February 27th, 2014

Office365_Feb24_CMicrosoft Excel continues to be a desktop favorite even in modern business. With its recent introduction into the world of Web apps, it has made productivity-on-the-go possible. The extension of Excel’s reliable functionality to the Web is indeed a great addition to a complete Excel 365 experience. If you are planning to use this program, there are a few tips it's worthwhile knowing about first.

Thumbs up for the ease of familiarity

The basic shortcut keys are pretty much the same across all Microsoft applications, regardless of the platform. If you’re already familiar with the shortcut keys, the Excel Web App is going to be a breeze for you.

Those who need a refresher will find some helpful shortcuts as we go along. Keep in mind that when collaborating on a file, you need to check the share settings and make sure that you have permission to edit that workbook or many of the shortcuts may not work.

Commonly-used shortcuts

The familiar Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V still work for copy and paste respectively. While Ctrl + Z and Ctrl + Y work for undo and redo. Ctrl + X moves an item from one cell to another.

Remember that when you copy the contents of a cell and paste it into another cell within the same workbook, the characteristics or formatting of the source will also be copied into the destination cell. Whereas, if you paste an item from outside the Excel Web App, the item is inserted as plain text and you will have to apply formatting.

Tables and hyperlinks can also be inserted into Excel. Ctrl + K inserts a hyperlink, while Ctrl + T inserts a table.

The arrow keys remain the same, allowing you to move from cell to cell e.g., right, left, up or down.

There is also no change with the formatting shortcuts such as Ctrl + B for Bold, Ctrl + I for Italics, and Ctrl + U for Underline.

A tip for spreadsheet presenters

If your spreadsheet involves charts and visuals, you might want to consider using the Excel Web App version as the visuals appear sharper. While there isn't a huge difference, even a little boost in visuals can make a huge difference to the overall effectiveness of a presentation.

Using the Web versions of Office programs is a great way to stay on top of your game beyond office hours, as workload necessitates. What can Excel and Office 365 do for your productivity? Get in touch and we'll show you.

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February 13th, 2014

Office365_Feb10_CMicrosoft Office 365 is an online service developed especially for businesses, to help them consolidate their office software into one perfectly organized cloud platform. This cloud version of Microsoft Office aims to provide a set of top-notch features that cater to the special needs of different business establishments through the acquisition of subscription plans.

What is Office 365?

Office 365 is an online subscription-based suite of Microsoft's popular Office programs. After users pick a subscription plan, they just have to connect online, set up a secured account, download the files they need, and roll on to work. In order to get the most out of Office 365, there are some features you should definitely know about.

Exchange Online

Exchange Online is available as a stand-alone install - you don't need to purchase a full Office 365 subscription - or can be a part of Office 365. It’s a hosted version of Exchange Server, Microsoft's messaging platform, which provides businesses with the essential digital communications they need.

This feature allows businesses to run email, instant messaging, calendars, address tracking, and more. It also allows you to connect to your version of Microsoft Outlook from any Web browser. Furthermore, you can access your email and edit your Outlook based calendars and contacts from your smartphones.

SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online is Microsoft’s new version of document sharing. It's available in many Office 365 subscriptions and allows users to find, analyze, manage, and share information, as well as collaborate on projects.

In addition, SharePoint online offers more social features, such as sharing your timeline in a Facebook-style status post and on your calendars. It has its own version of local syncing of data and HTML-based applications that you can also build or purchase.

Lync Online

Microsoft Lync Online, formerly known as Microsoft Office Communicator, is an instant messaging service that has replaced Windows Messenger for Exchange Server. The advantage of Lync Online is that it allows users, especially business owners, to be collaborative with a multitude of other users in real-time.

Getting everyone to be involved in a conference or meeting is easy because all of your contacts entered in Microsoft Outlook can be synced with Lync.

Office Web Apps

Office Web Apps are simply a Web-based version of the Microsoft Office Productivity Suite. Basic Web-based versions of Office include Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Note.

This feature is free of charge for SkyDrive users and comes with every Office 365 subscription. While it is useful for basic document creation and editing, the Web apps are missing some of the more advanced features of the installed versions.

If you want to know more about Microsoft Office 365 and its existing features, connect with us first.

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January 29th, 2014

Office365_Jan27_CThe office productivity suite has become an essential tool in every business, with many owners and managers choosing to rely on Microsoft's products, including Office 365. With some of the most popular programs included in Office 365 users can create a nearly endless amount of documents. In order to do so they can rely on templates. A common issue with templates though is that they are often not understood properly or avoided completely.

