Category Archives: Software Tips and Tricks

Four Steps to a Professional Document

Almost everyone who works or has worked in an office environment has used some type of word processing software at one time or another – some of you may even work with such a program almost all day, every day. So, those of you who do are likely aware that using software like Microsoft Word allows us to create polished, professional documents in a (potentially) minimal amount of time. We can type the contents of a document, adjust the margins and spacing, create tables, and even add graphics. You may not have considered that, in order to make you that much more efficient at creating your documents, there are four golden rules to follow before you begin:

  • Planning
    Just like most everything else in life, planning saves you time and effort. Figure out what it is you want to say and then say it clearly. Include enough information to achieve that purpose without overwhelming your reader. Organize your ideas in a thoughtful, logical way; sometimes, working your way backwards can help. Decide how you want your document to look – the type of document you’re writing (e.g. business letter or research paper) will be the determining factor, of course.
  • Creating and Editing
    Once you’re past the planning stage, you’re ready to start typing. Here comes the hard part – try to hold off on editing and even formatting (step 3) until you’ve finished typing the document. Once you’ve entered your content, you’re ready to edit. Keep in mind that spell- and grammar check will only get you so far; your document should ALWAYS be fully read with human eyes prior to completion. If possible, get a colleague to look it over for a sanity check. It’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to miss something if you’ve been slaving away at it for hours on end.
  • Formatting
    How you format your document will depend on what type of document you’re working on; however, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. I recently wrote a post about formatting your Excel workbook, in which I talked about the most important aspect of the workbook – the data. Well, the same rules apply when it comes to formatting your Word document. There’s nothing wrong with making your documents “pretty”, but you want to make sure you’re not overwhelming the content of the document itself. Try to avoid garish colours – they can sometimes annoy your reader and make your document difficult to read. Ensure your document is readable on both black-and-white and colour printers. You also want to make sure you understand your printer’s limitations; colours that look great on your monitor may not print quite as well.
  • Printing or Distributing Online
    Before you go to print, display your document in your print preview window. If you print right away before previewing, you risk wasting time and paper. With print preview, you can immediately see how the page will look printed and can adjust scaling, margins, spacing, and paper size as necessary.

Let us know if you’ve got any tips or tricks of your own! Send us an email:

Katie Caplan
Office Manager & Instructor
Sector Learning Solutions

Formatting your Excel Workbook: Best Practices

Have you ever opened up a workbook that kind of looked like Christmas threw up all over it? If it’s not formatted appropriately, it can make it pretty difficult to make sense of the actual data that’s contained in it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students tell me that the number one goal is to “make their workbooks look pretty”. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to do that, it’s important to remember the most crucial aspect – the data. When you get caught up with fonts, shading, borders, and the like, it’s easy to lose sight of that. The workbook should be formatted to make it easier to read, establish a sense of professionalism, draw attention to specific points or elements within the workbook and provide continuity between the worksheets. If you have too much formatting, it can overwhelm the data, while too little can make it harder to understand. ALWAYS REMEMBER: when it comes to formatting, the end goal is not just to make the workbook “pretty”, but to accentuate the important trends and relationships in the data you’re working with. Here are some tips to help you along:

  • Use similar colours to differentiate types of cell content and to direct users where to enter data
  • Avoid garish colour combinations that could annoy the reader and be difficult to read
  • Ensure output is readable on both black-and-white and colour printers
  • Understand your printer’s limitations and features; colours that look great on your monitor may not print quite as well
  • Be sensitive to your audience: about 8% of all men and 0.5% of women have some type of colour blindness and may not be able to see text with certain colour combinations; red-green colour blindness is the most common, so try to avoid using red text on a green background or green text on a red background

Interested in learning more about formatting in Excel? Come and attend our FREE webcast! For more information, just send us an email with your name, phone number, and company name (if applicable). We’ll send you all the information you need to sign up. Please note: the webcast is based on Microsoft Excel 2010; however, the information you’ll learn in the session will be applicable to Microsoft 2007 and 2013 as well.

If you’ve got any Microsoft Office tips and tricks you want to share, let us know!


-Katie Caplan
Instructor & Office Manager
Sector Learning Solutions

User Productivity Tip – Finding Link to Document Location in Office 2010

In Office 2010  you can find link to the location of the document under File tab. This link can be used to share the location of the document with others.

