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7 Tips to Using a Password Manager Safely

Password security can look pretty grim! However, the benefits of a good password manager – generating and saving complex, unique passwords you can easily update – mean that most experts recommend using one. “While it’s impossible to be completely immune from the most advanced threats, selecting the right third-party password manager can help users to protect their credentials from the majority of attacks that they may face,” says Baumgartner.

You can also take the following seven steps to ensure you’re protecting your accounts:

  1. Choose a password manager without master password recovery

Whatever you do, choose a password manager that does not allow for recovery of the master password. “If a malicious actor is able to get ahold of the master password through account recovery tools, this renders even the most secure password management programs useless,” says Baumgarten.

  1. Use Two-factor authentication

Any online account has a risk of being hacked. One way to circumvent this risk is to use two-factor authentication to protect your password manager. Chrome supports two-factor authentication with your smartphone, and, along with Firefox and Edge, also works with authentication hardware keys such as Yubico. Third-party password managers including Dashlane, LastPass and Sticky Password supports two-factor authentication with your smartphone. “While two-factor authentication may still have some risks due to threats like SIM hijacking, at a minimum it puts one more layer of defense between the cybercriminal and your full arsenal of login information,” says Baumgarten.

  1. Turn off autofill

You may want to consider turning off autofill. This also means logging into your password manager, then copying and pasting your passwords into the login screen.

  1. Use strong passwords

When composing your master password, make it strong. “By today’s standards this means 20 characters or more, randomly generated passwords that contain lower and uppercase letters, digits and symbols,” says Palfy.  You might be proud of how devilishly uncrackable it is – but don’t reuse your master password.

  1. Make sure all of your passwords are unique

Make sure all your other passwords are unique. Dashlane Premium is one of the options that can automatically check for weak or repeated passwords then automatically replace them with a random, complex password.

  1. Keep your software up to date

Download security updates for your password manager as soon as available – often, they will be patching newly discovered vulnerabilities.

  1. Be wary of downloads and browser extensions

In general, be wary of your downloads especially browser extensions – unwittingly installed malware could end up logging keystrokes or copying logins.

Choosing the right password manager

The best password managers do not allow you to recover your master password, they let you use two-factor authentication, they monitor your accounts for password breaches and weak passwords, they generate strong passwords for you, they back up your passwords securely online and they let you use a fingerprint or face ID to log in on your smartphone. Our favorite password manager, Dashlane Premium($60 per year), has all of the aforementioned features and more. It also fills out forms, including your credit card information, syncs across all of your devices, scans the Dark Web for personal data and account information and provides VPN service for your computer and smartphone to encrypt all of your data when using internet-based services over public WiFi.

This excerpt is taken from “Is it Safe to Use a Password Manager?”, an article written by Natasha Stoke, Techlicious.com. Click here if you would like to read the article in its entirety.

Posted in: Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Your Google Account Might Be Giving Outside Developers Access to Your Data – Here’s How to Disconnect Apps You Don’t Trust Before They Read Your Mail

You may not be the only one reading your messages in your Gmail Account.

While Google itself has stopped scanning Gmail users’ email, some third-party developers have created apps that can access consumers’ accounts and scan their messages for marketing purposes, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal. In some cases, it’s not just the developer’ computers but their human employees who are reading Gmail users’ messages, according to the report.

Google has long allowed software developers the ability to access users’ accounts as long as users gave them permission.  That ability was designed to allow developers to create apps that consumers could use to add events to their Google Calendars or to send messages from their Gmail accounts.

But marketing companies have created apps that take advantage of that access to insights into consumers’ behavior, according to the report.  The apps offer things such as price-comparison services or travel-itinerary planning, but the language in their service agreements allows them to view users’ email as well.  In fact, it’s become a “common practice” for marketing companies to scan consumers’ email, The Journal reported.

It isn’t clear how carefully google is monitoring such uses.  Many consumers may not be aware that they’ve given apps such access to their accounts.  Even if they are, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal offers a worrisome example of how similar access to consumer data can be abused.

Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Google account and how to block them from accessing it in the future.

From your Google Account homepage, go to the Sign-in & Security section.

