5 Creakily Ancient, But Still Really Useful Office Tips

So Microsoft Office isn’t exactly a hot new app. In fact, you probably have it open in the background right now, right? And no doubt, you feel like over the past million years you’ve been using it, you’ve figured out how to use it pretty well. But there are shortcuts and tips that can save you hours of time – and they’re not always obvious, even to experienced users.

Microsoft Office is kind of like what John Lennon said about life: it’s the application you use while you’re busy making other plans. That means it isn’t very glamorous. But most people who sit down at a keyboard for a living will be using Office most days. Let’s look at some ways to cut corners, trim fat and boost performance. You can even use Office for things you’ve been opening other programs for!

1: Remove the Background From An Image

You can remove the background to an image in MS Office. Here’s how:

First, select the image and click the contextual Format tab in Picture Tools. Go to the Adjust options, select Color and choose Set Transparent Color. Then click on the image, and like that… no more background.

2: Select By Style

In MS Word, you can find text by selecting it by style. That’s especially useful if you want to check all your subheadings, titles and so on. Click the dialog launcher for the Styles group, then right-click the style you want to locate instances of. You’ll be asked to confirm that you want all instances of that style, and told how many there are, in the drop-down.

3: Close Docs, Not Apps

If you want to keep Word open when you close your last document, press [ctrl]+[F4] when you close the last document. The document will close, but the application will remain open.

4: Quickly Select Rows and Columns in Excel

There’s a keyboard shortcut to quickly select rows and columns in Excel. To select the current column, press [ctrl]+[spacebar]. To expand the rows, it’s [up arrow] and [down arrow], without releasing the [ctrl] key. To select the current row, press [shift]+[spacebar]. To expand the columns, it’s [right arrow] and [left arrow] without releasing the [shift] key.

5: Nudge to Budge in Powerpoint

Sometimes you want to move an object in Powerpoint without dragging it. We’ve all had the problem where just picking it up to drag it moves it too far and sends you running to that old favorite amongst Office shortcuts, [ctrl]+[Z]. Nudging can be the answer here. Select the object, then hold down [ctrl] and press the appropriate arrow key. You’ll see the object move a tiny amount, enough to fine-tune your layout.

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Peak App: Do We Really Need More?

The phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ has achieved the ultimate in internet acceptance – it’s a hashtag and a meme. It’s also increasingly true – apps have proliferated at a massive rate. But does that mean there are now too many, and should you think of building one?

Apps are the lifeblood of mobile internet, and they’re among the fastest growing sectors anywhere in the economy, so it’s hardly surprising that a lot of people want to get in on the action. But it’s not always a good idea to become an app creator.

Apps are an explosively growing sector. Between January and November 2014, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and iOS App Store each grew by more than 50%. And it’s part of a long term trend going back to at least 2010. iOS App Store is worth 10 times what it was then, and in 2014, iOS App Store sold $10 bn worth of apps. Maybe that’s why the three big players now have 1, 024, 000 developers working on apps between them – over half of whom work at Google.

All of which sounds like a digital gold rush. Why wouldn’t you want some of that?

Apps take up 86% of a typical mobile web user’s online time. That sounds like another fabulous stat showing why apps are the market to get into. But it’s actually deceptive. It sounds like, if you’re an app maker, you’re competing for 86% of a mobile user’s attention.

The reality, though, is that if you don’t make games, which account for 32% of app time, you’ll struggle. Facebook and social messaging account for another 27% of app time, leaving 41% to play for. Twitter, Youtube and utilities absorb another 18%, leaving just 23% of app time actually in play. That’s spread across an average of 26 apps used on a monthly basis. If you’re one of them, you’re competing for less than a percent of the typical user’s time.

What will that competition look like? In an increasingly frantic marketplace, it will often look like financial outlay. Each app download costs the developer an average of $1.30, but some run far higher, as much as $70 in some cases. And half the users you acquire this way will be gone in just three months.

None of this is a reason not to build an app: some apps are massively successful, and plenty that aren’t are providing value for their users and profits for their developers. But it is a good reason to think about whether you need an app – and to reconsider search. Mobile search has been eclipsed by consideration of that 86% figure – but in fact, as we’ve just seen, a new app developer is competing for just 5% of the average mobile user’s internet time, as against the 14% accounted for by browsing.

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Getting Ahead of the Internet of Things

IT techs need to be ready when the IoT lands. It’s estimated that well over 20bn devices will be a part of the IoT, ranging from consumer goods like toasters to complex sensor arrays in smart homes and vehicles. The volume of data created by this network will be gigantic, requiring a rethink from organizations in terms of how they view, manage, store, and even think about data.

Getting Ready for IoT

Over the next decade, the growth in the number of IoT networks will be very large and very fast. Every industry vertical will be involved, because no-one will be able to afford to turn down the benefits associated with IoT. Its effects will be felt everywhere from manufacturing to healthcare, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

Re-evaluate Database Architecture and Data Management Strategies

Right now, most companies have a core database that houses transactional data. IoT data won’t replace that, but it won’t behave the same way either. Look for solutions that will support multiple deployment scenarios. Your database technology should be capable of scaling up and down, to be device-agnostic while having the potential to accommodate a huge amount of data.