For example, in Word 2010:

1. Click the File Tab.
2. Underneath the file name, you’ll see a URL file path. Click on the file path.
3. Copy and paste the file path.


– Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communications,
Sector Learning Solutions

Practice Exam Question: Outlook 2010 – Block Junk Mail by Sender


In Microsoft Outlook 2010,
how do you block Junk Mail by sender?



1. In Outlook, on the Home tab in the Delete group, click the drop down arrow associated with the Junk button. Select Junk Mail Options.

2. Select the Blocked Senders tab in the Junk E-mail Options dialogue box. Click the Add button and enter the email address you wish to block. Click OK to confirm your entry. Repeat as necessary. When you’re finished, click OK in the Junk E-mail options box.



-Katie Caplan,
Client Service Coordinator and Instructor,
Sector Learning Solutions

Quick Reference Guide: Inserting Symbols Using Keyboard Commands

Before I discovered keyboard shortcuts, inserting symbols into a document or email required several clicks of the mouse and some significant scrolling.


With keyboard shortcuts your fingers don’t have to leave the keys. Remembering three to seven digit key combinations isn’t my forté so I compiled a quick reference guide that I keep beside my desk for those moments when I need an e with an acute accent.

SectorLearningSolutions-QRG-symbols-pg1 SectorLearningSolutions-QRG-symbols-pg2

Send us an email at and we’ll send you a complimentary copy of this Quick Reference Guide for your files. Feel free to print out a copy to keep beside your computer screen.

-Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communications,
Sector Learning Solutions

Test Your Knowledge: Free International Calls If Link Skype with Office 365

True or False?

 Connect your Skype account to your Office 365 account – and receive 60 free Skype world minutes every month to make international calls to mobile and landlines.


Answer: TRUE and FALSE

Since the wording of this month’s Test Your Knowledge statement is actually quite misleading on a number of counts, this month’s answer is both true and false. Let me explain:

Yes, you will receive 60 free Skype world minutes every month for connecting your Skype and Office 365 accounts, but this promo is only available with Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium or Office 365 University accounts. Microsoft Office 365 business or Preview accounts are not eligible.

The term “international” is also misleading as Skype world minutes only support calls to 60 countries, which is rather limited when you consider there are roughly 196 countries in the world.

Tangent: It’s rather amazing how many different answers you find when you index the internet to find out how many countries there are in the world. Matt Rosenberg posted an excellent article, The Number of Countries in the World on that outlines the various factors that confuse the issue – including lesser known facts such as:

Did You Know? Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Greenland are not countries.

To get back on point, Skype’s Support FAQ page explains that with the Skype world minutes subscription there are 24 countries where you cannot use Skype at all to make calls (see below) and out of the 60 countries where you can use Skype to call landlines, there are only eight countries where you can call mobile phones (also see below).

To clarify, you can still use Skype to call countries not included in the Skype world minutes subscription list. You just have to pay for a subscription or purchase a Premium account – details here.

Did You Know?  Emergency calls cannot be made with Skype.

You can use Skype World minutes from any device where you have Skype installed – mobile phones included! And a final note, any unused Skype world minutes expire at the end of each month.

How Do I Connect my Skype Account to my Office 365 Account?
If you have a Home Premium or University account, here’s a summary of how to activate the Skype world minutes subscription:

  1. Sign in to Office 365 with your Microsoft account.
  2. In the Services and Products section, under Skype, click Activate your Skype world minutes. The activation page is displayed.
    • Have account? Activate.
    • Don’t have account? Create Skype account.
  3. Sign in to Skype –  you’ll see a message saying “Your Skype world minutes are ready” at the top of the My Account screen.

Where Can I Call?

You can call landlines and mobiles phones using Skype in the following countries: Canada, China, Guam, Hong Kong SAR, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Thailand, and United States.

You can call landlines using Skype in the following countries: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia (excluding rural areas – LEX), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia (Jakarta only), Republic of Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.

You cannot make Skype calls from any of the following countries:
Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Tunisia, UAE, Taiwan and Korea.

-Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communications,
Sector Learning Solutions


Practice Exam Question: Word 2010 – How to Create New Document Using Existing Template?


In Microsoft Word 2010,
how do you create a new document based on an existing template?



1. With Word already started, go into the Backstage view (File). Select the New command.

2. Choose any template you wish to work from (from any of the options available) and click the Create button (or double click). Voila!


-Katie Caplan,
Client Service Coordinator and Instructor,
Sector Learning Solutions