To get to your Google Account page, select the “Account” icon from the app menu in the top right-hand corner of your Gmail account or navigate to myaccount.google.com.

Click on the “Apps with account access” link or scroll down to the very bottom of the page.

In that section, you’ll see all of the apps to which you’ve given any kind of access since you created your account.

Select “Manage Apps” to see more details.


You’ll see what kinds of information and services inside your Google account to which the apps have access.

Google organizes apps that have access to your account into three different groups.

The three groups are apps that allow for “Signing in with Google,” “Third-party apps with account access,” and “Google apps.”

It’s obvious what Google apps are — things like Chrome and Drive. But here’s how the two other groups differ:

Apps in the “Signing in with Google” section have access to your name, email address, and profile picture. But in some cases they may have access to more of your information — potentially a lot more, such as the ability to read and delete your email messages.

You most likely gave the “Signing in with Google” apps permission to access such data because you wanted to use your Google login to sign into your accounts with them instead of having to create separate user accounts and passwords. But some companies that use Google’s apps in their workplaces also require their employees to use their Google login to sign in to other apps and services.

The “Third-party apps with account access” typically have access to much more than just your basic profile information. In fact, according to a Google support page, these apps often “can see and change nearly all information in your Google Account.”

Developers whose apps have such access to your account can’t change your password, delete your account, or use Google Pay on your behalf, but they can read your email — or have their employees do it.

Some apps require those kinds of permissions to do what you’ve asked them to do. If you want to be able to use a mail app on your computer to manage your Gmail account or your Google calendar, it needs to be able to read and delete messages or appointments.

But you should make sure you trust the apps and developers that have such access to your accounts and that you are giving them only as much access as they need.

If you see one you don’t trust, you can block it by clicking on “Remove Access.”

After clicking on that button you’ll have to click “OK” to confirm that you really want to block the app. The app should then disappear from the list of apps that have access to your account and should no longer have any ability to view or do anything else with your email or other data.

It’s a good idea to check the “Apps with access to your account” page every few months to keep your account safe from wandering eyes.

 

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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One of Microsoft Outlook’s Hidden Gems: “Advanced Find”

Our days keep getting busier and busier! Which in return equates to our need to be more efficient than ever.

Outlook has many features that can help us battle this busy culture.

Did you know that within minutes you can put your finger (or in this case, your mouse), on that one piece of mail that you know you received last week but didn’t have the time to file it properly, and now it’s buried beneath a plethora of recent mail? A general search can help a little, but will still produce a lot of unnecessary mail to weed through.

This hidden gem is Outlook’s “Advanced Find” – this quick and easy feature will save you lots of time.

So, let’s get started!

Begin by making sure you are in the mailbox you want to search.

Next, click your mouse in the search box on the top right; the option for Search Tools will then become available on the title bar.

 

Click on Search Tools>Advanced Find

In the Advanced Find box, you can specify much more complex criteria and even search in your calendar, contacts list, notes, and tasks. But for this demonstration we will choose an email search with detailed specifics.

 

Ideally, we would all like to be so organized that we would never have to search for that unfiled email, note, or calendar entry.  But I hope we can agree that this is a great tip for that occasional slip!

Go ahead and give it a try!

 

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Make your Android or iPhone’s Fingerprint Reader Work Every Time

This dead-simple trick will keep you from wanting to throw your phone across the room.

Raise your hand if this is you: The fingerprint reader on your iPhone or Android phone fails often enough on the first try that you’re starting to wonder if you’ve been cursed with weird fingers.

Relax; there are plenty of reasons why you may not get an accurate read your first try, besides your mutant appendages.

  • Your fingertip hasn’t fully covered the sensor
  • You have wet hands
  • The phone didn’t get an accurate read when you first registered your print
  • The phone maker’s implementation may make the reader more sensitive, like if there are more demanding layers of security built into the software

This tip won’t help with all of those, but it definitely helps.

If you’re up to here with trying to unlock your phone so many times that you have to revert to a password or passcode, stop. Take a deep breath. And try this dead-simple solution that really works.

