About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

April 29, 2014

Online Docs May Be the Answer

Last week we looked at the confusion regarding the many choices with Microsoft Office.  I said I would have another solution for Lindsey and you this week.   

imageHere are two more good options.  Office Live or OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive) depending on where you read about it or Google Drive ( or just get there from any Google product you are logged into.)  Either of these are very good online solutions.  There are many ways to get Office Live.  I suggest using  There you can sign up for a free email account which gives you access to everything you need.  You can also sign up with Yahoo! or Gmail accounts; although I have not experimented with those.  If you already signed in to other MS devices like a Windows PC, tablet, phone, Xbox Live,, or OneDrive, use that account to sign in.  Once there you can view and use your email, address book, calendar, online drive Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. To get to these click the labeled down arrow in the upper-left corner of the window.  Any of the files created can be stored in OneDrive so that you can retrieve them from any online computer.  They are all saved in the default MS Office formats so you can easily share them via email, etc.

imageVery similar products are available with a Google/Gmail account.  Setup a free account or you can use one you already have. Once logged in click the "Apps" button in the upper-right corner that looks like a small tic-tac-toe pattern, and then select "Drive."  You have a create button on this screen where you may choose from Document, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Form and several others depending on what you normally use with Google.  The files you create here are saved on your Google Drive for later retrieval just as in

Even though I am a Google fan boy, Google is not quite friendly to Microsoft Office file types.  That being said they work with MS products; they just take an extra step or two.  There are several ways to do this but they all require you to download the file to your local computer.  I suggest finding your file in the file list, right click on it and choose download.  You will be presented with a choice of what file type you want to use, so choose "Microsoft Word. (.docx) You will then have it in your downloaded files to share as a standard Word doc.

Another note regarding Google docs.  When right clicked you may also choose to "Share" the file.  If you choose email as an attachment you once again can choose the file format and MS Word is one of the choices.

Now the final note.  OneNote is a terrific app available only with the Microsoft suite.  If you are interested let me know via email and I will share that with you in the future.

There are many other options and features in both Microsoft and Google online offerings.  Lindsey chose to try both and make a final decision later.  How about you?

June 11, 2013

Where Can I Get Office Training?

Several weeks ago I concluded a series of articles with regard to the new Microsoft Office 2013.  Since then I have had several people mention they would like to get Microsoft Office but had never used it before.  They wanted to know how difficult it is to learn. 

Office is not hard to use for most people.  However, I doubt that anyone will ever know everything about Office.  Much of the time at work I use Office.  I also use many features that most people do not know exist, and I am sure there are thousands of things which are contained in the Office applications I have never even thought about. 

So how can you learn how to get the most out of the Office programs?  There are many ways.

My first recommendation is that you peruse the opportunities your local Technical Center, Community College, or University offer under their adult education programs.  I have taught evening courses in these along with other "technology" courses and the materials they provide are very good.  (And of course, the instructors are superior.)  These do have a cost associated with them but you end up with hands on training, a good resource in the instructor and a good manual to use for reference in the future.

Next, online/virtual courses are good; however, only for some people.  I have taken online training as well as taught courses online.  Online courses can be very beneficial since you can usually start and stop them when convenient for you.  Hours, days or weeks later you can go back to them and pick up where you left off – the convenience factor is undeniable. 

The only issue with online training is that unless you are really dedicated to learning the subject matter you will possibly drift off, not pay attention and not get as much out of it as you should.  I do not know if statistics would support supposition or not but I have definitely found it to be true for me.  Now, let me backtrack a little after saying that.  If it is something you really want to learn and find very interesting you may not have this problem.  Students of mine in online classes agree with this.  A recommendation for paid online training is  I highly recommend their technical training for everyday users; however, there is a cost.  Microsoft also offers free online Office training for the 2007, 2010 & 2013 versions ( of Office which is quite good.

