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Crabby Office Lady: New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions with Office and Crabby

As January 1 approaches and you yet again find yourself typing up those same old ho-hum New Year's resolutions, consider giving yourself a gift that keeps on giving: Microsoft Office resolutions that are easy to keep.

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Yes, it's that time of year again. You've jingled and wassailed yourself into a stupor, and now it's time to haul yourself off the sofa and make yourself useful once again. With these five Office resolutions, you'll find your productivity all firmed up, in shape, and ready for the beach in no time.

#1: Learn your keyboard shortcuts

Why are you still hunting and pecking through the menus like a starving, desperate chicken when you need to insert a hyperlink, format an entire document, or check your spelling? Using a keyboard shortcut can boost your productivity and get you to that kernel of chicken feed in no time.

A keyboard shortcut is a special combination of keys (the buttons on the keyboard) that causes something to happen when those keys are pressed at the same time. For example, if you want to insert a hyperlink into your Web page, document, or spreadsheet, hold the CTRL key down and then hit the K key at the same time. It's quick, it's easy, and it's sure to please. In fact, you can even create your own keyboard shortcuts.

To find a list of all keyboard shortcuts in an Office program, press F1 to open Help and then search for "keyboard shortcuts." What could be easier?

More information about keyboard shortcuts

#2: Customize Office once and for all

How would you like to spend your days walking around in Grandma Bessie's flowered housedress, corset, and white orthopedic shoes? Sure, you'd be dressed, but would you be able to get your work done if you were all cinched up and fenced in like that? I use that analogy to remind you — yet again — that customizing Office is one of the best ways to make yourself a more comfortable, happier, and more productive Office user.

Here are a few examples of things that you can customize in Office:

  • Menus
  • Toolbars
  • Themes
  • The Normal (default) template
  • Outlook calendar colors, fonts, and views

So please take the time to customize your programs. Or try and make yourself as comfortable as possible in a girdle. It's your choice.

More information about customizing Office

#3: Organize your Outlook Inbox

Admit it: Your Microsoft Outlook® Inbox is an overstuffed, out-of-control beast. What if there were a way to organize e-mail as it arrives or neat tricks to quickly scan what's already there to find specific parts of an e-mail thread that you need? Well, by golly, there are several ways to customize your Inbox and get out from under the beast.

These are just a few examples:

  • Color-code your e-mail messages
  • Group your messages by date, sender, or conversation
  • Set up e-mail rules for messages as they arrive
  • Get all of your e-mail from all of your accounts in one place

There's all kinds of help out there to make sure that you're making the most of the organizing features available in Outlook.

More information about organizing your Inbox

#4: Stop avoiding using formulas in Excel

I'm guessing that the word "formula" makes you want to run screaming from the room. Hold on, because Microsoft Excel formulas aren't what you think they are. They're not complicated bundles of keystrokes and symbols designed to boost the egos of only accountants or tax attorneys. In fact, sometimes a formula has nothing to do with numbers at all.

Simply speaking, formulas are equations that perform calculations on values in your worksheet. These values can be numbers, dates, text, or anything else you can type into a cell. Here are a couple of useful things you can do with formulas:

  • Convert times (such as from standard time format to decimal format)
  • Calculate a running balance
  • Calculate the difference between two numbers as a percentage
  • Remove spaces from the beginning and end of a cell
  • Count unique entries in a list

Take a little time to learn about Excel formulas. Once you get the hang of it, using them can really save you time and enable you to do complicated things you never thought possible.

More information about formulas in Excel

#5: Upgrade to Office XP

If you ask me, you're a bit behind the times if you're running any version of Office that's earlier than Office XP. Not that there's anything wrong with being retro, of course — even if the AMC Gremlin you're driving still has ABBA's Greatest Hits in the 8 track. But retro software? It's just WRONG.

Here are a few examples of improvements that Office XP programs offer and earlier versions don't:

  • Outlook 2002   Multiple reminders in a single dialog box with a Dismiss All button (oooh....ahhhhhhh)
  • Microsoft Word 2002   Easier formatting with the Styles and Formatting task pane and the Reveal Formatting task pane
  • Excel 2002   Task-based formula help
  • Microsoft PowerPoint® 2002   New animation effects and schemes
  • Microsoft FrontPage® 2002   eCommerce functionality
  • Microsoft Access 2002   Extensible Markup Language (XML) support
  • Microsoft Publisher 2002   More commercial printing capabilities

So get with it, Grandpa - it's easy to upgrade, and frankly, you'll be able to use more of the handy tips that I cover in my columns. How's that for motivation?

More information about upgrading to Office XP

Happy New Year, everyone. See you next year.

About the author

The Crabby Office Lady gets her column ideas from your far-out suggestions and demands. Make your voice heard; in the top right corner of each page, click FeedbackFeedback.

I know you have a lot to say. And there is a place for you to say it (and listen to what others have to say too, and perhaps learn a few things): The Microsoft Office Newsgroups.

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