Register the same print two or three times. I do this with the phones I review and it makes the devices much more likely to unlock the first time around. For example, I’ll scan the finger I usually unlock the phone with at least twice — say, my thumb — and then scan a second finger that I might use to also unlock the device, like my index finger. I’ll usually also scan the index finger of my non-dominant hand, which has bailed me out more than once when I had my hands too full to unlock the phone as I normally would.

The reason multiple scans of the same finger works is because when you register your fingertip the first time around, it isn’t always clear which parts of your print the software has captured. A nominally helpful animation will urge you to lift your finger to capture more area, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the data your phone’s actually storing.

By laying down the same fingerprint more than once, you’re doubling or tripling the chances that your phone will capture enough data.

Of course, adding duplicate digits won’t solve your unlocking issues if you constantly struggle to reach the reader, or if your hands are too wet for the phone to register your print.

How to register multiple fingerprints on your phone

Most phones give you a maximum of five fingerprints for security reasons. The more fingers you wave through, the higher the probability the phone will unlock for false positives, the reasoning goes.

On Android phones:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap Security
  • Tap “Fingerprint”
  • Re-enter your PIN
  • Tap “Add fingerprint”

On iPhones with Touch ID:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap Touch ID & Passcode
  • Enter your passcode
  • Under the section “Fingerprints” tap “Add a Fingerprint

Dolcourt, Jessica. “Make Your Android or iPhone’s Fingerprint Reader Work Every Time” CNET July 5, 2018

Posted in: Mobile Computing, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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7 Utilities to Make Your Windows PC More Powerful

Microsoft is building some of these features right into Windows 10

Later this year, Microsoft will be introducing features that are similar to — and might even obviate — three of the utilities we will talk about.  It’s a good indication that “Microsoft is listening” to its users.  Although that open ear and open mind has its limits. The Redstone 5 update will have better screenshots, and clipboard history — among many other improvements.

Of course, if you’re Microsoft, you have the “opportunity” to focus on your desktop OS more than others. When you don’t have a phone operating system to worry about, it’s a lot easier to put your efforts into what you do have.

At the same time that Microsoft is adding much-requested features, it’s also pushing just as hard to box its users into using Edge, Cortana, and Bing. We’re a long ways from the legal battle that forced Microsoft to stop pushing IE back in the day, but Windows 10 should respect a user’s default choices.

It’s tempting to resign yourself to that kind of bundling in modern operating systems. After all, Apple is even more locked-down on iOS and ChromeOS only recently began offering ways to use other browsers. And when I use Windows 10, I tend to stick to Edge because I think it’s a lighter-weight browser.

But let’s not do that. Windows 10 and the Mac are the two biggest and best mass-market operating systems that are easy to customize at a deep level. As I’ve said so often that I know you’re getting tired of it, that customization is important. It empowers users and can serve as a way to get people to feel confident doing more complicated things on their computers. It’s a lot easier to think you can learn to code if you’ve already fixed a bunch of little hassles on your computer.

At the risk of turning this into yet another Mac vs PC debate (this isn’t the moment), I will say that I’m mainly disappointed in Microsoft’s aggressive tactics with Bing and Edge because the rest of the OS is just so good. There are so many little things that are smart: auto-hiding icons in the System Tray, snapping windows, and the Start Menu.

I still wish the app ecosystem was stronger, but I give credit to Microsoft for being ahead of both Apple and Google in trying to bring mobile app (and web app) paradigms to the desktop. Maybe too far ahead of its time, in some ways.

Anyway, if you haven’t used Windows 10 in awhile, I encourage you to take a fresh look. It’s very close to feeling like a whole and complete thought instead of a bunch of new features tacked on over the years. There are little hassles and plenty of inelegant things to complain about, but there’s also a coherence that you won’t get on other desktop platforms.

And when it doesn’t meet your needs, there are utilities for that. Here are seven we like (two of them were cut for time in the video above).

