About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

December 24, 2013

Office – Which Office?

I received a great question today from one of my regular readers and writers, so thanks Ivan for turning me around.  I was going to have an entirely different theme today but it will have to wait.

Ivan asked, "What choices do I have beside Microsoft Office to install on my computer?" 

I thought that I would send him to one of my previous articles and then I realized I had mentioned this before but never specifically addressed it.  So, the answer is, "Yes, there are two freebies which are excellent replacements for MS Office. I have tested both and I do have a preference.

image First, off let me state that Microsoft Office is the "King of the World" when it comes to office suites being used by people all over the world.  However, I will also state that OpenOffice and LibreOffice are excellent and mimic most of the functionality of the "King."  Please, note that they both merge the two names. That is not my typo. 

There are people who swear by both of them and both are excellent.  However, my personal opinion is that LibreOffice is slightly better.  The main reason is the same people were originally working on this application and it was only known as "OpenOffice."  Apparently there was a developer/designer conflict.  Some of the folks wanted to move in a slightly new direction and others wanted to remain on course.  A "spilt" resulted with the new group forming LibreOffice.

I believe LibreOffice is slightly better mainly because they provide updates to the entire office suite as well as individual features a little more often than OpenOffice. 

image imageLet me share more good news.  Either OO or LO have suite members which do most of the same things found in MSO.  You can create and edit text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and more.  Another very nice feature is the ability to open and save in the Microsoft formats.  That way if you use one of these two to create a file (or edit one you received from a MS Office user) it can be saved in the MSO format.  You can even set the default document types the same as MS types.      

If you want to take them for a spin, do as I did and install both.  Try them out and decide for yourself if one is better than the other.

Be warned that when you download either they are very large files.  This means that it could take quite a while to download them depending on your internet speed.  There are also many online tutorials for them so you will not be at a loss as to how to do tasks with either.  

May 7, 2013

Office 2013-Final Thoughts

Today is the wrap-up of Office 2013.  Thanks for all of the positive emails you sent about this series of articles.  Also, thanks for the ideas for future columns…keep reading, there is a good chance you will see them here eventually.

First, two tips I received from readers need mentioning.  Jennifer reminded me I should tell all of the Excel users the multiple workbooks in the same window feature is now gone.  YAY! 

Excel, side-by-sideFor years I have been the MS Office go to guy.  I cannot number the times I have gotten the question.  You know the one, "How can I open two workbooks and see them in separate instances of Excel, say one on my right screen and one on my left, at the same time?" 

There is a workaround for it in pre-2013 Offices.  Write if you want to know how.  But with Excel 2013, the default setting is to open a new workbook in separate instances of Excel.  This means that you have two detached versions of Excel running at the same time so you can look at both or copy data from one book to the other.

Next Matt at JMU said, "You know you wrote about Outlook not opening the reply, reply to all and forwards in a separate window?  There should be a setting in Outlook somewhere to fix that because it is a pain."  Well, Matt was correct.  This feature is called, "Reading Pane Compose" and it can be thwarted.  On an individual basis click Reply (or Reply to all or Forward) and you will see a small link in the upper-left corner of the compose area which says, "Pop Out."  When clicked to reply, email pops into its own separate window just as in the past.  If you want that to happen every time with every email go to File tab, click Options, then the Mail link in the navigation bar on the left.  Scroll about half way down that page until you see, "Replies and forwards" and uncheck, "Open replies and forwards in a new window."  You are done, easy.

Open replies and forwards in a new window.

Office 2013 is the desktop only version to be installed on one computer.  Office 365 is a cloud version that pairs up with the Office application. The previous versions of Office 365 had a much smaller feature list than the desktop version.  This means you just could not do as many things with the cloud version and if you were not online you could not use it; but now you can.

Let’s look at the pricing for Office 2013 and Office 365.

Office 2013 is more expensive than Office 365 and 2013’s license is only good for one computer.  Office 2013 Pro which includes the entire Office suite retails for $400.

Office 365 comes two ways.  1) Home Premium for $100 per year.  2) Small Business Premium for $150 per year. Both have the full Office 2013 Pro suite for your computer but up to five people can use Office 365 Home Premium on up to five systems. 

Small Business Premium also has five licenses; however, it is billed per user per year. Each user can install and use Office on up to five PCs, but the licenses can’t be shared with other users. This version also includes Exchange (for email management), SharePoint (for making an internal web space), and Lync (a messaging platform for the office).

To me, the pricing is a mess but if you need Office for business the Small Business version may be the way to go.

Office Pro

April 16, 2013

Office 2013-Excel, Part 2

If you have been following along with this review of Office 2013 you know that today is Excel Part 2.  So we will jump in now.

The next most impressive feature to me is the new Excel start screen.  When you start up Excel, on the left side you will find your most recently opened worksheets listed.  They will slowly move down the list until they reach the bottom and then will "disappear" off of the list.  If you want one to remain at the top you can "pin" it by hovering over the filename with your mouse (or finger with a touchscreen computer) and clicking the pin.  This file will now remain at the top and never rotate off. 

The default number of recent workbooks is set to 25; however, you can easily increase or decrease that amount.  Edit this number by going to the File tab, then Options, Advanced, Display and change the number under, "Show this number of Recent Workbooks."  Click OK and you are done.  I find 25 to be too many for me and set mine at seven to ten, give it a try.

Some of Excel's TemplatesThe start area also gives you a list of templates you may choose to use.  For instance, there are "Receipt Tracker," "Cash Flow Projection," "Medication Schedule," calendars with holidays for any year and several more.  If you cannot find a template relating to what you need, move to the top of the page and enter what you are looking for in the search area.  For instance, I searched for "checkbook register" and found three types I could download and run on Excel. 

If you want to skip the start screen and get into Excel slightly quicker, once it starts tap your ESC key once and you open a blank Workbook, ready to work for you.  If you want to, the start screen may also be disabled under General Options.

How about "Quick Analysis" for a new feature?  This is very slick.  To start this one select an entire table or the data in the spreadsheet you wish to analyze.  Once you select the last cell on the lower right of the data you will see a small icon there.  It is the Quick Analysis button which when clicked will give you a small box with Formatting, Charts Totals Tables and Sparklines.  When you click each of these links you will be presented with more choices.  This really speeds up many processes in Excel.  If you are a user you will appreciate this tremendously. 

Recommended ChartsThe last item for today is similar to "Insert Recommended Pivot Tables" from last week but it is now Charts.  You may have already figured it out but select the data for which you wish to create a chart, click the Insert tab, then the "Recommended Charts" command button and you get to scroll through suggested charts from Excel.  They are all formatted using your real data so you can review each.  All you do is click the one you want, send it to your boss and get a big raise.

OK, that last part may be a stretch but hey, it sure could not hurt.

April 9, 2013

Office 2013-Excel, Part 1

Before we start on Excel 2013 today, please accept my apology.  Last week when describing "collapsing headings" in Word 2013 I stated, "…when you hover over that created section a small triangle appears to the right of the text."  That should actually be the "to the left of the text." Thanks to the users who caught me and wrote in.

This column will be more for those who have previous experience in Excel, since it is a more unique program that Word or Internet Explorer but anyone may read on and learn.

In my opinion the first and best addition to Excel is the new "Flash Fill" feature.  In the olden days if you had a column with first, middle and last names all together in one cell and you needed to separate the individual names out you had to use the "Text to Column" command in the Data tab.  You can do this much easier with Excel’s new predictive ability to recognize patterns.

