About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

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!

June 7, 2011

P@55w0rd Keepers

I wrote a column last year about passwords.  Gee, don’t our digital worlds revolve around them?  If you work with computers on a regular basis you may have a million of them.  You may have them for logging onto your computer, websites, email, bank accounts, online stores, etc.  As I stated last year, “I do not have that great a memory and never did.”  So to remember them I use applications designed to keep them for me.

First, here is a quick review of password creating.  Always use at least eight-characters in a password. Be sure to use a combination of letters, numbers, upper-case and lower-case, and make sure the letters don’t spell anything … even backwards.  Something like "rQ7tXc5#T" would be good, but bear in mind you have to remember it.

Some of the top passwords currently in use in the US are 12345, qwerty, asdfgh, 12345678, monkey, your first, middle, or last names, names of pets, kids, parents, or significant other, birth dates, months, year of birth, street name and/or number, your car’s license plate, a difficult word from the dictionary, like ambrosia (a very popular one) and the most obvious, "password".  Are you using any of those?  I hope not!

imageHow are we to remember them? Well, I am a huge fan of KeePass. KeePass is a standalone program which is installed on your computer, where all of your passwords are stored. I have been using that app for at least 5 years and it has never failed.

However, there is another I was testing until earlier this summer, LastPass. LastPass is recommended by some of the big names in Tech.  LastPass is also installed locally; however, your encrypted passwords are stored online. The online storage enables you to access them online from any location on any computer. I always wondered about storing your passwords on someone else’s servers…in the cloud.  In May, 2011, LastPass posted on their sites, “We noticed an issue yesterday and wanted to alert you to it. As a precaution, we’re also forcing you to change your master password.”

Basically, that meant someone “could” have hacked their password site and gotten information from user accounts.

Many have said this didn’t happen and they are showing paranoia in being so cautious. This is a good thing.  It made me decide to bail out of the program. I really can’t recommend it since this happened.  You can debate whether they had been hacked or not. Regardless, your secret “stuff” is out there and not under your control.  That concerns me.

Most password manager programs work the same.  You set up a “Master Password” which protects all of your other passwords.  Make sure it is a good one in order to keep prying eyes out.  Then log into the program using that password and you can look up your individual passwords.

I realize there are other great programs which perform the same/similar actions out there like RoboForm, and 1Password.    However, KeePass is the one that I can fearlessly recommend to my readers.

I would like to hear from you during the week.  Tell me which password program you like and use.  As I compare and contrast them, I believe KeePass has been, and will continue to be (for some time) my choice in password security.

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