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Make part of a picture transparent (Microsoft Office)

19 Jan

This week’s tip is inspired by Tracy who asked how to make an image background transparent. Checking my archive, I noticed I’d written a tip about it back in 2008. But that described how to do it using Office 2003 and 2007 and as it is slightly different in newer versions, I felt it was time to dust it off.

Here’s how:

  1. Double-click the picture you want to modify.
  2. In the Adjust group, click on the Color button.
  3. Select Set Transparent Color from the drop-down list.
  4. In the picture, click the part you want to make transparent.

If you don’t get the effect you expect, it might be because areas that seem to be the same colour (such as green leaves) will actually be made up of a range of different colours.  Setting a transparent colour works best with simple, solid-colour pictures, such as clip art.

If you change your mind you can quickly discard all of the formatting changes you made to the picture by clicking on the Reset Picture button in the Adjust group.

Thanks for the tip inspiration, Tracy. The bragging rights will last a lifetime.

Related tips

Tame your computer – Happy N(ew) Year

5 Jan

Hello and welcome to the first tip of 2021. Happy new year!

Speaking of new … do you use the File tab when you want to create a new document in Office? (That’s four clicks – not that I’m counting.) Or perhaps you click on the New button on the Quick Access Toolbar? (That is, if you stuck it on there.) Or perhaps you love keyboard shortcuts and use CTRL + N?

But did you know you can use this intuitive keyboard shortcut (the letter N for new) for so much more?

Here are some suggestions:

Word, Excel and PowerPoint : open a new document
Outlook : create a new email message or a meeting, contact or task – depending on what part of Outlook you’re in
Teams: start a new chat
Chrome and Edge : open a new browser window with cursor in address bar
Internet Explorer : open a copy of your current web page in a new window
Windows: open a copy of your current folder in a new window

By the way, on 1 January 2001 I turned my idea into reality and started my own business. So … happy 20th birthday to us. I would like to thank my clients for the opportunity to work on some amazing projects. And to my all-important course participants for choosing me to help tackle their time-consuming and frustrating day-to-day tasks. I wouldn’t be having a birthday if it wasn’t for you!

Related tips
Schedule your e-mail message to be sent at your preferred date and time (Microsoft Outlook)
Find the best time to schedule a meeting (Microsoft Outlook)
Open several workbooks with a single click (Microsoft Excel)

Tame your computer – 2020’s top 10 tips

22 Dec

This will be the last edition of the year and for the sixth year running it’s a list of your favourite, most commented-on tips from the past 12 months. Thank you for reading the tips and for continuing to support my work. When people think I’ve written something useful, it’s really gratifying!

  1. Remove redundant messages from your inbox using a shortcut (Microsoft Outlook)
  2. Quickly jump between the start and end of a row in a table (Word and Outlook)
  3. Speed up navigation in a large workbook using named ranges (Microsoft Excel)
  4. Set the name of the person who created a file to be displayed in all folders (Windows 10) 
  5. Set the Print Screen key to open screen snipping (Windows 10)
  6. View and paste your copied items from one place (Windows 10)
  7. Split first name and last name into separate cells or combine first and last name in one cell (Microsoft Excel)
  8. Automatically move messages where your name is in Cc out of your inbox (Microsoft Outlook)
  9. Quickly jump to what you want to do (Microsoft Office 2016)
  10. Stop receiving RSVPs from meeting requests (Microsoft Outlook)

Oh, and don’t forget to check this out before you’re off on your Christmas break; it contains five tips to prevent email overload upon your return.

That’s it for 2020. And OK, the holiday season might be different this year, but I hope you find things to celebrate!

Related tips
Best of 2019 – top 10 tips
Best of 2018 – top 10 tips
Best of 2017 – top 10 tips
Best of 2016 – top 10 tips 
Best of 2015 – top 10 tips 

Tame your computer – round it off

15 Dec

This week’s tip is inspired by a question raised in the chat during one of my recent PowerPoint webinars … “How do you make a rectangular photo into a round one with a frame? “ (Thanks for this week’s tip inspiration, Jen!) 

Well, Microsoft Office’s built-in Picture Styles on the Picture Tools ribbon provide a quick way to add fancy borders to your pictures. But what if you want to have more control over the corners and shape of your picture? 

Here’s how:

  1. Insert or select the picture, as normal.
  2. On the Format tab, in the Size group Crop the picture to a square, keeping an eye on and working towards the same Height and Width.
  3. On the Format tab, in the Size group, click on the Crop’s drop-down arrow, select Crop to Shape and select Oval. (Which obviously will be a circle because of step 2.)
  4. To resize the picture, drag any of the corner sizing handles, so that both the height and width change and you won’t end up with a distorted photo.
  5. Click on Picture Border in the Picture Styles group and change the width (Weight) of the border.

