Category Archives: Office Productivity

A Change You May Want to Make if Using Office 2013

The new version of Microsoft Office is here!  Office 2013 or Office 365 (a subscription version) is currently the only version of Office sold by retailers.  Therefore, if you purchase a new computer and have Microsoft Office installed on the computer; you will be using Office 2013.

One of the new features in Office 2013 is one that you may wish to turn off.  When launched, several of the Office 2013 applications show a “dynamic Start screen” by default.  This screen, in Excel, is shown below.

Excel Start Screen

If you prefer to simply see a new blank workbook, Select File, Options, the General tab, and uncheck, Show Start screen when the application starts, under Startup Options.

You will need to make this change in Word 2013 and PowerPoint 2013 if you wish to avoid seeing the Start screen in those applications also.

Making this change will save you several clicks!


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, (972-238-6215).


Word Tip: Use the Keyboard to Create a Simple Table

11-11-2013 Word Tip--Use the Keyboard to Create a Simple Word Table Image--153454864Have you ever been typing and found that you needed to put some of your information into a table to display it more attractively? Well, Word has a neat keyboard feature that allows you to do just that.

Although Word’s ability to create tables from the Insert tab or to draw them using the Table Draw feature is wonderful and very easy, your fingers don’t have to leave the keyboard if you use the handy tip described below.

For example, if you want a 2-column table:

Optional/Step 1: Make sure your Show/Hide feature is turned on so you can follow your cursor more easily —located in Paragraph group on the Home tab.

Step 2: Make sure your cursor is at the beginning of your left margin and type the “+” key (no quotes), and then use the Space Bar to space the approximate length of where you want the first column to end and then type another “+” (no quotes).

11-11-2013 Word Tip Step 2

Step 3: Use the Space Bar again to space out the length of the second column and type another “+” and press the Enter key and Presto! You have the first row in your table.

11-11-2013 Word Tip Step 3

Step 4: Your cursor should appear in the first column, and you are now ready to begin typing your text. Just press Tab key to move to the second column and type in that text.

11-11-2013 Word Tip Step 4

Step 5: After you have typed in your text in the second column, press the Tab key again and a new row will be created automatically

Hint: If you want three or more columns, use the Space Bar and the “+” key to space out the length for the third column, etc., accordingly, but make sure all characters appear on one line.

After you have created your table and if you want make it fancier, just select the table and use one of the Word styles in Table Tools >Design.

If you need to take one or more classes to help you enhance your technology skills and productivity, consider taking one of the Microsoft Office classes or other skills/productivity development classes from the BOSS area at Richland College.

For more information on BOSS software and productivity course offerings, the BOSS degree and certificates contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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Essential Skills That Should Be in Every Employee’s Toolkit!

10-21-2013 - Essential Skills That Should Be in Every Employee’s Toolkit!--142327423When we think about jobs and their various requirements, the tendency may be to focus on the specialized skill such as accounting, marketing, IT, nursing, HR, etc., but blogger Sharlyn Lauby suggests that there needs to be a closer look taken of  basic skills. She has put a lot of emphasis on the fact that every employee should have these skills—regardless of the job position.

The list below may sound simple and basic; but according to Lauby, employees and applicants who lack one or more of these items is the reason why job recruiters and employers are becoming more and more frustrated!

So even if you are currently employed or if you are looking for a job, take a look at this list and make sure you are proficient in all of these areas:



Skill Comment


Good Communication Skills Both your verbal and written skills need to be proficient. A review of grammar can help you with the spoken and written word.


Computer Many of the job descriptions have the expectation that you are already competent in widely-used software such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.


Customer Service Companies expect their employees to know how to interact with their customers in a professional, respectful manner.


Diversity Awareness While this item was not a part of Lauby’s original list, the decision was made to include it because we work in environments today that are made up of people from many different backgrounds and cultures.


Empathy There may be a number of times throughout your career when you will need to “put yourself in the other person’s position” to understand your customers or co-workers better, and having empathy will help you tremendously in the communication process.


