Tag Archives: microsoft office

Office: Remove Background From Picture

Remove_BGThe Office suite has many possibilities to refine your documents. Sometimes you want to add that nice looking picture but it needs a little tweaking. If you have the experience and the tools you can use Photoshop to edit your pictures. If you do not have Photoshop or the knowledge to work with Photoshop you can use the build in functionality of Microsoft Office. In this blog post I will show you how to remove the background of images so you can use them in your Office documents.

Insert Picture
For the first example I am going to insert a picture in a blank PowerPoint slide. Remember this can also be done in  Word and Excel. We start with a simple picture. A crack in a wall where we want to remove the background from.


When the picture is inserted you will see an additional tab appear in your ribbon. This format tab is just the one we need for our task. With the picture in place we click on the contextual format tab. There you click the Remove Background button. This will present you with another contextual tab as shown below


Overview of actions
At this point something interesting will happen. You picture becomes a ‘negative’. A purple color with some handles to play around with. The magic happens on the left on the slides sorter where you can see a preview of your outcome. So while moving the handles in your picture your preview will be updated constantly.


Easy background removal
I know what you are thinking… This one is easy! It is.. so let’s try a more difficult picture. So new picture same task. This time I will insert a traffic light where I want to remove the background.


Same technique same handling
We want to get rid of the blue sky and that pole thing on the bottom right. So take the same steps. Activate the contextual tab and move the handles so it fits your needs. Keep your eye on the preview on the left.


Now for a difficult one
Remember it takes a little patience to get the result you might be looking for. The key tip here is Zoom in, Zoom in and Zoom in. The next picture is one of my favorite pictures just because of its simplicity.


Now remove that background
In this picture we need to completely remove a building from the background. That’s a whole different ballgame. Let’s see what we can accomplish. First we activate the Remove Background contextual tab. Now we are of to the tuning part. Remember Zoom is the keyword here.


Starting point
When the remove background tab is activated PowerPoint will propose a first step. Not bad but it shows a couple of twitches that need some additional tuning. Everything that is ‘negative’ will be removed from the picture. In this case the ‘ONE WAY’ signs have some tweaking that needs to be done. To solve that the first steps I take is to set the ‘square’ a little bigger by moving the top handles up a bit and the bottom handles down a bit.

Remove_BG_VIIIRemoving ‘the rest’ – tuning
The first steps I took was zooming in on my picture. You can do this simply by using the zoom + sign on the lower right of your PowerPoint screen. Now I need to get rid of the purple strip on the white outlining of the ONE WAY sign. I click the button ‘Mark areas to keep’. This will change you mouse to a ‘pen’. With this pen you can draw over the area to keep. So in this case I want to keep the white outline of the sign.


Select just a little more…
To make sure PowerPoint gets what I want I select just a little more white border than needed. Now PowerPoint will understand that this is part of the outline. In your picture you will see the purple area disappear from the outline just as you wanted. But what if I want to remove areas instead of keeping them? Well in that case choose the button ‘Mark areas to remove’. Instead of a + sign in your line you will see a – sign in your selection line. That way if you have a very complicated picture you can always detect what areas you have selected to keep and which areas should be removed.


Cropping the final part
I usually set the selection handles to a wide range. The final step is to ‘crop’ all the areas I don’t need in my picture.

Sure it takes a little effort to get the result you are looking for. But remember easy pictures show instant result. More complex pictures take more tweaking. I think the provided default functionality offers a lot of possibilities without having to dive into Photoshop to get the same result. If you have simple pictures and need to keep going I would say give it a try!

MOS Master 2013 requirements simplified

MOMS2013So you are an Ace at Microsoft Word but not so in Microsoft Excel. Or maybe the other way around. You are the Guru at Microsoft Excel but use Word simply as a typewriter. You want to become certified and show your skills. You are ‘the Master’. But how do you become a master in Microsoft Office if you do not have the skills for both applications? Well be prepared to get certified because requirements to become a master have changed.

Less certifications to become a master!
Yes, it’s true. As of january 5th 2015 you need less certifications to become a MOS Master. Does this not devaluate the certification you might think? No way I will explain why it has become easier to get the master certificate and why it still holds its value.

