Admit it: You don’t use half the tools in your word processing app—whether it’s Microsoft Word, Apple’s own Pages, or Google Docs—maybe even less than half. But without all those bells and whistles you’ve been ignoring, that app is little more than a glorified text editor. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that: I use my favorite text editor, BBEdit, as a glorified word processor.)
But a big part of owning a tool is knowing how to use it effectively. So if you ever use Word, Pages, or Google Docs, you owe it to yourself to know how to do a few essential things with it. Here are the ten of the most essential.
1. Use Keyboard Shortcuts
6. Format a Table
Once you have your table inserted, it’s time to make it pretty. Because table formatting can be complicated, these applications offer separate formatting options for entire tables, for individual cells, and for the text that appears within your tables. (The keyboard shortcuts mentioned earlier for text formatting work on table text quite well.)
Word: Word offers a multitude of table-formatting options, all of which you manage using the Tables tab in Word’s toolbar. In fact, Word’s table tool offers nearly the same set of formatting features available in Excel.
9. Track and Manage Changes
Are you working collaboratively on a document and want to keep track of who has made which changes? Pages, Word, and Google Docs all offer tools for tracking the changes in your documents. Using these tools you can see who has made changes to a document, accept or reject changes, and add comments.
Word: Open the Tools menu, select Track Changes, then choose Highlight Changes. This opens a dialog box where you can select options for how you want to track your changes. The Options button in this dialog box lets you change the way the text you’ve changed will appear in the document. If you want to see your changes as you type, check the Track Changes While Editing box.
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If your job (or even your personal life) requires you to do anything substantial with numbers, chances are you use a spreadsheet app to do it. As a Mac user, you’ve got plenty of choices among spreadsheet apps, but for most of us the choice comes down to three: Microsoft’s Excel 2011; Apple’s Numbers (version 3.2); and the browser-based Sheets section of Google Docs.
The one to use is really a personal choice, and that decision is not the focus of this article. (I personally prefer Excel, possibly because I’ve been using it for nearly 30 years). But regardless of the app you use, the question here is: How well do you know how to use it, really?
As a spreadsheet vet, I gave that question some thought and came up with the following list of things that I think every savvy spreadsheet jockey—not beginners, but people who’ve been using one of these apps for a while—should know. I’m not talking about any specific task. Rather, these are the techniques and concepts that I think you should know in order to graduate from casual to serious user.
4. Distinguish Between Relative and Absolute References
In the functions listed above,
RANGE are references to either an individual cell or a range of cells. So
=ROUND(C14,2) will take the value in cell C14 and round it off to two digits;
=SUM(A10:A20) will add up all the numbers in cells A10 through A20.
You can enter these cell locations either by typing them or by clicking (or, for ranges, clicking and dragging) the mouse.
7. Perform Logical Tests
Many times, you need to set a cell’s value based on the results of one of more other cell values. For instance, in the worksheet for the shipping supplies company, the Order Alert column is either blank (if there’s plenty of stock on hand) or it contains the
Order Soon! warning (when inventory is getting low).
How can one cell display two possible values? By using a logical function. Each of these spreadsheet apps includes a number of logical functions; the three particularly useful ones below appear in all three apps.
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You probably know by now that you should never use the same password in more than one place, and that each of your passwords should be strong enough to resist an automated attack. Perhaps you use iCloud Keychain, or a third-party password manager such as 1Password or LastPass to generate random passwords, store them, and fill them in automatically. But all that may not be enough if a site suffers a security breach that reveals its users passwords to an attacker—sadly, a frequent occurrence.
At the moment, the best defense against such attacks is two-factor (or two-step) authentication, in which you need more than just a username and password to log in on an untrusted device. You also need a second element, which often takes the form of a numeric string sent by SMS and so foils any attacker who has your password but not your phone. Most major Internet companies offer two-factor authentication as an option—you can read how to set this up for your Apple ID (which now applies to the iCloud website as well), Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, for example.
The problem with two-factor authentication is that it’s a bother, requiring an extra, manual step. Usually you have to do this only once per device or app, after which point ordinary logins work, but even so, it’s a pain. Here are a couple of ways to reduce that inconvenience.
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Setting up a printer in OS X is often as simple as plugging it in to your Mac or connecting to a shared printer on the local network. From these simple cases, you probably know how to use the system’s Print & Fax system preferences pane to configure the printer. But there are a few other ways to connect and manage printers that you might not be so familiar with.
Add shared printers on the fly
While you can add a shared printer available to your system using the Printers & Scanners pane in System Preferences, you can also do so from the print dialogue in any document. In the Printer drop-down in the standard Print dialog, you will see an submenu labeled Nearby Printers. Choosing a printer from that list will cause OS X to automatically install its driver and set it up for use.
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I lived in Paris for five years before moving to San Diego at the end of 2012. During that time, I got used to the idea of having half a dozen choices for home broadband service, most with up to 100 Mbps of bandwidth and costing perhaps $30 a month for a combination of internet, phone, and TV.
So it was a rude shock to return to California, where one can easily pay five times as much for equivalent service, and where many people are lucky to have two providers to choose between. In my neighborhood, the only options were Cox (cable modem service) and AT&T (DSL and U-verse fiber-optic service).
Still, those two providers fight furiously to capture each other’s customers. Thankfully, I know a bit more about this stuff than the average customer. I did my research and picked the service that’s best for me. But even after I’d made my decision, I spent months saying, “No thanks” to the guys I didn’t pick; they persisted in the hard sell (and in the process distorted the facts). Had I been less tech-savvy, I might well have fallen for their sales pitch, even though it would have left me paying more for less. Here’s my story plus some tips to avoid falling into a similar trap.
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My work requires me to occasionally use Windows and Linux, as well as older versions of OS X. Fortunately, as a Mac user, I have several ways to run multiple operating systems without switching computers. In addition to OS X’s Boot Camp, I have my choice of three virtualization products for Mac: Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, or Oracle’s VirtualBox. Using any of those three, I can pop into another OS as easily as launching an app. Each of these products has its partisans, and I’m not going to tell you definitively which one you should choose. But I did want to explain why I’ve settled on VMWare Fusion as my go-to virtualization choice.
(By way of disclosure, I should mention that I wrote books about Fusion versions 2 and 3; it’s now at version 6. I have also been a Parallels user almost since its very first release. I have no particular allegiance to one developer or another. I just want to get my work done in the most efficient way possible, with a minimum of distraction and complication.)
I’ve seen many comparative reviews, benchmark tests, and feature checklists for these products. In its last couple of comparisons, Macworld has concluded that Parallels and Fusion are virtually equivalent, the differences increasingly minor with each revision.
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[Editor's note: This article originally appeared on CITEworld.]
Apple’s WWDC keynote was an interesting mix of user-oriented features and developer-focused announcements. While Apple didn’t announce any new hardware (as some Wall Street pundits might have liked), Apple never does at WWDC: this is a software-focused event for develpers. The fact is, Apple introduced a number of revolutionary advances described during the event that stretch across the consumer, enterprise IT, and developer spheres.
One of the big questions is what happens when the consumer and enterprise spheres intersect, as they are certain to do in a world where iOS is the dominant mobile OS in the enterprise and where Apple is continuing to push for integration between its mobile, desktop, and cloud platforms.
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