By the way, Microsoft wouldn’t be Microsoft if there wasn’t a different way, starting off selecting the shape rather than the picture.

Here’s how:

  1. On the Insert tab, click on Shapes and select Oval.
  2. Click (don’t drag) where you want to insert the circle. (If you drag the oval shape, you’ll have to hold down your SHIFT key to turn it into a circle.)
  3. On the Format tab, in the Shape Styles group, click the Shape Fill drop-down arrow and click on Picture.
  4. Navigate to the folder where the picture is stored and double-click it to insert.

What’s your preferred method?

Related tips
How to change the shape of a picture
Resize and position photos in SmartArt
Draw a perfect square or circle

Can I help?
Check out my training schedule … I look forward to seeing you soon – virtually or “for real”.

Tame your computer – share by default

9 Dec

Developing a new webinar to help a client tackle information overload using  Windows’ and Outlook’s  – often underused – tools, I realise I never wrote a tip about how to set a default working folder in Excel, PowerPoint and Word for version 2010 and beyond. For example, you may hardly ever use the Documents folder as the folder where you store your files. Similarly, you may never use the cloud.

So, if there is a particular location, such as a shared drive, and you find yourself clicking umpteen times to navigate to it, you can set it as your default folder. And don’t worry, whenever you save a document you can still navigate to a different folder.

Here’s how:

  1. On the File tab click on Options.
  2. Click on the Save category (or type the letter S).
  3. Type the path in the Default file location box. (In Word you can click Browse and navigate to the folder you want to use. To make this step a bit easier in Excel, PowerPoint and Project you could right-click any of your folders from the list of recently opened items and select Copy path to clipboard. You would do this before you do step 1.)
  4. Click OK.

By the way, Microsoft doesn’t push this setting out to all programs. So if you want a default folder in Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Project you will have to follow the steps described above in each of these packages.

Related tips
Set a prompt to open a file as read-only
Exit the program and close all open files after prompting you to save them
Time-saving shortcut key to use Save As command
Save time opening or saving files by customizing the Open and the Save As dialog boxes
Setting a new default file location

Can I help?
So Cambridge is in Tier 2 and I can welcome you back for face-to-face training. But as you know, since the outbreak of COVID-19 I have also developed a range of popular 60-minute webinars. Check out the schedule and I look forward to seeing you soon – virtually or “for real”!

Tame your computer – jump to it

13 Oct

Have you noticed that Microsoft introduced a new Tell me what you want to do box?

If – like me – you have been ignoring it up to now, you might want to fall in love with it. (Thanks for the nudge, Jo!) No, it isn’t like the old Microsoft Help where you had to know what it was you were after… In Office 2016 you can type the sort of thing you would normally “Google”. And there is obviously a rather intuitive keyboard shortcut to ask your question.

Here’s how:

  1. Press ALT + Q.
  2. Type the option you’re looking for. (You don’t even have to know what the feature is called.)
  3. Press ENTER or click on Best Action to open the functionality.

For example, in Excel you can simply type dropdown list or dropdown. There is no need for you to know it’s called data validation. Or type case or upper in Word to open the Change Case functionality.

Sometimes, what you’re after is listed underneath Best Action so might want to keep an eye on the list of options. For example, type recall in Outlook to find information about how to recall an email message. Or type animation in PowerPoint and click on Add Animation under Actions to quickly select your preferred animation. (To prevent Death by PowerPoint I’d recommend keeping it simple and using Appear.)

If it doesn’t come up with a Best Action or you would simply like to read up a bit more about the functionality, click on Get Help on or use your arrows and press ENTER. Even in the explanatory text you will get Take me there or Show me buttons.

ALT + Q can even be used to find recent files, but (spoiler alert) let me write a separate tip about that.

I obviously still hope you feel that yours truly has value to add … After all, you don’t know what you don’t know!

Speaking of which, why not join one of my next 60-minute webinars or book a course …?

Upcoming courses
The current course schedule can be found online. Hope to see you soon – be it virtually from the comfort of your own home or socially distanced in our training venue!

Tame your computer – webinars lead to quick wins

25 Aug

CleverclogsTipTime2As some of you know I began publishing tips back in 2003. Seventeen years later and I’m still passionate about sharing easy ways of using MS Office and aim to crank out a tip on a weekly basis.

To help you put these “quick wins” into practice I recently developed a series of 60-minute webinars, giving you the opportunity to see the hints, tips and time-saving shortcuts in action. So if you have been saving my tips to work through at a later stage, why not join one of the webinars?

Here’s how:

  1. Choose the session about the package you use the most. (Or do all four and become an Office wizard!)
  2. Watch me do it. (Or do it with me during the webinar.)
  3. Try it out afterwards. (Practise, practise, practise.)
  4. Give a shout if you need a hand.

The sessions are £20 only (+VAT) and you can pay securely using a debit or credit card. Just drop me a line or complete the booking form and I’ll send you a payment link.

The price includes a crib sheet and exercise files so you can follow me during the demo or experiment and practise what you’ve learned after the webinar.

Even if you believe you have mastered MS Office, I guarantee you will go away with new and easy to use tricks and shortcuts that you never would have found on your own.

Don’t just take my word for it … As Katherine recently wrote: “This was the most productive hour I have spent in a long time.

Webinar series
60 Minutes of Microsoft Office Hints and Tips
60 Minutes of Microsoft Excel Hints and Tips
60 Minutes of Microsoft PowerPoint Hints and Tips
60 Minutes of Microsoft Outlook and Word Hints and Tips

Tame your computer – top 10 tips of 2019

21 Dec

CleverclogsTipTime2For the fifth year running, herewith your favourite, most commented on, tips from the past 12 months. As I felt it was impossible to cut it down to ten, I cheated and added three more.

With thanks to Sarah, Bart, Jan, Patrick, Clare and Michael for your feedback; it makes my day knowing I’m saving you time and frustration!

  1.  Open the right-click menu using a keyboard shortcut – Office and Windows
  2. Total the data in a table – Excel
  3. Answer and write prefixed comments below the original message text – Outlook
  4. Fill all selected cells with the same text, number or formula – Excel
  5. Find all occurrences of two spaces after a full stop and replace them with one – Word
  6. Show totals above a table column that match specific criteria – Excel
  7. Check the spelling of all worksheets – Excel
  8. Attach a PDF version of an active document to an email message – Word, PowerPoint, Excel
  9. Reduce the number of messages in your inbox upon your return from holiday – Outlook
  10. Go to a specific slide when delivering your presentation – PowerPoint
  11. Organise and find email messages in your shared mailbox – Outlook
  12. Warn before printing, saving or sending a file that contains tracked changes or comments – Word
  13. Quickly spot whether change tracking is on or off – Word

Oh, and don’t forget to check out this tip before you go off on your Christmas break; it contains five tips to prevent email overload upon your return.

Wishing you a relaxing festive season. Remember: Escape isn’t just a button on your keyboard!

Tame your computer – now you see it, now you don’t

5 Aug

CleverclogsTipTime2In Microsoft Office, commands related to working with your documents appear as buttons on tabs that make up what is called the ribbon.

Back in 2008 I wrote a tip about minimizing the ribbon to create space and see more of the document you are working on. While the ribbon is minimized, you can click any tab to expand it temporarily to find the commands you need to complete a task.

Both methods I wrote about at the time still work, but as Microsoft got rid of the tiny downward-pointing arrow at the far right of the ribbon in version 2016 I thought I’d dust off the tip and give a third way to hide and unhide the ribbon.

Here’s how:

  1. Double-click any tabOR
  2. Press CTRL + F1OR
  3. Right-click any tab and select/unselect Minimize the Ribbon (version 2010) or Collapse the Ribbon (version 2016).

This can be particularly helpful in later versions of Excel if you have tiled your worksheets, as they all have their own tabs and ribbons, taking up a lot of space.

With thanks to Tadas for this week’s tip inspiration.

Related tips
Make more space on your screen – minimize the ribbon
Tile all worksheets and save the layout

Tame your computer – keep your Options open

22 Apr

CleverclogsTipTime2Do you remember Clippy – the animated paper clip – killed off by Microsoft in 2003?

OK, it might have been annoying, but it offered some great time-saving features that were not easy to ignore. Clippy, Rocky the Dog, Links the Cat, The Genius or whatever Office Assistant you had selected were replaced by tiny smart tags. But I frequently encounter delegates who are unaware of these subtle alternatives.

So here are my favourite three:

  1. Paste Options.
  2. Auto Fill Options.
  3. Insert Options

Next time paste doesn’t do what you want, or you fill cells with data that didn’t follow your expected pattern or you don’t like the format of inserted rows or columns, look out for “Clippy in disguise”. By all means ignore it if all’s fine, but click on the small Options button below the selection and check out the list of choices.

Have a look at the following tips for inspiration: