How to conceal PowerPoint objects without deleting them

Sometimes it can be difficult to select an object in PowerPoint, either because it’s hidden by another object or it’s too close to another one. There are cases too where you would like to see what the slide could look like without an object or a set of objects, but do want to delete them entirely. For all those tasks, the Selection Pane is your most unknown best friend.

Display the Selection Pane

The Selection Pane contains the list of all objects of a given slide. To have it appear:

  1. click the Home tab if it’s not displayed
  2. on the Editing menu on the far right, click Select
  3. choose Selection Pane

The Selection Pane now appears on the right hand side of your window.

As you can see in the screen shot above, this pane contains the list of all objects in the slide. When there are groups, like for instance here Group 4, it provides the list of objects contained in that group. However, as you can see, you will also have groups of groups. One of the key benefits of the Selection Pane is to discover all elements of groups and be able to select them independently if need be.

Select objects with the Selection pane

Let’s imagine that you want to change the color of the number 1 in the slide below.

It will be very difficult to select just the number 1 in the orange circle because it’s part of a group. However, once you clicked on the orange circle and discovered it’s actually Group 38 in the Selection Pane, then you can click only TextBox 40 to have only the textbox containing the number 1. Now, just pressing the Enter key will select the text itself to change its font, color or size.

Note that you can rename the object if you want to increase the usability of the Selection Pane.

Conceal objects

Notice on the right of the object name a little sign that looks like an eye (I know, it’s half an eye). In the slide above, if you click on the eye sign right of Group 38, the whole group (orange circle and text) will disappear.

However, the object is still there, it is just not displayed anymore. By clicking now on the horizontal line will make it reappear again. This is how you can conceal objects in front of others or can just create a slide without some of the objects to check what it looks like without deleting them physically. For instance, I can conceal all numbers in the slide above, just by clicking the eye icon for each group.

Once the choice made, it’s saved with the PowerPoint file and it will be used in Slide Show mode as well as in the printout. It’s therefore a great way to avoid the mess in printout created by superposed objects. You just conceal them for printing purpose and have them reappear for slide show. Note finally the Show All (and Hide All) button at the top of the pane that allows you to have all concealed objects to reappear in one click!

The Selection Pane is probably the most useful best kept secret of PowerPoint!

How to use #OneNote without OneNote (hint: online)!

You might think I have probably fallen on my head or am getting a little bit weird. Well actually, no! I feel great, however, what I want to share today is the beauty of the cloud and the power to access your notes anywhere, any time, on any device!

If you are familiar with this blog, you may have read the post on how to sync all your devices through the cloud and access your notes on any of your devices. But what if you are at a friend’s, in an airport lounge or at a customer without any of your devices and you have to access your notes! As Douglas Adams have written it: DON’T PANIC!

The solution is in the cloud. Why? Because to sync your OneNote notes, OneDrive or OneDrive for Business (depending whether you are using a personal account or use your Office 365 one) will store online a version of your note books.

Getting online to

The first step to getting your notes on any machine is to go to There, on the top right, click the Sign in link.

Your Microsoft account is generally the one you used to access your mail box. It could really be any email account, not only a Microsoft one like or Gmail or Yahoo works as well. As the above dialog box indicates, if you are not sure if you have an account, click on the link.

Once signed it, you will see in the window the list of your Notebooks.

Opening your Notebook online

You are now almost there. Click now on the Notebook you want to open and voilà! All your sections, folders and notes appear right in your browser.

If it’s one of the Notebooks you created or have write access, you will be able to edit right in your browser. If somebody as shared a Notebook and as provided only Read access, you will not be able to edit it. Note the Edit in Onenote link that will allow you to open the OneNote client and work on this Notebook right there. However, if the Notebook is not already on the machine, it will be downloaded. I don’t think it’s a good idea on a shared PC or on somebody else’s PC. So either it’s your machine and you can decide to edit in OneNote, or keep it online.

OneNote online is compatible with all modern browsers, so pick your favorite one and start taking some online notes.

How to create a table of contents in 2 easy steps

Every structured document can have a simple table of contents. Microsoft Word makes the creation and the maintenance of a table of contents a really simple tasks. Before diving into the creation of such a table, let’s define it simply. Here’s a sample table of contents:

You can find some patterns here: each part is numbered, each chapter is numbered too however is a sub hierarchy from the parts, and each part and chapter has a page number. The beauty of table of contents in Word is that it relies entirely on styles and particularly on Heading styles. Let’s see how to create a table of contents like the one above.

