view, click the relevant icon in the status bar, or go to View > Print Layout.

 

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Lessons learned from a corporate report

November 30, 2019

I recently did a few editing passes on a 640+ page environmental report that was to be submitted to a federal regulatory authority. I wasn’t able to fully edit the report, but I was able to tame the formatting issues in Word (including making sure all tables had a similar look), check for inconsistencies in common terms and phrases, fix the cross-references to other sections/figures/tables/appendices, check the abbreviations/acronyms list reflected the abbreviations used in the document, ensure nonbreaking spaces were used between values and units of measure, etc. There was no corporate template or style guide to use (the company is very young), though someone had put a very basic template together—cover page, headers/footers and the like—but hadn’t set up styles, therefore the formatting of bullets, numbers, body text etc. was all over the place. Multiple authors had worked on this report, and each had done something a little different with their formatting, and varied in the terms they used and whether they capitalised or hyphenated them or not.

After I returned the document to my contact, she asked if there were some ‘lessons learned’ that she could share with her boss and others involved in the document. Here’s a summary of the email I wrote to her:

  1. Template: Get a corporate report template in place, with as many necessary styles in it and sample tables set up ready to be copy/pasted and modified. Learn how to use it and WHY you should use it.
  2. Style guide/sheet: In the absence of a full style guide, set up a corporate style sheet that lists the preferred ways of spelling/using terms (e.g. the correct spellings/hyphenations for place names, words that can trip you up – e.g. wellhead/well-head/well head, tophole/top-hole/top hole). Make your authors use it, and that you forward it to whoever edits your docs so that they can follow the decisions already made.
  3. Styles:
    • Discourage writers from using the buttons on the Word toolbar for bullets and numbers (there be dragons!) – use the relevant List Bullet and List Number styles
    • Learn how to apply styles to new text, and how to paste text from another doc and format it correctly (NEVER copy across section breaks, for example – more dragons lie there!)
    • Learn how to apply table formatting/styles – for example, in the [company] doc there’s a special button on the Table Tools > Design tab for applying the green table, but I wonder how many know how to use it and instead spend ages setting up the borders, shading etc. manually.
  4. Clickable cross-references (x-refs):
    • In the absence of a program like EndNote, learn how to do x-ref numbered citations so you don’t end up with [CorporateAuthor] 2019a, 2019b, 2019c etc. This sort of citation is a nightmare to update
    • Learn how to assign x-refs (clickable links are recommended for anything that’s going to be PDF’d and read on screen).
  5. References: Make sure authors are CONSISTENT in doing references, specifically when to apply italics, what punctuation to use, how to indicate when a URL was valid etc. (a style guide would help here). I didn’t check any for accuracy, but verifying references online is a BIG job to do after the fact—far easier for the author to grab ALL the citation details when they are writing the doc.
  6. Terms: Make sure authors are pedantic about adding initialisms/acronyms/abbrevs, units of measure etc. to the relevant terms lists—it’s easier to check if something is there or not than to create the list from scratch after writing the doc. I use software macros that can pull out some of this, but not all.
  7. Unlearn/break bad habits that work for university but not for business/corporate writing. Think like a business person with limited time and NOT like a uni researcher! The habit of writing to a word or page count has been ingrained since about Year 5 and reinforced all the way through to doctorates and, later, journal and other publications. Business reports need to be succinct, use plain language, and get to the point in as few words as possible, without losing meaning. Some examples of bad habits:
  8. Learn new habits: e.g. keyboard shortcuts for things like nonbreaking spaces (Ctrl+Shift+<spacebar>), turn on/off track changes (Ctrl+Shift+e), add a comment (Ctrl+Shift+m), change case (Shift+F3).

I also mentioned and linked to presentations I’ve given to government departments, editors groups, and conferences on plain language writing and on working more efficiently with Microsoft Word (http://cybertext.com.au/presentations.html).

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Word: Find text with angled brackets and replace the text with a character style

November 2, 2019

Here’s one I heard of today, and how I solved it. The person has a Word document with various words and phrases surrounded by double angled brackets, as in <<this is my phrase>>. They want to apply a character style to any text surrounded by angle brackets, and delete those brackets.

I always like a challenge like this, so here’s my solution:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find what field, type: (\<\<)(*)(\>\>)
  5. In the Replace with field, type: \2
  6. Click Format, then select Style.
  7. Choose the character style you want to apply (character styles are indicated with a lowercase ‘a’ to their left), then click OK.
  8. The character style’s name should be listed directly underneath the Find what box—make sure that this is the case.
  9. Click Find Next, then click Replace if you are satisfied that the correct phrasal structure has been selected.
  10. Assuming that replace worked as you wanted it to, and you are confident the result looks as you expect, click Replace All. (If in doubt, keep clicking Find Next, then Replace.)

How this works:

  • The Find is broken up into three elements, each surrounded by parentheses:
    • The first element contains the opening two angled brackets.
    • The second contains an asterisk wildcard character for any character and any number of characters.
    • The third contains the closing two angled brackets.
  • In the first and third elements of the Find, the angled brackets are each preceded by a \ because an angle bracket is a special character in wildcard searches and therefore must be ‘escaped’ so that Word treats it as a normal character. The ‘escape’ character is the \
  • In the Replace, \2 tells Word to replace the second element (the text and all characters between the angled brackets) with itself (i.e. make no changes), and to apply the character style you chose to that replaced text.
  • By omitting \1 and \3 in the Replace (representing the first and third elements of the Find), Word will effectively delete the opening and closing angled brackets.
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Word: Find and highlight words of two or more capitals

October 31, 2019

I previously wrote about using wildcards in Word to find abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms that used two or more capital letters, but that post didn’t address how to highlight these so that you can identify them easily when compiling a list of abbreviations. This one does.

  1. Make sure you have a highlight colour selected (Home tab, Font group) that isn’t used for anything else.
  2. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  3. Click More to show further options.
  4. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  5. In the Find what field, type: (<[A-Z]{2,}>)
  6. In the Replace with field, type:  \1
  7. With your cursor still in the Replace with field, click Format (bottom of the window) then Highlight. The word ‘Highlight’ should display immediately below the Replace with field.
  8. Click Find next to find the first string of two or more capitals.
  9. If this is an acronym, abbreviation, or initialism, click Replace. The term remains the same but should now be highlighted in the colour you chose in Step 1.
  10. Repeats Steps 8 and 9 to jump to and/or highlight the next string of two or more caps.
  11. Optional but not recommended: If you are confident that the only strings of capital letters in your document are acronyms etc., then click Replace All. Note: Every string of capitals will be highlighted, even those that are repeats of ones you highlighted earlier and those that aren’t acronyms etc. (e.g. document numbers, fully capped words).

How this works:

  • The opening and closing parentheses contain the Find command and allow you to reference it in the Replace.
  • The opening and closing arrow brackets (< and >) specify that you want a single whole word, not parts of a word. Without these, you would find each set of caps (e.g. in the string ABCDEF, you would find ABCDEF, then BCDEF, then CDEF, then DEF, then EF, before moving on to the next set of caps).
  • [A-Z] specifies that you want a range (the [ ] part) of caps that fall somewhere in the alphabet (A-Z). If you only wanted capped words that started with, say, H through to M, then you’d change the range to [H-M] and all other capped words starting with other letters would be ignored.
  • {2,} means you want to find capped words with at least two letters in the specified range (i.e. A-Z). If you only wanted to find two- and three-letter capped words, then you’d change this to {2,3}, and all capped word of four or more letters would be ignored. By not specifying a number after the comma, the ‘find’ will find capped words of any length containing at least two letters.
  • The \1 in the Replace and ‘Highlight’ below that field tells Word to replace what was found with itself, and to highlight it with the selected highlight colour.