  • Eartrumpet, free. A super neat System Tray utility that gives you volume levels for every app and also lets you set custom inputs and outputs. Basically a must-install.
  • Groupy, $9.99 ($7.49 at publication). You know how tabs on your browser are useful? Groupy lets you take any app you have open and make it a tab in another app. It sounds like overkill, but the ability to separate out different tasks into tabbed windows with different apps in them is really powerful. Also available as a bundle with Object Desktop, a bundle of a few other clever utilities like Fences, which organizes your desktop icons. Microsoft’s upcoming take on this feature is called Sets, which you can read about here. Update: after publication, we learned that tab sets won’t be coming this year.
  • ShareX, free. I have long been a Lightshot fan for screenshots, but ShareX is a lot more customizable and powerful. It’s also a lot less elegant, unfortunately. But if you take as many screenshots as I do, the ability to automate the most common next steps is well worth the effort. Microsoft’s improved screenshot tool coming later this year might obviate the need for this for many.
  • Ditto, free. I can’t work effectively without a good Clipboard History tool. Ditto is fast, simple, and works well. Here again we have a utility Microsoft is building into Windows 10 — though Microsoft’s version will also do cloud sync with other devices.
  • Wox, free. This is one of those launch bar / search boxes you bring up with a keystroke. I use it because even though hitting the Windows key for Cortana is fast and easy, it’s locked to Bing and Edge (without further utilities like EdgeDeflector). Wox is kind of a pain to set up, but it lets me set custom web searches like “pages posted in the last day” on Google.
  • Sharpkeys, free. A little utility that makes it easy to remap keys. You could write to the registry directly, but that feels very 1995. I use it to remap Caps Lock to a function key (which then launches Wox). When I die, my tombstone will read “Tried to get every company to replace the Caps Lock Key with a Universal Search key. Nobody listened.”
  • QuickLook, free.  (Article on Quicklook was written by Tom Warren.) It’s a little thing that lets you quickly preview files in the File Explorer. Seems to be more elegant than Seer, but I haven’t used it long enough to say for sure which one I prefer.

Bohn, Dieter. “7 Utilities to Make Your Windows PC More Powerful” The Verge June 27,2018

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Change the Safari Download Location on Mac OS

By default, the Safari web browser for Mac will download any files to the Downloads folder of the active user account. Most Mac users will likely be satisfied with that, but some may wish to change the file download directory in Safari for Mac OS to another directory. Likewise, if you have changed the Safari download destination, you may wish to revert back to the default download folder for Safari on the Mac.

This tutorial will show you how to change the Safari downloads location in Mac OS. You can change it to any directory or folder you have access to, or you can revert back to the default Safari downloads destination of the user Downloads directory.

Making this adjustment will change where all downloaded files from the Safari web browser go to on the Mac. It will not impact other applications and where they download files.

How to Change the File Download Location in Safari on Mac

  1. Open the “Safari” web browser on the Mac if you have not done so already
  2.  Pull down the “Safari” menu and choose “Preferences”

3.  Go to the “General” tab and then look for the “File Download Location” section and click on the Downloads dropdown menu.

4. Choose “Other” to change the downloads destination in Safari.

5.  Navigate to the directory you want Safari to download files to and choose “Select”

6.  Exit out of Safari Preferences when finished.

Now all future downloaded files or items from Safari will go to the folder or directory you selected.  for example, if you selected the Desktop, then all Safari downloaded files will appear on the desktop of the Mac.

Changing the download destination for Safari only applies to downloads and files going forward, any flies downloads before this change was made would appear in the location set prior to any adjustment.  If you aren’t sure where a particular file downloaded form Salari is located, you can search on the Mac with Spotlight for the file name, click the magnifying glass button in the Safari Downloaded Items List or manually ivenstigate the user Downloads folder or whatever you had/have selected as the Safari download location.

How to Change Back to the Default Download Location in Safari on Mac OS

If you had prviously customized the location of the Download directory away from the default (downloads) and to another directory, you can change it back as follows.

From the Safari browser, go to the “Safari” menu and choose “Preferences”

    1. From the Safari browser, go to the “Safari” menu and choose “Preferences”
    2. From the “General” tab look for the “File Download Location” section, and then click on the Downloads dropdown menu and choose “Downloads”
      • If “Downloads” is not in the dropdown menu, choose “Other” and navigate to your user Home folder then select the “Downloads” from from there
      • Exit out of Safari Preferences when finished

    That’s it, now the Safari downloaded file destination directory will be reset to default ~/Downloads folder on the Mac.

