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Top Three Time-Saving Tricks for Microsoft Word

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 7/19/12] There always seems to be something in Microsoft Word we can’t figure out, right? Besides being a powerful word processing application, Word has a wide reach of capabilities in many other areas. However, wouldn’t it be nice to know the cool tricks that all the pros use? Here is a list of my top three tricks for Word. Table of Contents For longer documents that require a table of contents, you have two choices to build it. You can either manually create it at the end of your project, or use the built-in features of Word and have it done for you. Easy decision, right? Under the “References” tab, you can designate which paragraphs or lines of text you want to use for each level of your table of contents. Click on the “References” tab , then click “Table of Contents” > “Insert Table of Contents“ and the dialog pictured above will show up. Enter in your specifications, and Word will create your table of contents for you. In the event you update your text, the table of contents will also be updated. Mail Merge Any time you have a long list of contacts to reach, and a list prepared with each recipients’ information, you can connect the two and create an easy letter for all in minutes. To get started in Word, use the “Mailings” tab, click “Start Mail Merge,” and choose the wizard to help walk you through the rest. Or, go to Tools > Mail Merge Manager (above). From there, you can follow the steps in the task pane on your screen. When the wizard asks you about your data source, point it to your existing contact list. By using placeholder fields in your letter, Word will substitute each placeholder with the actual values in your data source. Mail merge is a huge time savor and one of my favorite tools Word has to offer. Auto Correct If you notice yourself typing the same phrase of text repeatedly, there’s a faster way to handle how you can create the text. In Word, there is a fantastic feature called Auto Correct, which can fix misspelled words, common grammatical errors, or it can recognize a portion of a phrase and finish the rest for you. A great example of using Auto Correct would be your name. Any time I want to insert my full name, I start type my first name and, when I type the space after, Word finishes the rest for me. To set this up, you can go to your “Review” tab, then choose “Spelling and Grammar,” and then click “AutoCorrect Options.” Or go to File > Options > Proofing > Word Options > Autocorrect Options (above). In the event that you decide you don’t want the Auto Correct option to override what you typed, a SmartTag will pop up and you can click that to have options as needed. Reach Stu Crair at (970) 980-8091 or stu@...

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Businesses Can Accept Payments by Phones, Tablets

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 6/22/12] While organizing an upcoming event for my business, I realized that I didn’t have an effective way to swipe credit cards in person. My business doesn’t do in-store credit card transactions, as all are handled in advance. But, with this event looming, we realized there may be a need for people to pay on site. In the past, there was always a need for traditional credit card machines, but that’s no longer true. Using a smartphone or tablet, with one of many clever apps installed, anyone can accept payments instantly. I signed my business up for a service called Square Up (www.squareup.com). I learned about it from a local cab driver who now uses it. There are no monthly or setup fees, one low transaction rate charged per swipe for all major credit cards, and they send you the credit card reader for free. I needed to download a lightweight app to my Android phone, and I was on my way. Plugging in this reader into your smartphone or tablet turns your device into a full credit card reader. No hurdles, no tricks. This highly-rated app works on both Droid- and iPhone-powered devices, including an iPad or Droid tablet. My favorite feature is that when you finish a transaction, the client has the option of having the receipt e-mailed or texted to them. You keep a history of all your transactions, so you have access to them later. After the transaction is approved, there is typically one or two business days before the money is moved from your Square account to a linked bank account. Other companies have joined in and introduced similar services, including Intuit’s GoPayment and Paypal’s Mobile version. However, I have yet to find one quite as simple to set up and use as Square. Another useful feature for my business is that I had my other employees download the app to their smartphone and it all links to the same business bank account. Whether at a trade show or on the go, we can all now sign people up for our services and have them pay immediately. I am extremely excited for the future of services such as these as they make it easier for small businesses to keep up with the big ones. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or stu@...

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A Simple Mail Merge Can Save You Time

[Originally published in The Coloradoan on 4/6/12] If you have a list of contacts on your computer and are ready to start mailing to a large group of them, then you can put down your pen and let your computer do all the dirty work. With two of the most popular Microsoft programs, Word and Excel, you can quickly and easily create a mail merge system for your contacts. A mail merge is the combination of a data source and a word processing document to produce mailing labels, envelopes, form letters and more. It is an extremely powerful tool that most administrative professionals use to save tons of manual labor time. The way a mail merge works is that you must begin with some kind of data source. This can come in many forms including a table from a database, a list of your Outlook contacts, a CSV file or even a simple Excel spreadsheet. Since most contact applications can export to a spreadsheet format, Excel can be used in a variety of scenarios for your business. Once you have a data source prepared properly, you can open Microsoft Word and begin the mail merge process. This begins with either a blank document or you can even use a pre-existing document. Envelopes and mailing labels come in standard sizes, and Microsoft has these already built into the program, too. By inserting placeholder fields into the mail merge document, you are allowing the program to replace the placeholders with actual values from your data source. This will repeat for every record in your data source. In a form letter example, you also have the option to customize individual letters, just in case you want to send a more personalized message to an individual client. When it is time to print the mail merge document, you simply finalize your merge and advance to print the entire batch. A mail merge is an amazing tool for simple administrative tasks, and the reach of how it might save you time is limitless. So, the next time you need to send those holiday cards to a huge list, check out a mail merge and save yourself some precious time. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Call him at (970) 980-8091 or send email to stu@...

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