Now these are good general courses but what if you have a specific question and you cannot get me right that minute? Try for help.  For instance, one of my favorite things in Excel is "vlookup" so I went to YouTube and searched for, "how to use vlookup in Excel."  I received over 27,000 results.  Are they all good?  Of course not, but how about the first four or five?  Yes they were.  I know since I watched them and each of the people did a good job explaining the process.  Some had much better design, sound, video production quality than others but they all got the "how to" correct.

You have many options for learning how to do just about anything you want to, just seek them out.

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

July 17, 2012

Google Calendar Sync

After last week’s column about Google’s calendar I could not believe the number of emails I received.  The great majority of them were asking about tying that calendar to others, mainly Outlook for people who use Microsoft products in the office.  I wrote about this several years ago but the response deserves it again, along with some updates.

It would be really brainy to combine calendars in Gmail and Microsoft Outlook and someone has.  I believe they have done a very good job of it, too!

For instance, I use Outlook for my main business email application and have for many years.  For the majority of my personal email I use  Many great features serve to recommend Gmail.  To see what I have recommended, read a few of my most recent articles at

OK, now back to the calendars.  I use Outlook’s calendar for all of my appointments and scheduling both for work and home.  Whether it is a meeting at work or a doctor’s appointment I post it there so that I will be alerted/alarmed/reminded at a time of my choosing.  I also use an Android phone which will sync to my Outlook calendar.  If you have a smart phone you need to check with your cell provider or phone manufacturer to find out how to do this (if you don’t already know.)

However, when I am online on a computer without Outlook on it or surfing the net and don’t want to start up Outlook, it would be good to be able to use my calendar.  In steps a free application, Google Calendar Sync (  Once installed GCS will allow your two separate calendars to communicate with each other and to "sync."

It is fairly easy to set up.  Follow the instructions on the site and you will be up and running in no time.  There are basically three settings you need to apply.  First, your Gmail account name and password (to access your online calendar) need to be entered.  Next, you will need to enter how you want to sync the two calendars (see the next paragraph) and how often you wish to sync them during the day.

Link OptionsThe Sync Options have three choices.  First, would you like to sync the calendars both ways so that if you make a change on one it is updated on the other?  The next way syncs the changes from your Gmail calendar up to your Outlook calendar.  The final way is to sync all of your Outlook appointments to your Gmail calendar, which is the option I use.

I run this application on several computers and they are all tied to my main calendar in Outlook.  Please note: currently Google Calendar Sync is only compatible with Microsoft Outlook versions 2003, 2007, 2010 and operating systems Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

April 3, 2012

Search Tips for Google

After that past few weeks of touting many of Google’s features I received an email from Iris asking about some tricks in using standard old Google search.  Since that is what started it all for Google I figured sure, so today I am going to share some Google search tricks which may be very useful to you.  I have been using some of these for years and some were offered up by some geek friends of mine, so enjoy!

If you like these please email and let me know you would like to see some more or share your Google tricks with me.


Say you want to purchase something in a certain price range.  Try, "Android Tablet $300…$400".  Notice two or three periods will work.  This will list the tablets available online between those low/high prices.  Keep in mind; all of these specialized searches will degrade as you go down the list, so I would look mainly at the top ten or less in the resulting lists.  Use your own judgment.  Also, something a little strange about some of these searches, you actually need to press the ‘Enter’ key after entering them in search.

Google can recognize many of the major file types using their advanced search.  This would include, but is not limited to, the Microsoft Office Document types like, DOC, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPS, etc. along with Lotus, PostScript, Shockwave Flash, plain text files and others. So if you wanted to find a MS PowerPoint file regarding orchids try, "American Orchids filetype:pps".

Now if you are looking for a document of any type with specific words in the title of it, try, "intitle Bohemian Rhapsody".  Need to know where area code, "919" is located?  Just type it in the search box and see.  You will most likely get a map of the are too.

Are you in Va. Beach and thinking about going to a movie?  Try, "movies 23456" for a listing of movies and theaters in that zip. 

