Make Meetings Productive

Some great advice is found in Getting Real, by 37signals. For example, they advise against holding meetings, whenever possible, but...
"For those times when you absolutely must have a meeting (this should be a rare event), stick to these simple rules:

  • Set a 30 minute timer. When it rings, meeting's over. Period.
  • Invite as few people as possible.
  • Never have a meeting without a clear agenda. "

Show Full Menus

On my own computer, I like to see the full menus, so I selected that setting:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Customize
  2. On the Options tab, add a check mark to Always Show Full Menus

However, when visiting a client, I sometimes have to use someone else's machine, and don't like to change their settings. If the full menus option is not selected, when you click on a menu, a double chevron may appear at the bottom of the menu. To see the full menu, you can click on that chevron, or wait a few seconds, and the full menu will appear.
To avoid those steps, and quickly view the full menus, double-click on the menu name.

Add a Border Line

While typing a document in Microsoft Word, you usually have your hands on the keyboard. To add a line border, you can reach for the mouse, click on the border tool drop-down, then click on a border.
A quicker way to add the line is to type three hyphens (---), then press Enter. To add a thick border, use three underscores (___) and to add a double border tpe three equal signs (===).
 
If this technique doesn't work, choose Tools ► AutoCorrect Options. On the AutoFormat As You Type tab, add a check mark to Border Lines, in the Apply As You Type section.

Change a Comment's Shape

Add some punch to a worksheet by changing a comment's shape from its default rectangle.

  1. Right-click the cell which contains the comment.
  2. Click on Edit Comment
  3. Click on the border of the comment, to select it.
  4. On the Drawing toolbar, click the Draw button
  5. Click on Change AutoShape, and click on a category.
  6. Click on a shape to select it.
  7. When finished, click outside the comment.

In this example, the Cube shape was selected from Basic Shapes.

Clean Up Your Dictionaries

While rushing through a spell check in Excel, you accidentally added an incorrect word to your custom dictionary. Now that it's in there, how do you get it out?
If you're adventurous, you can use a text editor, such as NotePad, to modify the dictionaries, which are found in:
 C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR_NAME\Application Data\Microsoft\Proof
Or, you can modify the list in Microsoft Word, which I find easier:

  1. In Word, choose Tools ► Options
  2. On the Spelling & Grammar tab, click Custom Dictionaries
  3. Select a dictionary in the list, and click Modify
  4. Scroll through the list, and click on the word you want to remove
    (to select multiple words, press Ctrl and click)
  5. Click the Delete button
  6. When finished, click OK
  7. Close the dialog boxes

Free Consumer Publications

The Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) web site offers a wide variety of consumer and business publications that you can order for a nominal fee, or view many of the publications online. You can find tips on everything from computers to tree pruning to international travel. The web site also lists scams and recalls, and has links to other consumer and business resources.
It's a good place to start if you're researching a new topic. For example, here's the page on small business publications. 

Free Backup Software

From June 2-8, the full version of NTI Shadow 3 backup software is available free. Regularly $29.99, this software makes backups as you work, so you can save important documents onto a removable drive, such as a thumb drive, for safekeeping.
The program has received fairly good reviews, with some complaints of slow copying, and it may need to be started manually if you restart your computer. However, at this price you can afford to test it for yourself, and see if it meets your needs. You can download it here, for Windows, Mac or U3:
 http://www.ntius.com/shadow_promotion.asp

Clean Up Your Browser Bookmarks

The free utility AM-Deadlink can find dead links and duplicates in your list of browser bookmarks. I run it on my machine every couple of months, to clean things up and save me from wasting time in following dead links. You can download the utility here: AM-Deadlink 
It's easy to install and use, and takes only a couple of minutes to check my 1600 bookmarks. Then I sort the list by error number, and delete any 404 pages.