Back in the good old days
You needed to be very good in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook (or Access) to become a master. Office 2013 did not make it any easier. It became even worse. You need to get an additional certificate to call yourself a master. A total of 6 exams is needed. Word and Excel was splitted into to expert exams. Wow you can imagine that a lot of people out there passed their chances when hearing about those requirements. I took the challenge and passed them all but what a challenge it has been!

Microsoft Word Expert – Microsoft Excel Expert
Better insights and feedback learned that it is not motivating trying to achieve a credential if you also need to take an exam in an area that you are not that comfortable in. So they split it up!

Become a MOS Master through the track that suits you well
You are great with Word right? Well choose the Word Track to become a master. You are the master of Excel? Well then choose the Excel track. You are good in everything (a true Office Ninja?) then take the expert track!

Requirements as of january 5th 2015

New MOS 2013 Master Certification
Track Required Elective (select 1) Total Exams
Word 77-425: Word 2013 Expert Part 1 77-422: PowerPoint 2013 4
77-426: Word 2013 Expert Part 2 77-424: Access 2013
77-420: Excel 2013 77-423: Outlook 2013
77-419: SharePoint 2013
77-421: OneNote 2013
Excel 77-427: Excel 2013 Expert Part 1 77-422: PowerPoint 2013 4
77-428: Excel 2013 Expert Part 2 77-424: Access 2013
77-418: Word 2013 77-423: Outlook 2013
77-419: SharePoint 2013
77-421: OneNote 2013
Experts 77-425: Word 2013 Expert Part 1 No Elective Required 4
77-426: Word 2013 Expert Part 2
77-427: Excel 2013 Expert Part 1
77-428: Excel 2013 Expert Part 2

data from: www.certiport.com (additional info available on the site here)

Legacy certification – Office 2010?
The above described requirement changes apply to Office 2013. But what about Office 2010? Well those requirements did not change. Those certifications requirements have only one expert exam to take for Excel and Word. Complete it with PowerPoint and one elective and you are good to go.

So what’s keeping you from jumping up and down. Get on those Excel boots, dust off your Microsoft Word basic skills and become a Microsoft Office Master in 2013! If you succeed post it here and let me know. If you need some additional tips take a look at the MOS Certification section on this blog.

Nifty SmartArt Trick In Microsoft Office

SmartArtIconWhen SmartArt was introduced in Office 2007 everyone could make their documents just look a little more ‘designed’. Wow with just a little more clicks we had this diagram looking great with no hassle at all. But did you know that you can do more with that smart art option? How about creating a collage picture from some of your photo’s with a few simple clicks. Let me show you what I mean. For this example I used PowerPoint but anyone using Microsoft Office knows that you can do this in Word and Excel as well. So pick an application and see if you can follow my steps here.

Insert Pictures
The first step I take is insert some pictures I’d like to use for my SmartArt. In this case I’ve chosen some pictures I took when visiting the Yankee Stadium in New York. I selected 5 pictures and clicked ok. The slide looks something like this:


As you can see all pictures are still selected and they should remain that way. So don’t click anywhere yet because we are not done yet.

Back to the Ribbon
With all pictures still selected you should see a contextual tab appear in your ribbon. In the contextual ribbon tab click on the Picture Layout button as shown below.

Smart_Art_VWow this is cool! Pick the picture layout you like best. For this example i chose the first one. This will create the following SmartArt.

SmartArt_IYes, this looks great! But…. it says “Text” right there in my picture and i don’t want that. Well the trick here is to open the text pane from the SmartArt and click the space bar once. This will create a space in the text box and will remove the word “text” in the central picture. Do this for all text boxes!

Some more design…..
Now add some more design to the SmartArt by clicking the design tab in the ribbon and picking the one you like best. Shown below

Smart_Art_VIIOther Layouts
When you have picked a layout and like to see the other possibilities just click the ribbon again and change the layout in the SmartArt section. It will show you the possible SmartArt that can be used. Not every SmartArt is applicable but the ones that do will show you a nice preview.

Examples: let me show three layouts I chose while working with the same pictures




Wow how cool are those? Better yet, if you would like to save this SmartArt as a picture just right-click the smartart and choose ‘Save As Picture’. You now have 5 pictures melted into 1 without distorting the original files. Yes non designers, we can be designers too!

