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MS Word hacks: 6 ways to supercharge this everyday tool

Most teachers remain unaware of the true power of Microsoft Word. Grainne Hallahan offers up six ways to improve your document-creating skills.

From spaghetti measuring holes on pasta scoops, to rotating the ring pull round on a can of drink to hold your straw – there are loads of everyday items we fail to get the most out of because we’re unaware of their full functionality.

And just as it is true for the overlooked holes designed to rest spoons on saucepans, so is it also true for poor misunderstood Microsoft Word. The chances are that you’ve not realised the full genius of this humble computer program – but that’s about to change.

Here are my six top hacks:

1. Converting PDFs

If you have a PDF that you’d like to convert to a Word doc, then this trick is for you.

  • Choose the .pdf that you would like to convert from File Explorer
  • Once selected right lick > choose Open With > Word >
  • Word will present a popup: Choose OK

2. Avoid weird re-formatting

When you have a Word document that you want to continue working on, opening it up in different versions of Word when you move from different computers can result in the document reformatting and your text boxes moving all over the place. 

So often you’ll email a Word document with the caveat that it might look different on their version of Microsoft Office.

Get around this problem by using Google Docs and sending a link allowing them to either view, comment, or edit. Strictly speaking, Google Docs and Word are two different programs, but you can open all Word documents in Google Docs. 

3. Personalize autocorrect

Because I never, ever meant to write ‘ducking’ I changed my autocorrect settings to reflect my more colourful language. This is also super useful for more work-related reasons: MAD became Mother, any distance and g@ automatically fills in my whole email address. No doubt you’re already seeing the time-saving possibilities this could lead to.

Plugging in these text shortcuts can be done not just in Word, but in all your Microsoft Office applications too. Brilliant. 

To input them, go to File – Options – Proofing, and then select AutoCorrect Options.

Then you have a table with two columns, shortcut on one side, and the word you want to replace on the other.

4. Change from upper to lowercase (and back again)

Chunks of text in uppercase that you want to change to lowercase is often a problem when you’re trying to copy and paste text from other sources, but thankfully it can be easily fixed.

All you have to do is highlight the text, and hit shift and F3. Bish, bash, bosh.

5. Switch to PowerPoint and ditch Word

This is a bit of a weird Word/Powerpoint crossover suggestion – but it makes sense, trust me.

Anyone who has tried to input image boxes and text boxes into Word, and then quickly found their heart rate rising to dangerous levels and their fingers itching to lob the computer out of the window, will appreciate this hack.

My tip? Give up. Don’t even bother. And instead of making it in Word, use PowerPoint, and then print the single slide. It is so much easier to move the boxes around, and you won’t find all the text vanishing just because you resize the box by 2mm.

6. Use Word to make an analytical point 

If you have a long document, and you want to find a specific part of that document, instead of scanning through it, make use of the ‘Find’ function with Ctrl+F.

Obvious? Maybe. But for teachers who are illustrating a point about a document – perhaps English teachers who are looking at the motif of “darkness” in Macbeth – you can copy and paste the entire script into Word, and then use the Find tool to show the students how frequently darkness (and it will find derivatives of it too) occur. Whenever I’ve showed this to a class they’ve always been left amazed by the simple wizardry of it. 

Hallahan, Grainne. “MS Word Hacks: 6 Ways to Supercharge this Everyday Tool” Tes.com 2019 September

Posted in: MS Office Tips and Tricks, Productivity

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Google Keep Notes: 10 tips and tricks to become a master

Unlock it’s full potential.

Google Keep Notes might be the most underrated of Google’s services. It’s more than just a place to jot down your thoughts—it’s also the missing link to bring Docs, Calendar, Photos, and the rest of Google’s services together. Here are 10 tips and tricks to unlock the full potential of Google Keep Notes:

Take a voice memo

While most people use Google Keep Notes to type quick notes to themselves, you can actually get your thoughts down even quicker by using your voice. In the bottom menu on the main screen, you can tap the microphone icon to speak your note to Google Keep. It’ll both record and transcribe everything you say, so even if Google’s dictation engine misses a word, you’ll still have a record of it.

google keep notes audio
You can dictate your notes to Google Keep.