Learning This may appear to be a “no brainer,” but you should be prepared to be a lifelong learner. Whether you take formal classes or workplace training, new knowledge is the order of the day.


Math Unless your job requires a higher order of math, you should be familiar with business math concepts such as percentages, decimals, etc., These concepts can help you apply, interpret, and understand some of those spreadsheet functions better. Remember, most decisions are data driven today.


Organization Getting your work completed accurately and on time requires you to manage your time and tasks in an systematic fashion. Use time management software tools to help you organize your work life.


Problem-Solving When confronted with a problem, it is very important for you to (1) understand the problem, (2) develop a workable plan for solving the problem, (3) carry out the plan, and (4) evaluate the plan—did it work? Don’t expect others to solve all of your problems. You will be expected to find logical solutions to issues.


Research and Information Gathering If you need more information in order to get a task completed or to solve a problem, you must be ready to research the area and look for workable solutions. Employers don’t have much time for people who throw their hands up every time they are confronted with a new situation.


Teamwork You’ve got to be able to work with others! In today’s world most jobs require us to spend time working with others on projects—both real world and virtual. Having a respect for others, being able to communicate your thoughts effectively, and having a sense of empathy all play a part in successful, productive team outcomes.

For more information on the BOSS program and how BOSS courses can help you with your career and enhance your skills, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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Merging Cells in Excel

When centering headings on an Excel worksheet, most of us use a feature called Merge and Center.  Merging and Centering cells in Excel is easy. Just select the cells that you want to merge and click the Merge and Center button in the Alignment group on the Home tab (in Excel 2007, 2010, or 2013).

However, have you ever wanted to merge the cells in several rows, but not wanted to merge all of those cells into one gigantic cell? Did you select the cells in the first row, merge them, move on to the second row and so on?  This method works; but fortunately, there is a much simpler way to go about it. The answer is a seldom-used feature called Merge Across.

If you click the down arrow to the right of the Merge and Center command, you will see a command called Merge Across.  To use this feature, select all of the cells that you want to merge across but not down. Click the arrow to the right of Merge and Center and select Merge Across. Your cells will be nicely merged across, but each row will still be separate from those above and below them. If you wish to also center the data in the merged cells, simply click the Center button in the Alignment group on the Home tab.

You may have wondered what would happen if you clicked the Merge Across command.  Now you know!


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

7 No-Nos That Can Help You Improve Your Productivity!

09-30-2013 - Postit Notes--174361729I am sure we are all accustomed to reading about the “dos” that can help with tasks and productivity, but Jill Harness “flips the coin” in her infographic article and provides us with an excellent list of “don’ts” to keep in mind for becoming more productive.

If you want to improve your daily productivity, here are some habits you should definitely avoid, or break if you are currently guilty of any of these no-nos:



Bad Work Habit



Checking Your E-mail Constantly Unless you are expecting an urgent message that must be acted upon immediately, set a schedule for checking your messages during the day e.g., 9 a.m., then again just before noon, and 45 minutes before you leave for the day.


Keeping A Cluttered Desk Not only is this habit counterproductive, it is one that can lead to confusion, missing information, and time wasted. You will be viewed as inefficient! Remember the saying, “time is money, and money is time.” Take the time to organize your work area so all related items are filed or placed in close proximity.


Not Paying Attention to Ergonomics Have you ever wondered why you are prone to headaches or backaches Monday through Friday, but for some reason, they mysteriously disappear on the weekends? Take a look at your workstation. If it is too cushy, you may not be getting the proper support; but as Jill Harness cautions, don’t be tempted to go to the other extreme and have a chair that is “overly-adequate” in terms of lumbar support. You should also check other ergonomic elements such as lighting and the keyboard. Get your eyes examined at least once a year also.


Trying to Multitask And we thought we could be jugglers and keep several tasks in the air! While most of us can actually “walk and chew gum at the same time,” it isn’t efficient, accurate, or productive to multitask (2 or more simultaneous tasks). According to Harness, research shows we actually reduce our IQs by 10 points when we attempt to multitask.  Use your brain cells effectively.