Are you using Office's templates effectively? Here are five tips to make sure.

1. Understand the template concept

Templates can be quite helpful in certain situations, and in order to use them effectively, you should understand the whole concept behind the templates included in the various Office programs.

The idea behind the template is that it is a guide or model that can be reproduced. When it comes to Office, templates are basic documents with some elements like formatting and even content in place. Their main purpose is to help you get started, or take the time out of beginning certain tasks.

2. Avoid big changes to the default template

When you open a new document, spreadsheet, or presentation, you are usually presented with a blank workspace. While this may not appear to be a template, it actually is. When you create a new document, the program will apply what most know as the blank document, but this is really just the 'default template'. That's why you always get the same font type and size, etc. when you open each new document.

The default template, like other templates, is actually customizable. While this may seem a plus point, it can have negative consequences. Any changes to the template e.g., a text box halfway down the page, will always show up when you open a new document. Because of this it is a good idea to limit how many changes you make to the default template. Go ahead and change the default font type and size, and even alter document margins and width, but it is not a good idea to change much more.

3. Know the best way to create new templates

There are a number of ways you can create new templates. Most users prefer to lay a blank document out in a template format, often using placeholder text in place of actual content, then saving this file as a template. This is a pretty good way to create templates, but you should be sure that the format, including the hidden formatting, is exactly what you want for each particular template. Once you are satisfied, press the File tab, select Save As, name the file, and click on the File Type drop-down menu. Select Template option e.g., PowerPoint Template (.potx) and press Save. This will save the template for future use.

The main problem arises when you come to troubleshoot or fix one of the templates, as this can be prove tricky. Instead, try going through the new document creation menu (File followed by New and then Document or Template).

4. Apply the template before content

If you are going to use a template you should apply it before you start creating the content. The reason for this is because the template dictates how the content will look and be arranged when added. If you try to apply a template on top of content, you will find yourself copying and pasting a large amount of data, and even going so far as to format it.

If you have already created content and would like to apply a template to it, you can do so by opening a new document and applying the template there, then copying the content from the old document over to the new one.

5. Know how to apply templates

Because templates aren't used all of the time it is easy for users to either know know how to apply them or to have forgotten how to do so. To create a new document based on a template you should:
  1. Open the program of choice e.g., if you are creating a presentation, open PowerPoint.
  2. Click on the File tab followed by New.
  3. Select a template from the options below the Blank Document section.
  4. Click Create or Download.
If you are looking to learn more about using the various programs included in your Office 365 subscription contact us today.
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January 15th, 2014

Office365_Jan13_CMany small to medium businesses rely on Microsoft's vast array of products in order to function. One of the more popular platforms businesses are turning to is Office 365 and SharePoint. Together these two platforms allow businesses to create documents, collaborate, store files, create social networks, and more. One particularly useful program included with SharePoint and Office 365 is SkyDrive Pro.

What is SkyDrive Pro?

SkyDrive Pro is a cloud-centric library that allows you to store documents. Pro is available for users of Office 365 and companies with on premise versions of either Standard or Enterprise SharePoint 2013.

Users of the Office 365 version get 25GB of storage which is hosted in the cloud and accessible through an app or your Web browser. Companies that have SharePoint hosted on premise can set how much storage each user gets.

Because this is a business-centric product, collaboration and sharing is a large part of this platform. Initially, files uploaded or stored in SkyDrive are private, but there is a shared folder you can store files in which allows all users on the network to access them. You can also choose to share files with individual users or groups.

SkyDrive Pro can be accessed from your Office 365, SharePoint portal by clicking on SkyDrive, which is usually at the top of the page you are looking at.

The best way to think of this app is as similar to the hard drive on your computer - you can open, add, move, and delete files - only the files, or 'library' as Microsoft calls the structure, are stored on a server that is usually stored within or managed by your company through SharePoint.

How does it differ from SkyDrive?

Despite the same name and essential idea, there are two major differences between SharePoint and SharePoint Pro
  1. SkyDrive is personal - This personal cloud-based service is free to all users with a Microsoft or account. Microsoft suggests that users store personal files like pictures, movies, personal documents, etc. Users are free to decide how they use it, and what they store on the service.
  2. SkyDrive Pro is for business - This service is similar to the personal version of SkyDrive - it's an online storage system - but this is managed by your company and is business oriented. The company sets what you can do with your account, from collaboration to how much storage space you receive. It also requires either SharePoint 2013 or an Office 365 business account.
The key point to note is that with SkyDrive, you own your files and can control how they are stored and used. With SkyDrive Pro, you upload files to a library that the administrator allows you to access. Sure, these may be files you have created, but they don't 'live' on your computer and if you leave the organization, they will still be available to other users.

If you would like to learn more about SkyDrive Pro or how Microsoft SharePoint combined with Office 365 can help your company, contact us for a chat today.

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January 3rd, 2014

Office365_Jan02_CThe office productivity suite is among the most important business tools. From the word processor to spreadsheets, Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 has it all, and businesses are adopting it in greater numbers. In order to provide businesses with the software they need, Microsoft relies heavily on plans. While these plans are great, upgrading to a new one isn't always as easy as it could be - an issue Microsoft recently set out to fix.

Microsoft recently introduced the Switch Plans feature has to the business versions of Office 365, which makes it easier for some users to upgrade.

What is Switch Plans?

As you can probably guess from the name, the idea of the Switch Plans feature is to allow business users the ability to change plans. While this has always been an option, many businesses let Microsoft know that it was tougher than it should be to actually upgrade their plans.

To make switching easier, Microsoft introduced the ability of plan administrators to switch plans directly in the admin center of Office 365, using the Switch Plans Wizard.

Can every business user Switch Plans?

This feature only applies to companies who currently use the business versions of Office 365 e.g., Office 365 Small Business Premium. In other words, this should apply to almost all companies using the suite.

There is one caveat you should be aware of before considering using this feature to upgrade: You can only upgrade using the Switch Plans Wizard. If you want to downgrade, say from Mid-Size Business to Small Business Premium, you will have to make the change manually. Your current plan also needs to be eligible for an upgrade. For example Office 365 Midsize Business users can only upgrade to:

  • Office 365 Enterprise E1
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3
  • Office 365 Enterprise E4
Office 365 Small Business users can upgrade to:
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium
  • Office 365 Midsize Business
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3
  • Office 365 Enterprise E4
If you would like to upgrade to another plan that isn't on the list above, or the full list located here, you will have to upgrade manually.

How do I switch plans?

If you are an admin and would like to upgrade the plan your company is currently subscribed to, and the upgrade is on the list in the link above, you can do so by:
  1. Logging into your Office 365 account. You should be able to do so directly from your main Office 365 portal e.g.,, or
  2. Pressing on Admin, which is located in the top menu bar if you are an admin, followed by Licensing or Manage and purchase licenses.
  3. Click on Switch plans under the Plan Options field for the account you would like to upgrade.
  4. Select the plan you would like to upgrade to in the window that opens.
  5. Click Next and follow the on-screen prompts for checkout.
  6. Select Status on the Order Completed page to finalize the upgrade.
Your accounts should be upgraded to the new plan within 10 minutes, but may take longer if there are any issues to resolve. Before you do anything, or if you have any questions, it would be a good idea to contact us. We can help ensure that your change of plans goes smoothly.
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December 18th, 2013

Office365_Dec17_CWhen it comes to digital security, many businesses employ measures that keep their systems largely secure. One area some may struggle with is ensuring that their communication, primarily email, is secure when it leaves the company. In an effort to enhance email security, Microsoft has recently introduced an update to its email encryption system, available to Office 365 users.

In late November, Microsoft introduced Office 365 Message Encryption, which allows business users of Office 365 to send encrypted emails. This is actually a new version of an existing encryption service called Exchange Hosted Encryption (EHE).

The idea of EHE and the new version, Message Encryption, is that it allows businesses to send secure communication in the form of an email. The new version includes some interesting features that not only make sending encrypted messages easier but also more secure. The two biggest features introduced are:

  1. The ability to send encrypted emails outside of the organization - If you need to send sensitive information outside of your business, you will be able to do so, regardless of what email service the recipient uses.
  2. The ability to apply your company's branding to messages - When you encrypt a message, it is sent as an attachment, with a note telling the recipient that it is encrypted and how they should open it. You can add your company's name to the message so the recipient knows it is legitimate.

When will Office 365 Message Encryption be available?

According to Microsoft, Message Encryption will be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2014. If your company already uses EHE, you will receive the update at some point in the first few months of 2014. Businesses that use E3 and E4 versions of Office 365 will receive the update for free, while other users can purchase it for USD$2 a month per user.

If you don't use Office 365, but have a system that runs on Microsoft Exchange Online servers, you will also be able to purchase and install Message Encryption.

How will this work?

If you choose to implement Message Encryption, your administrator will have to select and apply the level and type of encryption and related rules they want to apply to emails. When you send an email that meets the set rules or requirements, it will be automatically encrypted.

Your email will be encrypted as it leaves your email system and before it is delivered. The recipient will receive an email with the body of the email you sent attached. There will also be a set of instructions on how to access the email. This will usually open the email in a new window that looks like the Outlook Web App. If the user replies to the email or forwards it, the encryption will remain in place.

If you are looking to learn more about how this service can be used in your business, or other ways you can keep your communications secure, please contact us today.

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December 4th, 2013

Office365_Dec02_CMicrosoft Word is one of the most useful business tools used the world over. While you can create a large variety of different documents, there are some potential issues including the use of formatting, like smart quotes, that can actually cause some issues, especially when adding your Word content online.

Here is an overview of smart quotes and how you can turn them on or off in Word 2013 and Word 2010.

What are smart quotes?

With the advent of the computer, printer and Internet, there are really two uses for the word processor: For documents that will be used online e.g., Web page copy, and for documents that will be printed e.g., books and brochures.

When we are taught to write, we are always taught to use a curly comma or quotation marks to indicate when a quote begins and finishes. These are commonly found in books and most material that is created with specific typography to make it look more visually appealing. Many professionals call these curly quotes and commas 'smart quotes'.

They are great at helping make documents easier to read. However, when the engineers who developed the keyboard for computers were writing the code, they used straight or 'dumb quotes' - presumably because they were easier to code. These quotes are the marks you normally see to indicate measurements like feet and inches. This decision means many technical systems, like websites and browsers, may not be able read smart quotes and will render them wrong - usually as showing something like $#8217 instead of the actual quotation mark.

So, if you are creating content for the Web it is a good idea to use straight quotes. By default, Word has smart quotes enabled, but you can turn them off. Here's how.

How to turn off smart quotes in both Word 2010 and 2013:

  1. Open a Word document and click on File followed by Options.
  2. Select Proofing from the left pane.
  3. Click on AutoCorrect Options… followed by the AutoFormat tab in the window that pops up.
  4. Un-tick the box beside "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" which can be found under Replace.
  5. Click on the Autoformat As you Type tab in the same window and un-tick the box beside "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" which is located under Replace as you type.
  6. Click Ok.
If you are looking to learn more about Word and how you can get more out of it, please contact us today to see how we can help.
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November 8th, 2013

Office365_Nov05_CThe poll has long been a staple method for groups of people to make informed decisions. As many of us are now online and communicate almost solely via chat and video messaging programs, the software we use should have polls. If you use Lync, part of the popular Office 365 suite from Microsoft, you and your group can utilize polls to make decisions easier.

Here is an overview of polls in Lync.

Before you begin a poll Because you can create a poll directly in group chats in Lync, you will first need to start a group chat, or be made a presenter in an existing chat. If you are not a presenter or the organizer of the group, ask the organizer to update your status.

Polling is also made easier if you take a moment before creating it to jot down or think about what exactly you are polling for e.g., for feedback on a specific point or to form part of a more complex decision making process. This will help you devise the questions or options participants choose from.

You should also be aware that this feature allows for only one poll to be active at any one time and each poll can only have a single question and up to seven answers. If you need to ask more than one question, separate polls will be needed.

Creating a poll in Lync You can create a poll by:

  1. Opening a group chat - it can be either IM, phone or an audio/visual conversation.
  2. Hovering over the monitor icon and selecting Poll.
  3. Entering a name for the poll in the Poll name box, followed by the question in the Question box.
  4. Entering your answers in the Choices box.
  5. Pressing Create to launch the poll.
Managing the poll Once you have created the poll the question and choices will appear in the group chat window. You will see a Poll Actions button at the bottom of the window, this allows you to manage the poll.

For example, if everyone has voted, press the Poll Actions button and select Poll is closed to end the poll. You can also save the results as an image by pressing Save the poll results.

To close the poll, press Stop Presenting at the top of the chat window. This will allow users to continue chatting and also allow you to launch another poll if need be.

If you are looking to learn more about using Office 365 in your business, please contact us today to see how we can help.

