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.

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 www.onenote.com 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!

Monday Productivity Hack

Office Productity Hack
(c) Microsoft.com

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!

Marc