    Most users are better off keeping all downloads in the Downloads folder of Mac OS for consistency sake, because it makes keeping track of downloaded files particularly easy if all apps are downloading all files into the same location. By default, most Mac apps that are able to download files will use the user Downloads folder as the destination for those files, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox, most SFTP apps, and even file transfer features like AirDrop saves files to the Downloads folder by default on MacOS.

    Of course this applies to Safari, which also happens to be the default web browser on a Mac, but if you use a different web browser then changing the default download location would be different.

    And in case you were wondering, yes this guide applies to both regular Safari, Safari Beta, as well as the Safari Technology Preview builds. The download settings will be similar but slightly different if you happen to be running Safari on Windows PC but since that Windows-specific software build is no longer actively developed it’s usage is debatable.

  1. Horowitz, Paul. “How to Change the Safari Download Location on Mac OS” OSX Daily July 1, 2018

Posted in: Mac OS, Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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7 Passwords You Should Never Use at Your Small Business

Owning a small business means owning data. You’re constantly acquiring new information related to your customers, your financial details, and all the vendors and contractors with whom you work.  One cyber criminal, though, one lucky hack, and you’ve just exposed your business to a major blow. From lost trust among your clients to costly lawsuits for the damage done, protecting your company from data theft is among your most important responsibilities.​

A lot of it comes down to one simple choice you make:  passwords.

“Overall, passwords still present the biggest challenge for businesses of all sizes,” said Ron Schlecht, founder and managing partner of BTB Security. Businesses hire Schlecht’s company to test their digital security for weak spots and, he said, “you can’t imagine how many times we still break in to companies because of a bad password.”

If you want to avoid weak passwords at your business, start by steering clear of the following list. Read on for seven passwords you should never (ever) use.

Password

Arguably, this is the number-one and most common bad choice. Also prevalent are variations such as P@ssword and P@55w0rd!. These might be easy to remember, but they’re also among the first options hackers will try.

QWERTY

Easy-to-guess passwords often take root because they’re simple to remember. That’s the story with this hacker-friendly option constructed from the sequence of letters at the top left of the typical computer keyboard.

12345

Or, 98765. Or, 4567. You get the picture — no consecutive numbers (and the same goes for sequential letter combinations). You can only count on passwords such as these to expose your business to digital theft.

BusinessName1

If your shop is called Serafina’s Weddings, don’t set your password as SerafinasWeddings1. That would be a early choice for hackers looking to break into your valuable data.

Business Address

Skip it entirely, when it comes to passwords. Also avoid trying to mash together similar details, such as your street name and street number — i.e. Main215. 

Date of Birth

Thanks to the Internet, it doesn’t take much effort to find a person’s DOB. Birthdays, birthdates, years of birth — all of them make for readily attainable passwords and are poor choices for your company.

Simple Dictionary Words

Especially if they’re related to your business, don’t use them. No baseball, football, or soccer for your sporting goods store. No muffler, tire, or spark plug for your auto garage.

 And so, what should you do when it comes to picking a password?

A key approach starts with thinking of a passphrase. Next, substitute letters, characters, and abbreviations for parts of it. For example, my first car was a Honda in 1990 would be easy enough to remember, if that was the case in your life. Now, change it to my1stc@r=honda90.

Steer clear of the not so magnificent seven above, and protect your data with hard-to-guess constructions. With a strong password strategy, you’re well on your way to foiling online attacks.

O’Brien, James. “7 Passwords You Should Never Use at Your Small Business” The Hartford, Small Biz Ahead. June 2018

Posted in: Business, Mobile Computing, Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Technology

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Reset your routers to avoid malware attack, FBI warns

Russian hackers may be coming for you, and there’s one way to stop them: Turn off your Wi-Fi.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday anyone with a small office or home router should reboot it to stop the spread of malware. A potential attack had infected hundreds of thousands devices across 54 countries with software called VPNFilter, which was traced back to Ukraine where it was first found in 2016, it said.

The software had not had any negative effects yet, but would allow devices to be hacked for a number of nefarious purposes. Ukranian officials said in a statement they suspect Russia is behind the attack.

To thwart it, the FBI has instructed Americans to do what many IT professionals ask you to do when you have a problem with your Wi-Fi: Turn off your router and then turn it back on again.