Setting Numerous Online Notifications By setting multiple notifications to your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop; you will almost certainly guarantee frustration, confusion, and opportunities for mistakes. Develop a workable plan and stick to it regarding how you want to reminded (due dates/times) of important items.


Allowing Others to Constantly Interrupt You If you are known as the person who is always ready to engage in conversation—related and nonrelated—then you’ve set yourself up for making mistakes, being nonproductive, and always running behind schedule. Remember, you are not there to socialize 24/7. Nicely, but firmly, let your coworkers know that your office is not a “drop-in” center.


Creating a “Mission Impossible” List of To-Dos Go ahead and create lists that require you to leap tall buildings in a single bound—dream of becoming that SuperPerson! Seriously, set realistic timeframes needed to complete tasks, and use strategies for getting the resources needed to get the job done.  To be sure, there will be those unexpected times when something does take longer; but as time goes by, your previous experience and knowledge will prove invaluable towards helping you gauge the time needed to get your tasks done successfully and efficiently.

For more information on the BOSS program and how BOSS courses can help you with your career and enhance your skills, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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Excel’s Order of Operations in Formulas

In Excel the formula =10+20+30+40/4 will render a solution of 70; I think you would agree that 70 is not the average of the four numbers you have added together and then divided by the number of numbers you added (average).  However, =(10+20+30+40)/4 will render a solution of 25, which is, in fact,  the average of the four numbers.  How is one formula different from the other?  It is related to the order in which calculations are performed in formulas. 

Does anyone remember hearing his/her Junior High and/or High School Math teacher mention the phrase, “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?”  If so, you may also remember that this phrase is important in remembering the order in which formulas are interpreted. The following is the order in which mathematical operators and syntax are applied both in Excel and in general mathematics: 

  1. Parentheses
  2. Exponents
  3. Multiplication
  4. Division
  5. Addition
  6. Subtraction 

In the first example, Excel divided 40 by 4 (division before addition) and added the result to 10+20+30 equaling 70.  However in the second example, the parenthesis forced Excel to first add 10+20+30+40 and then divide the result of the addition by 4 equaling 25–the correct answer.

Do your formulas meet these criteria?  If not, your calculations might be suspect.  So, Please remember to Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally when creating a formula in Excel!


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Register for BOSS Classes Now!

08-05-2013 tduckBolt

Did you know you can register now for Fall semester Business Office Systems & Support (BOSS) classes at Richland College? Go ahead and beat the crowd by signing up today!

Fall classes will begin Monday, August 26, and they will end on Thursday, December 12.

Take a look at the exciting lineup of on-campus and online BOSS classes from which to choose by clicking this link.

BOSS class offerings include some of the following:

  • Basic Keyboarding & Document Formatting
  • Business Communications
  • Business English
  • Business Math
  • Computer Literacy Basics
  • Office Procedures
  • Records & Information Management

If you need to become proficient in one of the Microsoft Office applications such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access, or Publisher; consider taking one of the software classes that will enhance your software skill set.

You can go further by getting a “leg up” and improving your employment chances and get your Microsoft Certification in Word or Excel or Access or PowerPoint! The BOSS dedicated Microsoft Office software courses are designed to prepare you for the Microsoft Certification exams.

08-05-2013 Fall Registration Reminder***IMPORTANT***If you plan to take on-campus classes but you did not attend Richland in the Spring 2013 semester, you must show proof of having had the meningitis vaccination. Please have your doctor fax the appropriate form to the Registrar’s office. This form must be received BEFORE you can be cleared to register. You can get more details by clicking this link.

However, if you plan to take online BOSS classes, you can secure a waiver for the meningitis vaccination by clicking the link in the previous paragraph.

Don’t delay! Enhance your professional growth and skills by taking BOSS classes that can help you right now as well as in the future!

