Flash fill quicker than a snail

I’m Sure There must be a Quicker Way!

Ok we all know that there are shortcuts to everything! The only trouble is we need to spend time finding out about them and its not always easy.  It’s the issue of not knowing what we need as we don’t know the name of what to search for!

Thankfully some of the shortcuts just fall into our laps – and they are so easy that we can immediately embrace them, and immediately see the magic!

Of course, for experts out there this will be like sucking eggs, but for the mediocre Excel user it is a gift! It has been around since 2013, but like most things they can pass us by but its value has not diminished one bit.

I am genuinely excited about this Excel Function – Flash Fill!  You may have never heard of it but believe me you will have needed it!

Why am I excited about this?

  • SUPER EASY 

  • SUPER Practical

  • Eerily Intuitive

  • Time Saving

  • Less Headaches

 

Why is Flash Fill so Useful?

Common Scenario No. 1 - Separating Names

So, you have created a lovely list of names in Excel, however they are not separated into first and last names.  That’s ok until you want to do a mail merge and use first names only.  Now you realise that you need to separate all those first names from surnames.   What a headache! A grim afternoon of copying and pasting lies ahead.  While you’re copying and pasting you’re probably thinking I’m sure there must be a quicker way…

See the Quicker Way Being Demonstrated (less than 2 mins)

Separate names with flash fill

 


Common Scenario No. 2 - Generating Email Addresses 

So, you have another list of names, and now you wish to add an email address for everyone in the company into a separate column. So maybe you make full use of the reliable copy and paste tool…. copying the name in and then typing out the second part of the email address.  This gives me a headache just thinking about it.  While you are laboriously copying out all these email addresses you cannot help thinking I’m sure there must be a quicker way…

 

See the Quicker Way Being Demonstrated (less than 2 mins)

Use flash fill to create email addresses

 


Common Scenario No. 3 - Generating Mailing Labels

So, all your data is in separate columns, which Excel loves! However, you actually want to bring it all together. This could be because you need to print a mailing address. Do you flip to Microsoft Word and copy all the addresses out to create the labels? While you are doing this, you’re probably thinking I’m sure there must be quicker way…

 

See the Quicker Way Being Demonstrated (less than 2 mins)

 

Flash Fill to create mailing labels

 

Flash Fill is definitely my new Best Friend!

 

Changing Times!

We’ve all been flexing our creative muscles in coming up with new, imaginative, and safe ways to continue serving our customers. We thought it would be good Idea to interview one of our trainers about the changing life of a trainer during lock down. Talk to the Trainer Interview

Many are making use of outside space to minimise risks and help customers feel comfortable.  As we have now officially entered the winter season, I’m not sure how popular training outside will be, but if there’s a heater and a large flask of tea available we’re willing to give it a go!

Online Training 

Since the beginning of lockdown IT training companies grappled with converting all training online.  Online training has actually been around for a long time – though when we used to mention to our clients using Zoom, most of them had never heard of it! Now the word Zoom is part of our daily vocabulary! 

The technical side of delivering online training is the easy part.  The more challenging aspect is helping students to feel relaxed and engaged throughout the day, keeping calm when those niggly technical issues arise! No panicking or cold sweats but lots of reassurance and good humour along the way.   Training always needs to be lively and engaging but with online training the trainer probably needs to work that little bit harder to ensure the students are comfortable and engaged at all times. 

Comments we’ve received from delegates who’ve attended live online training so far have been really encouraging!  (Trust Pilot)

What's Happening with Face to Face Training?  

Well obviously, at the beginning of lockdown all face to face training was halted and all courses were delivered online.  However, during the last few months face to face training has been re-emerging. 

It is quite interesting that pre lock down we wouldn’t even think of using the expression ‘face to face’ training, it was just a fore gone conclusion unless online training was specially requested.  Now there are two distinct options.  Online and Face to Face.

So how does safe socially distanced Face to Face training work? 

Well its normal to feel a little nervous (from the trainers and the delegates point of view) about mixing with strangers again, however we’d love to share our first-hand experiences with you. See what one of our trainers has to say about resuming face to face training.  Talk to the Trainer Interview

Good communication has always been the life blood of any successful business relationship – but with COVID-19 measures still in place it is even more vital than ever. 

Questions need to be asked that were never asked before.  

Computer Tutoring Questions: 

  • Is anyone in the office experiencing any COVID symptoms? If so, the training can be delivered either online or re-scheduled.

  • What social distancing measures do you have in place?

  • Do you have a large monitor / screen? (for screen sharing)

  • Will all students be using their own laptops?

  • Would you like all training materials and certificates to be provided online?

 

In turn the Client may ask: 

  • Is your trainer exhibiting any COVID symptoms?

  • Is the trainer happy to have their temperature taken on arrival?

  • Has the trainer downloaded the NHS APP?

 

At first this asking these questions can feel a little strange, but not to worry!  Actually asking these questions makes everyone feel safer and lets your client know that you are taking their wellbeing as well your own wellbeing very seriously.     

 

Keep Safe Everyone.  

5 Remote Working Hacks

We’ve all seen the images promoting the virtues of working remotely, sitting on a beautiful beach, on a remote mountain range etc…working happily away on your laptop.  Apart from the obvious issues that don’t fit into these picturesque images…. i.e. you can’t see your screen due to the glare of the sun, you’ve forgotten your power pack and the Wi-Fi is awful, and the completely obvious……you’re in paradise…why are you looking at your laptop!

Okay the above scenarios are probably not quite the norm….its more likely if you are working remotely you are working from home , a cosy coffee shop somewhere, or a friends house etc.  To ensure the experience is as blissful as possible here are 5 invaluable office hacks!

 

1. Ensure all Essential Files are Easy to Access – Online Storage

This may take some organising, especially if you’ve previously saved everything to your hard drive.  However for freedom and remote working purposes online storage is essential.  Nearly all of us have online storage available to us..OneDrive, Google Drive, Drop Box etc.…as a tip check your internet provider / mobile phone contract, quite often they also provide free online storage.  Obviously for online storage to be useful you need to ensure good internet access.  Please see our previous blog 5 Easy Steps to a Better Wi-Fi Connection and our free training video ‘How to get a Better Wi-Fi Signal for tips on this!

Just a note about Folder Management, once you set up your online storage.  The saying 'a tidy desk, a tidy mind’ also applies to our online desk or working environment. There is nothing worse than not being able to find desperately needed files. Tips for file management:

  • Name all Folders, Sub-Folders and Files clearly

  • Start off small and get bigger.  Create a simple file management hierarchical system. Once you've created a logical filing system it will be easy to find what you're looking for.  

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2. Organise Your Passwords

Passwords are a part of everyone's life.  Working remotely means we need quick and easy access to our passwords. Passwords are keys to our online world.  The main issues with passwords are:

  • Can’t remember them!

  • Generating new Passwords is a headache

  • You’ve wiped your device settings clean and all previous passwords have been forgotten. Arrgh!

 

For blissful remote working, passwords need to be easily accessible.  Days can be spent just looking for that illusive password and username.

You may worry about storing passwords in a Secure Password Manager App, however search through reviews and security ratings that are available. If you're going to pay for an app a good Password Management App is worth its weight in Gold.  Unless of course you have a perfect memory! 

3. Manage Your Notifications

To work successfully you need to be focused!  This can be a challenge when all our devices are screaming for attention in the way of flashing lights, vibrations, ringtones and pop ups!

How to Control Notifications:

  • Manage Notifications in your Windows 10 Settings: Choose which pop ups you want or don’t want to see.  If you have them all selected, each time an update is available, a new email arrives, there are changes to any files in OneDrive,  you will receive a notification.  This can be annoying, so be sure to turn them off and on as needed. Instead, why not check your email once an hour, you can set up an alarm to remind you. 