Step1: Applying styles

If you are not familiar with styles, do not worry! Although styles can be complex, the basics are simple. What you have to know for now is to locate the Style drop-down in the Home tab.

In this drop-down, notice the Heading 1 to 5 styles. By default, text has Normal style. However, any selected text can take any style you chose. In our case, all you need to do is to apply the style Heading 1 to the text Introduction, Part 1, and following to Conclusion. Then, you apply style Heading 2 to the chapter text. If all were next to each other, you would get something like this:


Part 1

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Part 2

Notice it’s not just a change of font size, each text has now a style attached to it. Finally notice that there is a keyboard shortcut to apply Heading styles: Crtl+Alt+number, the number being the level you want to apply. For instance, applying Heading 2 requires you put the cursor on the text you want to apply the style to, then press Ctrl+Alt+2.

Step 2: Creating the table of content

One you applied all Heading styles to the required text, move to the beginning of the document and add a new page. To do this, you can use the easy way: press Ctrl+Enter! This creates what we call a page break, that is, it will start a brand new page (if you want see the page break read my post on showing hidden formatting symbols)

Then, when your cursor is at the right place, just go to the References tab, click the Table of Contents button and chose the style you prefer. Note that the Table of Contents style can be changed like any other styles, although I will not cover this in this post.

Your table of contents will be automatically created with a Contents title added by word. If you change pagination, add or delete titles, or amend in any manner any title, you can update your table of content by clicking on it and on the Update Table button that will appear at the top.

Notice the small Table of Contents button appearing next to the Update Table one. This one allows you to change your Table of Contents style in one click.

Finally, there is one caveat you should be aware of. Let’s imagine before you include your table of content, your Part 1 started on page 1. Now, while you added the table of contents, Part 1 starts on page 3. The table of content will still reference page 1 for Part 1 as it was the case at the table creation time. You will need to “Update page numbers only” by clicking the Update Table button and choosing the page numbers only option. You’ll get used to it quickly.

As you can see, creating a table of contents in word is a real piece of cake!

How to use Templates in OneNote

OneNote is one of those software that you can start using without reading any manual. Since it’s based on the notebook/section/page paradigm, it’s simple and obvious enough to use it directly. Most OneNote user actually never go beyond the Home ribbon. They sometimes read the first two pages that provide some basic functions of OneNote and voilà! This is all they will ever learn about OneNote. However, it’s missing a lot of the power of OneNote.

In previous posts, we’ve seen how to use tags, how to gather information from a browser, as well as how to synchronize all your devices. This week, we are going to have a look at the templates. I love templates, because they allow you to create consistent and beautiful documents.

What is a template?

As per the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a template is “a computer document that has the basic format of something (such as a business letter, chart, graph, etc.) and that can be used many different times”. The OneNote templates though are different from the Word, Excel or PowerPoint templates. Let’s spend a quick moment to understand the differences. A Word, Excel or PowerPoint document has generally only one format. For instance a Word report has the same heading, uses the same font or the same colors from the first page to the last. The same logic can be applied to PowerPoint and Excel. A OneNote document is a set of sections and pages. Each section can be different and each page within each section can be different too, from a format perspective.

Hence, when we talk about templates in OneNote, we talk about Page templates. I can for sure create an empty OneNote document that serves as a template, but this would not be a template as such in the OneNote context. One point to realize the differences is the Templates site on You will find templates for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but none for OneNote!

OneNote comes with a set of predefined templates, as you can see below. (Those sections are stored in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Templates\1033\ONENOTE\16\Stationery)

You can also create your own templates which will appear in a new template notebook called My Templates, appearing at the top of the predefined templates. (This section is stored in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates)

Using templates

Using templates is easy. Remember first that templates are actually page template. So using a template means adding a new page based on the template you will chose.

Note that you cannot apply a template to an existing page in OneNote

To add a new page based on an existing template, go to the Insert ribbon, and click the Page Templates button. The Templates pane appears on the right hand side. Click one of the available sections and click the template you are interested in.

This will automatically create a new page based on this template.

If you click on another template, this will create another new page. So if the current template is not what you’re looking for, you will need to delete the newly created page.

Note that customizing the predefined template is possible but beyond this post.

