Never lose any idea with OneNote

OneNote is probably the least used Office app, although one of the most useful, if not the most useful because it allows you to store all your ideas in one single location, in almost any conceivable format. First of all, OneNote is free of charge (yes, you read it well, zero, nada, nil). Second, OneNote is available on almost all platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and Phone. To set it up, go to and download the right version for you, or go to the Store (Windows, Google Play, App Store) and look for OneNote. Set up OneNote on all your devices to really get the full power of the platform.

One account to rule them all

A Microsoft account will be necessary to get the full power of OneNote. Any email address can become a Microsoft account (yes, even a gmail or a yahoo account). Once created, ensure you are identified by OneNote with this Microsoft account.

The File Menu, Account option will allow you to change account or sign out. Note this account is used by all the other Office apps as well.

Note your idea down and let it sync

Once you linked your Microsoft account to all your OneNote apps, your OneNote Notebooks will now synchronize automatically. This means that if you take a note on your iPhone, it will appear automatically a few seconds later on your PC, because of the magical power of the Internet, like below between my laptop and my phone.

This synchronization works in all direction and if you come to setup a new device, it will sync on this new device too. OneNote is much more than a note taker, as it allows as well to store picture, grab web pages, create lists, draw with your fingers or your pen (on your touch screen), and collaborate with other people over the same notebook!

With OneNote, you’ll never loose anything and will gather in one single locations all the information you need for any of your projects!

How to be more productive with Outlook

Have you ever felt being overwhelmed by the number of emails you are receiving on a daily basis. Have you already forgotten to reply to an email or to act on a request? Well, this time can be over in the next hour. I am here sharing the way I am treating emails to get my day organized and productive while staying on top of my inbox. This is adapted from the course Take back your life I took years ago. Like all methods, you need to make it work for you. I love simple things, so you will see it’s a very simple method, very effective for me, that allowed me to save an estimated two hours every working day.

The Four Concepts Of Productive Email Management

This method is based on four concepts:

  1. Disable notifications. Email is a time thief and getting a notification for each new email will lead to distraction, loss of focus and lower productivity. This has been scientifically proven. Furthermore, email is by nature asynchronous, so if you expect an urgent communication, request it by Instant Messaging or Phone.
  2. Book 2 or 3 email times a day. Book two to three 30 to 60-minute slots in your calendar to go over emails and tasks.
  3. Speed read each email. Filter on your unread emails, read object, first lines, and for each, apply step 4.
  4. Move to next, Reply or Classify. If this email is pure information that you may need (or not) later, just mark as read and move to next. If you need to reply and can do it in less than one minute, do it now. If that email requires an action that will take more than one minute, make it a task with a due date and add a verb to the object to be able to quickly classify the task: READ if I need to take some time to thoroughly read the mail, ACT if I need to take some action based on the email (that can be downloading some piece of information or do some research, for instance), REPLY if I need to think about my reply and this requires some extra work. Note that I do not delete anything. I keep all and archive.

How to make a task from a mail

While your mail is selected, click on Create a tack with attachment in the Quick Steps box on the Home Menu.

In the above task, the original email is attached, I added the verb READ in the subject so I can and chose Today in the Due Date dropdown. Note that I am not including Start Date or other flags. I just now have to click on Save & Close to save this new tasks. It all took less than five seconds.

Normally, reading, replying and classifying email should take ten to fifteen minutes of your slots booked at step 2, and your inbox will be totally “Read”.

Acting on tasks

Now, with the remaining of the booked time, you go to your Tasks list and go over the tasks that need to be done today. Some may require more work than the remaining time and you can therefore book a specific slot for this task in your calendar. Execute others based on the verb you indicated. I usually start with the REPLY tasks, as the recipient expects an answer, then ACT, then READ. When your time is over, move to your next item on the agenda, leaving unfinished task in your Tasks list.

In the task list, it’s very easy to go over each task, open the attached item and once done, click on Mark Complete! If you still have time before the end of the allotted time, you can act on the next day tasks, getting ahead on your schedule.

On the last time slot of the day, if there are any unfinished tasks in your tasks list, decide either to move them to the next day or to extend, if possible, the slot so you can finish. The ultimate goal is to finish the day with no email left untouched and your tasks list for the day empty. My last task of the day is to archive my inbox so it’s totally empty. I can now close Outlook and start the next day totally fresh.

How to create columns in Word in one click

Newspapers have generally multiple columns. Some brochures may be tabulated in multiple columns. It happens that wanting to emphasize a part of a text, we want to create two or more columns inside of a single-columned text. With Word 2013 and 2016, nothing is simpler. Take the following 5-paragraph text.

Simple Word Text

Creating columns quickly

If we want to display the second and third paragraphs as two columns, follow these two simple steps:

  1. Select the paragraphs you want in columns
  2. Go Layout, click the Column button and chose the number of columns you want.

Creating Two Columns

In the example above, I added two horizontal lines to separate visually the first and fourth paragraph from the two columns, by using the Borders button on the Home menu.

Colunms and sections

Creating columns with the Design menu actually creates sections. A section is started and ended by an invisible section break. This allows a different design to be applied. In our example, we end up with three sections:

  • The first section starts at the beginning of the document and contains the first paragraph
  • The second section contains the two paragraphs that form the two columns
  • The third section contains the last two paragraphs

Each section can have different column numbers, page size, margins, page numbers, etc. Sections offer a simple and convenient way to create complex documents in one single piece. With other word processor, you may need to create multiple documents, but Word is powerful enough, with sections, to allow multiple designs in a single document.

If you want to see section breaks, click on the Show/Hide button (a.k.a pilcrow) in the Home menu: . This will reveal all hidden marks like space, paragraphs and section marks. Those marks will not be printed, however, they allow to spot design mistakes. Note that paragraph and section breaks actually contains the design elements of the previous text. Deleting one of those marks will apply the design of the next mark.

How to change the proofing language in 2 clicks

If you write texts in Word, or other Office software, in various languages, you want to change to use the right dictionary for spelling and grammar checks. By default, Word detects automatically the language you are writing in and choses the right dictionary. However, if you mix languages in the same document, it may have difficulties to recognize which part is in one language and which is in another language.

Two languages in the same document

For instance, in the following screen shot, the first sentence is in French, and the second in English. Note that the second one is underlined with what Word has identified as a mistake.

However, the second sentence is correct. It’s just that Word is using the French dictionary as the beginning of the document in in French. How do you know which dictionary is used?

Choosing the right dictionary

Have a look at the bottom left of the screen shot. You will see French (France). This is the current dictionary used. If you select the second sentence and double-click on the French (France) words, the Language box will appear, allowing you to change the dictionary.

You can then select the English (United States) dictionary so Word understands this is an English text, and click OK. This dialog box can also be reached through the Review menu, by clicking Language, then Set Proofing Language. Notice the Detect language automatically check box. This option allows Word to choose the right language. On the other hand, if you check the box Do not check spelling or grammar, Word keeps your mistake unnoticed. Although, it’s not 100% fool proof, spelling and grammar checking is a very convenient feature. You can know change your language in a matter of two clicks.

The blessing and the curse of Copy and Paste

Copy and paste are probably the two most commonly used features of any software, popularized by the Apple Lisa and Macintosh in the early 80’s. It’s now so popular we do not think about it and sometimes even do not know that when you copy (or cut) a piece of information, it’s stored in a place called the clipboard. Actually nobody cares as long as it works. However, copying and pasting can get some nasty surprises because of existing themes… Let’s for instance imagine I want to copy a PowerPoint slide from the left presentation to the right one.

The Copy and Paste default behavior

The default result in PowerPoint (same can go with Word or Excel) will be the following.

You notice a change of colors and fonts because the copied slide as inherited the presentation template. In some instances, this may be what you are looking for. However, you may, in others, want to retain the existing theme, colors and fonts.

Keeping the source formatting

You will need to paste while keeping the source formatting:

The exact same slide will be copied into the second presentation

Now, have a look at the small slide on the right, in the Slide sorter bar. You notice a small clipboard with (Ctrl) and an arrow. If you click on this arrow, you will have the opportunity to select on the options available, which in our case are copying using the destination theme, using the source formatting or copying an image in the selected slide.

All Office apps allow this kind of manipulation of formatting while copying, cutting and pasting. Time to experiment!

Stop looking for features, ask Tell Me instead

How many times have you looked for a specific feature, going from menu to menu, desperately watching at the ribbon? Honestly, it happens to me all the time. Why? For a simple reason: although each menu item has been thoroughly tested, everybody’s logic is different and what may seem logic for somebody may not be for somebody else. Let’s take two, not so simple, examples. The first in Word. You want to add some footnotes to your text. If you go the Insert menu, no footnote. Well footnotes are actually references, and therefore are in the References menu. Not my logic. So instead of losing my time trying to find the right menu item, I directly go to the Tell Me text box.

Tell Me or the magical light bulb

Continue reading Stop looking for features, ask Tell Me instead

Monday Productivity Hack

Office Productity Hack

After almost a year sleeping, an interesting Blogging 101 University online course, and my decision to jump on the Blogging 101 extension named Finding our Features, I realized this sleepy blog can become more lively, with weekly post. This is how the Monday Productivity Hack came to life! What have Microsoft Office, Productivity and Monday in common?

The 3 ideas behind the Monday Productivity Hack

  1. Basically for anybody who need to work with a computer, there’s a chance you are running Office (if you are not, this may still apply but not 100%).
  2. Monday is for many the first day of the week (apologies in advance for my friends in the middle-east who start their week on Sunday).
  3. What a better day to learn a simple hack that can make you more productive with Office, shaving some time off in front of your computer by leveraging its power?

With these three ideas in mind, and the facts I am still spending a LOT of time working with Office, I used to product manage Office for 6 years before my current job, and wrote a couple of books on PowerPoint and Access (a long time ago), doing this Monday Productivity Hack feature was a kind of natural crossing of my skills and my interest in making you more productive.

Microsoft Office: Hidden Productivity Made Visible

Microsoft Office has become an incredible productivity tool over the years, ripping tons of benefits from the back-end servers or the Office 365 services. However, even if Microsoft has done a lot of efforts to make features more easy to use, some are still hidden and not easily used. Even myself struggle to find some of those features. For instance, it took me a good 15 minutes to find how to change a range that was named the other day. Naming ranges can help a lot in Excel when you want some functions to be more user-friendly, but changing a named range has proven to be not so easy, even in Excel 2016…

So stay tuned for the first Monday Productivity Hack, starting February first. I will be focusing a simple but so powerful feature of Office 2016! What a wonderful day to start being more productive!


Show and Hide formatting symbols in Word

A Word text comprises visible and invisible symbols. Visible symbols are the letters you type. Invisible symbols are for instance the paragraph marks, the tabulation, the space, just to name a few. Hiding invisible symbols facilitates reading. However, showing them will help correcting formatting mistakes.

In the screen capture above, you see tabulation (the arrow at the beginning), spaces (the dot between words) and the paragraph mark. To show or hide those symbols, you just have to click on the Show/Hide button in the Home menu (¶) or type Ctrl+*.

PowerPoint – Saving as picture

PowerPoint is the tools of the Office suite designed to create and deliver digital presentations. It’s very easy to add bullet points, various texts and a variety of shapes to enhance slides. It’s also very easy to insert pictures, coming from the web or from your own collection. If it’s common knowledge that a picture is worth a thousand words, you will see below how to use PowerPoint to create pictures from slides, in a matter of one click.

There are two ways to create pictures from slides. If the results is an image file, the content of this file will be slightly different between the two methods. Let’s look at them.

Saving a PowerPoint slide as a picture

The first way is simply to do a File, Save or Save As and chose from the Save as type drop down a picture file format, like in the screen shot below, JPEG.

PowerPoint Save As dialog box showing picture file type

Note you can create GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, Bitmap, and WMF.

Whether your presentation contains one or more slides, PowerPoint will ask you if you want to create one picture per slide or just the slide that was on screen when you click File, Save.

PowerPoint Dialog box asking whether to save on slide or all slides as picture(s)

If you chose All Slides, PowerPoint will create a folder, naming it the File name you chose in the previous Dialog, and will create one file per slide, naming each Slide followed by its number in the slideware.

If you chose Just This One, PowerPoint will create one file with the name you chose in the previous Dialog.

Saving just the selection as picture

In the previous method, the whole slide is saved as a picture. But what if you would like to save only a part of a slide, for instance only what you select?

  1. Select what you want to save as a picture (you can use Ctrl-A if you want to select the whole content of a slide)
  2. Right-click you selection
  3. Click Save As Picture
  4. You will now get to input your file name and choose its format. Note that the list is limited to picture format now.

Differences between the two methods

Saving the presentation (whether you choose one slide or all the slides) as a picture, saves each full slide as a picture. If, like in the example below, the background of the slide appears around the content, the background will appear in the picture.

An example of a full PowerPoint slide saved as picture

Now, if I had just selected the photo and the text, and had applied the Save As Picture method, I would only get what I selected as the picture content.

An example of a selection saved as picture

Both methods have their merits, both are easy to create enhanced pictures with text or just use PowerPoint to create cool pics.

How to speed-fill cells in Excel

I spend my life in Excel. Over the years, I came to learn quick shortcuts to make spreadsheet creation faster. There are many tweaks in Excel you can use to speed up spreadsheet creation. Sometimes, creating a spreadsheet is boring because it requires copying mutiple times the same value or same formula. Of course, the good old Copy-Paste works like a charm in most situations but I love the shortcut I am going to show you.

Imagine you want to fill a column or a row with the same value or formula. You can input the value in the first cell and copy-paste it in the other cells, or use the fill handle (the black square at the bottom right of a selected cell). However, this would require to move the hands off the keyboards after having types the content of the cell to use the mouse. Now, what if we could duplicate the content you just typed by pressing just one additional key? Well, this is what the following trick makes possible:

  1. Select first the cells you want to fill (note that the selection is not mandatory adjacent, so you could select multiple cells in various locations of your spreadsheet).
    Select Excel Cells
  2. Now, type the value or formula in the first cell. At that point, you should not hit Enter or any of the arrow keys. This would have the effect of unselecting selected cells.
    Input data in first Excel cell
  3. Fianlly hit Ctrl-Enter to validate your input.
    Hitting Ctrl-Enter fill all the Excel cells with the same value

The value or the formula is automatically copied in every selected cells. Simple and efficient! Ctrl-Enter is one of those keyboard shortcut you need to keep fresh in your mind.