Mouse as a learning tool (Using Mouse Efficiently – Part 4)

Yes. Mouse is a LEARNING device. Of course, originally it was intended to be a navigation tool – it still is. But if you use it smartly, you can learn a lot about the software you are using.

There are two ways to do this. Observe the mouse cursor and Right click.

Observe the mouse cursor and learn


The cursor shape changes often. It changes for a purpose. It is trying to tell you that its behavior has changed. The question is that are you noticing it?

The idea is simple – notice the change in cursor shape and try to find out what changed. That is how you learn.  We do notice some of these shapes like the pointing hand and the four headed arrow. But there are more.

Here are some very useful examples of how observing the cursor shape helps you learn new things.

Pivot Table drag drop

In case of classic mode (blue border) Pivot Tables, the drag drop area shrinks when the data is small. We often end up dragging a field and dropping it in the wrong area. View this 10 second video to learn from the smart mouse cursor. (No audio)

How mouse cursor shape helps you prevent common Pivot Table mistake

Selecting single cell in a table

While editing long tables, it is often necessary to select a single cell. If the cell contains lot of data and it spills over to more than one page, selecting it becomes very difficult.

Watch this 12 second video to know how easy this activity becomes if you observe the mouse cursor. (No audio)

How to select entire table cell with just one click

PowerPoint Animation

Tweaking complex animation requires you to adjust the order of animation, timing and duration. This is usually done by repeatedly opening the Effect Options – Timing dialog.


If you observe the mouse cursor in the animation pane entries, the delay, duration and start position can be adjusted very easily. Watch this 10 second video to learn how.
(No audio)

Instant tweaking of animation within the animation pane

The power of Right Click

Usually, right clicking on any object or area reveals a menu. This menu is very special. It helps you learn a tool or software quickly and easily.

What is so special about it? This menu shows options which are guaranteed to be relevant in the context of the place you right clicked on. That is why, it is called “Context Menu”.

The options shown in the context menu may be available inside the traditional menus as well. But these options may be scattered across different tabs and toolbars. Right click menu consolidates relevant options and shows these in one place.

Therefore, you simply have to right click on every object, notice each option, think a little about it, try it out if the meaning is not obvious… and you start learning immediately.

This is a simple but very powerful technique. Try this for a few days and let me know the feedback.

Important areas to right click in…


Right click at various places within the table to discover more features.


Right click within Tables and Pivot Tables (Row and Data area separately) to learn about many new features. Pivot Table Data area has an option called Show Values As… which is the most powerful feature of Pivot Table.


Right Click whenever the cursor shape changes

Finally, let us put both items together. When cursor shape changes – its behavior changes – its context changes … therefore, the right click menu also changes.

Changing cursor is inviting you to explore more by opening the right click menu … accept the invitation and learn more.

Using Mouse Efficiently – Part 3

Please read the previous two articles first. In this article we continue to explore the mouse usage scenarios further. In this article, I am using an abbreviated writing styles – using minimal words, reducing long paragraphs… making it short, sweet and to the point. Let me know if you like this style.

Drag Drop

Common activity. Usually used for Copy Paste operations.

Very nice feature – RIGHT DRAG DROP

Press the RIGHT mouse button while dragging and dropping … and see what happens.



You get a set of menus to choose from. Read the menus and then enjoy.
You will discover many options you always wanted…

Explanation: When you drag drop using left mouse – the default action happens.
Who decides the default action? The vendor who created the software.
But the default is chosen based upon what most users want in that situation.

Default is fine. But more actions may be possible. These are exposed to you when you perform RIGHT DRAG DROP

Here is a common place… go to Excel, type a number and drag it down (regular left drag)
It repeats the number. But try a RIGHT drag and see the options…


Homework: For the next few days, try right drag drop in places where you usually drag drop – and learn more!

Canceling drag drop

Sometimes you start dragging something and change your mind. How to cancel the operation without any damage?

Think a little – guess … ESC key.

Blind Drag Drop

Common scenario. you are composing a mail. you want to attach a file… you open  Windows Explorer… find the file – drag the file …. now there is a problem if you cant see the mail window

That is when we try to copy and paste. No need to do so.

Drag from one window, take the cursor to the Outlook icon on the taskbar..
Even if there are multiple Outlook windows shown it is ok…
Move cursor on the thumbnail or name of the desired window and ..


Now the window will automatically come in front… move the mouse and then complete the drag drop]

Drag Drop Across multiple monitors

If you use multiple monitors, you can drag-drop items across the monitors. This is useful when you have a laptop and an external monitor / LCD screen attached.

Depending upon where the external monitor is physically kept in relation to your laptop, your mouse cursor can move from edge of your screen to the external desktop. This is configured using Display Properties – Settings tab. This tab will show two monitors. If monitor 2 is physically on the left side of base laptop, then you can move the monitor 2 icon accordingly.


Once this is configured, the laptop mouse cursor will move over to the external monitor from the LEFT edge.

If monitor 2 was configured to be on the right side of the laptop screen, the mouse cursor will spillover from the RIGHT edge of laptop screen.

You can even arrange the second monitor above or below the main laptop screen. This configuration is often done when your external monitor is physically installed above your work table to save space.

Observe the mouse cursor while dragging

This is very important. It changes to show many useful things during drag drop… Observe it and try to decipher the meaning…

Best example to illustrate this is drag dropping fields into a Pivot Table (Classic mode only – blue border pivots).

When you start dragging a field and move to the Excel sheet, cursor is like this

when you are over row, column or data area it changes dynamically.




Observe it and you will never make the mistake of dragging a field to the wrong area in Pivot table!

Mouse Wheel

Used for scrolling vertically.

Document Zoom In / Out

Press CTRL key and move the wheel – ZOOM in and out the document. Practice it a little.

Useful scenarios:

  1. Zoom in to do intricate work an zoom out to see overall impact in a PowerPoint slide or Word Document
  2. Find missing areas of data quickly – zoom out maximum in Excel
  3. Useful while browsing web pages as well

If you just move the scroll wheel while the cursor is over the RIBBON (Office 2007 onwards), it changes the selected menu (Tab) very quickly.

If you don’t use a mouse with your laptop, this feature can still work if you have a touch pad with right margin configured for scrolling.

Horizontal Scrolling: Tilt Wheel

Most newer models of mice have a horizontal scroll facility, called the “Tilt Wheel”. This is often ignored and we never end up using it.

Here are some common uses of horizontal scrolling.

1. Excel: Horizontal scrolling is probably most important in Excel as you have large number of columns to view.
But I find the keyboard shortcut SNAGHTML1683205SNAGHTML1685627 or SNAGHTML1683205SNAGHTML168a263 more convenient here.

2. Large browser pages. Some browser pages are very wide and therefore horizontal scrolling is necessary

3. PowerPoint / Word document with large Zoom level

4. Photographs / images which are too large for your screen

5. Any document which needs Panning functionality.

Tilt wheel may not be supported by all software applications.

Ribbon Tabs and Scroll Wheel

This is a very useful tool.

Just position the mouse cursor anywhere on the ribbon and use Scroll Wheel. It shuffles the ribbon tabs – try it NOW.


Using Keyboard along with mouse

Mouse has limited number of buttons.
But combining it with keyboard keys (Shift, Alt, Ctrl) makes it more versatile and useful.

SNAGHTML17077a3 + Mouse Drag = Copy

Generally while working with shapes / objects/ files if you press Ctrl key while dragging, it usually means COPY the object. To indicate the copy operation, the mouse cursor typically shows a PLUS sign. If you don’t see the plus sign, it means a MOVE operation!

This works with file drag drop as well. The default action is reversed by pressing CTRL key while dragging a file. If you are dragging a file from one folder to another on the SAME drive – default action is MOVE. Across drives, default action is COPY. So be careful while pressing CTRL key while dragging files.

SNAGHTML17077a3[5] Resize = Resize from center

Usually, to increase the size of a picture or shape, you drag from the corner. However, this disturbs the alignment of the picture because it grows in size in the direction you drag. If you press Ctrl key while dragging from any corner, resize happens, but without disturbing the center position.


This is very useful for resizing pictures after pasting in PowerPoint.
Pasted object is automatically put in the center – usually.
Exception… if you copy an object from one slide and paste it into another slide, it is pasted in the ORIGINAL position – not the center of the slide. Nice touch … someone thought about our convenience!

Zoom in and out with SNAGHTML17077a3[7] Scroll

We have covered this above.

Discontinuous selection using SNAGHTML17077a3[9]key

To select items (like a shape) we usually click on them. To select text / data we click and then drag.

But what if we want to some items and skip some items?
That is when CTRL key is useful.

Here is an example:


Click on the first file to select it, then keep pressing CTRL key and click on rest of the files. When you finish selection, release the CTRL key

Similar concept works in Excel if you want to select multiple ranges.

SNAGHTML17138ef key

Very useful for selecting many things which are far away from each other.
Windows Explorer – want to select from fifth file to the last file…
Click the fifth file…. use scroll bar to move to the last file…
Press SHIFT key .. keep it pressed and then click on the last file
Now release the SHIFT key.

It can also be used with CTRL key to select combination of continuous and discontinuous object selections. Difficult to describe – try it out.

SNAGHTML171dc34[5] key

In MS Office (up to version 2003) Pressing Alt key makes all menus and visible toolbars customizable (without opening the Tools – Customize dialog)

While pressing ALT key you can drag any menu item and move it to another place. If you want to COPY it, you need to press CTRL key as well.

This feature DOES NOT work from Office 2007 onwards. In newer versions, right click on the desired toolbar button and choose Add To Quick Access Toolbar (see this blog post for details).

Last article in this series coming up soon…

We will discuss how to use mouse to learn new features, while you work… This is a completely new (and originally unintended) use of mouse!

Using mouse efficiently – Part 2 – Buttons

Mouse buttons

Every Windows mouse has at least two buttons. Usually there is a mouse wheel as well – for scrolling. But nowadays there can be many more buttons available.

I use this mouse


This is the one I use. Microsoft Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000. In my opinion, the best mouse ever created (across vendors, not just Microsoft). This one is Bluetooth, has a tilt wheel (for horizontal scrolling, very good for Excel), Zoom button, PowerPoint draw button.

But that is just the beginning… When you turn it around, it becomes a presenter…


with next / previous slide, Volume up down, Play pause (for media center or WM player) and finally has a built-in laser pointer.

Unfortunately, this model is discontinued long back, but I have my own stock Smile


Left click is obvious… or is it?

Left button (for a right handed person) is the default button. A left handed person can configure Right button as the default.

The question is – what is more efficient? Using mouse or using keyboard?

The answer: use both … depending upon what is more convenient at that point of time.

If you are typing text and then you want to highlight it, keyboard shortcuts are preferred.
If you were scrolling and reading a document using mouse wheel and now you want to highlight some part of it, then use mouse because your hand was already holding the mouse.

The key thing is to maintain your flow. If you are busy typing something and then just to click on the OK button you move your hand all the way from keyboard to mouse … it disturbs your concentration and thought process.

Customizing mouse button actions

If you have additional buttons (for example, mouse wheel is also a clickable button), then you can customize the action. Go to Control Panel – Mouse – Customize and you will be surprised to see so many options…

Here is what can be done using a button click : Back, Forward, Next window / Previous Window, Autoscroll, Cut, copy or paste, Undo / Redo, Digital Ink On/Off, Instant viewer, Alt, Shift or Ctrl keys, New, Open, Close documents, Double click, Exit program, Gaming toggle, Magnifier, Show / Hide Desktop, Zoom in / out, Precision booster, Start … a program, Keystroke…

Instant Viewer

I find the Instant Viewer to be very good. This shows you all open applications on the desktop – allowing you to choose the desired one quickly. This is faster than Alt – Tab or Taskbar.



For technical presentations, you need to explain the UI, Code, Dialogs, configuration options and so on. Regular PPTs have large font. But these elements are never seen properly by the audience. Therefore the full screen Magnifier (included since Vista) is a very good tool to map to an extra mouse button.

Using Magnifier correctly: When you invoke it, the Magnifier window appears on screen. If you try to get rid of it, the window converts into a lens and that lens remains on the screen. This disturbs your presentation.


Solution: Click on the lens to show the magnifier window again and click Minimize button on the window.


Precision booster, key combinations and Macros can be very useful for gamers. Special gaming mice offer even more sophistication.

Program specific button customization

Yes there is more!

For example, in case of Excel you may want wheel button to scroll but in PowerPoint you want that same button to be a Zoom In / Out button. This type of customization is called Application Specific Settings. Explore this for applications you use commonly.
Imagine how much thought has gone into a simple, taken for granted thingy called mouse! Just to make our lives easier.

How many times can you click?

We know single click and double click. But there is more.

Double Click: Special cases double-click_thumb2

Application Effect of double click
Word Double click selects the word at cursor. Triple click selects the entire paragraph.
Office Format Painter double click allows you to pick formatting once and then apply it to many different areas / objects
Office Double clicking on some specific buttons allows you to do repetitive actions. This is called Locking the mode.

· Till version 2003, in PowerPoint, double clicking on any drawing shape button allows you to draw the shape repeatedly

· 2007 onwards, you right click on the shape and choose Lock Drawing Mode

Excel Double clicking in a cell allows you to view and edit the formula (if present)
PowerPoint Double clicking a shape or picture or vide brings up the relevant Ribbon tab.
Chart elements Since Office 2010, if you double click on any chart element, its customization dialog appears.
Any file based object Double clicking executes the default action.

For Word and Excel objects default action is Open. For a movie / sound object the default action is Play.

Pivot Table Double clicking in row or column area brings up the drill down dialog.
Double clicking in data area creates a new sheet and shows you all the rows from raw data which contributed to that value. Very useful to find out lineage (underlying raw data) behind summarized reports.
Do NOT double click on the Grand Total, it will create a new sheet with all the raw data copied! (This is actually very useful in a specific situation, but we will cover that some other time)

Slow Double Click! slow-double-click_thumb2

Sounds funny? But it is true and it is very useful in day-to-day work.

