Matching colours with PowerPoint’s Eyedropper tool

So you’re creating your PowerPoint presentation and you realise that the colour of the text or shape that you’ve used isn’t quite the same colour as your logo and that spoils the “Corporate” effect; or, perhaps, you’d like to match the colour to a program logo if you’re writing about it (Excel Green, Word Blue or PowerPoint Orange, for example). You could, of course, take an educated guess & play around with the RGB colours of the Font or Shape’s colours, you could even try to find it within the colour spectrum that’s available from the “More colours” option… but it’s far easier to use the inbuilt Eyedropper tool. So, ok, how do we do that?

but this is quicker

Accessing the Eyedropper tool

The Eyedropper tool is available anywhere that you can change the colour of something…

For Text
  1. Home Tab
  2. Down arrow next to Font Colour icon
  3. Select Eyedropper tool
For a Shape – fill colour
  1. Drawing Tools>Format tab
  2. Down arrow next to Shape Fill icon
  3. Select Eyedropper tool
For a Shape Outline ①, Text Fill② or Text Outline ③ colour
  1. Drawing Tools>Format tab
  2. Down arrow next to relevant icon
  3. Select Eyedropper tool (as above)
For Smart Art
  1. SmartArt Tools>Format tab
  2. Down arrow next to relevant icon
  3. Select Eyedropper tool (as above)

Using the Eyedropper tool

Once you have activated the Eyedropper tool, then it’s a simple case of moving the Eyedropper (your mouse pointer actually changes to look like a physical Eyedropper) over the colour that you want to match…

… and click on the colour and the text box (or text, etc) will change colour to match

What if the colour I want to match isn’t in my Presentation?

Sometimes you’ll want to match to something that’s outside of your presentation, for example on a website. That’s relatively straightforward…

  1. Restore down your PowerPoint screen so that you can see both it and the web page that you want to grab a colour from

  1. As before, choose the Eyedropper from that section of your presentation (Shape or text fill or outline or text colour), but this time, hold down your left hand mouse button whilst you move to the colour that you want to use

  1. Click on the colour and your shape, etc, will change accordingly

Building Blocks in Word

I suspect that we all have some “standard” phrases or paragraphs of text that we regularly reuse; perhaps hunting down the exact set of words that we want to use from a previous document and then copying & pasting into our current one. Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a quicker way to do this? Well there is by making use of Word’s Building Blocks.

Getting started with AutoText

OK, so the easiest way to do this is find your document that has the text in it that you’d like to be able to regularly reuse (and, of course, that could be the document that you’re currently writing) and select the text that you’d like to reuse

Then, from the INSERT tab, select the drop-down arrow
next to QuickParts

As we have previously selected our text, you’ll notice that Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery is available. Clicking this opens the Create New Building Block dialog box

The name is pre-populated with the first few characters from your selected text which should be changed to something a little more useful. Because it’s already highlighted, you don’t need to delete the existing text first, you can just type the new name.

Creating your Building Block

Once you’ve given it a “sensible” name, there are then a number of choices to make…

While Name is self-explanatory, the other information boxes in the Create New Building Block dialog box require a bit of explanation…

  • Gallery – Building Block Galleries are simply subdivisions of the entire set of Building Blocks. I leave the default to Quick Parts – why bother spending the time to change things if you don’t need to?
  • Category – When saving a Building Block, Word prompts users to save it in a Category in addition to a Gallery. Categories are simply additional means of grouping Building Blocks together for ease of recall. Word provides only one Category by default – “General” – but users can create their own categories as necessary. For instance, someone involved in preparing sets of financial statements might choose to have a gallery for Cover Letters, a gallery for Financial Statements, and a gallery for Footnotes.
  • Description – Here you can add a brief description of your Building Block
  • Save in – Word saves Building Blocks in template files. More specifically, Word saves Building Blocks by default in the Building Blocks.dotx template. You may also choose to save new Building Blocks in the Normal.dotm template or any other global template so that the Building Blocks are accessible when you are working in any document. On the other hand, you may save the Building Block to a specific document template, and it will then only be accessible to any document that uses that specific template.
  • Options – This setting allows you to control how Word will insert the Building Block. The three choices available here are Insert Content…
    • only,
    • in its own paragraph, and
    • in its own page.

Viewing your Building Block

Once you have created a number of Building Blocks, clicking on the Quick Parts button allows you to see them all, grouped by category together with a thumbnail of their text

You will notice that I have prefixed my custom category with the letter “Z”. This means that when I go into the Building Blocks Organiser, they are all grouped together at the bottom of the list…

Taking it to the next stage

In addition to single paragraphs, multiple paragraphs of text can also be grouped as a single building block… as can a combination of text and images. For example, if our Word document now looks like this…

We can select the image and associated text and add that in the same way as simple paragraphs… (TIP – put your mouse pointer to the right of the text and image that you want to grab so that it’s an upward & to the right pointing arrow as that will allow you to easily select the image AND text)

Then add to the Building Blocks Organiser as before…

View it via the Quick Parts button…

Using the Building Blocks

So far, we’ve just created the Building Blocks… so how do we use them?

