Monday, April 08, 2013


The stick-with-it or throw-in-the-towel decision tree :)

This isn't about technology, per se--the kind of evaluating we do with a mouse, keyboard, and spreadsheet. It is about a deeper kind of "felt sense" evaluation that can help us determine whether what we're doing has a hope of working, or it's time to (1) try another route, or (2) cash in altogether.

I found this article in Forbes Magazine today very clear and helpful, and I created a decision tree to make it even clearer for myself. I like the idea that part of the determination of whether to have hope in our efforts involves looking around to see whether energy is building for it. Are others attracted to what we're creating? What is the outside world telling us about what we're offering it?

For those of you who are entrepreneurs, like me, I offer this, just in case it's helpful. Feel free to download and share ad nauseum. :)


Friday, April 05, 2013


Coming soon to a bookstore (online or otherwise) near you! :)

I just received my author copies of Microsoft Office 2013 Plain & Simple, and I love the new look! The cover is vibrant and the interior is easy-to-navigate and pretty. (Okay, I'm a little biased.)

This is an all-new book written on the latest in the long line of Office ancestry. I know chances are good that if you're on this list, you may not be a beginning-level Office user, but if you have a child or parent or relative or friend who is, send them this way! :)

I also was blessed to write Microsoft Office 2013 for Touch Devices Plain & Simple for this release, swiping along with the flow of touch. This one also will be available soon and already has its spot on Amazon. I am grateful that after lo these many years I still enjoy this stuff. In fact, I discovered earlier this week that I'm officially geekier than 4/5ths of the Geek Squad at my local Best Buy. LOL!

If you take a look at the books--or better yet, buy one--and want to leave a comment or a review either here or on Amazon, I'd love it. I do read them all. Usually more than once. And sometimes I send them to other people, too...especially the positive ones. :)

PS> I'm cross-posting this to my author blog because, well, it's my author blog. :)

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Crazed merge field destruction

Often tech problems look at first like they are going to be hopelessly complex and knotted (which means they are beyond my depth), but as I get curious about them and start to pull on the nearest thread, I find they unravel easily and we have our solution. Recently Nancy sent me a note with this frustrating puzzle:
About 2 months ago I copied a merge tag off a website to help add commas and decimals to a dollar amount merge field in Word 2010. Since then, I have not been able to preview my merge documents. When I click the Preview button (which is active), nothing changes on the screen. I still see only merge fields, not real data. I have combed the Internet looking for answers, I have tried every possible combination of settings I can on Word itself, I have created new merge documents from scratch that have no relation to the copied merge field that started this, I have even reinstalled the application - all with no change. This is making me crazy as we produce a lot of merge documents in our office and I can't continue to print out sample docs as previews! When the documents print, the merged data shows up as it should. I just cannot get it to preview on the screen anymore."

I started out by trying to replicate the problem, and with a little creative searching and sleuthing, I had my "I could've had a V8 moment." There's a little-talked-about option in the Advanced tab of the Word Options dialog box, and I think Nancy's copying-the-merge-field-code adventure flipped the switch on that option so all she was getting was codes, codes, and more codes when she previewed her project.

Here's how to flip the switch back to normal setting if this ever happens toy ou. Click File, click Option, and click Advanced. Scroll down to the Show Document Content area and find the checkbox to the left of the Show Field Codes Instead of Their Values. Is it checked? If so, click it to clear that puppy, and then click OK. You may need to restart Word so the program launches the correct settings this time.

Happy, or at least reasonably painfree, merging!

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Friday, November 23, 2012


Office 2013 season

Hello! Long time no post, I know. I have been buried with multiple writing projects, ranging from Windows 8 to Office 2013 to SkyDrive. It's been a busy fall! I'm able to raise my head for a moment after finishing Office 2013 Plain & Simple (coming soon to a bookstore and website near you!) and will be posting Q&As I've been receiving from readers over the last several weeks.

I try to answer all the questions I receive, and some are easy and fast, while others require a bit more research and/or example creation. So if you've sent me a question recently and haven't heard anything back from me yet, my apologies. I do still have your message and will be digging out of them in the order in which they were received. :)

I hope that if you're in the U.S. you enjoyed a fun and filling Thanksgiving yesterday, and no matter where you are in the world, you are feeling the hopefulness of a new season (which may include presents and technology and books!).

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Windows 8 CP--try it, you'll like it (I think)

Well, I must say I'm a bit baffled by the backlash of bad sentiment about Windows 8 I've been seeing in the tweets and posts of many of my tech writer colleagues--especially those who have been doing this for a while. I'm not sure why people are so up in arms about Windows 8. I for one am ready for a change! I think our use of technology is maturing, our understanding has a new baseline, and by and large the advent of the smartphone has taught us new ways of interacting with our devices in real time. Do we really need to sit chained to a desk, opening menu after menu, pointing and clicking to find what we want? Do we really need that Windows Start button so much? I'm a bit confounded by all the criticism I've heard thus far. I love the freedom, color, and flexibility I've already seen in Windows 8, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a real release copy!

I downloaded Windows 8 Developer Preview the minute the download links became available (actually a few minutes before the public links went live, LOL). And the same story was true for Consumer Preview--I downloaded and installed it as early as I could. And granted, the CP version isn't perfect. Some of the apps are a bit lame. The updatable tiles aren't yet as engaging or used as well as they might be. But the features, folks! I love the features. I love having the flexibility and freedom to use software that seems to follow the way I think. I feel like Windows 8 fits my brain and processing style much more closely than Windows 7 (even though I think Windows 7 has by far been the best Microsoft OS up to this point).

With the awesome, never-say-die team at Que Publishing, I wrote My Windows 8 Consumer Preview to show you how you can do in the new release all those basic tasks you count on your OS to do. I focus on showing off the newest features that are working in CP, and there are quite a number of changing-the-way-we-work items. I just love it. Check out the book and let me know what you think! And before you join the not-so-happy band of Windows 8 haters, give it a look yourself. It just might surprise you.

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Monday, April 02, 2012


Too many labels!

I get a number of messages--for good reason!--about problems with Word's mail merge process. Even though the whole task has been simplified a bit through the years, it does still require some outside-the-box, non-traditional-document thinking. For one thing, you have to choose the type of merge project you want to create. And then you have to attach a data source (or enter the information you want to use in the merge). Then you have to arrange all the fields on the page so you get the effect you want, whether you're creating labels, or letters, or catalogs. Then, after you preview the project to make sure your data shows up in the right place, you need to choose the type of output you want--print, email, or something else?

Choose Rules in the Mailing tab
and select Next Record
One simple fix that causes a lot of consternation involves a field code you insert to tell Word to insert the data for the next record. This is the action that determines whether you get a whole page full of labels or you print one label on each page. And if you've ever gotten waaaay too many labels (as I have) or spent waaaaay too much on labels that you ultimately waste (as I have), this little field code can save you a big amount of frustration.

So the process is this. Set up your merge as you would have it be, choosing labels as the merge type (for a big label merge print job, choose Start Mail Merge in the Mailings tab and click Labels). Add your data list by using Select Recipients. Then, when you go to position the label fields on the page, add the fields you want to include, and then click Rules. Choose Next Record. This tells Word the information is complete for that label and you want to move on to the next.

When you preview your merge, by clicking Preview Results, you should see a whole variety of different labels on that first sheet--no more wasted labels or unwanted repetition. Life is good. :)

One fun thing if you want to get fancy with it is to create a conditional merge print, which prints the next label that meets a certain specification. For example, if you want to send reminders to your students who signed up for a spring seminar, you can use Next Record have Word find the records that have the data in the field you're looking for. It's worth playing with, especially if you love being smart about label use. (Your trees thank you.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Lots of Q&A coming!

Katherine Murray
This is relaxed hippie me when I
don't have a looming book deadline :)
Hi everyone, coming soon--a series of Q&A responses to reader questions that have been piling up in my Inbox! Thanks for your patience about that. Typically when I'm wrapping up a project, all my tech questions get flagged and filed until a clear spot opens up, and that clear spot is upon us (thank you God)! :) So in this space in the coming days I'll be posting reader questions about things like

If you have questions you'd like me to sleuth out or just something that bugs you (or doesn't work the way it should), feel free to drop me a note about it. I often have to do research and testing to try to find the answers to these things (in other words, I'm not the Oz of Tech and typically I struggle with it just like you do), but I do think it's fun. And it keeps me from playing too much Xbox, which is a good thing.

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