Transcribe text from a photo

Audio isn’t the only thing Google Keep Notes can transcribe. If you import a photo with words on it, Keep Notes can grab that text. Tap the photo to open it, and then tap the three-dot menu in the top right corner and select Grab image text. Go back to your note and you’ll see the words that were in the pic pasted below it, in the proper order, capitalized appropriately, and ready to edit.

Draw on (or off) your photos

Transcribing text isn’t the only thing you can do to a photo in Google Keep Notes. You can also highlight, color, and draw on them to your heart’s content. Just import or snap a pic and select the paintbrush icon to be taken to the mark-up screen. There you can select your pen style and annotate the image without affecting the original file. And if you just want to doodle on a note, you can do that too, by choosing the paintbrush icon in the main menu.

google keep notes draw
Scribble, doodle, and mark up notes with ease in Google Keep Notes.

Sync with Google Docs on your PC

If you’ve ever emailed yourself the text of a note just so you can use it in a document or a presentation, this will save you some time: Google Keep Notes is fully integrated into Google’s office suite. And it couldn’t be easier to get them in sync. When you have a file open in Docs or Slides, just tap the Keep logo in the sidebar at the right to see a list of your saved notes. Tap one to open it, and you can copy, cut, or edit anything that’s inside. Of course, any changes you make will be synced back to Keep Notes on your phone. And if you simply want to create a Google document out of a note, just long-press on a note and select Copy to Google Docs.

Collaborate with a friend or colleague

Most of your Google Keep notes will probably be for your eyes only, but it’s also easy to invite someone else to collaborate. First you’ll need to turn on sharing inside the Settings in the sidebar. Just tap the three-dot menu at the bottom of the screen when you’re in a note and select Collaborator. From there you’ll be able to select anyone from your address book to link your note with their Google Keep app. Whenever it’s edited, you’ll be notified (and vice versa).

google keep notes colaborate
You can invite a collaborator into any of your notes, as long as you enable sharing in the settings.

Get the Chrome extension

While any browser will let you log into Google Keep Notes to get work done, only the Chrome extension will let you use it like a digital locker. Download it from the Chrome Web Store, and it will put a small Keep icon next to your address bar that provides a direct link to your account. While you’re browsing or working in Chrome you’ll be able to save URLs, photos, and text, and of course take notes.

Organize your notes with labels, colors, and pins

If you take a lot of notes, your Google Keep home screen can quickly get as cluttered as your inbox. But just like Gmail, you can easily organize it. If you long-press on a note, you’ll bring up a series of options to help you find it later, including the ability to color-code it, pin it to the top of the list, or apply a custom label. 

google keep notes labels
Color-coding and labels will help keep your notes organized.

Set a time or location reminder for a note

Google has a dedicated reminders app called Tasks, but if you don’t want another app on your phone, you can set alerts for your notes so they act like reminders. Just tap the bell icon when you’re in a note and you’ll be able to set a reminder for a specific date and time, or a location, like if you want to remember to pick up milk at the grocery store.

Recover a deleted note

OK, this isn’t exactly a hidden feature, but you might not have noticed it before. If you accidentally delete a note—or just realize you needed something in it—you can still recover it from the trash within seven days of deletion. Or, if you’re unsure whether you’ll need a note later but still want to get it off the home screen, you can just use the Archive feature instead of delete. That will remove the notes from your library and store it in the Archive folder, which is accessible in the sidebar.

google keep notes trash
You don’t have to use the trash, but if you do, Google Keep Notes gives you seven days to change your mind.

Create a note out of an email

If you want to create a note out of an email, you can either copy the text and paste it into a new note, or use the handy shortcut in Gmail on the web. Here’s how to do it: After you open an email, click the Keep Notes icon in the sidebar to the right. Then click the Take a Note button, and your email will appear as an attachment inside your new note. Give it a name, select Done when you’re finished, and you’ll be able to jump right to your email with a tap.

Simon, Michael. “Google Keep Notes: 10 tips and tricks to become a master” 2019 July

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

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