Creating a new Word document & selecting the INSERT tab & clicking on Quick Parts brings up the various items that we’ve created… click on one & it will be inserted into your document where your cursor is currently located

Alternatively, you can RIGHT-CLICK on the relevant building block to see additional options…

And finally…

If you’re using these on a regular basis, don’t forget to add the Gallery to your Quick Access toolbar

Useful keyboard shortcuts in Excel

Excel shortcuts

As we’re talking Excel shortcuts, I’ll keep this tip very short!

As your spreadsheet increases in size, you’ll want to find quick ways to move around it without needing to use the scroll buttons (especially with the latest versions having 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns!), so here are a few that I regularly use. To be fair, there are lots & lots of them; here’s a full list from the lovely people at Microsoft Microsoft Excel Shortcuts But to be honest, who can remember all of those & by the time that you’ve looked them up, you’ve done it the “slow way”… so work with a smaller number of really useful ones…

To do thisPress
  • Move one cell up in a worksheet.
  • Up Arrow key
  • Move one cell down in a worksheet.
  • Down Arrow key
  • Move one cell left in a worksheet.
  • Left Arrow key
  • Move one cell right in a worksheet.
  • Right Arrow key
  • Move to the edge of the current data region in a worksheet.
  • Ctrl+arrow key
  • Move to the next nonblank cell in the same column or row as the active cell. (If the cells are blank, this will move the cursor to the last cell in the row or column).
  • End, arrow key
  • Move to the last cell on a worksheet, to the lowest used row of the rightmost used column.
  • Ctrl+End
  • Extend the selection of cells to the last used cell on the worksheet (lower-right corner).
  • Ctrl+Shift+End
  • Move to the beginning of a worksheet.
  • Ctrl+Home
  • Move one screen down in a worksheet.
  • Page Down
  • Move to the next sheet in a workbook.
  • Ctrl+Page Down
  • Move one screen to the right in a worksheet.
  • Alt+Page Down
  • Move one screen up in a worksheet.
  • Page Up
  • Move one screen to the left in a worksheet.
  • Alt+Page Up
  • Move to the previous sheet in a workbook.
  • Ctrl+Page Up
  • Move one cell to the right in a worksheet. Or, in a protected worksheet, move between unlocked cells.
  • Tab

Creating new slides quickly & effectively

Creating new slides can be a painless process…

… if you let it!

By using the basic slide outlines that PowerPoint provides you with, you can save a lot of time – especially if you need to change how it looks

ŒWhen creating a new slide…
… consider using the preformatted slide templates as this will save you some time in adding content
ŽWhat’s more, by selecting Home>Layout
You can quickly swap to any of the other layouts and your content will automatically adjust accordingly
From the VIEW Tab
‘Selecting Slide Master allows you to modify or add to the various templates within your presentation
’Once the Slide Master is open, you can modify the basic designs of your slides changing fonts & colours, adding logos, etc so that they are applied consistently throughout your presentation to provide a “corporate” feel.

We will discuss Slide Masters in more detail in another post

Use AutoCorrect in Word to increase accuracy and speed

How to speed up your typing with Word’s AutoCorrect feature

AutoCorrect can not only speed up your typing by allowing you to create shortcuts, it can also help prevent regular spelling errors that you make.

If you find yourself typing long words again and again, you should consider setting up typing shortcuts, so you only need to type in part of the word and Word fills in the rest. For example, if I need to type Universal Solutions 4 Business Limited, I just type US4B; then I press the SPACEBAR, Word automatically spells out all the words.

To set up this shortcut to take advantage of Word’s AutoCorrect feature:


Select FILE Tab >Options



Select Proofing

 AutoCorrect Options


On the AutoCorrect Tab…

ŽIn the Replace box, type an abbreviation you will remember—for example, US4B.

In the With box, type the complete spelling of the word—for example, Universal Solutions 4 Business Limited

Click Add.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 to add additional terms, then ‘click OK.


