Discover New Features in Microsoft Word (Part 1)

word_primary-100025314-largeAlthough I use Word on a daily basis, every now and then I uncover a feature or shortcut I didn’t know existed.  With literally thousands of different features, it’s no surprise that the application offers more than you or I typically use!  The following are five powerful features that are easily overlooked.

  1. Quick Parts: Each of us have different blocks of text tquickparthat we use in multiple documents.  For example, if you often arrange meetings or events on campus, you may include a map, driving directions and parking instructions in each event packet.  You may reuse your contact/signature block in documents or a specific logo frequently.  All of these types of data can be stored in your quick parts gallery!  Simply highlight the text—then select InsertQuick PartsSave selection to quick part gallery.  Once you’ve named and saved that component, it will be available from the Insert- Quick Parts menu in any document you create from that same machine!
  2. Create your own template: If you use a certain format or style for specific documents, consider saving that document as a template.  I know many people simply open the existing file, save as a different file name, and then delete the information to reuse the same “style”.  You can make this even easier!  Create the framework of the document as you normally would. Select your fonts, headers, footers, and anything else that should be consistent.  Then click File—Save As.  Save the document as a Word Template.  When you’re ready to use that template, click New—Select the Personal templates and select your saved template!  There are also a ton of online templates available for use which can save you a lot of trouble in creating various types of files.
  3. CaptureScreenshot Tool:  Microsoft has made it so easy now to integrate screenshots or clippings in your document.  Click on Insert—Screenshot and you’ll see the available windows in the gallery.  Simply click on the image and it will automatically be inserted into your document.  From there, you can crop, recolor etc using all of the Microsoft Word picture tools.  If you don’t want the entire window copied but only a small portion, choose the screen clipping tool and simply highlight the area you wish to copy.

To Be Continued…

Why is it so Difficult to Play a DVD in the Classroom?

After volume problems, this is the most common issue we hear about in the Classroom Support office (and maybe the most annoying problem for users). The DVD worked at home. It worked last semester in a different room. But now the computer is spitting it out, not recognizing it, or it’s doing nothing while the class stares at a blank screen and it’s likely some may utter words you won’t find in the Bible. What makes playing a DVD so difficult? This post will help you identify bad DVD discs, and in future post we’ll discuss working with the DVD software.

Part of the problem is that DVDs themselves are not perfect. A tiny scratch, or a little dirt in the DVD tray, can ruin everything. For reasons that are too complex to elaborate on here, this can cause a frustrating situation where a scratched disc will work in one player but not in another. Making things worse, educational companies are notorious for making inferior DVDs that arrive in a terrible state even though they are brand new.

How can you tell if the disc you’re using is cheaply made? Turn it over and see if the bottom is shiny and metallic, if so, then you’re looking at a well-made DVD. These are made in factories by permanently stamping a platter of aluminum into shape and encasing it in plastic, and it’s what a disc containing professional, Hollywood film will look like.

This is was a professionally made DVD will look like.
A DVD that looks like this will usually work, every time.

However, if the disc was made cheaply then the bottom will be less metallic, and you will see shades of purple, blue, or green underneath the plastic. A ring of a slightly different color around the outside is often present. The purple stuff you’re seeing is a fragile dye used by consumer DVD writers, and, obviously, it’s not as durable as stamped aluminum.

Bad disc.
A disc that looks like this might work. It might not.

These discs degrade over time until they are useless, and some of them will refuse to work in certain computers. When this happens, it’s not a software problem—it’s the result of cheap DVD manufacturing. The dye cannot be shaped as perfectly as its aluminum counterpart, and the result is that DVD players must struggle to read the information. Making things even more complicated is the fact that some of these “cheap” discs work better than others, so there is no way to tell how well one will perform; some people use these consumer level DVDs regularly without any trouble.

They were downloading Kazaa, anway.
Meanwhile, some of you have had this experience…

What do you do if you’re concerned about your DVD? First of all, you should always test out your media in the classroom where you’re going to use it before relying on it. If it doesn’t work, contact our office and we will see if we can make it cooperate.