“The FBI recommends any owner of small office and home office routers reboot the devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and aid the potential identification of infected devices,” it said in a statement.

While the hack does not affect all routers, experts suggest everyone upgrade their home and office internet security, install the latest firmware and change the default password, said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at security firm Sophos.

The  FBI said last week it had seized the domain used to issue instructions to the infected devices. When users reset their machines, the traffic will reroute through the bureau’s site to clean them up.

This particular kind of vulnerability is alarming because it can be used for a number of attacks, said Caleb Barlow, vice president of threat intelligence at IBM IBM, +0.27% It allows the machine to install additional software or internally change devices rendering them unusable.

“Think of it like a garage door — once you have access to it, you can drive anything from a bicycle to a bus into it,” he said. “It is up to the adversary to decide what to park in that garage.”

The hack underscores ongoing issues with the security of routers, which rarely automatically update with patches for vulnerabilities. Experts suggest not using routers issued by your internet service provider and instead buying more expensive, and more secure devices.

“This should be the default moving forward,” said David Ginsburg, vice president at Cavirin, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of cybersecurity. “We’re used to this with our smartphones and laptops, and think nothing of updates.”

Paul, Kari, “Reset Your Routers to Avoid Malware Attack, FBI Warns” Marketwatch.com, May 30, 2018

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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10 Microsoft Word Tips to Save Your Job

When executives at any company are considering which employees to cut and which to keep, they want to hold onto the most helpful, knowledgeable people. So, if you’re the only person on your team who knows how to format the company reports properly or you’re the one that your boss counts on to help with document formatting, you have a leg up on your coworkers. Master the Microsoft Word tips below and make yourself indispensable.

Your boss calls in a panic, because he was working on an important document and his computer crashed before he had a chance to save it. Be a hero by heading over to the File menu on his computer, clicking the Manage Document button and selecting Recover Unsaved Documents. You should then see a list of all the available unsaved files. The latest one should be his lost Word document.

You send a critical document to a business partner or client and they send you back a revised version, without enabling the track changes feature. Whether it’s a joint press release, a legal contract or just an important memo, you need to see exactly what changes they made to your work.

To compare two documents in Word 2016, navigate to the Review tab, click on the Compare button and select Compare from the drop down menu which appears. Then select the two files you want to look at and hit Ok. You’ll see a version of the document with all the changes highlighted.

Word makes it easy to draw on top of your document with your finger, a pen or even your mouse. You can draw lines on top of your text, scribble a shape and have the program automatically convert it into a resizable vector graphic or even draw an equation and insert it into your document as ASCII text. Unfortunately, most people do not have the Draw tab enabled by default so they can’t use any of these features.

To enable the Draw tab, right click on the navigation bar at the top of the Word window and select Customize the Ribbon. In the dialog box that appears, check the box next to Draw under Main Tabs.

When you’re writing a long report or white paper that you plan to distribute, a tablet of contents makes your document much easier to read. Fortunately, Word makes it easy to generate a TOC, without manually entering all the sections and page numbers yourself.

While you’re editing your document, use headings and subheadings for the different sections you want to appear in your TOC. When it’s time to generate the TOC itself, click Table of Contents under the References Tab and choose the style you like best. Word will then add the TOC to your document and you can edit its content as wish. You can also click the Update table button to regenerate the TOC, based on any changes you’ve made to the document.

While Word’s collaboration features are not nearly as good as those on Google docs, the software provides a way for you, your boss and your coworkers to edit the same document at the same time. There’s just one caveat: you all have to have accounts in the same Office 365 organization so forget about co-editing in real-time with people at other companies or freelancers.

First save your document to your company’s OneDrive account. Then click the Share button in the upper right corner of the Word window and enter the names of the people you want to share it with. Click the Share button and you’ll all be good to go. You will see each other’s changes in real-time with a different text color for each person (and their name next to it).

Your boss gets a document with a lot of images in and then needs to post those images to a web page, re-use them in another document or send them in an email. You can right click each image, select copy and then paste it into an image editor and save it, but that’s a time consuming process when you have several pictures to deal with.

To export all the images in a Word doc, make a copy of the document file and rename it with the file extension .zip instead of .docx (ex: myreport.docx becomes myreport.zip). Open the zip file and navigate to word\media directory. There you’ll find a complete set of files you can copy to your hard drive and email to the boss.

It’s 2017 and yet there are still some people who can’t break the annoying habit of putting two spaces are a period. Back in the typewriter-era, it made sense to have a larger space after a period, because all letters were about the name size and it was more difficult to identify the end of a sentence. However, in the age of computers and the Internet, this is an extremely outdated practice.

If a business partner (or your boss) sends a document with two spaces after a period, you can get rid of them in a couple of clicks. Hit CTRL + H to bring up the Find and Replace dialog box. Enter a period with two spaces into the “Find what” box and a period with only one space into the “Replace with” box. Click Replace All and you’re good to go.

You use a lot of company and product names in your documents, but Word flags them as spelling errors. Ugh! You can add all these words to the custom dictionary so Word never hits them with a red underline again.

Navigate to the File menu and then click Options. Select Proofing from the left-hand menu and click the Custom Dictionaries list. Select CUSTOM.DIC from the menu and click the Edit Word List button. You’ll then see a dialog box which allows you to enter new words one at a time. When you’re done, you may want to copy the CUSTOM.DIC file on your computer and share it with your coworkers.

Your company has a form letter that you need to send out in a regular basis, but whenever you print it, you want it to have the current date on top. Sure, you could go in and edit the dateline manually, but it’s easy to forget to do it or make a mistake.

Insert a dateline that always shows the current month, day and year (or even the time) by navigating to the Insert tab and clicking the Date and Time icon, which looks like a calendar with a clock on top of it. Then select the date format you want and make sure the Update automatically box is checked.

Sometimes you paste something from an external source (like a web page) or you edit something in Word and end up with formatting you don’t like or want. Your boss may send you a document with all kinds of unruly fonts, bold face and awkward bulleted lists and ask you to “fix it.”

To remove the formatting on any portion of your document, start by selecting the text you wish to clean or select the entire document by hitting CTRL + A. Then navigate to the Home tab and hit the Clear All Formatting icon, which looks like an eraser on top of the letter A.

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10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations

“Oh no! Not another boring PowerPoint presentation! My eyes, my eyes…!!!”

How much does it suck to be in the audience for yet another drawn-out, boring, lifeless slideshow? Worse yet, how much does it such to be the one giving it?

The truth is, bad PowerPoint happens to good people, and quite often the person giving the presentation is just as much a victim as the poor sods listening to her or him.

Here are ten tips to help you add a little zing! to your next presentation. They are, of course, far from comprehensive, but they’re a start. Feel free to share your own tips in the comments.

1. Write a script.

A little planning goes a long way. Most presentations are written in PowerPoint (or some other presentation package) without any sort of rhyme or reason.

That’s bass-ackwards. Since the point of your slides is to illustrate and expand what you are going to say to your audience. You should know what you intend to say and then figure out how to visualize it. Unless you are an expert at improvising, make sure you write out or at least outline your presentation before trying to put together slides.

And make sure your script follows good storytelling conventions: give it a beginning, middle, and end; have a clear arc that builds towards some sort of climax; make your audience appreciate each slide but be anxious to find out what’s next; and when possible, always leave ‘em wanting more.

2. One thing at a time, please.

At any given moment, what should be on the screen is the thing you’re talking about. Our audience will almost instantly read every slide as soon as it’s displayed; if you have the next four points you plan to make up there, they’ll be three steps ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up rather than listening with interest to the point you’re making.

Plan your presentation so just one new point is displayed at any given moment. Bullet points can be revealed one at a time as you reach them. Charts can be put on the next slide to be referenced when you get to the data the chart displays. Your job as presenter is to control the flow of information so that you and your audience stay in sync.

3. No paragraphs.

Where most presentations fail is that their authors, convinced they are producing some kind of stand-alone document, put everything they want to say onto their slides, in great big chunky blocks of text.

Congratulations. You’ve just killed a roomful of people. Cause of death: terminal boredom poisoning.