As you can see using predefined template is very easy. You can also define a default template in the Always use a specific template section at the bottom of the Templates pane. You will find in the dropdown list the exhaustive list of all available templates. Once a default template defined, all new pages in the current section will use this format. You cannot define a default template for an entire Notebook.

Creating your own template

Creating your own template is almost as easy as using a predefined template. Just take any existing page and click on Save current page as a template, at the bottom of the Templates pane.

Give a name to your template and click the Save button. If this is the first template you are creating, a new section called My Templates will be created above the predefined templates sections in the Template pane. For subsequent creations, they will all show under the My Templates section.

As previously written, templates are a great way create consistent documents. If you intend to use OneNote to create user manuals, professional reports or other of document you will want to share with others, I highly recommend that you create your own template to have professional looking documents. Remember, as the OneNote app is free of charge, OneNote documents can be shared with everybody, not just the happy few who have Microsoft Office!

Have fun with templates!

Linking multiple PowerPoint presentations together

When you prepare a PowerPoint presentation, sometimes it happens you need in “incorporate” another one into yours. A few examples that might ring a bell:

  • You have multiple speakers and want to create an agenda that ties all presentations together
  • You want to go through another existing presentations during your presentation and then go back to your flow
  • You need to give the floor to another speaker

For every reasons above, or maybe others I’m not thinking about, you have two options:

  1. Incorporating each presentation into a main one
  2. Linking each presentation to the main one

The first option has three drawbacks: first, all the presentations need to have the same format (if one is 4×3 while all others are 16×9, there will be modifications to the 4×3 one when incorporating); second, your main presentation may be really heavy (imagine five 10MB presentations all together, this makes your presentation 50MB and your email system may not allow to send it); third, if one of the presenters makes a modification to his or her presentation, you will need to reincorporate it within the main one, with all the format issues mentioned. Of course it has one benefit: you have only one presentation in the end.

Linked presentations

I personally prefer linked presentations. It provides the following benefits:

  • Each presentation is independent from the main one, therefore it can be modified until the last minute without putting the main presentation in jeopardy
  • Each presentation can be mailed independently
  • Each presentation can have a different format, background, and still retain those without any risks

The only inconvenience is you will need to link those presentations to the main one and use hyperlinks to move from one to the other. But as you will see, once understood, this is really a piece of cake.

Linking the presentations together

As an example, let’s create an agenda with two speakers and therefore two linked presentations, as shown in the screenshot below.

We will link the two following presentations to the agenda. As you can see, formats are different (by the way, you probably now it’s better to have the same format between presentation for a give conference, however, sometimes, it may not be possible or too late to make amendment, this feature of linked presentation will therefore be really useful).

In the main presentation, you select the first bullet point, right click and chose Hyperlink. In the Insert Hyperlink window, pick the presentation you want, in this case The power of words.pptx.

To be able to make the presentations movable to another machine, you need to use relative addressing, this means you need to delete the folder tree before the file name. This means all presentations will need to be in the same folder. If you forgot to do this, PowerPoint will look for the absolute address, meaning the exact same folder hierarchy. If you use the machine on which you create the main presentation, this won’t be a problem. However, if you use another machine, this can prove to be challenging. So put all the presentations in the same folder and get rid of the absolute addressing by deleting the folder hierarchy in the Address text box. Then click OK.

You will now notice your text has become an hyperlink that will be clickable during presentation. Note that you can create hyperlinks on text as well as on images.

Running the linked presentations

When you are in presentation mode, by moving your mouse over the first title of the agenda, you will notice the mouse pointer changing so you can click on it.

By clicking on the link, the presentation opens. Now, the beauty of this feature is that when the linked presentation ends, you automatically come back to the agenda slide. You can then proceed to the second presentation, then move on to the next slide when the second presentation ends.

With this technique, you can link any document, web page or presentation and keep your presentation slim and powerful.

How to organize notes with tags in OneNote

Once you start using OneNote on your various devices, notes add up quickly and after a couple of months, it may be difficult to find the one you took about skydiving for instance. This is where tags play a simple and useful role. Tags are somehow self-explanatory. In OneNote though, they are kind of cool because they associate a friendly name, format and an icon, and you can customize them as you wish, create your own, and of course search notes that have been tagged. Let’s first see how to apply tags.

Apply Tags

This is damn easy. Click on the note you want to tag, then go to the Home tab, in the Tags menu, click the drop-down and click the tag you want to apply.