Another option is to test it out on your own laptop. If it works there, then simply bring that laptop to class and plug it into our projector. (Contact us at 214-768-8888, or help@smu.edu, if you need assistance getting this set up.)  This is probably the least complicated way to bring media to your students, because it allows you to make sure everything is set up just they way you like it.

Stay tuned. In an upcoming post we will tackle the other half of this problem by de-mystifying the DVD playing software.

The Next Big (or Small) Thing: The Best of CES

Last week, the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, took place in Las Vegas. CES is the center of what’s new and upcoming in the world of gadgets, and this year was no exception. Each year seems to showcase yet another new trend, and this year was certainly the year of wearable tech.

pebble_closeup_2The term “smartwatch” may have been the most spoken word at this year’s convention. Companies big and small displayed their latest devices/fashion statements. One of the most talked about came from Pebble, a fairly new company that rolled out their new, much more watch-looking Pebble Steel smartwatch at this year’s CES.

The Pebble is capable of synching wirelessly with your iPhone or Android smartphone to provide you with notifications, basic information, as well as data connectivity for apps written specifically for the watch that can do everything from tracking sports scores, to tracking your workouts, to playing your music. Other wearables unveiled last week include the LG Life Band, Razr Nabu, and the Sony Smartband.

Outside of the gaggle of wearables this year were the usual swarm of entertainment medium01agadgets. One of the more interesting innovations was the Clearview Clio, a completely transparent glass speaker. A strange yet promising new type of television also made it’s way to the show this year. Both LG and Samsung have introduced UDTVs (yes, we have already surpassed HDTV) with curved screens. Both companies claim that a curved screen will improve viewing angles which in turn provide better picture.

This improved experience doesn’t come without a steep price tag, however. The largest models have a suggested retail price of around $70,000, with the budget models topping $10,000.

From smartwatches to virtual reality, there was something for everyone at this year’s CES. Who knows, maybe this time next year we will finally get a cell phone that does the dishes.

Never Miss an Email Again!

Email-client-applicationBy Laurene Klassen

No matter how many times I organize my inbox I somehow manage to get to the point of needing to reorganize it.  In many of my trainings, I’m often asked for tips on how to make sure one doesn’t miss an email from key individuals or contain keywords.  Here’s a tip I’ve found handy.

If you are like me, there are probably certain emails that you receive that rank in priority for replies. Maybe it’s from your professor, supervisor, or about a critical project.  In any case, I recommend setting alerts on emails that are sent from key partners or contain keywords.  You can customize your alert to notify you by playing a specific sound, marking your email with high importance, or even displaying the email in an alert window.  So, no matter how many emails you get you’ll be sure to not to miss the critical ones!

email alert

For instructions on how to set alerts, and a number of other tips to keep your inbox from spiraling out of control, see our Outlook Productivity handouts for PC and Mac.  (By the way, these instructions are written for Outlook 2010 and 2011. However, the steps for setting alerts haven’t changed for Outlook 2013.)

Identify Online Shopping Scams

By Rajat Shetty During the holiday season, Cybercriminals’ potential victims are often caught up in the frenzy of shopping, finding the best deals, and acting quickly to take advantage of limited offers. Email and social networks are clogged with sales and offers, both legitimate and fraudulent. Sometimes haste causes shoppers to miss the warning signs of a fraudulent website.

Avoid Suspicious Websites

Make sure you cross check the contact info before submitting your payment details. In many cases, fake websites put up incorrect contact info like a wrong phone number or an incorrect address. A few other warning signs of suspicious websites are lots of broken links, grammatical mistakes, and spelling errors. If in doubt, don’t check out!

Verify the Web Address (or URL)

Before you type in any credit-card numbers at check out, check the Web address, or uniform resource locator (URL), of the payment page and make sure it’s using a secure connection. You should be seeing either the character string “https://” before the website URL, or a small icon of a green padlock. Also, make sure the URL address is correct, and not a slight misspelling of the real address or a random URL.

