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We're back on-line

We're back, will be a bit bumpy until I get the theme updated. Stay tuned ... Read more about We're back on-line

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Thanks for hanging in there!

Flickr Photo - Jackup SunriseI'm thrilled to be able to announce that, after almost 2 years of silence, Symplebyte is back on line!

The re-launch was a bit bumpier than I had planned, mainly due to inconsisties between my development and hosting platforms. I apologize for the off-line notices and the weird / unformated / repeated RSS submissions some of you received. Hopefully we're past that now as I've been able to get the configurations worked out.

Now, for what's new and different around here... Read more about Thanks for hanging in there!

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Microsoft Word How-to: Watch Out For Track Changes

word track changesMicrosoft Word has a little feature called 'Track changes', which allows for collaborating with colleagues on documents. When enabled it will keep a running history of changes made to a document, kind of like a built-in version control. Add to that the ability to accept/reject changes, highlight text and add comments and you've got quite a nice little document collaboration package.

An important fact that you need to remember, however, is that this history lives with the document. This is an obvious necessity when you start passing it around to various colleagues as part of your work/review process. However, it is surprisingly easy to forget that this change history and comments still live in the document when you've got the feature turned off. And if you're not careful you may be setting yourself up for some embarrassing moments (or worse) if you send this marked-up document out to a customer or client. Read more about Microsoft Word How-to: Watch Out For Track Changes

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Microsoft Excel How-to: Vlookup tutorial

excel_vlookupMy sister-in-law is a certified Excel genius. Back in the early 90's, when I was just getting interested in IT, she was writing programs in Excel running on DOS(6, I think?) that were being used to simulate nuclear meltdowns at actual nuclear power plants here in the states. They would enter in the baseline parameters, programmatically create a failure in some internal system, then run the simulation and 'see what happened'. They actually somehow linked it with the internal systems at the facility, right down to the sensors, alarms, monitors, etc. Really wild stuff. Whenever she would change some of the formulas she would wait until the weekend and then have their brand-spanken-new 486 DX2/66 with 8 mb of ram (8 mb of ram cost north of $2000 back then) chew on the spreadsheet for 3 days to finish the re-calculations. I've probably just violated a whole bunch of national security guidelines by writing this, so if this site's gone next weekend and you never hear from me again [hey, did I just see a black helicopter?!!?]... Read more about Microsoft Excel How-to: Vlookup tutorial

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Keep Your USB Drive Synchronized With Briefcase

synch using briefcaseThere has been a nice little utility called Briefcase that has been part of the standard Windows operating systems since way back when. I seem to remember it being part of Windows 3.1, or at least Windows for Workgroups, but I guess that doesn't really matter. Windows briefcase was originally designed for keeping files synchronized between computers - desktop to server, desktop to desktop, laptop to server, you get the idea. You would create a briefcase, pull the files that you wanted to keep synched into it, then periodically synchronize the files so that any files that had been modified (in either location) would be updated.

These days I'm finding a new use for the briefcase - keeping data synchronized between my USB drive and my laptop. Read more about Keep Your USB Drive Synchronized With Briefcase

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Microsoft Powerpoint How-to: 5 Steps to Smaller Files

powerpoint file size 01So you've been toiling for a week over your latest and greatest Powerpoint presentation, and you're sure it's going to get you booted right into that corner office you've been drooling over. Just to make sure you haven't misspelled the new CEOs name, you decide to e-mail your creation to a trusted co-worker for proofreading. That's when you discover it: You've created a 50 mb monster! The last thing you want to do is to delete that cherry graph showing your main competitor's tanking stock market valuation. But you need to get it under your company's 2 mb e-mail attachment limit, and you don't have time to burn it to a CD and FedEx it. What's a wannabe-executive to do? Read more about Microsoft Powerpoint How-to: 5 Steps to Smaller Files

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Define Microsoft Access relationships using integer keys

access logoI received a call from one of my co-workers in the UK the other day, looking for some help with a quick, down-and-dirty database to help him track company assets held by employees. Just something to track the details on all of the computer and peripherals, phones, cars, things like that. He already had it started, and just needed a little help getting the report built and formatted. So, being the nice guy I am, I say 'Sure, zip it up and send it to me, then I'll give you a call back'.

A minute later I had it opened up and was looking at the tables. He actually did a pretty good job, and had the different 'objects' in their own tables. He had a user table, a phone table, a car table, and an IT table. He had, however, fallen into a typical trap that novice database developers often fall into. He had set up a 'name' field in the user table, then had used that name field for the linking fields in the other tables. So what's wrong with that, you ask? Read more about Define Microsoft Access relationships using integer keys

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Microsoft Excel / Word How-to: Mail Merge Setup

mail mergeSo you have a document that you need to send to more than a couple of people. Maybe hundreds, or even thousand of people. Or you want to print the labels for your holiday greeting cards, so that you don't have to put pen to paper to get all of the addresses on the envelopes. Getting married? When we did, we put the names and addresses of all of the invited guests into an Excel spreadsheet, along with phone numbers, the RSVP, dinner dish selection, and after the wedding the gift received. Invitations and thank you cards went out using the same mail merge, from Excel to the label sheets using Word for the layout. It may sound complicated, but it really is a great time saver once you've figured out how to set it up. It takes a few steps to walk through the wizard, and the first time you do it you'll need to pay attention, but it really is easy! Read more about Microsoft Excel / Word How-to: Mail Merge Setup

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Microsoft Excel How-to: End Of Month (EOMONTH) Function

excel logoA week ago or so E happens to mention a project that she has taken on at work. It was fairly complex, and for one part of it she needed to be able to dynamically update a row with the date for the end of the month, for the next 12 months. She wanted to be able to enter in a starting date, then have the adjacent 12 cells fill in automatically with the last day of the month for the next 12 months. I knew this could be done with a fairly complex formula, and certainly with some VBA code. But it seemed to me I had run across an end of month function previously in Excel, and with just a little bit of investigation I found it. Strangely enough, it's called EOMONTH, and here's how you can find it and use it. Read more about Microsoft Excel How-to: End Of Month (EOMONTH) Function

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Microsoft Producer for Powerpoint 2003 plug-in review

powerpoint logo[November, 2008] It doesn't appear that Microsoft is actively supporting this product anymore (probably just as well). However, you can still get it if you want (follow the link at the bottom of the page), so I left the review in place.
Editor's Note:
I had planned on walking you through a complete product evaluation - installation, importing, features, and publishing. I realized a little way into this that doing so would make me guilty of the same infraction as Microsoft in their presentation of this product. Therefore, it seemed prudent under these circumstances to give you the summary first.
Read more about Microsoft Producer for Powerpoint 2003 plug-in review

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