Once tagged, the note gets an icon in front and it’s format can change. Look at the notes below, the last one is highlighted because the tag used applies a yellow highlighter to the tagged note.

You can use existing tags, customize them or create new ones to suit your needs. Let’s have a look.

Create Tags

To create new tags, click Customize Tags at the bottom of the tag drop-down list. In the Customize Tags window, you can select an existing tag and click Modify tag, or you can just click New Tag to create a new one. The New Tag Windows appear and allows you to define four characteristics of your new tag: its display name, its symbol, its font color and its highlight color. Note that symbol, font color and highlight color are optional. Notice you cannot create new symbols nor define customized colors, may be an enhancement in a next version. Once defined, click OK.

You can delete existing tag as well as sort them. It may be convenient to put at the top the most common used tags. To do this, click on the tag you want to move and click on the up and down arrows.

Search Tagged Notes

The power of tags is the search function. By clicking the Find Tags function in the Tags menu, the Tags Summary pane appears on the right hand side. It actually searches automatically all existing tags that have been applied and will group the results by tag name by default. You can group by section, title or date, but I personally find the name grouping more convenient. You see in the screenshot below that you can search in a Notebook, or all notebooks, a section, notes taken on a certain date, to restrict or expand the search area.

Of course, the text that is tagged and displayed is clickable to go directly to the page containing it. Finally, you can create a Summary page that will display all tags and notes on a single page, which can be very convenient when your notes span multiple pages, sections and notebooks.

Tags have other useful usage, like creating To Do lists for instance, or creating Outlook tasks automatically, this will be for another post. In the meantime, enjoy tags and get more productive everyday with OneNote!

Taking linked notes in OneNote

In case you have not figured out yet, I love OneNote. Just after Outlook, this is the best productivity tool I have in my toolbox. Like many people, I sometimes need to do some research on the web for a presentation or an article. OneNote helps getting track of the information I found and most importantly of the website source of the information. OneNote can associate automatically your notes to the address of the website (storing the URL, you know that address that starts with http). And the beauty is the simplicity.

Start Note linking

Linked Notes are available with Internet Explorer, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. This means that you can take notes while browsing the web, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations or other OneNote documents. Let’s look at the Internet Explorer way (which I personally find the more useful). Start Internet Explorer and if you do not have the menu, have it displayed (right click on the Title bar, and chose Menu bar). On the menu bar, click Tools, then OneNote Linked Notes.

At that moment, OneNote will start and will be docked on the right hand-side of the screen with Internet Explorer docked on the left side. One last choice: either chose a section and this will create a new page, or chose an existing page. Your screen should now be similar to the one below.

Taking Linked Notes

Now, you can browse the web, looking for and finding the information you want. When you have something you like, go to the OneNote windows and start typing some notes. You will see next to the notes you are taking an Internet Explorer icon. If you move your mouse over the icon. It will display a small window with the website address and an image of the page. This is automatically done by OneNote for each note you take, not for each website you visit. It’s important to note that OneNote will not keep an history of all the websites you visit during this session, but only of those you took notes about.

Once you’ve finished and want to stop, you can close the OneNote file or open the Linked Notes menu at the top right of the OneNote window, as shown below. Notice that you can have a complete view of the links by clicking on Linked File(s), as well as getting rid of all of those. By choosing Stop Taking Linked Notes, the linked notes actions are paused and not completely stopped. You can restart any time.

As with any note taken with OneNote, save is automatic. No worries, everything will remain in your OneNote document. This very simple procedure allows to really organize research and ensure you capture everything you need. Enjoy!

2 simple steps to represent a hierarchy in Excel

With the advent of Big Data and large data tables, we are sometimes faced with the challenge of representing hierarchical data that makes sense. Take for example the table below

You can create a pie chart to represent the sales in the four regions, however, having both regions and subregions in the same pie chart may prove challenging with the pie chart proposed in Excel. Excel 2016 proposes a new set of charts called hierarchy charts, starting with the treemap.

The Treemap

The treemap is a classic to people in Business Intelligence as it’s a simple way to represent a hierarchy and have a view of the top hierarchy members to each other as well as the child members relative to each other with the same parent. Take the above table and turn it into a treemap and you obtain the below:

Creating a hierarchy chart

To create a treemap, follow these 2 simple steps as for any other charts:

  1. Select all the data, including the title row
  2. Click on Insert, chose Insert Hierarchy Chart, and click Treemap.

You can customize your treemap by displaying values, hiding legends, etc. like any other charts.