You can also use this tip to quickly type people’s names, technical terms—anything you want (I find it useful to sort out regular spelling mistakes that I make – where brain works more quickly than fingers and instead of “The” I type “Teh“. And once you add a term to your AutoCorrect list, it also works in Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Working with Sheets

Working with Sheets

Depending on which version of Excel you use, when creating a new workbook, there will usually be either one or three blank sheets (or Tabs) entertainingly named Sheet1, Sheet2 & Sheet3. These can be added to, deleted, renamed & coloured as necessary

Adding a new Sheet (Tab)

By far the quickest & easiest way is to click on the large “+” button to the right of the last sheet in your workbook – whether you have one or ten (or more) it will always be there to add more (there used to be a maximum of 256, however with the latest versions of Excel, the maximum is limited by the memory of your computer & arguably, if you have too many sheets, your workbook will begin to become unmanageable, anyway)

Deleting a sheet

Again, there are a number of ways of doing this but there are two quick ways…

The first is to click with your righthand mouse button on the Sheet Tab that you’re wanting to delete & then select Delete from the menu that appears

The second is to select Delete Sheet from the dropdown arrow underneath the Delete button which you’ll find over to the right on the Home Tab of Excel

Irrespective of which method you choose to use, if there is data on the sheet that you are about to delete, Excel will prompt you with a warning…


If you click delete & then realise that you didn’t mean to (as some of your formulas on other sheets are now showing #REF! errors), it’s too late as the Undo button will not help!

So, before you decide to delete the sheet, I would always recommend that you save a copy of your spreadsheet & then, having deleted the sheet, just check to see that all of your formulas are working. If not, close down your spreadsheet without saving changes & then re-open it from the saved copy that you created.

Renaming a sheet

In most cases, names such as Sheet1, Sheet2, etc are not really useful – especially if you are linking formulas from one sheet to another – so it may be that you want to rename your sheets to something a little more useful such as “Input Data” for the sheet where you enter the raw data or “Static Data” to hold information that never, or rarely, changes (for example price lists or equipment & serial numbers)

As ever, there are a number of ways that this can be done – the one that I use is to simply double click on the sheet name (which highlights it), type in the new name & then press enter

An alternative is to right click on the sheet name & select Rename from the menu that pops up. This will cause the sheet name to be highlighted as before; obviously the simple double click avoids a step & is therefore quicker!

Changing the Tab colour

Once you right click on the tab, one of the options that becomes available is Tab Color (American spelling!) with a right hand pointing arrow. You can then select the colour that you want by clicking it with your mouse pointer


Moving Sheets

When we create a new sheet, it’s not always in the correct place; for example, the new sheet may be for your static data which you’d prefer to be on the far left of all of the sheets in your workbook.

To quickly move the sheet, Œ select the sheet & hold down your left-hand mouse button. As you move the mouse to where you’d like the sheet to be, you’ll notice that 
a little “page” icon appears attached to the mouse pointer. An arrow Ž
will appear to indicate where the sheet will end up





Copying sheets

To create an exact copy of a sheet (including column widths and row heights), do exactly the same as above, but this time holding down the Control (or CTRL) button at the same time. You’ll usually find this button as the very bottom, right-hand button on your keyboard.

Avoiding Death by PowerPoint

Avoiding Death by PowerPoint

I’m sure that we’ve all suffered “Death by PowerPoint” where the presenter reads from the screen words that are so small as to be illegible; we’re woken up by “flashy” screen transitions, and by the 94th slide we’re ready for screaming! Hopefully, these notes will go some way to resolving this issue…

Limit the number of words or bullets on each slide

If you are using a bulleted list, I recommend that 6 bullets should be the maximum on any slide (with 6 words per bullet); however, that shouldn’t mean that your presentation should consist of slides all with 36 words on them!. The presentation should not be a reading report! Only a few words or a phrase to emphasise or reinforce an idea are all that is needed.

And talking of bullets… Don’t forget that there are other ways to present a slide – they don’t all have to be bulleted lists!

Use slide transitions and animations wisely

You can always tell a new PowerPoint user who has just discovered slide transitions: words are flying in from every direction often with more sound effects than a StarWars movie. Speakers must keep in mind that they are the show – not what is on the screen. Transitions often distract from the message; Judicious use of transitions can help an audience know where you are going, rather than distract them.

I once sat through a presentation where each letter appeared one at a time to the accompaniment of a typewriter sound…

Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should!

Choose a clear design template

Avoid busy backgrounds, or ones with hard-to-read fonts, or fonts with equal colour density to the background (i.e. the worst case would be bright green letters on bright red field).

Let the audience know where you are going

PowerPoint is great to help audiences know where you are in a program. List the agenda (what will be covered), key points, use topic headers at the top of your slides, use thematic clipart for each subject area, use full screen titles to announce major presentation transitions, include a conclusions slide (what was covered). The more you help an audience know where you are going, the more they will stay with you and learn.

Remember what you are presenting

If your presentation is only to last for, say, 10 minutes as an introduction to your organization or product, then you don’t want to have 50 slides; Similarly, if you are running a training course for a day, you probably need more than 10! A good average to go for is no more than 20 slides in an hour

Know your subject

Arguably, this is the most important way to avoid Death by PowerPoint – if you know your subject, you’ve a chance of keeping your audience interested and engaged; if you don’t know the subject, then perhaps someone else should deliver the presentation?