You are waiting for a friend to arrive on a flight?  If you know the carrier and the flight number try it, "United 1657."  If you typed everything correctly you will see the top result with arrival times, etc.

imageHow about the weather for anywhere in the world?  It can be as simple as, "weather 22980" or more detailed like, "weather Paris."  It will guess at which Paris you mean, but if it is Paris, VA, just enter that for your search.  And if you want to know the current time in those places all you need to do is replace "weather" with "time."  Try Los Angeles or even Richmond, VA and see if it works.

OK, only a couple more before I run out of space.  Do not forget to let me know if you like these and want a few more!

Check any of your stock prices by just typing in the company ticker symbol ntls, msft,  or goog for a couple of examples.

Here is the last one for today.  Need the definition to a word?  Type, "define synonym."  The top of the search list will hold a full or partial definition.

January 10, 2012

2011 Sites in Review, Part 1

Thanks to all of you readers who support the "Double Click" column by reading and writing.  It is very much appreciated.  Please keep it up.  I always enjoy hearing from you.

So it is that time of year again when we review all of the sites I have mentioned over the previous year.  As always, have fun remembering, discovering, or rediscovering all the info!  If you prefer to click on links and not type all of these, visit the site and click away.

If the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them using the, "" app which I have discussed before.  All of these sites should be free (or have a free version) unless marked "nf".  Without further ado…here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  • Open Office is a Microsoft Office clone that works almost as well.
  • Ubuntu a free operating system which you can run alongside of or instead of Microsoft Windows.
  • Ron’s video training I created a couple of videos for fun, it never went any further than these two…maybe one day.
  • Change your User Account Picture one specific Double Click training video.
  • VirtualBox an application that allows you to run multiple operating systems on one computer.
  • Open DNS the best app out there for blocking objectionable sites from the kids.  It is slightly complicated but at the top of the features pile.
  • Facebook you know about this one and if you don’t you won’t be interested.
  • Windows Live Essentials a free suite of applications which do many different things from Microsoft.
  • Create a Panorama an article I wrote for Microsoft about how to join individual pictures together to make a panoramic picture.
  • Double Clicks my site for this column.
  • eBay,,,, online tech stores, the sites are free but the stuff on them is nf.
  • Active KillDisk application to absolutely clean your disk of personal information and everything else.
  • True Crypt folder and/or file (and more) encryption software.
  • XOOM this is Motorola’s entrance into the PC Tablet market, it is a good one, but later in the year I show you the best (IMHO).
  •,,, 1Password are some of the password recording applications around, still I chose KeePass over the rest.
  • Open Wi-Fi leads to False Arrest an article showing why you should lock down your wi-fi network to stay out of jail.
  • Your Home Router ( or the IP Addresses that will most likely get you into your home router.
  • Nook Barnes & Noble’s ebook reader.
  • Project Gutenberg where you can download most any book that is not under copyright any longer.

OK, this took us through June, 2011.  Next week we will visit part 2 of last year’s links.

August 16, 2011

Security in the Cloud

I was talking to my friend and realtor, Chris Rooker of Kline May Realty, about security of documents in the "Cloud".  I presented him with a thought that I voice often and that is, at this point in time, I do not put anything confidential online; including in my emails and online storage.  Never do I have my social security number, debit card number, bank usernames or passwords online anywhere.

A very basic definition of the cloud is (when talking computers and technology) the place where companies deliver many services online..  In other words the service is on a server somewhere in cyberspace and not on your local hard drive.  You can access these services from your computer. 

Some of the services include fully developed applications like Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo mail and even fun things like Pandora.  There are also many cloud storage services, for instance, DropBox (my favorite, Windows Life Mesh, Amazon S3, etc. 

There are a tremendous number of cloud services to choose from.  The list grows daily – probably by the minute.  Some of these services are free while others are not.  

