Blog Archive

Conditional Formatting in Outlook

Conditional Formatting in Outlook is a really useful tool that allows you to customise how different messages appear in your inbox message list based on criteria that you set.

By default, conditional formatting makes unread messages appear in bold but you can add your own customisations also. For example, you may want messages that are just sent to you and no one else appear larger in your message list, or you may want message that are sent to you from your manager to appear in a different colour so they stand out. Both of these things can be done by applying conditional formatting.

Setting up Conditional Formatting

From your inbox:

  • Click on the View tab
  • In the Current View group, click View Settings
  • Click Conditional Formatting
  • Click Add to create a conditional formatting rule

Let’s look at an example. I want to create a formatting rule for mail that is sent only to me. I have named by rule ‘Only Me’.

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  • Click Condition
  • Put a tick in the ‘When I Am’ box and specify ‘the only person on to To line’
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  • Click OK
  • Click Font

Select how you wish these messages to appear. As these are important I have changed the font style, made it purple and bigger so they really stand out.

  • Click OK
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When I switch back to my inbox, I can now see the conditional formatting has been applied to my message list.

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Another example would be setting conditional formatting for mails that come in from a specific person.

To do this, repeat the above steps but when you click Condition, enter the name of the person in the From field. Click OK and then set the formatting options through Font.

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There are lots of options within conditional formatting so its worth taking a look at trying out different options to make your important mails really stand out from the others.

 


Using VLOOKUP to extract data

Vlookup

As its Halloween this weekend we thought we would dedicate this week’s blog post to something that people find particularly scary! Something that sends chills down your spine! OK, I am being a little dramatic but it is fair to say that when it comes to Excel, Formulas are the thing that tend to strike fear into the heart of most.

Fortunately, formulas have never been easier or more human in Excel which means you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to understand them. Today we are going to take a look at ‘Using VLOOKUP to extract data’, a really common and useful formula which will help you cross-reference spreadsheets and save a lot of time.

Using VLOOKUP to extract data

VLOOKUP is a great time saving formula.

Let’s set the scene…

In this spreadsheet, I have a table (Table 1) that lists Items in column C and their associated unique Item Number or ID in column A. When a customer orders an item, I log the Item Number and the Customer Name in a separate spreadsheet (Table 2). However, the Item Name is not listed. I am going to use VLOOKUP to quickly and easily reference the Item ID and pull back the Item Name.

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STEP ONE: Name your lookup range

This step is optional. You do not have to name your lookup range but I find that this is the best way of ensuring that your data pulls through correctly and it means that you don’t have to mess around making cell references absolute (fixed).

  • Highlight the lookup table (the table that contains the data you are pulling through, in this case Table 1)
  • Click in the Name box and type a name for your table i.e. PRODUCTS.
  • Press Enter
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NOTE: It is worth noting that table name cannot have spaces. If I wanted to name it ‘PRODUCT KEY’ I would need to use the format ‘PRODUCTKEY’ or ‘PRODUCT_KEY’.

STEP TWO – Create the VLOOKUP Formula (the scary part)

  • Click in the cell where you want the value to appear (C12)
  • Click on the Formulas ribbon
  • Click Insert Function
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  • Enter the criteria into the fields

Lookup_value – The lookup value is the information that you want to reference. It is normally a piece of information that is in both tables. Excel needs a reference point and in this example we are using the Item ID.

  • Click the cell that contains the first Item ID (A12)

Table_array – The table array is the table Excel is referencing. Excel needs to know which table to find the Item ID. This is where naming your table in Step 1 comes in useful.

  • Press F3

Any named tables will appear in a list. Select the table ‘PRODUCT’. If you did not name your table, you would need to highlight the cells instead.

Col_index_num – This is the column in the lookup table that contains the data you want to pull through. In our example, we need the ITEM NAME. This information is contained in Column 3.

  • Enter ‘3’

Range_lookup – This field can be left blank or will contain the value ‘TRUE’ or ‘FALSE’. Which one you use depends on how your table is sorted and the data you want to pull through. If you have your tables sorted in Ascending order, you can leave this field blank or use TRUE. TRUE also searches for an exact match.  In our example, my data is not sorted and so I need to enter FALSE. In my experience, most data that you are dealing with is not sorted nice and neatly and so FALSE is the more common value to go in here.

  • Enter FALSE
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  • Click OK

If the formula has been added correctly, you should now see the item name in cell C12. Excel has essentially looked in the lookup table for the Item ID and then pulled through the corresponding Item Name.

Once you have used the helpful dialogue box a few times and you are comfortable with the format, you can just type the formula into the cell. E.g. =VLOOKUP(C12,PRODUCTS,3,FALSE)

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You could repeat the above steps to complete the rest of the table but that can be quite tedious especially if you are dealing with a lot of data. To quickly copy the formula down, you can use the AutoFill handle in the bottom right-hand corner.

  • Drag the handle down OR double-click on the handle
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TIP: If you get an unexpected result when using the auto-fill handle, such as the wrong data being pulled through or the same Item Name repeated, it is worth checking that you do not have your Auto-fill settings set to manual.

  • Click the Formulas ribbon
  • Click Calculation Options
  • Set to Automatic

So as you can see, Excel formulas do not have to be a scary prospect.

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Outlook Search Folders

Do you forever find yourself running the same search over and over again in Outlook? Maybe you frequently have to search for emails from your manager that contain attachments?

Outlook has a really useful search feature that you can use to find your emails but wouldn’t you rather be able to find what you are looking for in one click? Creating Outlook Search Folders for your frequently searched for email items is a great way to cut down on the amount of time you spend searching for emails.

  • Click the Folder tab
  • Click New Search Folder
Search Folder

You can choose to select the items you would like to search for from the default list presented, i.e. if I want to create a search for all emails from my manager, I would select ‘Mail from and to specific people’ and then select my managers name by clicking ‘Choose‘.

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However, if you would like to create a folder that searches using multiple criteria you will need to create a Custom Search.

  • Scroll down in the list and select Create a Custom Search Folder
  • Click Choose
  • Add a name for your search folder
  • Click Criteria
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You can select criteria for your search from any of the three tabs. In this example, I want a search folder that quickly searches for all emails from David that contain attachments.

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  • Click OK

A new folder will be created under Search Folders in your folder list. Click on the folder to run the search.

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I think you will agree it is worth taking the time to setup some search folders in your Outlook as it will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend searching for emails.


Cut and paste with Microsoft Spike

Did you know you can cut and paste with Microsoft Spike? Probably not! Word has a hidden feature that most people do not know about to collect text on the clipboard from multiple locations and then paste it in to your document all in one go! Most Word users are familiar with using the clipboard to copy and paste text, but Spike works in a slightly different way.

  • Highlight the paragraph of text you would like to cut
  • Press CTRL+F3
  • Select the next paragraph of text you would like to cut
  • Press CTRL+F3
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Continue cutting text from your document in this way. The paragraphs do not need to be next to each other, you can cut from anywhere in the document to move them to the clipboard.

Once you have finished cutting, you can paste all of the paragraphs in the order that you cut them into another part of the document,

  • Press CTRL+SHIFT+F3, OR
  • Type spike and press F3

This clever piece of functionality utilises the Quick Parts feature in the background and is a useful trick to remember next time you are formatting a long document.


The Dynamic Duo – Cortana and Microsoft Edge

Using Cortana within Microsoft Edge

There are many great partnerships in life; Bert and Ernie, Batman and Robin, Yin and Yang and of course the humble Cheese and Pickle sandwich.

Dynamic Duos

Introducing the Dynamic Duo –  Cortana and Microsoft Edge. These two separate applications seamlessly interact to provide you the consumer with a much more fluid and full browsing experience.

Lets back track a little. If you are reading and this and thinking ‘What in the world is Cortana?‘, then you are not alone.

Cortana is your clever new personal assistant! Cortana will help you find things on your PC, manage your calendar, track packages, find files, chat with you, and tell jokes. Yes, I said tell jokes. That was not a typo. The more you use Cortana, the more personalized your experience will be.

Now if you are anything like me, the words ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Assistant’ may conjure up this image in your mind…

Remember this guy?

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Ah, Mr Clippy. Everyone’s favourite letter writing obsessed friend. The good news is, Cortana is very different to previous Microsoft Assistant tools and it can be utilised very effectively from within Microsoft Edge.

Turn on Cortana

  • Before you can use Cortana in Microsoft Edge you need to turn it on in System Settings.
  • Click the Windows button in the bottom left-hand corner OR press the Windows logo key on your keyboard
  • Start typing ‘Cortana’ to search
  • Select ‘Cortana & Search settings’
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  • Use the slider to turn Cortana on
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Once Cortana has been turned in, you can now ‘Ask Cortana’ questions directly from your we pages as you are browsing.

Ask Cortana when browsing the web

For example, I was looking at the BBC News website this morning and I was reading an article on the Falkland Islands. I was curious as to where the Falkland Islands were located so I utilised Cortana within my Edge browser.

  • Highlight the word you would like to search
  • Right-click and select ‘Ask Cortana’
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Cortana will load information related to your search in a pane on the left-hand side of the screen.

NOTE: You must ensure you turn Cortana on within settings in order for ‘Ask Cortana’ to show in the menu when you right-click.