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Tips & Tricks IV

Find detailed information on events and errors

If you've ever been stumped by a Windows 2000 error number of event reported in one of the log files in Event Viewer, here's a resource for you: Microsoft has developed a Web page that enables you to research these events and errors that you encounter in Windows 2000. To access this Web page, go to www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/prodtechnol/windows2000serv/support/EE_win2ksvr.asp. You can research errors and events by specifying either the source or the event ID. When you've entered the information on which you want to search, click Go. The Web page will then display detailed information, recommended solutions, and links to additional information about the event or error.

Rotate a pie chart to emphasize specific data

We recently told you how to draw attention to a particular data element by pulling an individual slice out of a pie chart. Another way to highlight a pie chart item is to rotate the chart so that the appropriate slice is prominently displayed. This can be especially handy when working with a 3D pie chart. For instance, let's say that a 3D pie chart has many category slices. The slice that you want to draw attention to is located at the top of the chart, which from a 3D perspective, is the farthest away from the user. Even if the slice is pulled out from the rest of the pie, its apparent distance may seem to minimize the data's importance. However, if you rotate the pie so that the exploded slice is at the front of the chart, users know exactly what they should focus on.

To rotate a pie chart, click on any of the pie slices. Then, choose Format | Selected Data Series (or possibly Selected Data Point) from the menu bar. Next, click on the Options tab. Increase the value in the Angle Of First Slice spin box, using the preview pane to examine the effect that the setting will have on the chart. When you're satisfied with the result, click OK.

Set up variable headers and footers for multi-page templates

(97/2000/2001/2002) When you're creating a template, you'll often want the header and footer on the document's first page to be different than the header and footer used on subsequent pages. A letterhead template is a classic example--typically, the first page of the letter should include your company letterhead, whereas subsequent pages should not. However, not all of your letters will be two or more pages in length. How then can you set up the headers and footers for subsequent pages without adding an unwanted extra page to your template? The trick is to create a ghost page in your template, apply the desired header and footer to the ghost page, and then remove the ghost page before you save the template.

To begin, create a new template, choose File | Page Setup from the menu bar (Format | Document in Word 2001), and then click on the Layout tab. Select the Different First Page check box, and then click OK to return to your template. Next, add the ghost page by pressing [Ctrl][Enter] ([shift][enter] in Word 2001) to insert a manual page break. Press [Ctrl][Home] to return to the top of the template ([command][home] in Word 2001), and then choose View | Header And Footer from the menu bar. At this point, the First Page Header area should be visible. Add the desired information to the first-page header and footer areas, using the Switch Between Header And Footer button on the Header And Footer toolbar as needed. When you're ready to create the header and footer for subsequent pages, click the Show Next button to advance to the header and footer for your ghost page. Add the desired information, and click the Header And Footer toolbar's Close button when you've finished. Now that all your template's headers and footers are in place, remove the ghost page by deleting the page break you inserted earlier. Finally, save the template. When you create a one-page document based on your template, the first-page header and footer will automatically be applied. As soon as the document exceeds one page, the header and footer you applied to the template's ghost page will be applied to all subsequent pages.

Document the named ranges in an Excel workbook

Named ranges provide a convenient way to reference cells in a workbook. However, you may have a hard time keeping track of what cells the individual range names apply to. Instead of repeatedly displaying the Define Name dialog box to double-check the range addresses, you can easily create a list of all the named ranges in a workbook and the worksheet addresses that they refer to. To do so, select a cell in a blank area in the workbook. Then, choose Insert | Name | Paste. When the Paste Name dialog box appears, simply click the Paste List button to generate the list.

Customizing footnote separators

(97/2000/2001/2002) When you add footnotes to your documents, Word includes a default two-inch separator line between the document text and the footnotes for each page. Subscriber Daisy Kavanagh mentions that you can easily remove or change Word's default separator. To do so, choose View | Normal to switch to Normal view, then choose View | Footnotes to open the Footnotes pane. Next, choose Footnote Separator from the Footnotes dropdown list in the Footnotes pane. Delete the default separator line, or replace it with whatever text or graphic you want to use in its place. When you've finished, click close to dismiss the Footnotes pane. The separator you specified is used on each page that contains a footnote.

Microsoft Office Help

Microsoft hosts several newsgroups where Office users can get help from each other. This is a great tool to use to find out answers to your questions about Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, etc. Even if you don't have a specific question to ask, you can learn a lot just by browsing through the messages. http://www.communities.microsoft.com/newsgroups/default.asp?icp=prod_office&slcid=US

Add and remove cell borders easier in Excel 2002

Cell borders do a lot to improve a worksheet's readability, but prior to Excel 2002 they were often a pain to set up and maintain. Although the Borders palette supplies you with several pre-defined border formats, customizing a border in Excel 2000 and earlier often requires a trip to the cumbersome Borders sheet found in the Format Cells dialog box. Because you frequently need to perform minor fixes to your borders when you move or paste cells, such trips to the Format Cells dialog box aren't uncommon.

Excel 2002 improves upon the process with the addition of the Draw Borders feature. To use this feature, open the Borders palette and choose the Draw Borders button. Doing so displays the Borders toolbar and automatically turns your mouse pointer into a pencil icon. As the feature's name suggests, you can add borders by simply clicking and drawing along the edges of cells you want enclosed by a border. The Line Style and Line Color buttons on the Borders toolbar let you quickly set the border's attributes. If you want to create a grid, instead of just a border that surrounds the outside edges of a range, click the dropdown arrow next to the Draw Border button (which resembles a pencil) and choose Draw Border Grid. To remove border lines, click the Erase Border button and draw over the border edges you want cleared. When you've finished, simply close the Borders toolbar to restore Excel's usual cell selection mouse pointer.

Delay the sending of an Outlook message

If you want to compose a message now and have Outlook send it at a later time, you can easily do so. First, address and compose the message then click the Options button on the Standard toolbar. In the Message Options dialog box, select the Do Not Deliver Before check box, then select a date from the dropdown box next to the check box. You can edit the time or day in the text box. Then click Close and send the message. The message is placed in the Outbox until it's time to be sent. The message will be sent at the appropriate time even if Outlook isn't running at that time.

Quickly navigate to the first or last slide of your presentation in PowerPoint

When you're editing a presentation in Slide View, PowerPoint offers various ways to display a particular slide. For instance, you can move forward or back one slide at a time by clicking the Previous Slide and Next Slide buttons on the vertical scroll bar. You can also drag the scroll bar up or down to navigate to the desired spot or use the [Page Up] and [Page Down] keys. But sometimes you need to jump straight to the beginning or to the end. If that's the case, use [Ctrl][Home] to jump to the first slide or [Ctrl][End] to jump to the last slide.

Easily check a calculated result in break mode (Access 97/2000/2002)

In a recent tip, we discussed using the Watch Window to monitor a volatile expression result as you debug a VBA code procedure. Sometimes, you may want to check part of a calculation without going to the trouble of setting up a watch. As you may already know, you can examine a variable or object property values by hovering your mouse pointer over a word when viewing a VBA procedure in break mode. What you may not know is that you also can use this approach to examine a portion of an expression. For example, consider this simple procedure:

    Sub Expression Test()

    Dim x As Long

    Dim y As Double

    x = Input Box("Enter A Number:")

    y = x * 1.15 / 12

    Debug.Print y

    End Sub

The procedure returns the final result stored in y, but what if you want to see the result of just the "x *1.15" portion of the calculation? To do so, click in the bar to the left of the line containing the calculation for the y variable to set a breakpoint (or click in the line of code and press [F9]). Then, run the procedure. After you enter a number in the input box, the procedure halts at the breakpoint. If you hover your mouse over the x variable, you'll see the number you specified. Now, select just "x * 1.15" and hover your mouse pointer over the selection. You'll now see the calculated result for that part of the complete expression. If you select the expression "x * 1.15 / 12" and hover your mouse pointer over the selection you'll see the result that will be stored in y when you continue running the procedure.

Keep in mind that this technique works with expressions involving object properties as well. For instance, in the statement:

    For x = 0 To lst.ListCount - 1

you can select just "lst.ListCount - 1" to determine the loop's upper bound.

Print a reference list of Word's keyboard shortcuts

To help you work more efficiently, Word offers an extensive collection of keyboard shortcuts that you can use to perform common operations. You can easily print a list of these keyboard shortcuts as a quick reference guide. To do so, choose File | Print from the menu bar. In the Print dialog box, choose Key Assignments from the Print What dropdown list, and then click OK. Word proceeds to print a multi-page table that lists the keyboard shortcuts (if any) assigned to each command, as well as the menu where you'll find the command if you prefer to use the mouse.

Design for your average user

Though broadband connections have become popular throughout the nation, you still need to remember that not everyone has a cable or T1-3 connection. That means you still need to consider the size of your pages as you design them.

As a rule of thumb, the average connection will need one second to download 7K of data. That means that including just a few graphics can cause the page to load terribly slow. And we all know that viewers won't normally wait over 10 or 15 seconds for a page to load before they move on to another page.

Therefore, pick a Web page size that your normal viewer can access in fifteen seconds and work to keep all your Web pages below that value. And don't forget that most Web authoring tools include a download estimator to give you some idea of the time it will take for your viewer to access the page.

Apply your preferred view and Zoom setting automatically

(97/2000/2001/2002) Word lets you customize the way you view your documents with its collection of views and its adjustable Zoom setting. Each time you save a document, Word saves the document's current view and Zoom setting along with it. If you're the only person who works with the document, this is quite convenient. However, if you share the document with other users, any changes they make to the document's view and Zoom setting are saved with the document. As a result, when you open the document, you'll need to readjust the view and Zoom setting if they don't match your personal preferences. Fortunately, you can work around this hassle by recording a macro that automatically applies your favorite view and Zoom setting to the active document.