Your slides are the illustrations for your presentation, not the presentation itself. They should underline and reinforce what you’re saying as you give your presentation — save the paragraphs of text for your script. PowerPoint and other presentation software have functions to display notes onto the presenter’s screen that do not get sent to the projector, or you can use notecards, a separate word processor document, or your memory. Just don’t put it on the screen – and for goodness’ sake, if you do for some reason put it on the screen, don’t stand with your back to your audience and read it from the screen!

4. Pay attention to design.

PowerPoint and other presentation packages offer all sorts of ways to add visual “flash” to your slides: fades, swipes, flashing text, and other annoyances are all too easy to insert with a few mouse clicks.

Avoid the temptation to dress up your pages with cheesy effects and focus instead on simple design basics:

  • Use a sans serif font for body text. Sans serifs like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri tend to be the easiest to read on screens.
  • Use decorative fonts only for slide headers, and then only if they’re easy to read. Decorative fonts –calligraphy, German blackface, futuristic, psychotic handwriting, flowers, art nouveau, etc. – are hard to read and should be reserved only for large headlines at the top of the page. Better yet, stick to a classy serif font like Georgia or Baskerville.
  • Put dark text on a light background. Again, this is easiest to read. If you must use a dark background – for instance, if your company uses a standard template with a dark background – make sure your text is quite light (white, cream, light grey, or pastels) and maybe bump the font size up two or three notches.
  • Align text left or right. Centered text is harder to read and looks amateurish. Line up all your text to a right-hand or left-hand baseline – it will look better and be easier to follow.
  • Avoid clutter. A headline, a few bullet points, maybe an image – anything more than that and you risk losing your audience as they sort it all out.

5. Use images sparingly

There are two schools of thought about images in presentations. Some say they add visual interest and keep audiences engaged; others say images are an unnecessary distraction.

Both arguments have some merit, so in this case the best option is to split the difference: use images only when they add important information or make an abstract point more concrete.

While we’re on the subject, absolutely do not use PowerPoint’s built-in clipart. Anything from Office 2003 and earlier has been seen by everyone in your audience a thousand times – they’ve become tired, used-up clichés, and I hopefully don’t need to tell you to avoid tired, used-up clichés in your presentations. Office 2007 and non-Office programs have some clipart that isn’t so familiar (though it will be, and soon) but by now, the entire concept of clipart has about run its course – it just doesn’t feel fresh and new anymore.

6. Think outside the screen.

Remember, the slides on the screen are only part of the presentation – and not the main part. Even though you’re liable to be presenting in a darkened room, give some thought to your own presentation manner – how you hold yourself, what you wear, how you move around the room. You are the focus when you’re presenting, no matter how interesting your slides are.

7. Have a hook.

Like the best writing, the best presentation shook their audiences early and then reel them in. Open with something surprising or intriguing, something that will get your audience to sit up and take notice. The most powerful hooks are often those that appeal directly to your audience’s emotions – offer them something awesome or, if it’s appropriate, scare the pants off of them. The rest of your presentation, then, will be effectively your promise to make the awesome thing happen, or the scary thing not happen.

8. Ask questions.

Questions arouse interest, pique curiosity, and engage audiences. So ask a lot of them. Build tension by posing a question and letting your audience stew a moment before moving to the next slide with the answer. Quiz their knowledge and then show them how little they know. If appropriate, engage in a little question-and-answer with your audience, with you asking the questions.

9. Modulate, modulate, modulate.

Especially when you’ve done a presentation before, it can be easy to fall into a drone, going on and on and on and on and on with only minimal changes to your inflection. Always speak as if you were speaking to a friend, not as if you are reading off of index cards (even if you are). If keeping up a lively and personable tone of voice is difficult for you when presenting, do a couple of practice run-throughs. If you still can’t get it right and presentations are a big part of your job, take a public speaking course or join Toastmasters.

10. Break the rules.

As with everything else, there are times when each of these rules – or any other rule you know – won’t apply. If you know there’s a good reason to break a rule, go ahead and do it. Rule breaking is perfectly acceptable behavior – it’s ignoring the rules or breaking them because you just don’t know any better that leads to shoddy boring presentations that lead to boredom, depression, psychopathic breaks, and eventually death. And you don’t want that, do you?

Wax, Dustin. “10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentation” Lifehack, Technology 2018

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