Computers are tools to help us perform a task but if we use the wrong software for the job then we will do a botch job and it will take much longer. So, the first step to using an application proficiently is understanding what that application has been designed to do and which tasks it does best. Here are some ideas on how best to use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Word is for working with lots of text in documents such as letters, reports, newsletters, manuals, books and so on. The first thing you do when using Word is select the paper size you want to use. Word is designed to fit the text onto a specific size of paper as it is most likely that the end product will be printed at some point. It has excellent facilities for working with long documents such as Styles, Table of Contents and cross references.
Although Word is provided with features for working with graphics I would recommend using PowerPoint to create any diagrams/illustrations and insert them into your Word document as a picture. Use PowerPoint or Publisher for creating posters and signs, which are better for laying out text and pictures on a page.
Word is not for storing lists of data, such as a membership list. I would highly recommend that you use Excel for this job.
It is worth pointing out that if you know how to use Word then creating email messages in Outlook becomes more efficient as they use the same features.
Excel has been designed to store, organise and analyse data such as numbers and lists. Use Excel for any calculations with numbers. Think of Excel as a calculator but with more features, such as functions to add up a row or column of numbers, work out an average value, count a list and so on. Excel is then great for summarising the data into charts and tables.
Excel has some excellent database functionality, so it is easy to sort and filter lists of data, such as a parts list. However, if the list contains vast numbers of records, and the same data is repeated in several spreadsheets, then I recommend you use a database application, such as Microsoft Access.
It is not Excel’s primary function to fit the data onto a sheet of paper. Therefore, don’t use Excel to create a report/letter/invoice where the primary content is text laid out on an A4 sheet of paper, for example. Either embed an Excel spreadsheet in your Word document or copy and paste the calculation/chart from Excel. If you want to print your spreadsheet you can ask Excel to scale the spreadsheet to fit on an A4 sheet of paper, for example, and you can set margins and headers and footers, but don’t expect this to work like Word as this is not Excel’s primary task.
Don’t be tempted to use Excel to create a form that is to fit on an A4 sheet of paper, you will find this much easier using a table in Word.
PowerPoint has been designed primarily for the creation of an on-screen slide presentation or running slide show/video. It has features to help you with the writing of your speech to ensure it flows correctly. It has lots of whizzy transition and animation features but be careful not to overload your presentation which may detract from the message you are trying to give to your audience. PowerPoint should be used to support your speech not take over – keep it simple. Your presentation may be the first contact your audience will have with your company so employ someone like a graphic designer to get the look and feel right.
PowerPoint gives you the ability to add additional text to each slide which can be displayed as speaker notes, and/or printed using the Handouts feature.
PowerPoint provides excellent graphics features for those of us who do not need specific photographic or design software. It enables text and pictures to be easily laid out on a page so is great for creating posters and signs, for example. You can choose to lay these out on an A4 sized slide, for example. PowerPoint is great for manipulating pictures and for creating diagrams/illustrations. The diagram can be saved as a picture and inserted into a Word document, for example.
I hope this gives you an idea of the primary job of these applications. Before using any software, it is a good idea to find out what it has been designed to do. Attending a training course is an excellent way to learn how to use a software application proficiently.
Published on The Business Woman Today Dec 2016