Generic Skills: Drop that dropdown!

image This is the continuation of the article Basic vs. Advanced – the psychological deterrent to efficient Office usage! It is difficult to teach thousands of features to thousands of users. But there is a different approach available – Imparting Generic Skills rather than specific skills.
Let us explore and find out more about it with an example.

Continue reading

Easiest way to learn – Right Click

So far I have written 139 articles. There are thousands of features yet to be covered. There is another skill you need to learn – the ability to learn to learn!

In this article, I will demonstrate a simple method of learning. Usually, learning requires reading help files, books or visiting web sites. This method just uses mouse Right Click. Read on and find out how powerful this method is…


Continue reading

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.

Today is UNDO day :)

UNDO is used when you make a mistake and you want to revert. That is fine.
But that is NOT the primary reason for which we end up using UNDO so often.

But often we perform some activity expecting some specific thing to happen.
Unfortunately something else happens and then we get frustrated.
To repair the damage, we press UNDO. Ok so you are back to where you started.
Did UNDO solve the problem? Did it give you what you expected? Not at all.
We have to then do that activity using some other work-around.
Obviously, it requires more time and effort.


Ctrl Z keys – shortcut for UNDO

So here is a fresh revelation:

Undo = you don’t know how to do!

Is this sounding like a bad news? May be – because it is exposing your ignorance.
But wait, let us look at it positively –

Undo = Learning Opportunity

Today is UNDO awareness day. Here is what you should do.
Consciously notice when you are about to press UNDO (CTRL Z) and STOP.
Don’t UNDO.

Think… what went wrong? Can I perform the activity in a little different way so that I can get what I want?

Now look around carefully. In most cases you will notice these inexplicable and irritating icons appearing from nowhere.

Smart Tags, icons which appear after copy paste or drag operations

Smart Tags

Usually we hate them and ignore them.
But from today onwards, we are going to click on them, look at what they have to offer and learn from them.

You will realize that whatever you expected, is available there.
Microsoft has thought of all possible variations of that actions and provided relevant actions.

Just try it and let me know how much you learnt!