  • Mute What's App Groups:  Many of us are part of a What's App group. However, if its pinging every 2 minutes with messages and pictures this can be extremely distracting.  You can mute messages from any group from 8 hours up to 1 year.  You can unmute again at any time.

  • Schedule Breaks: This will really help you focus…and give you a short term goal or reward.  This could be in the form of going for a walk and stretch (recommended if your sitting at your desk all day) or a tasty treat or simply catching up on your social media messages.

 

4. Eat the Frog (not literally of course!)

Eat the frog is a metaphor used to describe the most challenging task of your day.  So you’ve written your to do list…but there is an important task that you simply don’t want to do, or a person that you don't want to call, or an important email that you don’t want to write.  Yes this is procrastination and of course it happens to us all.  Having something that we know needs doing but keep putting off can start to distract us and eventually cause anxiety. Once the frog is eaten…everything else will be piece of cake!

 

5. Learn a Few Simple Keyboard Shortcuts

There are many good reasons for becoming familiar with keyboard shortcuts:

  • Less mouse work…can help avoid Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

  • Speed…especially If you are using one monitor to work with lots of apps open in the background

  • If you don’t have access to a separate mouse - learning keyboard shorts will enable you to use your laptop with ease.

Here at Computer Tutoring we especially love these 5 Keyboard Shortcuts:

 

1: Alt Tab to switch between screens

2: Windows key and type to search for apps or documents

3: Windows Key and E for File Explorer

4:Ctrl C & Ctrl V copy and paste

5: Ctrl & F to search for text in pretty much any application. (Then you can press enter to move down the page).

 

For more cheeky shortcuts, please see the below free downloads!

Great tips to help us use our time efficiently by learning Microsoft Office Hints and Tips can transform the way we work!  We find these videos especially helpful!

How to Indent Paragraphs in Microsoft Word

How to use Tabs in Microsoft Word

How to Create a Pivot Table in Microsoft Excel

How to use Excel to Calculate Monthly Loan Repayments 

Why is Sounding your Best in Zoom Important?

A lot of us have already spent time, ensuring that when we pop up on someone else’s computer screen that we have a background that looks half decent…and that we have the right lighting to ensure that we also look our best.  (How to look your Best on Zoom).  Interestingly how we sound on zoom is often neglected. 

Why is this? One possible reason is that to ourself we sound as we always have done - our voice has not changed. So, we assume that others are also hearing us as they normally would. None the less you have most likely noticed that when you are in a zoom meeting some of your colleague’s sound crystal clear, while others are extremely muffled, and you strain hear them. Of course, to themselves they all sound fine.  So, what’s the issue?  Microphones!

You’ll notice that when you attend a Zoom meeting,  one colleague is wearing big professional looking Bluetooth headphones, another simply is using their mobile phone earphones,  another a lapel microphone…and some people are not using any additional microphones at all! What should you do?

Test How You Sound to Others on Zoom

How can you tell how you sound to others when using Zoom? You can simply record your own voice in Zoom and listen back to it.  Yes I know we all hate listening to our own voice,  but unless you have a friend the other end loyally telling you how you sound this is the only sure-fire way to know.  It is super easy to do. Open Zoom and select New Meeting – join with Audio.  Then press the Record button and start speaking / singing! Once you close the meeting Zoom will save the file for you to listen / watch back. 

If you’re not sure that Zoom is picking up the correct microphone click the small arrow on the microphone icon at the bottom of Your Meeting screen in Zoom and find ‘select a microphone’ and check the correct microphone has been selected.   You can also experiment with the audio settings within Zoom.  Naturally the paid version of Zoom has more advanced audio settings available. Recording yourself is a great way to know whether you sound better with or without an additional microphone. Some laptops have particularly loud fans which can obscure your voice, if this is the case you’ll probably benefit from using an additional microphone.  Again…. record yourself and listen, it’s the best way!