One concern I have is where your information stored. I mean where geographically, as in what country?  What if your important data is stored on a junk (not one of the best available) server somewhere in a war-torn country where the costs are much less expensive?  Then what if that country has a military coup or is destroyed by some other country?  How do you get your data and/or what are the new guys doing with your information?

Next, what if the company that has your information goes bankrupt or is sold to someone else?  You would hope that proper provision has been made for continuous service, but what if it hasn’t?

Here is one last thought for you to lay awake at night and consider.  Where is one of the weakest links in any security?  It would be people, plain and simple.  More than likely your password is safe and won’t be compromised by people in the company servicing your online data but that isn’t my people concern.  Think about the "uncrackable safe" scenario for a bank.  Banks want to advertise their vault as one that no one, not even the locksmith can get into.  This gives their customers a great feeling of security.  But think about this…if even a locksmith can’t get into it, what happens during an emergency or some foul-up?   How can they get their money out?   It could be locked up forever.  So there has to be someone with the ability to get into that safe through a "back door".

The same thing is true for cloud storage.  Even though it may be ultimately and inscrutably secure, someone has to be able to get to the data on the servers in case of an emergency. This could quite possibly be their most dissatisfied and disgruntled employee.  Think about that for a minute.

February 24, 2011

Google does it again with Cloud Connect!

If you know me or read my articles and columns you know that I am a Google Lover and so I have to share another one with you.

Read their blog but basically now Microsoft Office (at least Word, Excel and PowerPoint) all work in conjunction with Google Docs.  You can create, store, edit and share them all on Google Docs directly from inside the MS apps.

Give it a try.  I have and so far it has worked great, if that opinion changes either the good or the bad I will let you know here.

January 4, 2011

Excel Tricks, Comments

Comment marker, the small red triangle in the cornerI know you have seen them in Excel workbooks before and wanted to add our own.  You know what I am talking about, those little red triangles in the upper right corner of a cell.

Hover over a cell with a Comment Additionally, when you hover your mouse over that cell a yellow box pops up with a red arrow pointing to the cell.  Oh yeah, that box has text in it concerning that cell.

The little triangle indicates that there is a "Comment" for the reader in the cell.  You already know how to read the comments but how to add, edit, remove and print them may not be in your skill set…yet.  Cell comments are useful for explaining information in a cell, explaining a formula you have in a cell, or just merely making a general comment about a cell for someone else to read.  One comment may only be added to each individual cell. Consider the recipients of the spreadsheet …too many red triangles will make the data confusing.

imageTo create a comment, right click on the cell in which you wish to leave a comment and choose Insert Comment (you may also use the quick keys, SHIFT + F2).  The yellow box opens up with the licensed owner of Office pre-entered which may be deleted.  Type whatever you wish in the comment: any characters, numbers, letters, spaces, symbols, etc.  To close the comment box, click anywhere outside the comment box.

Position your mouse pointer over this cell and the comment pops up.

To edit a cell comment, right click on the cell that contains the comment you want to edit.  Choose Edit Comment from the menu that pops up and edit all you wish.  You may also change the size and location of the box.  Play with the edges of the box and experiment.

Now to delete a comment, once again right click on the Cell that has the "offending" comment.  Choose Delete Comment from the menu that pops up.

If you want to see the comments automatically while the sheet is opened, right click the commented cell once more and choose, "Show/Hide Comment".  It acts like an on/off switch so to hide it again repeat the previous step choosing "Hide."  Any "shown" comment will show up if you print the sheet, so make sure it isn’t hiding any data on the spreadsheet before printing.

You most likely realize that comments (unless revealed using above steps) do not print in a worksheet so you will have to change the print settings.  To make them print using version 2007 + go to Page Layout tab, Page Setup group, lower right corner arrow.  For pre-2007 versions click File, Page Setup and continue, click the Sheet tab and under Comments select whether you want them to print "as displayed on sheet" or "at end of sheet".

Go ahead, make some comments in your next worksheet.

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