While customizing charts, we need to format a particular series or marker or data label. We want it to stand out from the rest. How do we do it?
Depending upon which version of Office you are using, Double Clicking the item of interest will have different results.

Before Office 2010, double click had no impact. Single click on any element selects the entire series.  From 2010 onwards, double click will open the format dialog / task pane for that element.


What we want is to select a single item – not the series. That is where SLOW double click comes into picture. This works in ALL VERSIONS of Office.

Click on the element – let it select the whole series. Wait for 2 seconds. Now click on the element you want to want to customize. Now the single element is selected.


Try it immediately …

Triple Click triple-click2_thumb2

Yes this is possible Smile in Word. (I don’t know of any other examples of Triple Click for Office. If you know any, I would love to hear from you)

  1. If you double click in a paragraph, it will select a word. But if you TRIPLE CLICK, it will select the entire paragraph. This is very useful to select long paragraphs, without having to struggle with cumbersome drag based selection.
  2. If you double click on the left side of a paragraph, it will select the entire paragraph. If you triple click there, it will select the entire document. Of course there is a much simpler keyboard shortcut – Ctrl – A to do that. But still triple click may be more convenient in some situations.
  3. Triple Click in a table cell, it selects the entire contents of that cell.

Press Ctrl key and click anywhere in the paragraph to select the SENTENCE – a very smart and useful feature in Word.

Selecting things using Mouse

Many useful variations you must know…

Before you proceed, just remember that pressing SNAGHTML11e6bbb  helps in working with many items at once whereas  SNAGHTML11e8751  helps us work with one item at a time.

Selecting large amounts of text

Usually we drag the mouse to select text. However, if the text is very lengthy, there is another method available.  3 steps…

  1. Click where you want to begin. This will position the text cursor at the beginning.
  2. Now DO NOT DRAG and select the text. Simply scroll till you can see the end point of selection.
  3. Now press SHIFT key and then CLICK at the end point. Now all the text from begin to end point will be selected.

Very useful while selecting large chapters in Word or Selecting long tables in Browser. Of course, if you use Styles, you DON’T need to select large blocks of data EVER AGAIN in Word (will explain some other time).

Selecting large blocks of data in Excel

The same concept applies to Excel as well. If you have a large block of data, click in the first cell, scroll to the last row and column and then SHIFT-CLICk.

However, in Excel finding the last row itself may require lot of manual scrolling. There is one useful shortcut which can help you. Press   SNAGHTML11eaae6  SNAGHTML11f34f6 keyboard shortcut.

This takes you to the LAST CELL in Excel. This is the cross section of the last row and last column used in that sheet. If your worksheet contains just one large block of data, you can know the last row by pressing CTRL-END quickly.

However, CTRL A is a faster way of selecting large amount of data in Excel. Click anywhere inside the data block and type CTRL A.

Selecting multiple items in a list

This is also done in a similar way. Click in the beginning, move to end and SHIFT-CLICK.
If you want to remove some selected items, use CTRL-CLICK.

Selecting objects

You need a different approach to select multiple drawing objects, shapes, images etc in PowerPoint (and other programs).

  • To select a single object, just click on it
  • To choose and select multiple objects one by one, use CTRL-CLICK. You can also use CTRL-CLICK to UNSELECT an object which is already selected.
  • To select multiple objects in one action, draw a large rectangle AROUND the objects. Any objects which are fully within the rectangle will be selected.


Part 3 needed…

There is much more to write about : Drag Drop, Keyboard along with Mouse, Right Click…

I know it is becoming a very long topic. However, the feedback has been very encouraging and it is useful on daily basis. So I will do justice to this important, yet ignored topic by covering it in detail.

Do post your comments…

Using Mouse Efficiently – Part 1

Why should you read this?

We have been using a mouse for decades.
Now there is apparent competition from various touch devices.
So, why waste time reading this?

Trust me, you will save at least 10 minutes every day.  Most of us don’t use the humble mouse efficiently even now. Initially, you will have to unlearn some bad habits.

No time? No patience? Just do this much…

  1. Observe the mouse cursor shape. Whenever it changes ask yourself – why? What is it going to do differently? This way you can learn many nice things.
  2. Whenever confused, right click. It shows menu items relevant to the place where you right clicked. This way you can learn lot of useful features. Do it as a pastime.
  3. Hover the mouse on every button in the Ribbon for 1 sec. Read the tooltip. Learn.
  4. Press SNAGHTML6f447f key and drag an object to copy it quickly.

There is much more. Read on.

You don’t even have to click to use the mouse!

Just moving the mouse over specific places is useful … (it is called mouse “hover”)

Using Mouse Hover

Here are some useful examples:

    1. Hovering on toolbar buttons show ToolTips
    2. Hover on any word in MS Word 2007 onwards, it can show you translation in any language. Activate it first. Review Tab – Translate dropdown – Mini Toolbar – set language.image
    3. Windows Explorer, hovering on a directory or file shows more details about it
    4. In PowerPoint you can even have events which happen on Mouse hover
    5. In Excel Charts mouse hover shows the actual values of any point on the series
    6. Pivot Table shows more details when you hover on any cell



Often we get confused with too many toolbar buttons. If you cannot understand what a particular toolbar button does, you can just hover on it for a second. It shows you short help and also explains the concept using a diagram in some cases.

Here is an example from Word – Home Tab – Paragraph group… hover the mouse on that small arrow.


That small arrow is called Dialog Launcher. Click on it to open the full dialog related to the menu group (in this case Paragraph).

Tooltips can also illustrate concepts. For example, Trace Dependents is very useful for auditing Excel files. But most people don’t know how to use it. The tooltip explains it visually.

Excel – Formulas – Formula Auditing group – Trace Dependents (hover mouse here)


ToolTips with keyboard shortcut keys

Sometimes you use a particular toolbar button for performing some common action. But there could be a simpler keyboard shortcut for the same action.

But you would never know about the shortcut because you always use the mouse to click on the toolbar button.


Misuse of mouse. When NOT to use the mouse

To click on OK / Cancel buttons.

Remember. The most commonly used buttons are Ok and Cancel. Usually you can choose OK button from keyboard by pressing ENTER and choose Cancel using Escape key.

Clicking on OK / Cancel using mouse( while otherwise working on the keyboard) is the commonest misuse of mouse!

Understanding the default button


Here is a simple dialog. As you can see the OK button has a darker border.
This is because OK is the default button.
Default button can be chosen by pressing SNAGHTML704804 key.

Just remember. Ok = Enter key. Cancel / Close = Esc key.

Shortcut keys

While working with menus and dialogs you will often notice that some characters are underlined. Usually you can press  SNAGHTML7070e9  key along with the underlined character to choose that item quickly.


To select Landscape, type Alt S (Word – Page Setup Dialog)

If you don’t see these underlined characters, just press Alt key. It will now display underlined character shortcuts if available.

Moving to next / previous item

While working with dialogs / objects we often need to move to the next item / textbox / button / shape etc. Many of us use Mouse to do this. Using keyboard is faster in most cases.

Press  SNAGHTML70a5b5 to move to next item and  SNAGHTML70cf84SNAGHTML70a5b5[5] to move to previous item.

This works with PowerPoint objects, Excel cells, Word table cells and items in dialogs.

When to single click or double click?

I get this question often. I was trying to find a comprehensive answer to this question… but my son Zeus came up with an elegant solution.
Try single click first. If it does not work, try double click!

Table II

Item Which click
Start programs using Desktop icons Double click
Open a file Double click
Choose a toolbar button Single click
Choose a menu item Single click
Start programs from Start – Programs Single click

Mouse Hover in Office (2007 onwards) – Live Preview

Office 2007 helps us choose from available options in a simple, easy to use way.

Remember how often you have applied some background color to a slide and then wanted to changed it, you had to use UNDO and lots of trial and error?

Now all this trouble has ended. In any situation where you have multiple visual options to choose from, you just need to move your mouse cursor over the options (styles, colors, fonts, special effects). The effect will then be applied automatically… but temporarily. If you like the option, then you can click on the desired item. If you don’t like it, just move the cursor outside the area. Simple and effective!

Such live dropdown areas are called Galleries in Office.

Office Galleries

Try this… Open any Word Document, click inside any paragraph and choose Home tab, Styles Gallery (open the dropdown). Move mouse the mouse cursor over various styles and see what happens to the paragraph.


This is available in many places across Office tools. Here are some important ones.

Product Live Preview
Word Home tab – Styles
Word, Excel, PowerPoint Table Tools – Design – Table Styles
Word, Excel, PowerPoint Picture Tools – Picture Styles (this tab appears in the ribbon only when you click on a picture)
Excel Home – Conditional Formatting
PowerPoint Design – to quickly change the template
PowerPoint Animations and Transitions
All Office products Design / Page Layout tab – Themes
SmartArt SmartArt Layouts, Colors, Styles

Paste options

This is a revolutionary feature, added in Office 2010 onwards.

When you copy paste anywhere within Office, you can see a small icon that appears. This feature is there for many years. Most of us hate that icon because it is irritating. We have never explored why it appears uninvited. But trust me it has many useful options. It shows you Paste Special options, without going to Paste Special.

When you click this button, various pasting options are shown as icons.


At this stage you still don’t know which option is the right one for you. No problem, just hover the mouse over the each icon. You can see (temporarily) how the particular paste option will work if you choose it. Try all options quickly and choose the one you want. This prevents lot of trial and error and wastage of time.


It is usually more efficient to handle this with keyboard.

Press  SNAGHTML719a56  to open the options and use arrow keys to try each option. If you know the option, type the shortcut key shown in brackets.

In the example above, to paste as picture format, press SNAGHTML719a56[4]SNAGHTML723adb

As though this was not enough, there is a new way introduced since 2010. Copy from source. Go to the destination but DO NOT paste. Instead, Right Click. In the right click menu, you will see all the paste options. Now preview them using mouse hover and choose the one you want.


Can you now begin to notice and appreciate how much effort Microsoft has put in to make our life easier! We must reciprocate by exploring stuff and using it to our advantage.

Part 2 coming up…

I thought this will be a small blog post. But when I started writing, I realized there is so much to share. I had to split the content. Will post the next part very soon.

Do post your comments here.

Live search in Outlook

Usually we search for something when we need to…. ON Demand. This type of search works on the mails you already have in your mailbox.

However, in some cases you may want to know everything which is happening about a specific topic, specific person, an ongoing project or a specific type of work you do. The last one is called Color Categories… You can read about them in this article.

In this case, you want Outlook to automatically search for the area of interest on an ongoing basis.

This is called search folders. You specify what you want to search for and Outlook will create a special folder which contains the search results. When you receive more mails in future, Outlook will automatically search and update the folder.

This is called a Search Folder.

How to create a Search Folder?

Right click on the search folder…


It shows some common search conditions.


Scroll down and choose Custom to create a new type of search. Click Choose… button.


Now specify a name and click on Criteria… button.


Now the Advanced search dialog opens. This dialog has lots of options.. it looks inundating.

But don’t worry… it is very powerful.


In this case I want to search for any mail where the subject contains the word “Demo” and my name is in the TO line (no CC or BCC)

Explore the More Choices tab to understand all available options.


For illustration purpose, I have chosen many options here.

Don’t get put off by the Advanced tab.

Remember: Advanced = Very Powerful


This dialog gives you access to all fields. And trust me.. there are many many fields. Open the Field dropdown to see for yourself.

Here are the fields available in a Contact – for example…


I know this is a bit inundating… but look at it from another point of view… Microsoft has thought of even the smallest possible needs which we may have. You need not use all these fields. But now you KNOW that if you need them they are available!

Finally, click OK to create the search Folder.


Now you can just click on the Demo folder to see all the mails which satisfy the search criteria. Clicking on the folder is as good as going to Search textbox and adding all those criteria. Now it has become much simpler for you… just ONE click.

Of course the same message may be in Inbox or other folders. Search folder just DISPLAYS the message which meet the search criteria. It does not make a copy of these messages.

Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the Search folders consuming space in your mailbox.

The search results are segregated by folder location for your convenience. Of course you can customize the view to suit your needs.

What type of searches are good candidates for Search Folders?

Of course it depends upon your work and individual needs… but here are some common examples:

Search folders based upon color categories are a good idea.

Filtering on mails related to a specific customer, project or topic is another common usage scenario.

Sometimes just searching on a particular word may be useful. For example, you want to search for all resumes – Search on the word Resume and add one more condition – Has an attachment.

This is a very useful features. Go ahead and refine your search. Do let me know if you create some interesting search folders you create in your work context.

Happy Searching!

Smart Searching in Outlook

This is a continuation of the previous article about Outlook Search.

The mistake

We usually type just the search text and hope to get precise, few results. This is never going to happen. Without any additional information, Outlook is forced to search the word in every area of the mail including sender / recipients, subject, body, attachments, properties and so on.

In this article we will see WHERE to search and WHAT to search for. The WHAT part first.

The solution: Give more information about what you want

Click inside the Search box.

DO NOT type what you want to search.

First look at the Search toolbar and then decide what you want. Click on the required button first, then type the search word.

For example, if you want to search in subject only, this how it happens:



Now type the search word or words.

This is how you can choose multiple search conditions to narrow down the search.

There are many useful conditions. Try all the buttons shown there.

Notice and learn the commands

Even if you choose the options from the Search toolbar, the commands are automatically shown in the Search box. Initially you should use the menus but also start noticing the way it translates into text commands.

After a while you can directly type the search commands and be more efficient.

Search in Body text

contents: search text

Searching by dates

Some generic searching can be performed using the Search Toolbar itself…


The text becomes Received:this week

Searching with more specific dates

received:may 2013

received:11 dec 2013

received:>27 dec 2013 <=30 dec 2013

Searching within attachments

Click on More dropdown and choose Attachment Contains.

Type the search text.

The syntax becomes attachment: search text

Type of attachment

Search by extension

ext: ppt*

This will search for all mails containing PowerPoint attachments.

Learn Detailed syntax

Here is the link which shows all the powerful options available for searching.

Remember that many of these options work with Windows search as well.

Where to search?

Local or global

By default, search happens in the current folder. Of course you can change that to all subfolders, current mailbox or all mailboxes. Default setting can also be changed from File – Options – Search.

Which type of items?

If you search in Inbox, only mail items are searched. If you are in calendar, only those items are searched whether it is for local folder or all mailboxes.

All types of items

If you want to search across mails, tasks, calendar and contacts, choose this option.


In the next article, we will discuss more powerful search and automatic search

Outlook not searching all mails?

Prerequisites: Windows 7 or above and Outlook 2010 or above.

Things you should know

  1. Outlook search is very powerful – even if your experience says otherwise!
  2. It searches across all mailboxes and PST files included in the profile
  3. Search is done in all contact fields, subject, body and attachments
  4. Search can be done across all types of folders – Inbox, Calendar, Tasks and Contacts
  5. It is extremely fast

Search toolbar

The search shortcut is CTRL E. When you click inside the Search box, the Search toolbar appears automatically. Please explore every option here. Each one of them is useful and powerful.



Common issues

  1. Search results are not complete (I know that mail exists, but search is not able to find it)
  2. Too many search results are appearing – I need to narrow it down
  3. Deciding where exactly the search is going to work

Solution: Search results not complete

This happens because Outlook has not got enough time to go through all your mails and keep them ready for fast search.

Check the status

Click inside the Search box (CTRL E), open Search Tools – Choose Indexing Status


It should show zero or very few items pending.

If you see more items there, keep your PC on overnight. Check the status in the morning.

Once you do this, the search results will be accurate.

If some messages are not found due to incomplete indexing, Outlook does show a warning. If you see the warning you must follow the process above.

We will consider other issues in the next article…

How to create Table of Contents in Excel

The Problem

How often have you received complex Excel files from others which have many worksheets, some color coded (but you don’t know the meaning of the color), some having similar names …lots of data, calculations, pivots, charts … and then you face a simple problem. Where do I start? Which areas am I supposed to view? The first sheet which opens is the sheet and the area of the sheet which was open at the time of last file save. Which does not necessarily mean that is the area of primary interest. It is quite confusing.

The Risk

It is not just confusing. It is dangerous. The sender may have intended you to look at a particular sheet / range but in reality, you end up looking at some other area – and take some decision. This is a communication gap – which is difficult to bridge. This can lead to misinterpretation, erroneous decision making and chaos.

The solution: Create a Table of Contents for complex Excel workbooks

The problem: Excel does not provide a built-in feature to create a TOC. But that does not constrain us. As we saw in the last article, we can use a Hyperlink within a document to create a set of links. By default, Excel allows you to create a hyperlink to existing sheets. In practice, sheet based navigation may not be enough – because, the same worksheet may have multiple areas of interest. Therefore, Excel allows us to create other named items which can be used as hyperlink targets. You can create Range Names.

How to define range names?

Select any range in a worksheet. Go to the name box, type a name and press ENTER. No spaces allowed in the name. Now these names appear in Hyperlink Dialog. image You can also create and edit names using Formulas tab – Name Manager.

Creating a TOC in Excel

Here are the steps:

  1. Rename each sheet – never keep the defaults to Sheet1, Sheet2 and so on
  2. Delete empty sheets
  3. Identify ranges which are important for creating the TOC and assign names to them.
  4. Create a new sheet called Contents
  5. Create the TOC by typing relevant text
  6. For each TOC item, insert a hyperlink either to a sheet or a defined name
  7. Just before saving and closing the file keep the content sheet active
  8. Close the file

Now everyone can use the TOC we just created to browse the file in an informed manner.

Creating a “Back” link

In order to complete the navigation, it is a good idea to have a BACK link at each of the hyperlinks. This is easy. Type Back in a cell just above the named range and insert a Hyperlink to the Contents sheet. Copy this cell to all hyperlink targets.

Remember to update the TOC

Whenever you add or delete more data or sheets, consider if you need to edit the Contents sheet the reflect the changes.

Useful keyboard shortcuts in Word

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Keyboard shortcuts for Word

Before you use these shortcuts, please read this article: How to Create Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are some shortcuts which I have found useful. DO NOT try to memorize the shortcuts. Only if you use the functionality frequently you need to find or create and remember the shortcut.

Download a one page Word file

Triple Click Triple click anywhere in a paragraph to select the entire paragraph.
Shift Alt Up / Down arrow Press Shift Alt Up / Down arrow to move entire paragraphs up or down. Also works with multiple selected paragraphs and PowerPoint bullets.
Ctrl A Select Entire Document


Copy a picture of entire screen to the Clipboard. Ctrl V to paste it.

Use Alt PrtScr to copy only the active window image.

Ctrl Alt 1 / 2 / 3 Apply style Heading 1, 2 or 3
Ctrl Click Selects the current Sentence.
Ctrl Scroll


Pressing CTRL key while moving the mouse wheel zooms in / out. Works in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Internet Explorer and many other products.
Ctrl U

Ctrl Y

Ctrl Z = Undo last action

Ctrl Y = Redo last action

Supports 100 levels of undo / redo by default.

Ctrl Shift

> or <

Increase or decrease font size of the selected text.
Ctrl Alt V Paste Special. Provides many options to paste copied content in different formats.

Ctrl V does default paste.

Ctrl Shift V Paste only formatting from the source (Press Ctrl Shift C to copy).

Equivalent to the toolbar button called Format Painter


Or PgUp

If pressed after Finding some text, finds next or previous occurances of the found item being searched for.
Ctrl Shift N Apply Normal Style.

Useful when you want to remove all unwanted formatting and revert the text to regular body text quickly.

Ctrl Alt I Switch to Print Preview
Ctrl Alt M Insert a comment for the selected text or current position in text.
Ctrl Backspace / Ctrl Del Delete
one word to the
left (Ctrl Backspace) or
right(Ctrl Del)

Boring Slide Makeover: Screenshots from Excel

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Slides containing data pasted from Excel

These type of slides are very common. They look uninteresting and shabby.


I am not talking about charts here. That will be the next article.

Here are some simple ways to make them appear more interesting.

Download the sample presentation from here

Problem: Everything from Excel looks B&W

Solution: Use Excel Tables to make it more colorful

This works well if the data is tabular. Data must also have header for each column.


Select the data and choose Home tab – Format as Table – and choose the color combination you want. DO NOT choose color combinations which have banded rows with one band white. That white becomes transparent when you paste to PowerPoint. Here are the Safe Ones.


If you don’t use banded rows, then any color will be suitable.


When you create a table, AutoFilter dropdowns are automatically added. Remove those by going to Data tab – Filter. (Does it mean that if you want to have a table you cannot have a filter on. Yes – you need to work around the constraint. Create a Table – apply desired table style , convert it back to range – the formatting is still preserved. Then you can do whatever you want without any constraints.)

Paste it into PowerPoint (with Paste As Picture Option). Press CTRL key and drag from any corner to resize it. So far so goo.


Problem: The Data looks flat and visually uninteresting

Solution: Use picture style and get some 3D feel

Click on the picture – Picture Tools – Picture Styles… Lots of them. Just move the cursor over each to view how it impacts the picture. Sometimes, the drop-down of the Picture Styles  drop down overlaps the picture itself. Use a small picture and align it on the right side of the slide so that you can appreciate the look and feel of each option.


Find out the style which suits your screen-shot or picture. For Excel related data, this option looks very nice.


Now compare the same slide.



After …


You can appreciate it much better if you see it in a presentation. You can download this sample presentation and try it (see below).

Problem: Lot of data is shown and you want to focus attention on specific data

Solution: Do NOT show too much data

Although this is an obvious solution, in practice everyone still does it. So let us assume that we are forced to show a crowded piece of data and you still want to make it look good.

When lots of data is shown, nobody can read anything anyway. Now we want to focus on some part of the data specifically – that means people should be able to read at least that part… no problem – here is how you do it.

Consider this slide with lots of data. We have made it a Table and formatted it properly with a shadow as shown above.


  1. Copy that picture
  2. Move it aside so that you can edit it without confusion
  3. Crop the desired area
  4. Resize it to make it bigger
  5. Overlap it on the slide approximate where it belongs
  6. The shadow effect is still applied so this bigger image will appear to float over the original image


  • Add Entry Animation of type – Zoom – On click)
  • Also add Exit Animation – Zoom – On click)
  • You can repeat this process for more detail areas as required. Remember to use animation painter to copy animation from one zoomed piece to another.
  • Finally click on the original image – Picture Tools – Corrections – and make it a little darker. This increases the contrast between the original crowded image and the zoomed popups of detailed information.
  • Default Zoom duration is 0.5 seconds. Make it 0.2 seconds to ensure that the animation itself does not induce sleep Ghost

  • Download the sample presentation from here