Your audience will certainly appreciate your going to all this effort! A clear voice is easy to listen to and will ensure that what you say will be natural and effective.

 

What Microphone Should I Use?

For a detailed explanation of different microphones available please see our video – How to Sound your Best on Zoom.

 

  • Mobile Phone Earphones / Microphones: 

Your mobile phone will probably have come along with a pair of earphones with a built in microphone.  if you cannot see a microphone on your earphones, take a look at the earphone connector (the bit that plugs into your mobile phone).   It will either have 2 or 3 sections.  3 Sections means that you have earphones and microphone, two sections mean earphones only.   These simple earphones and microphones can be very effective when using zoom.

  • A Lavaliere (lapel) Microphone:   

These are the really handy microphones that you clip onto your shirt.  At Computer Tutoring we often use lapel mics when delivering Live Online Training Courses. Having earphones in for a while can start to feel uncomfortable.  Using a lapel / lavaliere mic gives you great sound as well as freedom of movement which will aid your naturalness.  Afterall natural easy communication is what we are all aiming for. 

  • Bluetooth Headphones:  

Lets face it, most headphones are designed with listening to music in mind.  The sound quality can be absolutely amazing, like you are in that concert hall yourself.  However, if they have a microphone built in, the quality may not be the same. 

  • Condenser Microphone: 

A Condenser Microphone will provide a professional rich sound.  Great for a narrator or DJ.  Basically, if it is your voice that is in play only, this is the mic for you.  However, if you need to be seen by your audience it may be tricky as it is quite large and may get in the way on your face.    

 

Having Fun – Performing Music using Zoom

Since the beginning of lockdown many musicians have been performing live sessions on Zoom. Other creative music lovers have even organised concerts on Zoom with friends performing from all over the world - others of us simply want to show our friends how we are getting on learning the piano, or what our latest song sounds like.

To ensure you have the best sound for a performance always turn on the ‘enable original sound’ option on Zoom.  This is found in Zoom audio settings, advanced.  It will make a real difference! 

 

Having Fun - Changing your Voice

We can change our background on Zoom, but what about our voice?  (to find out how to have fun changing your appearance on Zoom watch How to look my Best on Zoom’. …but did you know it is also possible to change your voice?

To change your voice on Zoom you will need to download and install a programme like Voicemod. Once installed, you can then select Voicemod as your microphone from within Zoom.

If you are organising a themed online party or simply want to have fun these voices are great. to listen to! For an example of some of the voices available please listen to this clip:  'How to Change your Voice'

 Enjoy experimenting with how to sound your best on Zoom!

 

5 Easy Steps to a Better Wi-Fi Connection!

We at Computer Tutoring focus on helping our lovely customers to get the most from their IT investment through training and support – which we absolutely love! With that in mind, we wanted to get right back to basics and send a little Wi-Fi help your way.

Guess what?....If your Wi-Fi connection isn’t great than everything you do online will be in steeped in frustration – so lets get to the bottom of how to get a better Wi-Fi connection.

1. Check what you are Paying for / what Package do you have?

It might sound obvious, but we are inclined to skim over the details and just look at ‘amount due’ section on our bill.  However, it’s well worth finding out exactly what your package includes.  If your internet provider is not delivering what they promised it may be that you are entitled to a refund.  Other benefits that come from reviewing your package are that you may well find that it comes with free cloud storage space which you could make use of! 

But how do you know if your internet service provider is or is not delivering what they have promised?

 

2. Check your Internet Speed.

You can check your internet speed by directly plugging your laptop into your router.  You will need the CAT5 cable that came with your laptop to do this.   

Download a speed test app on the device that you’ve plugged into the router (we used SpeedTest App). To see exactly what this looks this please see our latest video – Getting a Better Wi-Fi Signal Speed Test.  

So how do you know what is a good speed?  Run a Speed Test.  You will now see your Download Speed and your Upload Speed

Speeds vary! As an example Computer Tutorings Download Speed in London today is approx. 72 – 73 Mbps (megabits per second).  Some places and will be higher and some lower.  The higher the better!

Your Upload Speed will be slower – Ours today was 17 -18 Mbps. 

Basically, the higher the numbers the better.  

You will also see a Ping (milli seconds) figure.  This can also be called the latency figure.  You want a low Ping figure.   If you have a high Ping (latency) number may mean that you will experience a lot of freezing when using video conferencing  (Zoom and Teams etc) and when online gaming.

 

3. Test your Wi-Fi Speed.

This is the speed at which devices not directly connected to the router are running at (i.e your phone, tablet, ipad, laptop etc).

Download a speed test app on whatever device you want to test (your phone / tablet etc) and then run a speed test.  

You may find It is a couple of Mbps lower than when you directly connected your laptop to the router, but that is quite normal.

Many software providers outline their minimum systems requirements online (Zoom Bandwidth Requirements). This is helpful if you want some reassurance that your Wi-Fi connection is strong enough.

4. Check which band you are using

So, what does this mean?  Simply put they are radio waves.  The 2.4 Ghz band is very busy! As well as being used for WiFi it is also used by a myriad of devices including:

  • Cordless phones
  • Garage Door Openers
  • Baby Monitors
  • Microwaves
  • Radio Control Devices
  • and of course..Radios!

 
The 5Ghz is a newer technology and is a lot quieter.  

 

So how do you check which channel you are using?

This is very simple. Fist of all find your Router IP Address.  This will be a number on the back of your router or on a little card that may pop out of your router.   Type your router ip address (number) directly into your web browser.  You will be asked for your password.  This is your Admin Password (not the Wi-Fi code) that is listed on your router. Low and behold your router information will appear.

You now have access to router settings and can make changes. 

First of all check which band you are currently using (default is 2.4 GHz).  Select ‘Wireless’.  You should see the two bands (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz).  To get access to the 5 GHz band switch on ‘Separate Bands’.  You will now have access to the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz band. 

Now when you scan for Wi-Fi connections with your device you will now see 2 appear!  The first one will be your existing one (2.4 GHz), the other will be the new 5 GHz connection…it will look exactly the same as the first but with a 5 at the end.  You can rename it if you wish. 

 

Now you can connect your devices to the far less crowded 5 GHz band. 

When would a 2.4 GHz connection be Preferable? 

If your devices are far from your router or your house has extremely thick walls it may be that you are better sticking to the 2.4 GHz, as these radio waves travel further. However, if you are in fairly close proximity to your router a 5GHz connection will be much stronger.

For more information on 2.4 GHz Vs 5 GHz please see our latest video ‘Getting a Better Wi-Fi Signal’.

5. Check what devices are connected to your Wi-Fi.

While in router settings select My Network - This will show you how many devices are using your router and how much internet they are using.   If you have an important Zoom training session / meeting coming up, you can disable devices that are taking up too much Wi-Fi!

You can also scan the networks in your neighbourhood and see how busy the channels are.   

One way to do this is using a free download – we have used NetSpot (we used the free edition).  This will scan the networks in your neighbourhood and see how busy the channels are. 

You will see your own network connections pop up.  Your router will probably have a SMART capability.  This means that it will automatically change to the less busy channels.  If you do not have this option than you can manually select the least busy channel.  For 2.4 GHz you can select either channel 1, 6 or 11.   Select the channel with the fewest networks.

Lastly If your Wi-Fi doesn't seem to be working at all it is probably a problem with the internet provider - not you!

More and more of us are using video conferencing software than ever before.  Video conferencing has even become part of our daily vocabulary, ‘I’ll Zoom you later’ or  ‘I’ll Teams it to you’, plus part of our daily routine. Our Video conferencing appointments are now routinely diarised. 

Whether you are using Zoom / Teams or other video conferencing mediums occasionally or regularly it is important to consider how you are coming across to others.  

Looking your best will impact your:

  • Communication
  • Effectiveness
  • Image – how do we want to come across?

