Excel Twitters, Takeaways and Trials

It’s been quite a while since the last one, but I’ve finally posted another list of Excel Twitters. The Twitter spam was making it too tough to collect the interesting tweets, and that’s why I stopped. However, I managed to create a few search settings that helped a bit, and this new list is the result.
The new Excel Twitters list is on my Excel Theatre blog, where I have all the archived Excel Twitters posts, plus some Excel video tutorials, and a few other things.

Excel Takeaways

My friend, Heather Mak, has started a new blog – Five Takeaways. In the blog, Heather and friends will “interview subject matter experts and ask them to provide the five takeaways  (hence the name) of a subject area.”
She asked if I’d like to create a list of five takeaways for Excel, so I’m working on it. If you’d like to help, please add a comment with one or more things that you’d include as an Excel takeaway. Thanks!

Excel Trials

I’ve been testing some Excel products recently and here’s one that I tried this weekend. Mathias Brandewinder of Clear Lines Consulting sent me a link to Akin, an Excel file comparison program. This is a free download, and was very simple to install. Open the Akin program, and select two Excel files to load.
Akin compares the files, and highlights the cells on the selected sheets, where there are differences. You can click on a row or column heading, or the Select All button, to see only the cells where there are differences. That feature is useful in a large worksheet, letting you focus on the differences, without searching through the sheets manually.
The program is easy to use, and a good tool to use if you’re trying to find changes that someone else has made in a file. It shows changes to both values and formulas.
Here’s a screen shot of the Akin window, with the original and modified value in cell B1 shown.

Tiny Workouts at Your Desk

If you spend long hours working at your computer, with only an occasional jaunt to the lunch room, you might benefit from Twittercize. Ron Doyle is a Denver-based freelance writer who posts short exercises in Twitter, and they’re designed for you to do in a minute or so at your desk.

During the workday, he posts about one tip per hour. For example,

Dilberts: Sit upright, cross arms at chest, contract stomach muscles. Bow forward like you’re banging your head on your desk! 30 times slow!


Hulk Hogans: Elbows up, hands at your heart, pull back like Hulk ripping a yellow tank top! Squeeze those shoulder blades 30 times!

Twittercize is free and much easier than getting out to the gym for a workout, although there’s a disclaimer that you should consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

You can follow Ron in Twitter at twitter.com/twittercize. For more detail on the exercises, you can read the Twittercize blog.



Weekend Backups

Over the weekend I did a backup of my RSS feeds, and created backup files for my WordPress blog.
How often do I do this? Not often enough. So, I’ve added both items to my monthly task list, and that might help me remember to keep the backup files up to date.
I also have a Maxtor external hard drive on both my computers, and they do an automatic overnight backup.
How about you? Did you do a backup recently?

Automatic Backup for Access Files

Do you have Access databases open throughout the workday, with people entering and editing data? In Access, data is saved automatically as you work, but it’s a good precaution to have a backup of the entire file, so you can recover if something goes wrong.

To make backups easy to manage, Jan Karel Pieterse has created the Access Backup Tool, available as a free download on his web site. I tested it in Access 2007 and Access 2003, and it worked well in both version.

Getting Started

Open the Access Backup Tool and the Menu form will appear automatically.

Click the Settings button, to open the Settings form where you can enter the information about your databases.


In the Settings form, enter the file path to each database, and the location where you want the backup stored.


Timed or Manual Backups

At the top of the Settings form, you can enter the backup settings.

  • For automatic backups, add a check mark to Timed Backup, and set the time interval for the backups. Then the backup process will run automatically, at the specified interval.
  • For manual backups, remove the check mark for Timed Backups.

Suspend Backups Overnight

If backups aren’t required overnight, you can suspend them during specified hours.

  • To stop backups overnight, add a check mark to Suspend backup. Enter the stop and start times for the backups.
  • To run the backups around the clock, remove the check mark from Suspend backup

Start the Backups

After you’ve entered all the settings, close the Settings form and return to the Menu.

Timed Backups

On the Menu form, if you opted for Timed Backup, you’ll see the countdown to the next backup. At the specified interval, the backup will run, and you’ll see a notice on the menu.

Leave the Access Backup Tool running all day, and it will take care of the backups for you automatically.


Manual Backups

If you’d prefer to run the backups manually, click the Backup Databases button, and all the selected databases will be backed up.


What's Your Backup Plan?

Last Thursday I asked if you use checklists, and if someone could cover for you if you were away. It looks like we could use some improvement in that area.
In the same vein, what about backups? What happens if you show up for work, but your key files don’t?
When I’m writing, or working on a client project, I upload the files to my X-Drive account at the end of the day. That way, the current project files are available off-site, in case of fire, flood, tornado, can’t remember where I live, whatever.
For on-site storage, the files from my desktop computer are backed up overnight to an external hard drive, and the laptop files are backed up to its external hard drive.
The backup program doesn’t copy the files from the Program Files folder though, so I have to remember to do that myself, once a week(ish).

What’s Your Backup Plan?

It feels like there are holes in my backup bucket, so maybe I need to add some steps.

  • Do you have a backup routine in place?
  • Does yours copy everything, including the program files?

Learn Languages Online from the BBC

If you’ll be travelling soon, you might want to learn a few key phrases of another language before you go. Free language lessons are available online, at the BBC website. It’s good to see Nick’s tax dollars hard at work.

It’s too late to learn much Mandarin before the Olympics are over, but you can study French, Urdu, Welsh, Japanese, and many other languages.
The Quick Fix page has a list of essential holiday phrases that you can print or download as an mp3 file. Take these along on your travels and you’ll be able to say “Sorry, I don’t speak Albanian,” “We were robbed,” or “Danger! Avalanche!”

Compare Shipping Costs

Don’t waste time comparing shipping rates at individual carrier sites. Enter your starting point and destination, and let ShipGooder calculate the rates for you. This free service compares major courier and postal services, and local carriers. You can also find US or Canadian postal codes, by address or city.
For example, if I want to ship one of my books to a client in Chicago, here are some of the rates available.

Find Deals at Amazon

If you’re looking for an item to buy online, check the Jungle Crazy site to find the best deals listed on Amazon. For example, enter Cables as a search term, and see all the discounted cables: