June 24, 2010

Share your tech tips

by Diana Pounds

Thanks to: The Chronicle of Higher Education, from whom we borrowed this idea. See Chronicle readers' tips.

In all those years working on the keyboard and staring at pixels, you've likely accumulated a trick or two that makes you more productive. Perhaps it's a Word shortcut that saves time. A Google tip that slims results. Or a PowerPoint technique that improves presentations.

If you've got a favorite tip that's useful on the job and might help the rest of us work a little smarter too, send it to inside@iastate.edu. The tips, which should pertain to software programs and websites in common use on campus, will be added to the list below.

To get you started, we offer a few favorites from your colleagues.

  • A good sharer: PDFs are an easy way to share almost anything -- photos, web pages, PowerPoint presentations, Word files -- with others. I use Adobe Acrobat to convert files to PDF, but there are number of free PDF converters. And many programs, like Word and Photoshop, will allow you to save a file as a PDF.
    -- Char Hulsebus, registrar's office
  • Better Googling: When you use Google, put words in quotation marks to find the right site. For example, the words Northern and Iowa will yield information about the state, the region and other topics, but "Northern Iowa" brings fewer and better results. Also, typing site:.edu along with the search items restricts the responses to educational sites. You can also search using site:.org or site:.com.
    -- Susan Yager, English and University Honors Program
  • Smaller screen captures: It's possible to do a screen capture on just a portion of your monitor. On a PC, simultaneously hit the "alt" and "print screen" keys to capture just the active window. On a Mac, hit CMD-shift-4 and drag the crosshair cursor to highlight exactly what you want to capture.
    -- Shane Palmer, Information Technology Services
  • Better screen shots with OneNote: If you're on a PC using MS Office 2007 and therefore have "OneNote" installed, your computer can take quicker and better screenshots than the old "Ctrl-PrntScreen." If no one has used OneNote before on your computer you'll need to start it up and go through the introduction screens. Then close out of it ... the screenshot code sits in your system tray in the background. OK so now the fun part -- hold the "Windows button" + "s." The screen is grayed out; using your left-mouse button click and drag to outline what you want a screenshot of. It pastes that image (along with some helpful reference info, especially helpful for web page images) into OneNote. You can now copy and paste that image anywhere.
    -- Wayne Chittick, ISUVDL Virology, Molecular Virology
  • Sorting in Excel? Click the "Select all" key (the small box at the outside corner of row 1 and column A) to make sure all the data has been selected. CTRL-a (CMD-a on Mac) also will do this.
    -- Deb Schroeder, mechanical engineering department
  • Excel formatting helpers: In MS Excel, favorite formatting helpers are: Shortcut: "Ctrl"+"1" opens the format cells dialog box; you can do about anything from there. Formatting made easy (any Microsoft Office): use the format painter shown by the paintbrush icon: select the text you like, click format painter, then "paint" the text you don't like to match it!
    -- Wayne Chittick, ISUVDL Virology, Molecular Virology
  • Social media functionality: For those of you using Windows, Shareaholic is a great way to add social media functionality to your browser. After adding it to your browser toolbar, simply click on the Shareaholic button to send a web page to e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, LinkedIn, Delicious, and many other services.
    -- Scott McLeod, educational leadership and policy studies
  • Dropping low scores in Excel: Situation: You wish to drop the lowest 2 values for each student from a series of weekly quiz scores. Solution: Use Excel's SMALL function. Its format is SMALL(first cell:last cell,#) where # is a number that indicates which lowest place value to drop, i.e. 1st, 2nd,3rd, etc. in the defined range of values. Begin by filling in all blank score cells with a zero (can do this with a global search and replace). Then define a function which is the sum of the cells range, minus the first smallest number in the range, minus the second smallest number in the range. So your formula might look like: =SUM(B2:F2)-SMALL(B2:F2,1)-SMALL(B2:F2,2) . Details.
    -- Karla Embleton, distance education and educational technology
  • Print PowerPoint speaker notes without slides: Want to reduce your printing costs when preparing for a speech? Print out your PowerPoint speaker notes with either a thumbnail of the slides, or remove the slide images altogether. Follow these steps.
    -- Karla Embleton, distance education and educational technology
  • Forward WebCT Email: While you cannot send email into WebCT from an external mail program, you can have WebCT forward WebCT mail to your ISU email account. Each user can set this up from their My WebCT screen as follows: click the "My Settings" link in the upper right corner, click "My Tool Options" tab, scroll down and check the "Forward all mail messages to the e-mail address in my profile" box, then scroll down and click the "Save" button. To return to the regular My WebCT screen, click the grey "My WebCT" tab. Details.
    -- Karla Embleton, distance education and educational technology
  • Bibliographies: Use bibliographic software, such as Zotero or EndNote, to organize your sources and write your papers. As an added bonus, these programs will create the bibliography for you.
    -- Frank Montabon, operations and supply chain management
  • Outlook overview: In your e-mail pane, go to View > To Do bar > Normal. You get a calendar, summary of upcoming meetings and task list alongside your e-mail.
    -- Char Hulsebus, registrar's office