We are going to look at how the following aspects affect how you appear while using Zoom / video conferencing. 

  1. The Basics
  2. Lighting
  3. Your Web Cam & Video Conferencing Settings

 

1. The Basics

When you go out to work or meet friends, you make sure you've had a wash, brushed your teeth and combed your hair and generally look acceptable – the basics right?   The exact same principle applies with virtually going to work or meeting friends.  

Don’t let the fact you are communicating through video conferencing software discourage you from looking your best. After all communicating through video conferencing means that certain areas of communication related to touch and body language are reduced, so it vital that we concentrate on looking and sounding our best.  When we do we will feel energized and more confident which will in turn encourage and energize our audience.  

 

2. Lighting

Lighting is fundamental to looking good on camera.  This is clearly seen when looking at photographs.  You look at one photo of yourself and think 'Yay I look great!', then you look at another and think you look awful…. why the disparity?  Well it is probably down to lighting.

So you know light is important, so does that mean you can sit with the window behind you?  After all there is tonnes of light streaming in.  NO!  This is a classic mistake.  Only sit with your back to bright light if you want to look like a silhouette.  Your audience will not be able to make out your facial expressions, so smiles and frowns will be completely invisible. 

What’s the solution?  Simply turn around.  Instead of the light coming from behind you, ensure the light is in front of you. It will literally light up your face.

What if you have no choice but to sit with your back to the sun. Well artificial light is the answer.  Experiment with lamp positions in front of you. Light always needs to be in front of you.  Experimentation is the key here.  

 

3. Your Webcam & Video Conferencing Settings

If you’ve been using Zoom / Teams for a while now you’ll have noticed that people position there webcams anywhere from right down on the floor to the highest shelf in the house.  However the best place for your webcam is eye level.  This may mean propping up your laptop or phone on a few books to achieve the desired height, but it will be well worth it. 

Where should you look?

This can be hard but if you want to achieve eye contact with your audience the best place to look is directly at the camera lens.  It’s like looking into the eyes of the other people at the meeting.  Your screen itself is not a camera, so looking into the camera is the only way to achieve eye contact.  It's probably not possible to keep this up for the whole meeting, but if you really have an important point to emphasize looking into the camera lens will be most effective. 

Do I already have a Webcam?

There are a huge choice of webcams available to buy.  But before you buy one, did you know that your laptop probably already has one built in? To check if you have one, try searching 'webcam' in the Windows search bar. Also, did you know you can use your mobile phone as a webcam? 

If you want to experiment with using your mobile phone as a webcam, you can download software such as DroidCam (as the name suggests for android phone only) and connect up. For more information on how to turn your mobile phone into a Webcam check our our latest video: 'How to look your best on Zoom'

Webcam Settings

Depending on the quality of the webcam installed on your laptop, you may want to purchase a third party one.  Once purchased a webcam will come with its own video enhancing features.  Take time to look at the options available.  For instance many webcams have inbuilt image settings which will allow you to:

  • Adjust the brightness

  • Change the tones i.e warm and nostalgic

  • Use a choice of filters – including some very funny ones!

Adjusting these settings can have a great effect on how you look using Zoom / Teams or any other video conferencing software. Our latest video 'How to look your best on Zoom' includes tips on how to adjust your webcam settings. 

 Adjusting your Appearance in Zoom

As well as experimenting with your webcam settings, you can also adjust your video conferencing settings.  For instance in Zoom video settings there is a ‘Touch up my Appearance’ check box as well as ‘Enable HD’ option.  You can experiment with these settings.

It is also best practice to check your appearance in Zoom before joining the meeting. It is like taking that one last look in the mirror before entering the business meeting to make sure you haven’t got spinach stuck in your teeth.  Once you have joined a meeting without video, you can simply click on the little arrow next to the video icon, and check your appearance before turning your video on.

 

Maximize your time and effectiveness on Zoom or other video conferencing software by being clearly seen and looking your best!