Category Archives: Office Skills

Back to School Technology Tips to Save you Time and Money

Preparing to go back to school can be very costly.  Whether you’re just getting started with your Office Administration courses or simply need supplies and resources for any field of study, software, books and other supplies can really set you back.  While many courses do require you to use certain software or have required books, others may allow you to choose which software you work on and how you wish to learn it.  This is where you will be able to really utilize all the amazing free resources right at your fingertips on the web.  The following are just some of the ways you can save yourself and your classmates lots of time and money.

 1.  Use Free Office Software

Apache Open Office is a free, open-source office suite used for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  Apache Open Office comes with a full suite of products including Writer for word processing, Calc for spreadsheets, Impress for creating presentations, Base for database management, Math, an equation editor and Draw for creating graphics.  The software is easy to download and install from the OpenOffice website.

LibreOffice is another great free Office Suite with a super clean interface and lots of feature-rich tools help you unleash your creativity and enhance your productivity.  LibreOffice also includes several applications suitable for any project including Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases), and Math (formula editing).

Office Online offers free web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and OneNote that let you create, view, edit, and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and notes.  You do not need an Office 365 subscription to collaborate and work together on class projects or group assignments.   This free version of Office is perfect if you need an office suite for creating just basic documents, spreadsheets, presentations and databases.   If you need more advanced features such as mail merge, you will need to purchase the full suite of software.  To access and use Office Online, you will need to create a Microsoft Account login.  Once logged in, you will be able to begin creating your office documents right away.

2.  Save Your Files in the Cloud :

Saving your files in the cloud is definitely the way to go and best of all it’s free.  The cloud is nothing more than the Internet or more specifically, a network of servers that allow you to store and access data remotely versus locally on your own computer hard drive. By connecting with computers in the cloud, you can store your files in the cloud to easily share with others. You can also access most online storage solutions from any device you own which makes storing and accessing your files easy and convenient.  While there are many, many cloud storage and file sharing services to choose from, here are a few of the most popular ones that are used in businesses today:

OneDrive:  OneDrive allows you to easily store and share photos, videos and documents for free.  There are currently two types of OneDrive solutions – one for personal use and one for business use.  The personal OneDrive storage gives you 5 GB for free but if you need more space you can currently get 50 GB for just $1.99 a month.   If you happen to have an Office 365 subscription, you’ll automatically get 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage.

Google Drive starts you with 15 GB of free Google online storage, so you can keep photos, stories, designs, drawings, recordings and videos.  You can also invite others to view, download, and collaborate with you on any of your files if you want, making it great for classroom use.

Dropbox Basic – A Dropbox Basic account is free and includes 2 GB of space. You can download free apps to access Dropbox from your computer and mobile device.  Like all popular products, there are paid options if you need more space and you can also earn more space on your Dropbox Basic account by referring others and linking to their social media accounts.

3.  Buy a Subscription of Office

Office 365 University:  If your course requires you to use Office 365 and you’re a student or faculty member at an approved school, you can purchase Office 365 for just $79.99 USD for a four-year subscription.  This will get you the latest Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook) for two devices, including PCs, Macs, iPads, or Windows tablets.

4.  Access Free Online Tutorials

Now that you’ve learned how to obtain or access a version of Office software for free, take advantage of some of the readily available free tutorials to get started using your software.  The free Microsoft online documentation center for all Microsoft Office Applications is a great resource especially if you don’t use a product yet but would like to find out more about it. These courses are freely available and can be found alongside the hundreds of courses and videos in the Office Training Center that covers all major Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, OneNote and even OneDrive.  Training is available for all major releases on Windows, Mac, iphone and ipad.  It’s also possible to get training for past versions of Office if so desired.

Microsoft  also recently partnered with LinkedIn to provide some amazing high quality LinkedIn Learning training courses that focus on Word 2016, PowerPoint 2016, Outlook 2016 and Excel 2016. Here are just some of the free training courses available

  • Getting Started with Outlook” video series that consists of over 41 videos that covers multiple Outlook tasks including how to add and remove email accounts;  how to import gmail into Outlook; sending, receiving and organizing messages; how to add a signature; manage contacts and calendars; manage meetings; and collaborate and share with others
  • Getting Started with Excel 2016 series which consists of over 37 separate videos, you’ll learn how to enter and organize data, create formulas and functions, build charts and PivotTables, and use other time-saving features.
  • Getting Started with Word 2016: In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a blank document or one based on a template, select and format text, create bulleted and numbered lists, change text alignment, and change line spacing. You’ll also learn how to add headers and footers, change page numbers in headers and footers and add pictures and tables to a document.
  • Getting Started with PowerPoint 2016. In this course, you’ll learn the lay of the land including types of slides, design elements, and what’s new Inserting text and images. You’ll also learn how to saving your presentation and how to share it.
  • Free Microsoft Office Tutorials can also be found on officeskills.org at http://officeskills.org/microsoft-office-tutorials.html.   

5.  Use Online Notetaking Software

There are many note taking apps on the market all offering different levels of features and capabilities.  Below are some of the best note taking applications although some of the completely free versions are somewhat limited in features.

OneNote is a free digital notebook from Microsoft that you can use on your PC, Mac, phone or tablet.  You’ll find it’s very easy to type, handwrite or sketch your thoughts into OneNote.   In addition, you can also embed tables, attach files, insert links, webpages, photos and videos into your notes.   OneNote also allows you to organize and save your notes in notebooks and sections for easy retrieval and sharing with classmates, colleagues or co-workers.

Evernote Basic – This popular software allows you to capture, organize, and share notes with other students or your instructor from anywhere. For instance, you can clip pages from the web, pdfs or images and keep them all in Evernote so you’ll never lose track of your data. Evernote also has a good help and learning center where you’ll find access to tips and tutorials, articles and troubleshooting tips.

Google Keep is a simple note taking app allows you to create, edit and share notes, make lists, save drawings as a note, label, color and pin notes and more.  While limited in functionality, it is a great free option, especially for those who enjoy working with Google applications.

Useful ways to use SmartArt Graphics in your presentations

SmartArt is a diagramming tool in Powerpoint that allows you to create visual representations of information.  Your SmartArt graphics can be designed to match the look and feel of your presentations and can be used to create process flows, cycle diagrams, pryamids and orgazational charts. SmartArt is also created from the Insert tab > Illustrations Group on the Ribbon.

SmartArt graphics can be created from scratch by choosing from several different types of layouts and the one you choose will depend on what information you want to convey and in what way.  For example, the Process layout shows the steps to complete a particular task whereas the Hierarchy layout illustrates the structure of an organization such as an organizational chart.

Requirements:  PowerPoint 2013 or 2016.  To follow this tutorial, open up the Hiking Adventures Begin PowerPoint presentation and follow the directions below:

Insert a SmartArt Graphic in PowerPoint

  1. Click on slide 3 to select it and then click on the Insert tab > Illustrations Group > SmartArt button on the Ribbon. The Choose a SmartArt dialog box will appear.
    Add a SmartArt graphic in PowerPoint
  2. Click the List category
  3. Scroll down and choose Vertical Block List in the fifth row. Notice the description in the right hand pane.  Click the OK button.
    List layout in SmartArt graphic
  4. The SmartArt image will be inserted in your document and the text pane should now be visible as shown in the image below. If not, click the tab on the left side of the graphic.
    Tip!  When entering text in the SmartArt graphic, you will need to press the down arrow on your keyboard and not the ENTER key as pressing the ENTER key will add a new bullet point.
    SmartArt text pane
  5. With the first bullet in the Text Pane selected, type Bone Density and then press the down arrow on your keyboard to move to the next bullet. The text will appear in your graphic.
  6. Type Weight Bearing  then press the down arrow key again to move to the next bullet and type Strenghens Core.  Your graphic should now look like the following:
    SmartArt text pane
  7. You can also type directly in the text boxes.  Click in the second text box and type Heart. Click in the text boxes next to Heart and type Lowers risk of heart disease and Improves Blood pressure.
    Smartart Text Boxes in PowerPoint
  8.  Click in the third text box and type Weight. Click in the text boxes next to Weight and type Burns about 250+ calories/hour and Helps control weight.  Your SmartArt graphic should look like the following:
    SmartArt bullets

Converting Bullet Lists to SmartArt

You can also convert text already typed in your presentations, such as a bulleted list, into a SmartArt graphic.  Once converted, you can then style the SmartArt graphic by adding colors, fills, outlines and other effects as desired.  Depending on the SmartArt graphic layout you choose, you can also add pictures and additional text and change the layout type at any time.

  1. Click on Slide 4 to display it and then select the bulleted list or click anywhere in the list. Click the Home tab > Paragraph group and click the Convert to SmartArt Graphic button.  You can also click More to open the Choose a SmartArt Graphic dialog box.
    Convert bulleted list to a SmartArt graphic in PowerPoint
  2. Choose the Vertical Picture Accent List layout.  Your slide should look like the following.
    Convert bulleted list to a SmartArt graphic in PowerPoint

Style your SmartArt Graphic

When working with SmartArt graphics, the SmartArt Contextual tab will appear. Here you will see two new tabs, the SmartArt Design tab and the SmartArt Layout tab.

  1. Make sure your SmartArt graphic is still selected. Then, under the Design Tab, click the more button to display SmartArt styles.  Choose the 3D Polished Style.
    Styling SmartArt in PowerPoint
  2. Click the Design tab > SmartArt Styles Group and click the Change Colors button on the Ribbon 2. Select the Gradient Loop Accent 1 style.
    Styling SmartArt in PowerPoint
  3. If you have a picture SmartArt, you can click on the pictures and choose an image to go into each section.  Browse to the location where your images are located and add one picture for each bullet as shown below.  See Adding images to your PowerPoint presentations.
    Add a picture to a SmartArt graphic in PowerPoint

There are several other options that you can try out for your SmartArt diagrams.  It’s a good idea to experiment with these options to customize your presentation as needed.

How to add Online Pictures to your PowerPoint Presentations

In this tutorial, you will be creating a new PowerPoint presentation where you’ll learn how to insert online pictures from online sources such as the Bing Search Engine and OneDrive.  You’ll also learn how to resize the picture after it has been inserted.

  1.  Start PowerPoint 2016 and then create a new presentation using the Ion Boardroom Template as shown below.
    New template in PowerPoint 2016
  2. Click the Design Tab > Variants Group and select the Green Variant.
    Change variant color in PowerPoint 2016
  3. In the title placeholder type Hiking Adventures and then in the subtitle placeholder, type Half and Full Day Hikes as shown below.
    Add title and subtitle in PowerPoint 2016
  4. Click the Home Tab > Slides Group and click the New Slide arrow and choose the Two Content layout from the layout gallery.  In the title placeholder, type Come Prepared.
  5. In the left placeholder, type List of Items to Bring and then press ENTER.  Press the Tab key on your keyboard to increase the list level and type the 4 bullet item list as shown below pressing ENTER after each line.
  6. Click the Home Tab > Paragraph Group and click the Decrease List Level button and type Food and Water and then press ENTER.  Press the Tab key on your keyboard to increase the list level again and type the 4 bullet list items as shown below pressing ENTER after each line.

Two level bulleted list

Working with Online Pictures

You can search for Online Images in PowerPoint to use in your presentations.  PowerPoint uses the Bing Search Engine but you can also search for images on your Facebook, Flickr or OneDrive if you are logged into your Microsoft account.

When using the Bing Search engine, you can search for all available images, ClipArt, Photographs, Line Drawings or transparent images under the “Type” heading.  By default, PowerPoint will display all images available with the Creative Commons Only option which means that you can use these pictures under the Creative Commons License in your presentations. While most of these images are royalty free, it’s worthwhile to check the website link shown with the image to check if there any particular Creative Commons license requirements you need to abide by.

PowerPoint no longer provides the option to insert ClipArt directly into your presentations, but you can still find thousands of ClipArt images under the Online Pictures option.  Just select ClipArt under the Type menu as shown below.  Note:  If you want to search all of the Bing images, you can select the “All” option under Type.  Keep in mind that you will need to obey copyright law for all of the copyrighted images displayed.

After you insert a picture, you can resize it and position it anywhere on your slide.  Once you insert the picture, the Format Tool tab will appear.  On the Format Tool tab, you can also change the appearance and style of the picture.

Insert ClipArt in PowerPoint 2016

Insert and Resize an Online Image

  1. With slide 2 still selected, click the Online Pictures icon to display the insert pictures search window or alternatively click the Insert tab  > Online Pictures on the Ribbon.
    Insert online pictures in PowerPoint 2016
  2. In the Insert Pictures window, next to the Bing Image search box, type hiking and then press ENTER.  The search results will appear.
    Search for online images in PowerPoint
  3. Scroll the search results to to find a picture you like then click the chosen picture to select it and then click the Insert button to insert the image.  The image is inserted into the right content placeholder.Scroll online images in PowerPoint 2016
  4. With the image still selected, click the Picture ToolsFormat Contextual Tab > Size Group and in the Height box, type 2.5 and then press ENTER.  Note:  You can also resize the image using the re-sizing handles.  If you do this, hold down the Shift key to keep the image in perspective.
    Adjust image height in PowerPoint

Insert Pictures from OneDrive in PowerPoint 2016

OneDrive is Microsoft’s free cloud-based storage solution whose purpose is to provide a single place for you to store and access your files.  OneDrive is particularly useful for individuals and businesses that use PowerPoint or other Office products as you can store and access your Office files, pictures, and other files all from one central location. This allows you the ability to insert images directly from your OneDrive account into your PowerPoint presentations.

If you’re using OneDrive for storage and already have some pictures uploaded, you can insert them directly from your OneDrive Account.  You will need to be signed in to your OneDrive account insert pictures from OneDrive.  Here are instructions on how to get a OneDrive account.

  1. Add a New Slide and choose the Title with Content layout.  Click the Online Pictures icon as explained above to display the insert pictures search window or alternatively click the Insert tab  > Online Pictures on the Ribbon.  The Insert Pictures dialog box will appear. Choose OneDrive as shown in the example below.
  2. Choose Pictures and the screen where you can see your uploaded pictures will appear.  Select the picture of your choice and click Insert.

Insert a picture from OneDrive in PowerPoint 2016

Save your presentation to your computer or OneDrive account for use in the next tutorial where we will import slides from another presentation and edit and format pictures.

How to add a Video to Spice up your Presentations

Including videos into your presentations is a great way to garner the attention of your audience and get your message across clearly and effectively.  The features of PowerPoint make it easy for you to add videos to your presentations,  not only from your computer, but also from online sources such as the Cloud, your Facebook account, YouTube or from any website that provides the embedded code.

Once inserted, you can format your video in much the same way that you would format a regular graphic.  For example, you can resize the video, adjust the brightness and color contrast, add a picture frame and more.  PowerPoint even allows you to trim your videos so only a specific portion of the video will play.

Insert a Video Clip From a File

  1. Click the Home Tab > Slides Group > New Slide and Select the Content with Caption Layout
    insert slide in PowerPoint 2016
  2. Add the Title “Deer Grazing“.
  3. Click the Insert Video button in the content placeholder to open the Insert Video dialog box
    Insert a video in PowerPoint
  4. From the Insert Video dialog box, choose From a File
    Insert a video from a file in PowerPoint 2016
  5. Click the Browse button to navigate to the folder where your video resides and select the video file you want to insert and then click the insert button
  6. The video will be added to the slide and should look something like the example below.  Notice the playback and volume controls are displayed in the control panel below the video.

Video inserted in PowerPoint

Insert an Online Video

it’s possible to insert an embedded video from an online source such as YouTube or Facebook by using the Insert Tab > Media Group > Video and choosing Online Video.

Insert a video from an online website in PowerPoint 2016

In the Insert Video dialog box, choose the source of the video that you want to insert.  If you have a personal Microsoft OneDrive account, you can navigate to your OneDrive account from here.  You can also search on YouTube for videos or paste the embedded code from a website of your choice.  Keep in mind that you will need to be connected to the internet when you are giving your presentation for your online video to work.

Formatting your Video

After you insert your video, you’re ready to start formatting it.  Note:  Most of the formatting available on the Playback toolbar on the Ribbon can only be used on videos inserted from a PC on your local computer.  They will not work on embedded videos.

  1. Click on the video to select it .  Notice the selection handles appear around the video.  The Video Tools contextual toolbar will appear on the Ribbon with all your formatting options and the playback toolbar will appear below the video.
  2. To preview your video, click the Play button on the Video Toolbar or click the Play/Pause button on the Playback toolbar right below your video.

video playback toolbar in PowerPoint

Trim a Video

After previewing your video clip, you may want to remove certain parts of it.  You can trim from the beginning or the end of your video clip by adjusting the Start Time (green marker)  or End Time (red marker).

  1. Select the video frame.  The Video Tools contextual Playback tab will appear
  2. Under the Video Tools Playback tab  > Editing group, click Trim Video.  The Trim Video dialog box will appear
  3. Press Play to determine where you want to trim the video.  In our example below, we are trimming from the end
  4. Click the red marker and when you see the two headed arrow, drag to the desired ending position.  In our example, it is an end time of approximately 00:06.957. Replay the video to make sure you have trimmed your video as desired.
  5. Click OK and your video will be trimmed.

Trim a video in PowerPoint

Resize a Video

  1. Click the Format tab > Size Group
  2. Click in the Height box and type “5” or your desired width and press enter.  The video width will adjust proportionately.

Resize a video in PowerPoint

There are several other options that you can set for your videos such as fade in and fade out timings, restricting the playback to certain segments, looping a video clip and manually or automatically starting the video playback. It’s a good idea to experiment with these options to customize your presentation as needed.

  1. Click the Slide Show button on the Status Bar to display the slide with the video in Slide Show mode.
    playing a slide show in PowerPoint
  2. When you see the mouse pointer, click the mouse button to view your video.  When the video is finished, press the ESC key on your keyboard to exit the slide show.

Slide show mode in PowerPoint

Apply a Style to your Video

After you view your presentation, you may want to do some finishing touches to your video. You can apply styles and effects to your videos just the same as you can to images.  You can also change the video shape and add a border if desired.  Below we’ll add a Video style to our video.

  1. First select the video and then on the Format tab> Video Styles Group click the More button to to display the Video Styles Gallery.
    More button in PowerPoint
  2. Under the Moderate section, click Compound Frame, Black to add a subtle frame. The style will be applied to your video.

style video

Preview your slide show again and practice with the different styles such as borders, brightness and contrast and color themes as desired.

Practice: – Insert a Video in PowerPoint

Open the wildlife presentation provided for you here and download and insert the deer-movie.

  1. Following the instructions in the above tutorial, click on slide 5 and insert a new slide.
  2. Insert a title and the deer movie
  3. Trim your movie from the end to approximately 00:06.957.
  4. Resize the movie to a height of 5″.  The width should adjust accordingly.
  5. Apply a style of your choice to the video
  6. Preview your presentation and verify your movie plays as desired.

How to Format a Business Letter

Business letters are still important, even in our digital age, as they are used to document purchases, legal and insurance information, retirement awards, cover letters and many other business transactions that require formal delivery.  A properly formatted business letter contains several major parts which, when used properly, convey a level of formal professionalism required in business.

Most business letters are usually typed on company letterhead that already contains the company name, the address, website, telephone and fax information already pre-printed on the paper so there is usually no need to begin with the sender’s name and address in the top left of the letter.

Business Letter Formats

The two most commonly used letter formats are the block style and the modified block style.  The most popular style used in business today is the block style, shown below, where the entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.

The other common letter style is the Modified Block Style where the Body of the letter and sender’s and recipient’s address are still left justified and single spaced, but the date and complimentary closing are centered.

Major Parts of a Business Letter

No matter which style of business letter style you choose, the major parts of a business letter are still the same.  They include the Date, Inside Address, Salutation, Body, Closing and Enclosures.  Sometimes the Typist Initials and optional Attachment and Copy notations are also included.

Major Parts of a Business Letter

Major parts of a business letter

Date Line:  If you are printing on company letterhead, letters usually start with the date as the date lets the receiver know when the letter was sent and is useful when referring back to it at a later date.  The date is typed 2 inches from the top of the paper which can be accomplished by tapping ENTER 5 times from the top of the document when using single line spacing in Word.

Inside Address:  This is the name and address of the person receiving the letter.  It is usually typed four lines below the date.

Salutation (also called greeting):  For formal business letters, the salutation or greeting should end with a colon.  The greeting usually begins with the word Dear followed by the name of person receiving the letter.  For example, Dear Ms. Brown.

Body:  The body of the letter is started two lines after the greeting.  The body is the main part of the letter and is usually at least two paragraphs in length.

Fonts:  In this example, our letter is typed using word’s default font, Calibri, in the New Blank document template.  The most common serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial in 10 or 12 point font size are often used in business correspondence.  Be sure not to use overly decorative or specialized fonts in business letters as they’re perceived as unprofessional and are more difficult to read.

Complimentary Closing:  Type the closing two lines after the ending of the body of the letter. The most common closing lines for general business purposes are Sincerely or Yours truly.

Signature Block:  Four lines after the closing, type the name of the signer.  This allows enough space for the signature.

Enclosure Notation: Sometimes typed as enclosure, Enc or Encl, and often accompanied by a number such as Enclosures (3). This indicates that additional information was enclosed with the letter and how many pieces were included.

Attachment Notation:  The attachment notation is optional and sometimes used instead of the enclosure notation.

Copy Notation and Typist Initials:  The copy notation is used if you need to send a copy to another person.  The typist’s initials are also optional and, if used, are keyed after the sender’s name.

Business Letter Example

Modified block style business letter

Modified block style business letter example

Examples of  Writing the Basic Business Letter and Business Letter Samples can be found at the OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Learn how to prepare and format common business documents in Word by taking the Word 2016 course officeskills.org.