Name combinationsNext to the column with the complete names in it, insert a blank column.  Now type in the name you want to "pull" out, say the last name.  I would type "Doyle" next to the cell containing "Ron Doyle."  Then, click the Home tab, "Fill" and from the dropdown box click "Fill Flash."  The last names of everyone else in the list will be entered into that that column immediately.  If you want to do the same thing to the first names, go to the next empty column and type the first name of one person and follow the same procedure.  Bang!  They are now all entered.  Now for an old-timer in Excel like me (this is my favorite MS Application if I have not mentioned that before) you can even turn that scenario around.

Flash FillSay that the first, middle and last names are entered into separate cells and you need to combine them.  If you are familiar with "Concatenation" you know the old way but now you do it just as above.  Type in one person’s complete name in a cell, run the "Fill Flash" feature again and all of the names are joined together in the column.  I think this is a remarkable new feature.



Choose from multiple Pivot TablesNow let’s talk about the most amazing addition to Excel 2013.  If you are a Pivot Table user you know that you basically have to "play" with them and keep experimenting in order to get the information you actually need from them.  Now with the new pivot tables you can start out way ahead of the curve on creating new pivot table data.  As before, you click in a cell of the data you want to use, go to the Insert tab but now click, "Recommended Pivot Tables."  A list of a few to many sample pivot tables will present themselves. This is dependent on how much raw data is available.  Now double click on the one you like and it is immediately created.  If you need to adjust it at all do that the same way you used to.  Pivot tables are one of the only things I did not like before in Excel since they were so convoluted.  But now they are a snap.

That ends if for Excel 2013 today.  I hope to see you back here next week!

March 26, 2013

Office 2013–Word

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

So I made the plunge recently and moved to Microsoft’s latest Office version which is blandly, yet I guess appropriately named "Office 2013." 

So far my evaluation leans toward… "Yawn."  It performs as well as the previous version in most areas I have checked,  looks a little different,  saves to the cloud a little easier,  has a few new buttons and bells, but  still contains all of the office applications you are used to. 

Keep in mind my thoughts here are toward you, the normal user out in the world; not the published authors out there.  Though I have talked with a couple of you who have written books, newspaper articles and blogs, most of my readers are normal people who use Office on occasion, but maybe not for a living.

There are some interesting new features, or "buttons and bells" I will mention.  Today we will talk about Word 2013 and if I receive enough emails from you this week showing interest, I will move on to Excel, PowerPoint and some of the other apps in Office.  Its will be your call.

One change I really appreciate in Word is the new look when you use the "Read Mode." This is a great way to read a large document you have more than a passing interest in.

The read only mode was also present in previous versions of office so that in itself is nothing new; however, it looks much better and is significantly easier to read in this view. 

In the previous versions of the read mode your document changed into a two-page or column-type view.  Now, when you click the small book-like icon on the lower right of the Word screen it pops off of the page at you.  The words appear larger, darker and much clearer than before.  Another feature in this mode, which I accidentally found, was that when you double click on an object; picture, table, etc., it zooms in and becomes larger and even more readable.  This gives you a precise and higher quality view of the object.

Now if you are a PDF (Portable Document Format) user, creator or reader here is one of the best new features of Word 2013.  You can not only open a PDF document in Word but you can also edit it.  Yes, you read that correctly!

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

When I first heard this I thought, "Hmm, I bet you can, but I also bet it will not look very good."  Now that I have tried it, I have found that was absolutely incorrect thinking.  I have opened several PDFs in Word and after asking if you want to open it in Word it opens right up as a PDF.

I have edited them by removing words and graphics, adding words and graphics, moving paragraphs (and graphics of course) and saving the file.  They look identical (other than the edits) to the original document.  Even better you can save it as a regular Word file (docx is the default format but other choices work as well) or as a PDF.  This is amazing when I consider all the licensing requirements they must have had to work on with Adobe (the creators of that format) in order to achieve this.  If you get Office 2013 and use PDFs you will grow to love this feature very quickly.

The current retail cost for Office 2013 is $139.99, $219.99 and $399.99 for the "Home and Student", "Home and Business" and "Office Professional" versions respectively.

Let me know if you want to learn more.

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