For more information on BOSS Fall course offerings, the BOSS degree and certificates, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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Let Excel’s Workspace Feature Help Save You Time!

Do you need to work with several workbooks (files) at one time in a particular arrangement on the screen? If so, did you know that you can group them so they can be opened in one step by creating what is known as a workspace?

A workspace is a file that groups all of the workbooks in your group and opens them all at once in the desired arrangement. The workspace feature creates a file that has an .xlw file extension. You save time because you don’t have to open each file individually and then re-size. This feature comes in handy if you are working with three or four files at a time.

To create workspace, just complete the following steps:

  1. Open all of the workbooks that you want to reside in the workspace.
  2. Size and position them as would like them to appear on the screen.
  3. Click the View tab and click the Save Workspace button in the Windows group.
  4. Type a name for your workspace file and navigate to the file location where you want your workspace file stored.


The workspace file does not contain the workbooks themselves, so you will still need to save any changes you make to your workbooks to the actual workbooks. Hint: You can add the Save All and Close All icons to your QUICK ACCESS TOOLBAR to help you quickly save and close all of the files.

Remember, if you need to work at another computer, you need to have the workspace file as well as all of the workbook files—so it’s a good idea to save all of the files in one handy folder.

Source: Microsoft Excel 2010 Illustrated Series: Complete by Elizabeth Eisner Reding and Lynn Wermers, Course Technology/Cengage Learning, Boston: 2011, p. 145.

If you need to take one or more classes to help you enhance your technology skills and productivity, consider taking one of the Microsoft Office classes or other skills/productivity development classes from the BOSS area at Richland College. For more information on BOSS software and productivity course offerings, the BOSS degree and certificates contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Conditional Formatting in Excel 2010

Conditional formatting is formatting that Excel automatically applies to selected cells if a particular condition is true. Let’s say that you are a project manager for a city and you want to see which of your projects have a budget of more than $400,000.

To add conditional formatting to the Budget column, select all of the budgeted amounts, click the Home tab, and in the Styles group click Conditional Formatting. Select Highlight Cell Rules and choose the comparison phrase, “is greater than.” In the text box below the phrase, Format cells that are GREATER THAN, type 400000.

Use the default formatting, Light Red Fill with Dark Red Text, and click OK. All of the selected cells in the Budget column that are greater than 400000 will be formatted with a light red background and dark red text. This allows you to quickly see the cells that match the condition.  If one of the numbers in the range of cells changes, Excel will automatically apply the formatting if the new value meets the condition or remove the formatting if the new value does not meet the condition.

You may also use a formula to set conditional formatting. Select the cells you wish to conditionally format using a formula, click Conditional Formatting on the Home Tab, click Highlight Cells Rules, and at the bottom of the list click More Rules.

In the New Formatting Rule dialog box, select the last item (Use a formula to determine which cells to format) and enter the formula in the text box below Format values where this formula is true. Click Format and select the formatting you wish to apply where the formula is true. Click OK twice to accept and exit the new conditional formatting setting.


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Have Fun with the Aero Feature in Windows 7

Using an Aero desktop theme will enhance your windows with a translucent glass design, subtle window animations and new window colors. To set your computer to use an Aero theme, right click a blank area of your desktop and left click Personalization near the bottom of the shortcut menu.

Select one of the seven Aero themes listed under “Change the visuals and sounds on your computer.”

Changing to an Aero theme will provide other options unique to the Areo theme. One of these options is a cool feature called Areo 3D Flip–a window switching mechanism which cascades windows with a 3D effect.

To use Areo 3D Flip, hold down the Windows logo key (between CTRL and ALT on a standard keyboard) and press the Tab key. Continue holding the Windows logo key and press Tab to cycle through the open windows. If you wish to display the window at the top of the 3D stack on your screen, simply release the Windows logo key.

It’s an easy, fun feature to use, and you just might impress your colleagues, friends, and family members with your Windows 7 knowledge!


For more information on the Business Office Systems and

Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,