And finally,…

Practice, practice & then practice again!

Freeze titles for added visibility in Excel

Freezing Titles (or panes)

Whenever you’re working with a lot of data, you can find that when you scroll down your spreadsheet, your headings disappear. By understanding how to freeze panes in your worksheet, you’ll be able to work quickly without the need to continually scroll up or to the left.

You may want to see certain rows or columns all the time in your worksheet, especially header cells. By freezing rows or columns in place, you’ll be able to scroll through your content while continuing to view the frozen cells.

To Freeze Rows

  1. Select the row below the row(s) you want to freeze. In our example, we want to freeze rows 1 and 2, so we’ll select row 3.

  1. On the View tab, select the Freeze Panes command, then choose Freeze Panes from the drop-down menu.

  1. The rows will be frozen in place, as indicated by the grey line. You can scroll down the worksheet while continuing to view the frozen rows at the top. In our example, we’ve scrolled down to row 18.

To freeze columns

  1. Select the column to the right of the column(s) you want to freeze. In our example, we want to freeze column A, so we’ll select column B.

  1. On the View tab, select the Freeze Panes command, then choose Freeze Panes from the drop-down menu.

  1. The column will be frozen in place, as indicated by the grey line. You can scroll across the worksheet while continuing to view the frozen column on the left. In our example, we’ve scrolled across to column E.

Freezing Top Row or First Column

In my (humble?) opinion, this is quite poorly named (or at least not as clear as it could be!).

Most of the time, when working with Excel data, everything is based on the data block that you’re working with. So, for example, tell Excel to do a sort & it assumes that the first row are your headers, create a table & the same thing…

So you would expect that Freeze Top Row or Freeze First Column from the drop-down menu would relate to the first row or column of your data… but no, it’s not that straightforward… it refers to the first Visible row or column that you can see. Most tutorials refer to Column A or Row 1 & if you’re at the top of your spreadsheet, then it’s likely that these are the rows that will be frozen… however, if the first row that you can see is Row 7 & the first column Column C, then these are the ones that will be frozen

To unfreeze panes:

If you want to select a different view option, you may first need to reset the spreadsheet by unfreezing panes. To unfreeze rows or columns, click the Freeze Panes command, then select Unfreeze Panes from the drop-down menu.

The Curse of the cAPS lOCK key

The curse of the cAPS lOCK key and how to solve it

OK, so admit it… we’ve all done it… started typing with the CAPS LOCK key on & only noticing that after a paragraph or two we’ve typed…



Makes you feel like this, doesn’t it?

Resulting in…

And then, of course, we have to delete it all & start typing again…

… or do we?

Avoiding the retype

No, we don’t have to retype the whole thing, here’s a few simple ways to resolve it painlessly.

ŒFirst select your text
From the Home tab
ŽSelect the Change Case button
Select the appropriate option (in this case it would be tOGGLE cASE). As you can see, the various options available themselves illustrate what their effect will be

Alternatively, you can select the text & use Shift+F3 to cycle through the various options

Removing Leading & Trailing spaces in Word

How to remove leading and trailing spaces in Microsoft Word

Leading & trailing spaces

Sometimes (either because we’ve copied the text from elsewhere or we’ve used the spacebar when we didn’t mean to) we can generate a lot of extra spaces both at the start and end of paragraphs.

This can make your document look a little untidy – especially when wanting to format it neatly afterwards.

As these spaces are difficult to see, switching on Show/Hide (Home Tab, Paragraph Group) shows these a little more clearly by replacing the space with a “.”

Spaces are now more visible – as are the end of paragraph marks

So, how can we get rid of those spaces?

Word, itself, does not provide a simple & straightforward method to remove such unwanted spaces (unlike the button to quickly change the case of text). This means that most people remove them manually by pressing the backspace or delete keys until they’ve all gone; to say the least, this can be really time consuming – especially in a large document.

So, again, how can we get rid of those spaces?

  1. First of all select all of the lines with leading and/or trailing spaces
  2. Press Ctrl+E to centre align them
  3. Keeping the lines selected, press Ctrl+R to do right align. This will remove trailing spaces
  4. Still keeping the lines selected, press Ctrl+L to do left align. This will remove leading spaces

And that’s it! Now your Word document will be devoid of those extra leading and trailing spaces. Only neat and clean sentences will remain.

Selecting the relevant sections

If your whole document has additional & unwanted spaces, then the quickest way to select the whole document is to press Ctrl+A. Alternatively, You can select a single row by pointing to it with your mouse from the right hand margin of your document

Click here once and a single line is selected

Click twice and the whole paragraph is selected

Clicking three times selects the whole document (but Ctrl+A is quicker)

And just as a reminder the Ctrl key is (usually!) the bottom left hand key on your keyboard & usually looks like this