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October 23rd, 2013

Office365_Oct21_AOne of the more popular Office 365 programs is Excel, largely because it allows business users to carry out a wide variety of tasks. These tasks vary from basic finances all the way up to advanced data tracking. Because of this, Excel has a number of features to make entering data easier. One such feature is data validation.

Here is an overview of Excel's data validation.

What is data validation? This useful Excel feature allows users to set a limit as to the type of data that can be entered into a cell or cells. If you use this feature you can prevent users from entering invalid data types, warn them when invalid data is entered or give them a message as to the type of data you want entered.

You can find this function by clicking on the Data tab in Excel and looking under the Data Tools group. When you click on it, a window will open allowing you to configure and set a data validation.

How can it be used? There are numerous uses for data validation, the most popular being when you will be sharing a spreadsheet with other users who will input data into an already designed spreadsheet. Other uses include:

  • Limiting number input - For example, if you have a form that requires users to input a 10 digit phone number, you can set a validation so that only 10 numbers can be used.
  • Limit choices to a list - If you have a spreadsheet where users need to pick data from a list of choices, you can set the choices in the validation and users will only be able to select from the list.
  • Setting maximum dollar amounts - If you have a spreadsheet with salary bonuses for your department, and the maximum bonus is 20% of the yearly salary, you can set a validation that allows for a maximum of 20%. If a user enters 21%, they will get an error message.
How do I create a data validation? You can create a validation by:
  1. Setting up your spreadsheet as you want the user to see it. You don't have to put any numbers in, just the layout.
  2. Selecting the cells you want to apply the validation to by clicking on the upper most cell and dragging to the lower most.
  3. Clicking on the Data tab above the spreadsheet
  4. Selecting Data Validation from the Data Tools group.
A window will open with three options: Settings, Input Message and Error Alert.

Under Settings pressing the arrow under Allow: will let you pick what type of data you want to be entered in that cell. For example, if you are going to limit the cells to only whole numbers select Whole Number from the drop-down list. The other options will change depending on the type of validation you pick.

Input Message will allow you to set a message that will pop-up when a user hovers their mouse over the cells. To attach a message, simply enter a title for the message in the Title box and the actual message in the Input message: box. Press Ok and the message should show up when you hover your mouse over the cells.

The Error Alert tab allows you to set and customize an alert that will show when a user enters an invalid form of data. You can select from a number of different styles and icons and even configure the error message that will be displayed.

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October 10th, 2013

Office365_Oct07_AAs an increasing number of businesses move their email systems to the cloud, platforms like Office 365's Outlook are often selected because users already know how to use the program. It also fits in well with existing systems and is generally secure. In order to keep inboxes clear of spam, Microsoft relies on Microsoft Exchange Online Protection.

This article is an overview of Microsoft's Exchange Online Protection (EOP).

What exactly is EOP? EOP is an online, hosted email security solution. Its job is to filter out spam and remove malicious software and malware from emails. It costs USD$1.00 per user/account per month, and is included for free in Exchange Online and Office 365 for business subscription packages.

This cloud based service can be accessed and administered through a Web-based console - the Exchange Administration Centre - which allows you to manage filters, manage tasks and add or delete users. Administrators can also access reports and manage quarantined files.

How EOP works Think of EOP as an extra layer of email based security. It sits before your network and scans emails, deleting viruses and spam before they actually enter your network and can potentially damage your systems. It will also scan emails that go out of the organization for malicious content before they reach other inboxes or networks.

Three major benefits of EOP Using an email security solution like EOP can provide businesses of all sizes with many benefits. Here are three:

  1. Enhanced security - According to Microsoft, EOP can detect 100% of known viruses and up to 99% of known spam, which translates to a system that is almost fully secure from a wide variety of email threats.
  2. Easy to manage - Because this is a cloud-based solution, users can access administration panels from their browser. Of course, if you work with an IT partner, it's even easier to manage, as they can manage this for you.
  3. Predictability & reliability - As with most other cloud solutions, the cost is either built into your Office 365 subscription or is USD$1.00 per account per month. This means there are no unpredictable costs. Beyond that, Microsoft states there is a near 100% uptime of this program, so you know it is always working.
Of course, if you work with an IT partner, they should take care of managing EOP for you, so all you have to do is look at the monthly reports and maybe check the quarantine fields, which makes this a nearly effortless solution. If you would like to learn more about EOP, or other email security solutions, why not contact us? We may have a program that meets your needs.
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