List Your Project’s Next Steps

While working on a project, such as creating a database, or programming an Excel file, I make notes about the changes I'm making.

Before quitting for the day, I add a few notes on what steps should be taken next. For example, "Create a data entry form" or "Add project codes list".

This makes it easier to get up and running the next time I resume work on the project.

If you use this technique, you won't have to spend several minutes reviewing your work to figure out where you left off -- your "Next Steps" notes will jog your memory. Well, most of the time!

Create an Excel Chart with One Keystroke

Did you know that it only takes one keystroke to create a chart from data in Excel? Here are the simple steps to create a very quick Excel chart.

  • First, select a cell that contains the chart data, or select a heading in one of the data rows or columns

In the screen shot below, the data is in A1:D3, and cell B3 is selected.

NOTE: Cell A1, at the top left corner of the chart data is empty. That makes it easier for Excel to create a quick chart.

  • Next, on the keyboard, press the F11 key

A chart sheet is inserted in the active workbook, with a chart in the default chart type, as shown below.

In the sample workbook, the default chart type is a Clustered Column. There are two columns for each month, with East in light purple, and West in dart purple..

Just remember -- this is a super quick way to add a chart in Excel. After you insert that Excel chart so quickly, don't be tempted to spend another couple of hours playing with the formatting, to make it look perfect!


Close All Excel Files

While working in Excel 2003 (or earlier versions), you might open several files, to compare them, or copy and paste from one to another. When you're finished with those files, you can quickly close all of them, and leave Excel open. (Note: This tip also works in Word)

  1. On the keyboard, press the Shift key.
  2. In Excel, click on the File menu
  3. Click on the Close All command

In Excel 2007 you can add the Close All command to the Quick Access Toolbar.

There are instructions for adding a command on the Microsoft web site, or look in Excel 2007's Help

Fill in Online Forms Quickly

Throughout the day, I log in to several web sites that require a user name and password. I store them all in a list in an Excel workbook, but it's tough to remember all of them, and easy to waste time guessing.

A couple of months ago a colleague recommended RoboForm, so I downloaded the trial version. (Thanks to Ross Connell.)

Life became much easier! A RoboForm toolbar appears at the top of my web browser, and I can select a Login from a drop down list. That takes me to the selected site and enters the user name and password.

RoboForm Logins
If I go to a new site and enter a user name and password, RoboForm automatically asks if I'd like to save the new Login.

When the trial period ended, I bought the RoboForm Pro version, and at $29.95 US, it's been well worth the price. No more time wasted in fumbling for passwords. For home use, you could continue to use the free version, which limits the number of Logins you can store.

Keyboard Storage Space

If you waste time searching for pens, paper clips and other small office items, a keyboard with storage space might save you time.

These are available for purchase on-line, from the web site. They come in plain white or black, with stock artwork, or your own custom design.

Easily Rearrange Items in the Windows Taskbar

As you work on your computer, you probably open several applications, and the Windows Taskbar quickly fills with buttons. The buttons you need most might be stuck at the far right, or in a hidden row of buttons, and that can slow you down.

Taskbar Shuffle is an easy-to-use free utility that gives you control over the taskbar button placement. You can download the utility, and read more details, at the FreeWebs website.
When installed, Taskbar Shuffle appears as an icon in the System Tray: 

Another handy feature of the Taskbar Shuffle is the ability to rearrange the icons in the System Tray. Move the icons you use most so they're at the left, closest to your mouse pointer, and it's easier to click on them when you need them.
(Thanks to Jim Cone for this tip!)

Quickly Repeat an Action in Excel

After you do something in Excel, you may be able to repeat the action by pressing the F4 key.

For example, after you format a cell with bold font, select another cell and press F4. That cell is also formatted with bold font, and it's much quicker than moving the mouse to click on the Bold button in the toolbar.

You can also use the Ctrl+Y shortcut to repeat an action, or click on the Edit menu, and click the Repeat command, as shown below.

Grab the Excel Color Palettes

While working on an Excel 2003 worksheet, you might want to colour a few of the cells, change the font colour for the text, or add borders to a range of cells.
To add colour, you select a cell, click on the dropdown arrow at the right side of the colour button on the toolbar, and click on a colour.

That's simple enough, but all those trips up and down from the toolbar can get a bit tiring, and take extra time.
To Save Time, Move the Palettes
If you have lots of formatting to do, it will be easier if the palettes are closer to the area where you're working. You can detach the palettes from the toolbar, and move them onto the worksheet.
Note: This feature is not available in Excel 2007, or later versions.
To move one of the "tear away" palettes (Font Color, Fill Color, or Borders):

  1. On the toolbar, click the dropdown arrow, to open the palette.
  2. At the top of the palette, point to the thin grey bar.
  3. When your pointer changes to a four-headed arrow, drag the palette down onto the worksheet.

When you've finished working with the palette, click the X at its top right, to close it.

And here's a short video, if you'd like to see the steps performed on screen: