Category Archives: Technology

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.

How to Improve Your Typing Speed with these 5 Free Online Tutors

Guest post by Adam Fort, an education strategist at Ratatype

Many fields of work require fast, efficient typing to complete tasks in short spans of time. If you find yourself having trouble improving your typing speed in order to match up with the competition, do not fear. There are online typing tutors available that provide programs and exercises that can help you truly master the art of the keyboarding.  Below are five of them you might want to check out:

  1. Free typing tutors Keybr. Specializing in touch typing, this site makes use of statistics and algorithms in order to find the best lessons for your existing skill set. It measures the individual speed with which you strike each letter on a keyboard in order to create typing exercises that work on your weaknesses. The lessons progress slowly based on your improvement, adding more easily readable, randomly generated letters and words in wider varieties as you become a better typist. Your progress is shown to you in charts and tracked with a calendar for timely lessons. Aside from that, the site supports a few different languages and keyboard formats so that you can learn regardless of your device or native tongue.
  2. The Typing Cat.  A variety of different typing courses is available here. The lessons range from the standard basic and advanced courses to learning typing based on HTML 5, EcmaScript 6, and CSS 3 examples. The tutor also supports multiple keyboard formats and is designed to work alongside certain Internet browsers. Each exercise is designed to help you type faster, improve accuracy, and increase your productivity level. You can even choose to create custom courses to suit your personal needs, or make use of those created by other users.
  3. Ratatype. This site makes an excellent tutor, as it focuses on mastering the skills you already have in place in order to make you type faster and more accurately. There are lessons provided that focus on increasing current typing speed in addition to programs that teach you how to touch type. Together, these two elements make for the ability to type fast without so much as glancing at the keyboard. In addition, there are options available for you to challenge your friends or utilize the site to teach a group of students. Alongside these features, the tutor includes a comprehensive guide on correct posture, finger positions, and finger motion that will help improve your technique, alongside general tips on typing speed. Here, let’s get you started: take a typing test to find out how quickly you can type, and earn yourself a free certificate upon completion!
  4. Typing.com. This typing tutor aims for a more educational experience, with its programs geared towards teachers and students who want to  improve their accuracy and speed. However, you don’t have to be in school to make use of its features. The program is suitable for users of all ages, and works by introducing letters of the keyboard in each exercise at varying levels of difficulty. You even earn badges along the way to add to your motivation. The site boasts over 2 million users per week, and has testimonials that claim positive results. With that being said, the demographic of the site means that the exercises can seem more juvenile at times.
  5. Typing Club. Aimed at improving touch typing, this typing tutor provides an engaging interactive experience while you learn, and can be used by students and teachers as well if required. It includes a guide to proper hand placement on the keyboard, and each lesson must be repeatedly practiced until a full five star score is achieved. Each lesson focuses specifically on a few letters and offers levels, badges, stars, and similar rewards to encourage users to progress further and stay on track. The tutor also offers a playback option, where you can look back on your previous attempts and analyze your progress.This website is also a Google for Education Partner.

Remember, when learning any new skill, practice makes perfect. These sites are designed to provide you with that aforementioned practice while teaching you new techniques and adding to your skill set. Not sure where to start? Take a typing speed test (like the one we mentioned earlier), set a goal for yourself, and just keep trying to reach it. Go on, give one a try, and become a better typist today!

BIO

Adam Fort is an education strategist at Ratatype. This project helps children and adults to learn touch typing via online typing tests and lessons.  Adam is in charge of developing the proper typing lessons and exercises for typists who want to improve their typing speed.  He also has a commercial pilot’s licence which he is extremely proud of.

A Look at the Free Office Suite – LibreOffice 5.2

The Document Foundation recently announced LibreOffice 5.2, a free open source alternative to the Microsoft Suite.  LibreOffice 5.2 is one of the best free office suites currently on the market and this latest version comes with some advanced features that will be appreciated by the more advanced user, while still maintaining ease of use for the beginner.  According to their press release, some of the more advanced features include the ability to classify documents into categories (such as “Confidential”) according to TSCP standards as well as multiple digital signatures and descriptions along with import and export of signatures from OOXML files for improved security.

While LibreOffice still lacks the modern ribbon interface found in the Microsoft Office suite and the free Kingsoft Office Suite, it offers a stable, fully functional suite of office applications, including a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool, not to mention a database and drawing package.

Here are some of the highlights and new features for the main LibreOffice applications, Writer, the word processing tool, Calc, the spreadsheet tool and Impress, the presentation tool:

LibreOffice Writer

Existing users of LibreOffice will appreciate the new Standard Single Toolbar mode that has been added to Writer that includes the most commonly used functions, insert, and formatting operations as well as redesigned dialogs designed to help you to work more efficiently.   This saves some screen real estate as previously users had to use the default double toolbar arrangement.

In addition, you can now display and dock the Drawing Toolbar that was previously only available in LibreOffice Draw that gives you the ability to draw curves, freeform lines, polygons and a variety of filled shapes.  You can easily turn on and off the toolbars by going to View > Toolbars and selecting or deselecting the toolbars of your choice.  The Drawing Toolbar has not only been added to Writer, but to all LibreOffice applications.

drawing-toolbar

LibreOffice continues to improve the way users can create, save and print documents with the addition of some new features that include a new Print to File option in the list of printers, a Save as Template option on the Save toolbar button so you don’t have to go through the menus and two-factor authentication support for users of Google Drive for storage.  It’s also extremely easy to convert your existing Microsoft Word documents to Writers native ODF format by simply clicking the Save button on the Standard toolbar.  LibreOffice Writer will recognize that your are attempting to save a Word file and will prompt you with the option to save in the ODF Format.

Save Word files in LibreOffice Writer format

LibreOffice Impress

Creating a presentation has never been easier than it is with the latest update of Impress.  This impressive free presentation tool has a similar look and feel to PowerPoint except for the addition of a new Slide Background Properties Panel that lets you quickly change the layout, format, orientation and background image of a slide.

impress

Adding custom animations is extremely intuitive and can be accomplished easily by simply selecting the item that you want to apply custom animation to at which time you will be presented with the Custom Animation properties panel.  Here you can apply the same animation effects you’ll find in PowerPoint such as Fly In, Box, Checkerboard, etc.  The list of effects in the sidebar also now includes a description of the effect, along with the element name.

impress-animation

LibreOffice Calc

Calc, the spreadsheet tool is extremely intuitive and easy to learn offering a comprehensive range of advanced functions.  The latest version includes new functions (including tooltips that describe them), more view options in the status bar, quick-access operations to freeze columns and rows, and a single toolbar mode.  The new freeze columns feature is particularly useful to those who work on large spreadsheets and can be easily activated by selecting the column you want to freeze and choosing the View Menu > Freeze Cells and selecting from the available options.

Freeze Columns in LibreOffice Calc

While Calc saves spreadsheets in its native OpenDocument Format (.ods), it can also open and save files in Microsoft Excel format  and you can easily export to Portable Document Format (.pdf).   Calc can read .xlsx files created with Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows or Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac OS X.

LibreOffice 5.2 can be downloaded at the following link:http://www.libreoffice.org/download/.

Office 2016 for Windows & Mac is Here

MicrosoftToday Microsoft announced the release of Office 2016 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac as a one-time purchase option. The focus of the release is on better collaboration, more simplified sharing and the ability to easily use Office across all your devices.  Here are just some of the new features and capabilities in Office 2016:

  • Co-Authoring – if you work with others on documents, you will now be able to see others “edits” in Word, PowerPoint and OneNote during the actual editing process
  • Simplified Sharing – You will now be able to share right from within your documents or use  the new modern attachments feature in Outlook
  • Office across all your devices – You will now be able to review, edit, analyze and present your Office 2016 documents across any of your devices including from your PC, Mac, Windows, Apple and Android phones and tablets.
  • Windows Hello allows you to sign into your PC and Office 365 with a simple look or touch
  • Tell Me feature where you simply tell Word, Excel or PowerPoint what you want to do or find and Tell Me helps you quickly locate it
  • New modern chart-types in Excel as well as integrated publishing to Power Bl.
  • OneDrive Cloud storage displays your most recently used documents list which allows you to pick up right where you left off on any device
  • Upgrades to Outlook including Office 365 Groups now being part of Outlook allowing individuals to create public or private teams.

While Office 2016 is optimized to work best for Windows 10, it supports PCs running Windows 7 or later and Macs running Mac OS X 10.10. For more information, including requirements for iPad®and Android™ tablets, view full system requirements.

Office 2016 can be purchased here. Get it in Office 365!.

If you already have an Office 365 subscription,  go here for instructions on how to upgrade to Office 2016 for home, or here for business customers.

More information about the new Office 2016 can be found on office.com/2016.