Remember: Not Every Database Will Cope With IoT

You need to select a database that’s built to cope with the volume, velocity and variety of data that’s going to come to you from IoT sources. Time-series and geospatial-oriented databases will cope far better than general purpose databases.

Deploy Data Management Technology

Consider the potential value of deploying data management technology both within the network and on its borders. As the volume of data generated by IoT networks grows this is likely to become an unavoidable necessity, and those enterprises that implement data management, processing, and analysis will have a significant advantage in that, while they might not have more data than their competitors, they will have more useable data.

There’s More to IoT Than Coping With The Data

At first glance, IoT seems to offer one main challenge: how to cope with all that data. But how well companies emerge from the early days of IoT is going to depend more on how they respond to some other challenges, including the access IoT will grant to new markets and new applications within existing markets. As the number of devices capable of gathering and sharing data grows, so more and more enterprises will find it cost-effective to leverage the increase.

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3 Essential Elements of a Secure Mobile Strategy

Mobility and BYOD are a gift for companies looking for improved agility and productivity. But they come with downsides built in, including security worries. If you strategise them right, though, you can get their benefits without falling prey to any of the pitfalls.

These are the top 3 essential elements of a secure mobility strategy.

1: Manage What Matters…

…and stop trying to manage everything else.

The days when the IT department had a realistic chance of controlling data flows through an enterprise are over. Instead, it’s time to triage: vital data must be managed and protected, while the majority of data can simply be ignored by IT. One way to do this is MDM – Mobile Device Management. This allows you to check whether a device remains secure before it accesses your company network – whether it’s owned by a worker or the company. Another is MAM – Mobile Application Management, which involves diffusing an app but centralizing its security settings and controls. Finally, virtualization and sandboxing holds out the hope of making the spread of conventional malware all but impossible and preventing large-scale hacking too.

2: Automate the Outcome You Want

It’s the things we don’t have to think about that boost productivity. How many business bloggers have you seen, talking about the power of habit? It’s the same in IT. Set up your systems so the right thing happens automatically. When an employee gets a new device, whoever owns it, make all their work materials available on it with the click of a single URL. When employees move from one physical location to another, pre-configured controls adapt the level of access that’s available to avoid security risks – and tell the person what’s going on and why. Use Active Directory to assign containers – sets of information, apps and access privileges – to roles rather than individuals, so that when someone new enters or leaves a role, everything they need is available.

3: Avoid the Dreaded Quadruple Bypass

A ‘quadruple bypass’ refers to the leakiest, most insecure setup you can have: BYOD on a consumer-grade device, handling sensitive company information and going straight to cloud. Completely sidestepping the control and monitoring of IT at every stage, this ‘bypass’ is ripe for hackers, leaks and malware. This is the structure you’ll find if IT hasn’t been involved in implementing BYOD and cloud!

This is the nightmare scenario for IT and it must be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, that’s not that difficult. It has to be by making other options more attractive, though. Give workers a superior user experience on IT-approved, secure systems and they won’t wander from it. It’s the best guarantee of security.

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Disaster-Proofing Your Data

What stands between your data and disaster? You do.

IT disasters cost US businesses $1.2 trillion every year. Worldwide, the total is $6.2 trillion. And more of that comes from so-called ‘silent disasters’ software bugs or malware and hardware failures than you’d think. Everyone thinks about preparing for floods or hurricanes, because they’re high-profile and high-impact. Fact is, they’re also low-probability.

And with leaking, hacking and security risks riding front-of-mind for so many, it’s easy to forget that many of the the disasters that put your whole company IT system up on blocks are just that – accidents. It really doesn’t matter, after all, where they come from. What matters is how you respond to them.

1: Plan For Disaster

Anticipate likely problems before they arise. No, you can’t get ready for everything – but you can build data loss templates that reflect the most likely threats you face. Map out two to four of the most likely scenarios and base your preparations on those. Look at the data losses you’ve suffered in the past, or those that affected other enterprises in your business vertical and geographic location, and build on that knowledge to prepare.

2: Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Ensure that the processes and technology to deal with the treats you’ve identified are in place. Have backup and recovery, snapshot and replication capacity ready for when it;’s needed. A good disaster recovery plan will need all these in place to cover any eventuality. Augment their efficacy and prevent overuse by building in a monitoring tool that’s sensitive and accurate, with a low number of false positives.

3: Test It!

Just like a fire alarm system is only as good as the last fire drill, so a data recovery plan, too, is only as good as its last test. When was the last time you tested yours? If the last time you tested your data recovery plan, the solution involved switching out a blown valve, you need to step up testing. Otherwise you just think you’re ready – when you need your data recovery plan the most, it might let you down.

With a resiliency plan in place, you’ll be equipped to hit the ground running if disaster does strike, as well as being more likely to catch internal problems like ailing hardware or buggy programs in the bud, before they can trigger a disaster.

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