Smart_Art_VIIIHappy SmartArt(ing) 🙂


Word: New Document Please! Start Up The Way I Want

blankdocumentIt is nice to see everyone using the latest versions of MIcrosoft Office. Yeah I got Office 2013 and i am all up to date. So Word and Excel are still the apps most likely to be used in the Office (besides Outlook of course). What intrigues me is the fact that many users I speak still take their work enironment for granted. They go to the Office startup the pc and start up Word to work on their documents. Most pc’s are configured by IT departments. To make this efficient installation packages are deployed with at least modifications as possible. This has a lot of advantages but also lets the users do a lot of extra clicks because by default settings do not apply to everyone. Example: Microsoft Word start up. If you read on you might recognize yourself in this pattern. At the end you might be surprised by the number of countless clicks you can save by this tip.

No i do not want to use a template
So the last days I have been looking at several users to see the work routines starting Microsoft Word. First step…. open Word this is what they see:


Now the next thing they do is click Blank document. They do this every time Word starts. So my question for them was… How many times did you choose something other than Blank Document? The respons I got was never always the blank document..

Make Word start with a Blank document automatically
I decided to share a tip. Did you know that you can actually bypass this openings screen and go straight to a new document without first selecting Blank document? Here’s how to:

Go to FileOptions
You will see the following dialog pop up:

Now all you have to do is uncheck the box as shown in the image above and next time Word starts up you will go straight to a new document. Now count all the clicks you will save without having to click (or double click) New Blank Document!

The same applies for PowerPoint and Excel.
Concluding: to make Word work for you adjust some settings so it wil actually make a difference 🙂

7 Ninja tips for Microsoft Office

ninja-eyes Expand your toolbox with these seven tips for Microsoft Office. Formatting in Word, Decrease space in OneNote, Done in Outlook, single pivot reports in Excel, get into shapes with powerpoint and more! Enjoy.

Word Replace formatting in your document in two clicks

Microsoft Word has this great feature which allows you to replace formatting with just two clicks. Here is our scenario: i would like to format the words Microsoft Access in the document with a purple color.

  • Look for the first words Microsoft Access in your document. Place your cursor in the first word (Microsoft).
  • On the Home tab in the ribbon look for the last button in the ribbon. Open the select option (the little arrow next to the word select)
  • Choose the option “Select text with similar formatting”
  • All the words we were looking for are now selected in your whole document
  • With that selected choose the appropriate color and you are done!


Excel Create single reports in powerpivot

Everyone loves the pivottable right? Well sometimes the manager just wants that little extra. How about some single reporting based on your pivottable. In this scenario we will show data based and filtered on two countries. We have the option UK and we have the option USA. Now when we filter the data in the pivot table the result has to be presented on a single sheet. Here are the steps to reproduce the final result. For this example i am using data from the northwind database.

  • Create the pivottable from the raw data
  • With the pivot table in place make sure you have a report filter set to country
  • Now in the contextual (options) tab from the pivot table select “options” and expand the options. From the options select “Show report filter pages…”
  •  In the dialog select country (or the option you would like) and press OK
  • You will now have to ‘extra’ sheets with the data filtered based on the countries available in your pivot table. In our case there were two!

Note: be careful when selecting a filtered option with al lot of data in it. Excel will create a sheet for every entity in the filtered list!!

OneNote Insert Space in OneNote

OneNote keeps suprising me every day. Just because you have to figure out the various options available in this nifty application. Most of the functionality comes to the surface when you bump into situations where you keep asking yourself how can i do this more efficient.

As you might know by now you can type anywhere in OneNote. Every block is a single container which contains text or some object you have inserted. From time to time you will see a lot of white space between the containers you would like to get rid of. So you start dragging to containers towards each other risking the fine indentation you had before. To solve that problem use the Insert Space option. You cannot only increase the size of the space but you can also decrease the size of the space. Here is how to do this:

  • With the containers on your page click the insert tab and choose Insert Space option
  • Your mouse pointer will change into a horizontal line with an arrow point up and down. Remember we are trying to get rid of the white space between the containers
  • Now keep the left mouse button pressed and move the horizontal line towards the first container.
  • When done release the left mouse button and your whitespace will be vanished! The two containers are now properly aligned again!


PowerPoint Get into shape with PowerPoint

This is one of those nifty tips that can make you live a whole lot easier. Every now and then you might need a picture in your presentation. In many cases you just insert the picture and go on with your presentation. But what if your picture needs a different layout, something special? In that case use the shape as a container for your picture. Here is how this is done:

  •  In your presentation add a shape. Choose the shape that comes nearest to the desired layout. Don’t panic you can adjust this afterwards.
  • With the shape selected choose “Shape Fill” on the format tab. From that menu choose picture.
  • Select the picture you would like to see in your shape. Press OK. You now have a shape with your picture in it!.
  • Now for the final touches click the shape once more. Here is where you can touch your magic. In the format tab click on the “Edit shape” option and choose “Edit Points”. From this point on you can modify your whole shape just the way you like it!
  • From this point onwards it is up to you. Modify the shape anyway you like it and you might end up with one of the most impressing layout containers ever made!

Outlook2013 Done!

Oh that magic word! When using Outlook 2013 you might have seen this word before. But for those who haven’t it actually can serve a great purpose.
Here is the scenario: i would like to move mail to a certain folder an mark it as read. Sure there are various ways to accomplish this but first take a look at the default setting. This might just be the option you are looking for.

  • Click the mail you have received. This can be some not so important mail but is is mail you would like to keep for later.
  • Create a folder and name it “read later” (or whatever you would like it to be called)

  • now click the “Done” option in the Quick Steps menu
  • fill in the dialog that appears. This is a one time set up so next time it will perform the action straight away.

So there you go. With just one click you can get rid of all those so called important mail that is important to you but not for now 🙂 And the good thing is it is taking care of in a very structured way!

Picture this in smartart

PowerPoint is such a great application. It presents you with additional options the other office apps don’t. For that reason only PowerPoint should receive a medal 🙂

Ok here’s the scenario. I have a couple of pictures i would like to use in my presentation. They have different formats. Somehow i would like to get them in a smartart at one time. Here is how it can be done:

  • I add five random pictures from my visit to Yankee stadium (any baseball team will do! i just happened to visit the yankees, no offence).
  • With all the pictures selected choose “Picture Layout”
  • Select the SmartArt that meets the needs
  • With that click you’ve just created the coolest looking layout possible!

Note: if you want to go further experimenting, choose the ungroup option by right clicking the mouse. Do this twice and see the options that will come available for you at that point. Wow your pictures just became single objects you can manipulate even further!

Choose Paper Size in OneNote

In Microsoft Word you never bother to taak a look at the paper size of your document. The first time you started you did a setup for your document. But how about the paper size in OneNote? Not many people know the various options in papersize available in OneNote.

Check the View tab and then click the Paper Size option. The taskpane will show up and present you with the various papersize options to choose from! Well that’s another option to get started instead of figuring out if the info in OneNote will fit the printed page right?

  • Very simple but all so effective!


Edit received mail in Outlook

mail_stack When teaching a course i get these great questions from students how to perform a specific task. For a long time i have been trying to figure out how to perfom this task. Is this even possible. For a lot of people these questions seem simple. But for a lot of people the answer to their question can be a real eye opener! So this time i bumped into this question. Is it possible to edit the mail i receive. What i want to do is not reply to the mail but just make a quick note in the mail itself. If possible i want outlook to remind me at certain times. Maybe i can use this Follow Up feature? In this blogpost i will try to visualize the answer to this question. For this example i used a mail with a list of things to remind me and certain tasks i needed to do. I did not want to create a task via the taskobject.

So let’s get started. Open Outlook and open a mail you want to edit.

When you have openend your email you will be in seperate window. You will see that the ribbon consists of two tabs File and Message. In the Move group click on the Actions button. This will reveal some actions you can take at this time (see picture). Click on the Edit Message button. When you have done this you will see that the additional tabs in the ribbon are activated. The mouse cursor will be blinking in the body of your email. You can now edit your mail Edit_I

So this is my mail. In the picture below you see the same mail twice. On the left is the original message. On the right you see the message which i have edited. Not really spectacular but it gets the job done.

Edit_II edit_III

Edit_IV So what i want to do now is save the message an create a Follow Up so i can edit this list in this email from time to time. Click the save button on the Quick Access Toolbar. Your message is saved. Now with the message still opened click the Follow Up option in the ribbon. You will find follow up in group Tags in the Messages tab in the ribbon. Click the This Week option. This will give you a full week before Outlook will starts sendig you reminders about this email. Nice, a notification shows up in your mail. This will tell you the exact dates when this follow up will start and end. Yep this is how we want it. So you can close the email message now.