For example, check the snapshots below for the official website of Beats headphones. The first one is the original website, whereas the second website is a fraudulent one having the exact layout and font style as the original website. The difference is, when you pay through credit card or debit card on the 2nd website you are not going to receive any headphones (Not even a fake one!)

Original website

Fake website

Use Caution when Shopping by Phone

Although it can be convenient, use extra care when shopping with your smartphone. Phones are more susceptible to malwares as most do not have an anti-virus. Also, it’s highly unsafe to store your credit card or debit card information on your phone.  Only buy from trusted and familiar websites when you shop through your smartphone, and use a password protected internet connection. Never shop over unsecured public Wi-fi. Remember, it’s always better to check twice before clicking the ok button. People loose thousands of dollars in a haste to snag online deals. Protect yourself from becoming a victim to fraudulent websites by exercising caution before giving out your credit/debit card details.

The DVD that Lasts 1000 Years

By John Blankimage003

Did you know that most burned DVDs and CDs don’t last long? Have you ever placed a 5-year-old DVD in the drive only to find out it was no longer readable? This would be tragic if the DVD was your wedding video, pictures of a vacation or other keep sake. There were DVDs that you could obtain that would last longer, but they were expensive and hard to find. Now there is a new technology that is changing all of this. The Millenniata M-Disc is a 4.7GB DVD with a data layer made out of stone-like metals and metalloids. Burned CDs and DVDs have a very soft recording/data layer that isn’t very resistant to heat, humidity and light. However, the M-Disc on the other hand has a much tougher data layer that last for 1000 years. Unfortunately, M-Discs can’t be burned with your current DVD burner. It takes a laser that’s five times stronger than normal to melt stone. On the other hand, M-Discs are backwards compatible and can be read by normal DVD drives. When you replace your CD/DVD burner make sure it is M-Disc compatible.

 

Cam Scanner: Scan on the Go

By: Rajat Shetty

Most offices are well equipped with high definition scanners, printers, copiers, etc. However, there are instances when people need to scan documents on the go, and a scanner is not readily available. The Cam-Scanner app makes scanning in almost any location possible.

cam scanner1 cam scanner2

While this application is not suitable for high definition scans, you can surely use it for urgent and basic scans of a two or three page document. I scanned my homework with this application, and it worked just fine!

The free version for Cam-Scanner is available in the Apple-App store and the Google Play store (For Android devices).  This easy to use app scans documents with your cellphone camera.

To scan a document, follow these steps:

  1. Download the Cam-Scanner application from your App store and install it on your smartphone.
  2. Place the document you wish to scan in a well-lit area.
  3. Capture the image by pressing the center button on the screen.
  4. Make sure that the entire document is selected, and the edges are not cropped.
  5. Once the image is locked, you will be able to crop the image you clicked as well as adjust the brightness, contrast, and other parameters.
  6. Once you have done this, you can click next, and the scanned image will be generated.
  7. You can convert this image into PDF format and email it immediately, or you can save it on your phone for future use.

Here is a screenshot of scanned document from my Android phone:scanner sample

The drawbacks associated with this particular application are that you need the latest cell phone which has a high resolution camera (Probably 8 mega pixel onward). Also it’s not suitable, if you are looking to scan large set of documents or books. For a fully functional Cam-Scanner, you can buy the full version called “Cam Scanner Pro”. This is available on App-stores for both Apple and Android phones. However, the free version works fine for small sets of documents.  The best part is you can scan, edit, and email the scanned document from your phone, within a matter of minutes.

Pivot Tables in Excel 2013

By: Rajat Shetty

Excel Pivot tables help summarize your data. They also allow you to avoid using complex formulas like Vlookup, SumIF, etc. to create a table. It can take a little while for a newbie to get the hang of Pivot tables. However, the 2013 Excel updates make creating Pivot tables even simpler.

A few years back, we had to follow these steps to create a simple pivot table:

  1. Select the data range
  2. Insert pivot table from the Insert tab
  3. Go to the new worksheet to check if all the fields are appearing or notchart1

4. Manually drag and drop the required fields according to our requirements to calculate-Sum, average, percentage, etc.chart2

chart3

With the new Microsoft Excel-2013, you are just one click away from creating a basic pivot table. The best part is you do not have to drag and drop anything into the field list. As seen to the right, you can pull the exact information you need from a complex spreadsheet without having to go through the above mentioned steps for Excel-2010.

How do you create Pivot tables in 2013?

Instead of inserting a Pivot table from the Insert tab, just click on the “Recommended Pivot Tables” option on the Insert tab.

chart4As you can see in the above image, Excel automatically suggests three or four options for your data range. All you have to do is make sure that your cursor is in one of the data entries on the main sheet before you click on “Recommended Pivot Tables”.

When you select one of the recommended Pivot tables, it automatically adjusts the fields without the user having to drag and drop in the Pivot table field list. Once the Pivot table is created you can customize the fields according to your requirements.

chart5

In summary, we use the following steps to create a Pivot table using Excel-2013:

1. Organize and arrange data in columns
2. Make sure each column has a heading
3. Click on Insert and select the “Recommended Pivot Charts” option
4. Choose the desired Pivot table
5. Sit back and relax

Here’s looking forward to future updates from Microsoft Office. Maybe next time Excel will be even more intuitive.

 

 

 

 

Security Training

This October as a part of Information Security Awareness Month we are offering an online training for SMU Faculty and Staff. The training only lasts about 30 minutes; however, it is filled with valuable information that can help protect you and the University. Below are some of the topics covered in the training. You are our best defense. Are you prepared?

threat-icon

Social Engineering– Many of today’s most common cyber-attacks are based on social engineering. As such, we explain what social engineering is, how attackers fool people and what to look out for. We show how you can detect these attacks and respond to them.

email-iconEmail and IM- One of the primary means of attacks and exploitation is through email in both simple or large scale attacks and targeted spear phishing attacks. We explain how these attacks work, including recent examples of phishing, spear phishing, malicious attachments and links, and scams. This video shows how to detect these attacks, respond to them, and use both email and IM securely.

file-sharing

Social Networking- Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have exploded in popularity, with employees and managers sharing all sorts of private information, not only about themselves but about their work. Cyber attackers know this and use this information for identity theft, spreading malware, scams and even targeted attacks. We discuss these risks and the steps you can take to protect yourself and SMU.

Mobile Devices- Today’s mobile devices are extremely powerful, including tablets and smartphones. In most cases these devices have the same functionality, complexity and risks of a computer, but with the additional risk of being highly mobile and easy to lose. We cover how to use mobile devices safely and how to protect the data on them.

security-Training-and-EdWi-Fi Security– This section discusses the risks of public Wi-Fi and steps that you can take to protect yourself. In addition we cover that only authorized Wi-Fi access points with prior management approval can be deployed within SMU.

Telecommuting Working Away from Home- Many SMU employees are no longer working at the office, they work from home or on the road while traveling. There are unique risks for the telecommuter. This module focuses on how these employees can protect themselves and SMU, including laptop security and creating a secure, mobile working environment.

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Physical Security- While physical attacks against your data are less likely to happen, when such incidents do occur they can have a greater impact on your organization. In this module we explain how attackers will attempt to trick and fool their way into restricted areas. We also discuss how you can protect the physical security of your facilities, including enforcing use of SMU-issued identification badges.

Hacked- No matter how effective a security team and their processes are, there will be incidents. This module focuses on how you can help by identifying and reporting an incident. We cover things to look for, such as suspicious activity or virus alerts and whom to report an incident to.

Faculty and staff can login to courses.smu.edu with their SMU credentials to access the training.