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Archive for November, 2009

Comparing Columns Using Conditional Formatting Icon Sets

What if you would like to compare two columns of data and use conditional formatting to give users a visual representation of the comparison? For example, if column A  is greater than column B, a particular icon would appear.  If column A is less than column B, a second icon would appear; or if columns A and B are equal, a third icon would be displayed.


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Riding the Google Wave — The Future of Email?

How would you react if I told you that email, as we know it, is about to disappear?


“Not my oxyge… er… email!”
–Techno-addicts everywhere

Most of us are addicted to electronic communication in one form or another.

Email was invented about forty years ago and it’s becoming a difficult, tired technology. The way we communicate has changed a lot since its creation. Forty years ago, technologies like Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs, etc. didn’t exist, and whether or not you like to admit it, they have drastically changed the way we communicate.

So, if email is growing old and tired, what will it be replaced with? As I gaze into my crystal ball, the image of the future begins to be covered by a dense white fog.

Email’s successor could come from many, many places, but one of my favorite candidates right now comes from Google in a service called Google Wave. Google Wave is currently in closed preview, but a couple of us at IT Training & Education have been able to get into the preview to see what it’s all about. I’m by no means an expert in how to use Google Wave, but I’ve been digging through it long enough to know a little bit of what it’s about.

NOTE: This article is not intended to be a “How-To Use Google Wave” article, rather an explanation of what Google Wave is and some resources to make your transition easier and more enjoyable.

Continue reading after the jump.
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Google Provides Free Wi-Fi in Airports During Holiday Season of 2009

How do I love thee, Google? Let me count the ways…

  • Search engine is extremely effective
  • Couldn’t have made it through grad school without Google Scholar
  • Gmail provides a massive amount of storage space and unlimited number of free accounts
  • Google Earth is awesome
  • Picasa is the best free photo editing application available
  • Google’s translate tool makes it possible for me to send messages to my Spanish-speaking friends, even though I know very little Spanish
  • The company is creative and not afraid of looking silly (the constantly changing image on the search page proves this)

…and if that isn’t enough, a few days ago Google announced that they would provide free Wi-Fi in airports around the country through January 15, 2010.  That confirms it. My heart now officially belongs to Google!

To see a list of the 47 participating airports, or to read more about this recent announcement, click on the image below:


A Beginner’s Guide to Video

Video is one of the most popular mediums available today. If you don’t believe it, then check the statistics for the online video hosting sites. According to reports, YouTube and Google Video brought in more than 10 billion views during the month of August 2009. Other popular sites, such as Metacafe, HowCast, Revver, and DailyMotion also have impressive numbers.

Have you thought about creating a video of your own, but you aren’t sure where to begin? Do you have a video camera but aren’t sure how to transfer footage once you’ve captured it? Maybe you’ve gone out to buy a new camcorder but were overwhelmed by the many choices available? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to check out the free IT Training & Education reference guide for beginning videographers.

 This learning module, called Video Basics: An Overview of Tools & Resources, is a comprehensive guide for beginners and it is free! You won’t have to spend hours searching the Internet, because all the most relevant information has been compiled into one convenient resource.

Below is a list of some of the topics that are covered:

  • Types of video cameras on the marketEyepiece Viewfinder
  • Storage formats
  • Features
  • Accessories
  • Cords and connectors
  • Lighting
  • Audio
  • Clothing
  • Video editing software
  • Transferring video footage
  • Publishing
  • Video compression, formats, containers, and codecs
  • Media players
  • Links to many useful websites, blogs, and movies
  • Much, much more!

So if you have dreams of becoming the next Steven Spielberg, or if you are simply interested in filming your daughter’s dance recital, check it out. You won’t be sorry.

Wireframing for (hopefully) Better Websites

For people new to the web design game, the process can seem kind of overwhelming. After all, at various points when designing and developing a website, you need:

  1. aesthetic skills (to make things look good)
  2. information architecture skills (organizing the content in a way so that users can find what they need)
  3. interaction design skills (making sure that the paths within a website makes sense and are pleasurable for the user)
  4. technical skills (XHTML, CSS, knowing how to turn on a computer)

Many web design shops have pros who are experts in each of these areas. How can you, a smart but inexperienced person, compete with that?  You’re just trying to put together a little web site for yourself, your aunt the locally famous banjo player, or a volunteer organization…

divide et impera, or, Divide and Conquer

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Organize your Twitter space with new Lists feature

tweetsIf you have been using Twitter for a while, your Twitter Home page is probably becoming a blinding  jumble of unrelated messages. Because all your feeds pour into the same space, you need to do a lot of weeding to find what you want–that is, if you have the patience. Now, with the new Lists feature, Twitter allows you to categorize and filter tweets in any way you like. Just create and name one or more Lists and then assign people you are following to your various Lists.

Here’s how:

In your Twitter space, click the Profile link at the top of the page. Under your username, click the Lists  listsbutton button and choose New List. You can name your list anything, and make it Public or Private.

Once you have one or more lists, in the “Following” section on the right of your Profile, click the View All link. To the right of each of your followed usernames is a List button: listbutton  Click this button to see your lists, and then assign the selected username to a list.

Your Lists appear in the right section of your Home or Profile. Click a list to see only tweets that have been assigned to that list.

InDesign Quick Tip: How many clicks does it take?

You might have noticed while idly clicking around that in some applications, clicks and double-clicks have different functionality.  In almost every application that involves text, clicking once will place a cursor, and clicking twice will select the work that you clicked on.  This can help to quickly select some text without having to press and drag.  But have you ever tried clicking more than twice?  Thrice?  Four times?  The fabled quintuple-click?

Let’s see how InDesign handles this.

Open up an InDesign document with some text.  If you don’t have a document handy, then simply create one and place a text-heavy Word document, or even a web page. (From the menu bar File->Place, and then locate a file to place.  Double-click the file, and then click on the page to place).

Now, select the Type tool from the toolbox, and test out the following.

  • One click places a cursor in the text
  • Two clicks in quick succession(double-click) will select a single word
  • Three clicks in quick succession(triple-click) will select a single sentence
  • Four clicks in quick succession(quadruple-click) will select an entire paragraph
  • Five clicks in quick succession(quintuple-click) will select all the text in the frame (the same effect as going to the menu and selecting Edit->Select All)

InDesign is far ahead in the multiple-click arms race.  Most applications will support up to three clicks, (Word, Dreamweaver, most web browsers), and three clicks in these applications will commonly select an entire paragraph.

The Opera web browser is somewhat of an oddball as it will support four clicks, in the same way that InDesign handles four clicks.

Experiment with some of your other favorite applications, and see how much time you can save with extra clicks versus pressing and dragging.

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