The last thing is to find out how this is made visible in your Outlook.

When you return to Outlook after closing the email you can see the follow up appear at the bottom right of your screen in the taskbar. It will show Today and will continu to do so for this whole week. When you want to make an alteration to the email you can double click the follow up task in the tasklist. This wil automatically open the email and you can pick Edit again as described above. Edit_VI

That’s it! You can edit a received email easily and create a follow up if you want to. So what are you waiting for… give it a try and happy edits 🙂

PowerPoint Presentation What Would You Do?

Alternative Ways of Doing Things
I’ve seen a lot of PowerPoint presentations. I like attending them for their content but also to see what the presenter created to backup his story during the presentation. What strikes me most is that so many people use akward techniques during their presentations. In this post i will try to explain what i mean and  how i think you can do this otherwise. As always the technique i present is not the technique but just an alternative way of accomplishing the same.

So read on, try if you recognize the issues stated and let me know how you would act or what your technique is.

1. Starting your presentation clean
When i create a PowerPoint presentation i test it to the limits. When i’m done i save the presentation as a .pps (2003 and earlier) or .ppsx (2007 and later). I place a shortcut on my desktop and make sure my desktop isn’t cluttered with icons that might distract my audience. To often i see presentations started right from the slide sorter where the presenter is making some last adjustments. We can see how many slides are awaiting us and that might just tick us of.

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Access Webdatabases New Kid On The Block

Access Webdatabase

The Access Webdatabase functionality came available with the release of Office 2010. Wow finally we can create databases for the web was my initial thought. It did not take long to realize that this was a wrong assumption. One of the prerequisites was SharePoint 2010 – Access Services. Hmm i did not have SharePoint on my pc so i was not able to build my first web database. Sure there were third parties offering hosted environments to create Access Webdatabases but i registered to late to take advantage of their free offer. After a certain period you had to pay for their services. I asked my company if it was possible to use some space in our SharePoint environment to play around with Access Services. They agreed and i was able to build my first webdatabase.

A new learning curve
I soon discovered that creating webdatabases is a whole new experience. The embedded macro, the macro editor, the switchboard everything i almost never used in my Access development became important. What? Why would you want to do it like that when you can do it like this… everytime this question popped up in my mind when creating my database. During that process i forgot one major part and that was Access Services (on SharePoint 2010). It was not that Access could not do it the way i wanted it but it was SharePoint restricting me constantly. I decided to start all over again and tried to find out what could be done instead of what i would like. First steps: create a table and record validation. In this blogpost i will write about creating a table for a webdatabase. In future post i will write about the process of creating a simple webdatabase for SharePoint. So if you have the possibility join me in this adventure of creating a table for a webdatabase to publish later.

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Modify The Style Of Your Table Of Contents

Creating a nice looking table of contents
Sure we have read numerous documents which contained TOC’s. Most of them are pre-generated by Word. A great feature and very easy to use. You create your document, apply heading styles to certain headers and choose “insert table of contents” from the ribbon. But what if that table of contents just doesn’t do it for me? How can i adjust the various options in a table of contents. In this post i will show you a way to modify the auto generated Table Of Contents.

A reference
A table of contents is nothing more than a reference. You can actually see this after you have created a table of contents. For this post i’ve created some dummy text and created a table of contents.

Now take a look at this table of contents after we have pressed ALT-F9.
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Get Organized: Use Sections In Your PowerPoint Presentation!

The preparation

Tell me, how many times have you seen one of these? If you use PowerPoint on a regular basis you might see them all the time. In fact you might be looking at your own presentations and think what’s wrong with that? Nothing at all, but how easy is it to search for those slides which represent a specific portion of that presentation? Exactly that’s where the use of sections in PowerPoint come in handy. Click on the image to enlarge (big picture!)

In this blogpost i will show you how easy it is to use sections in your PowerPoint presentations. This does not only makes it easy for you to work with several portions of your presentation, it is also perfect for collaboration and printing.
Warning: once you have used this you might not want to go back to your old way of prepping but that’s exactly what i’m hoping for 🙂
So open up a PowerPoint presentation and follow the steps in this post.
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