First, choose Tools | Macro | Record New Macro from the menu bar. Type My View in the Macro Name text box, choose All Documents (Normal.dot) from the Store Macro In dropdown list, and then click the Toolbars button to display the Customize dialog box. Drag the Normal.New Macros.My View item from the Commands list box and drop it in a suitable location on the Standard toolbar. Click the Modify Selection button in the Customize dialog box, and then choose Default Style from the resulting pop-up menu. Next, click the Modify Selection button again, and this time choose Change Button Image. Click on a suitable button image, and then click Close to dismiss the Customize dialog box. (Note: In Word 2001, you can modify the button properties by double-clicking on the button after you've dropped it on a toolbar.)

That takes care of the button that will run the macro; now let's record the steps we want the macro to perform. You'll notice that the Stop Recording toolbar is active, indicating that the macro recorder is active. First, open the View menu, and then choose your preferred view, such as Normal view or Print Layout view. Next, choose your preferred Zoom setting from the Zoom dropdown list on the Standard toolbar. Or, click inside the Zoom text box, type your preferred Zoom setting, and then press [Enter]. When you've finished, click the Stop Recording button on the Stop Recording toolbar to stop the macro recorder. (Note: If prompted by Word to save changes to the Normal.dot template the next time you close Word, click Yes.) Now you can automatically apply your preferred view and Zoom setting at any time by clicking on the macro button you added to the Standard toolbar.

Changing Excel's default chart type (97/2000/2001/2002)

By default, Excel initially tries to plot data using a Clustered Column chart format. However, you may prefer that data is plotted as a line chart by default. Fortunately, Excel allows you to change its default chart type. To do so, select some valid data and launch the Chart Wizard as you normally would. Then, select the chart type you prefer to use and finish setting up your chart. Next, select the chart and choose Chart | Chart Type from the menu bar. When the Chart Type dialog box appears, click the Set As Default Chart button.

What happens next depends on what formatting you've applied to the chart. If your chart conforms to one of Excel's existing standard chart types, you'll simply need to confirm that you want to use it as the default. If your chart has been highly-customized, you'll still be asked to confirm that it should be the default. However, you'll also need to specify a name for your new chart type.

To restore the original Clustered Column type as the default, you can follow the above steps to set it as the default. As an alternative, display the Chart Type dialog box and click on the Custom Types tab. Then, select the User-Defined option button. Simply select the Default choice in the Chart Type list box and click Delete. You'll then be prompted to delete the type you specified and restore Excel's original default type.

Tricks for selecting multiple objects on a slide in PowerPoint

Most PowerPoint users know the shortcut key for selecting all the objects on a slide is [Ctrl]A. This is especially helpful if you want to ensure that you've selected all objects even if they overlap or lie underneath other slide objects. What many users don't know is that you can use this select-all shortcut even if what you really want to do is select almost all of the slide objects.

If you want to select only a few objects, first click on one of the slide objects to select it. Then, hold down the [Shift] key as you click on any additional objects. All of the objects you click on are selected as a group. If you accidentally click on the wrong object, click on it a second time and it's deselected. This concept can be used in combination with the select-all feature. Start by selecting all the slide objects by pressing [Ctrl]A. Hold down the [Shift] key and click on any objects you don't want, which deselects them. Working backwards like this can save a lot of time and hassle on complex slides.

Setting default print margins for datasheets (Access 97/2000/2002)

One behavior regarding datasheets that people often find annoying is the inability to save print settings with a table or query datasheet. Although reports are the object intended for output, it's common to print a query or table datasheet when you need to generate a quick and dirty hardcopy. Although you can't set a default page orientation, you can at least set the margins so that you don't have to scale them back from the usual overly generous defaults every time you print. To do so, choose Tools | Options from the menu bar. Then, click on the General tab and set the desired values in the Print Margins section. Note that this change will impact any new objects you create, not just datasheets. For instance, new reports will use the default margin settings you specified. However, the report margins can still be overridden at the individual object level and existing report objects are unaffected.

Quickly change the background for multiple slides in PowerPoint 97/2000/2001/2002

You can quickly change the background color or fill for multiple slides in your presentation simultaneously without having to change it for all of them. To do so, switch to the Slide Sorter View and hold down [Ctrl] ([Shift] in PowerPoint 97 and 2001) as you click on each slide you wish to modify. Next, choose Format | Background to launch the Background dialog box and select the color or fill effect that you want for the selected slides. Finally, click Apply when you're satisfied with your changes to update the selected slides while keeping the unselected slides unchanged.

When white's not right

While we all know that text is most legible on a contrasting background, that doesn't mean you should always resort to white when using black text on your Web site. Fact is, the white that a browser displays (normally #FFFFFF) is often a bit overwhelming to the eye-especially after you've been surfing for 32 hours straight. To make things a bit easier on your viewer's eyes, consider using a variation of white, something like #FFFFCC or #CCCCFF. Once you add the other elements to the page, the viewer won't notice any difference, other than the page being more pleasing.