Note: This technique does NOT find initialisms separated by periods or any other punctuation; it will find UNICEF but not U.N.I.C.E.F.

 

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Generate BAS data using a MYOB (v19) report

October 22, 2019

This post is for me, in case anything gets messed up in the future, like it did today. I use MYOB AccountRight Plus v19, so if you use a different version, this may not work for you.

What happened

I went to generate my quarterly BAS using the BASLink method I’ve used since I started using MYOB. But instead of getting all the fields filled with figures, I got nothing. Blank fields everywhere. Something wasn’t right. After panicking a bit (being late with a tax office payment is not my idea of a good time!), I remembered that I got a new computer back in August. Aha! I bet something didn’t link as it should. Now all this is just a few short sentences, but it was about an hour of time, and about 10 years off my life!

What I did

I emailed my accountant to see if she could help, and while I was waiting for a response, I hunted out old backup files looking for the *.bas files for the BASLink setup. I found them but nothing I did worked—I still got blank fields in my BAS. Then I found this web page, which gave me the clue I’d been looking for: https://help.myob.com/wiki/display/ar/BASlink+FAQs

I’d been looking for a way to link the setup files via MYOB itself, but you have to do it via BASLink, which means running BASLink, ignoring all the blank fields and going to File > Setup & Links WITHIN the BASLink program. Once I’d correctly linked the old files, everything worked, and I breathed a very large sigh of relief.

An alternative

Meantime, my accountant got back to me just as I’d solved the problem telling me that there’s another way to generate the BAS data via standard MYOB reports, so here are those steps if I ever need them in the future:

  1. Go to Reports > GST/Sales Tax.
  2. Select the GST [Summary – Cash] report.
  3. Click Customise and set the dates for the quarter.
  4. While in the Customise window, also select the tax codes to report (in my case, just GST).
  5. Click Display. This gives you the totals that go into the various fields on the BAS:
    • Sale value = G1
    • Purchase value = G11
    • Tax collected = 1A
    • Tax paid = 1B
  6. What it doesn’t give is the PAYG tax information, so for that go to Reports > Payroll.
  7. Select the Activity Summary report under Employees.
  8. Click Customise and set the dates for the quarter, if not already set.
  9. Leave Employees set to All.
  10. Click Display. This gives you the totals that go into the various fields on the BAS:
    • Wages = W1
    • Taxes = W2, W5, and 4.

 

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F12 to save as

September 24, 2019

I hate the way Microsoft Office has been removing (or more likely, hiding) functions that power users have used for many years. It smacks of ‘dumbing down’, to me.

Office 365 programs allow you to ‘save as’ but to get the full set of ‘save as’ options (such as the settings under the Tools drop-down arrow) you have to click the More options link under the file path where they want you to save the document.

There’s a quicker way if you have a keyboard with all the function keys—press F12 to open the Save As dialog box. Done.

(By the way, F12 to ‘save as’ works with many other programs too.)

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Outlook 365: Temperature on the calendar

August 20, 2019

I noticed this morning that today’s temperature is displayed at the top of the calendar view in Outlook 365. The problem was that the temperature was for somewhere hot (and in Fahrenheit), and I’m in the middle of winter (and use Celsius)! So Outlook obviously wasn’t taking any of the Windows region settings into account.

A quick search on Google and I found out how to change the temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius (File > Options > Calendar, scroll to the bottom for the weather settings) (found here: https://www.howtogeek.com/367936/how-to-automatically-show-the-weather-in-the-outlook-calendar/).

However, the instructions for changing the location by clicking the little arrow next to the default Washington DC location didn’t work for me—I couldn’t see even see ‘Washington DC’ let alone the arrow. I have Outlook open in my portrait-oriented monitor, so I moved it to my landscape monitor and resized the window. Ah! now I could see both Washington DC and the arrow and could change my location. When I moved it back into the portrait monitor and resized the window, I lost the location information and the drop-down arrow, but the temperature values (and in Celsius) for my location was now displayed correctly.

I call that a win!