The Sunburst

Now, if you like pie charts and want two pie charts (or more) in one, the Sunburst is your friend. Same procedure to follow as for the Treemap, but chose Sunburst instead. Now, in the example below, based on the same table, regions are in the inner circle and subregions in the outer circle.

Both charts work pretty well with any hierarchy, and are particularly well suited for extracts from databases where generally, information is flat and repetitive row from row. For instance, each row could represent a sale with the name of the sales person, the product sold, the name of the customer, the city, and the amount. You can easily create a hierarchical chart by sales person, city and product for instance or move things in reverse order. A great way to present better your next sales meeting.

Creating a template with PowerPoint – Part 2 of 2

Last week, we look at how to create a custom layout for your PowerPoint presentation. This week, we close this topic by making this custom layout a template that you can reuse to create new presentations or apply to existing ones.

Every element is part of the template

There are generally two types of templates: one that just contains the slide master and layouts, one that adds slides that forms the skeleton of your new presentation. The first type seems obvious, it’s just a template for creating an empty slide deck with predefined formatting. The second does the same and adds slides to the new presentation to save time. Whatever kind of template you are going to save, keep in mind that all elements: slide master, layouts, slides, handout master, notes master, will be saved in the template. Therefore, a PowerPoint template is a pretty comprehensive document. If you want a professional presentation, ensure you customize all those elements.

Once ready, just click File and Save As, then choose PowerPoint Template (*.potx) in the file type dropdown list. DO NOT press the Save button yet. Look at the message appearing below the More options… link. It says: We recommend another folder for the type of files you’ve selected, then there’s a link Go to recommended folder… Note that in the Save As dialog, you need to select again PowerPoint Template in the Save as type dropdown list and give a name to your template, then hit the Save button.

The recommended folder is actually one that is called Custom Office Template under you Documents folder. Your templates need to be saved here if you want to find them with the following procedure.

It’s becoming Personal

Once your potx file is saved in the Custom Office Template, you can use it to create a new presentation. Start PowerPoint or click File then New, and you will see the option PERSONAL under the Search text box.

By clicking this option, you will be presented your own templates found in the above mentioned folder. Select it, click Create and you now have a brand new presentation using the template you created.

All the templates you will create in PowerPoint, Word or Excel will be saved in the same folder for convenience reasons. Note that you can have templates saved in other locations, but they will not appear in the New window under the Personal option.

Templates are a great time saver when you want to create consistent presentations. Go for them, you saw how easy it is!

How to create a reusable template with PowerPoint

You have created a wonderful presentation in PowerPoint and you would like to use it as a template for future presentations (same applies to other apps like Word for instance). You can transform this presentation into a template. However, you need first to understand the slide master concept.

One Master to rule all the Layouts

Open this PowerPoint presentation you want to save as a template, then go to the View tab and click Slide Master. You should have something that looks like the screenshot below.

This is basically the template of your presentation, its underlying structure. If you make modification to any of the slides layout, it will reflect in all your presentation slides. For instance, like changing the font, the color, or adding a graphical element.

Notice the hierarchy in the left pane. The first slide at the top is the slide master and the below slides are called layouts. Each slide of your presentation depends on a specific layout, we will come to this in a minute. Yet, the Slide Master (the first at the top) defines the common elements to all below layouts. Change the color of the title of the Slide Master, all layout title will change accordingly. There’s an exception to this: if you update the color of the title of a specific layout as individual modification on a layout always takes precedence to the Slide Master. For instance: try changing the title color of the first layout, then change the Slide Master title color, you will see the new color does apply to all layouts except the first one which keeps its own color.

You can have multiple Master Slides and layouts, which is a nice feature when you cut and paste slides from various presentations. In that case, all pasted slides comes with their layouts if you “Keep Source Formatting”. In the creation of a template, for consistency and size of the file, do not create multiple Slide Masters, add new layouts if need be and Rename them with something meaningful. A meaningful name will be useful when you apply a template to a slide of your presentation.

Layout template to slide relationship

In Normal view, right click on the slide you want to apply a layout to in the Slides tab on the left, point on Layout and chose the right layout, as chosen below.

You can work on each slide master and each layout to finalize your template. Note that you can change the Handout master and the Notes master as well if you intend to create a printable version of your presentation. Very useful to leave to your audience.

In the next episode, we will see how to save and reuse your template.