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Category Archives: Development

Why are you selling what no one wants?

Q: Why do we go to web sites?  Or to stores?  Or to movie theatres?  Or … anywhere? Have you ever really considered that question, I mean, seriously considered it. 

People go to places for information, for entertainment, to interact with people, to buy things, but people go to them always for… something.  We go to places because they have something we want.  Pretty simple model for anyone who’s in business… supply and demand.  People demand – and you supply.  Everyone walks away happy.  That’s the goal.

So, let me ask you why… when we build web sites and software and things for people that we give them stuff they don’t want?  Why do we purposely make it difficult to locate our products.  Intentionally engineer them – to be almost painful… and we as users, are so used to this experience… that we don’t even blink when we see it.

Here’s some food for thought. If you bought a magazine (yes I’m back to the magazine metaphor… work with me here it’s worth it…)  would you enjoy the magazine if every article in it began with the table of contents for the entire magazine at the beginning?    Seriously?  How ridiculous would that be.

Wired Magazine does.  Well, their web page does.  Every web page does.  We call it the navigation menu.  It’s this really cool security blanket on the top of every page.  We just … assume it has to be there because – hey, how can you navigate if you don’t have it??  Right??  I mean… right?  We have to have it. 

Let me let you in on a little usability secret.  No.  No you don’t.  In fact, you probably only seldom actually use it, and when you do – you only use it because, well, it’s there.  It’s something we put up there back in the early days when we were trying to figure out how best to navigate on the internet and we, frankly just kept doing it even after people started just using the back button. 

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Here’s a standard map of a classic style web site hierarchy.  It’s not how you’d navigate it, but it is how the links function… go to the main site – then there’s a sub page… then there’s the info you actually want to see…so this is… what the site really looks like to you.  It’s pretty much your experience.

I get to the page, I click, I click, I read.

But… that’s not how a magazine works is it?  Magazine, I look upimage what I want, and then I go straight to it.  In a magazine… your experience is like this… it’s open and read.  Because that’s what you want.  That’s what you expect of it.  But… what if we drop the concept of a magazine.  Let’s say we’re going car shopping. 

Is your experience one of you go to a dealer and they have 8 cars in the window, and every time you want to look at what they have, the dealer pulls out a flip book and makes you flip through them like a police mug shot book – and then he’ll bring one up to you?  And some of the time, he comes back and says, “Sorry that units not available.”.  And every time he drags out the flipbook – there’s a map of the store that drops down in front of you, and pictures of whatever models they’re really pushing this month are stuffed into your mug shot book and they take up like 25% or more of the pages and the pictures of the actual cars to chose from are like … thumbnails, and you have to ask the guy to bring one up every time you see one that might be what you’re looking for.  That’s currently how a lot of online shopping works. 

Now, here’s what you wish would happen… I come in, I ask the guy if he has any of the model of car I like, and he steps aside and the cars I like are on display.  In fact my favorite models are on display and I can see them right there.  It’s like magic.

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  Don’t believe me?  Here’s an actual car dealership website.  Here is imagethe same website… with just what I came there to do, and everything else that the web site has on it obscured…

Over 80% of the site… has stuff I don’t want to do.  I mean really, there’s more real estate on that page devoted to navigating the web site than there is stuff there for me to buy. 

imageSo… what’s the alternative?  How about considering that no matter what – there’s basically a 2 tier structure for content, and focus just on the content in those top 2 tiers.  Main Page – > Car Page. Or imageMain Page –> Deals, or Main Page –> Trucks. 

As you can see – this is already getting the customer to their choice faster… they can perform their searches, save them for comparisons, and in general – we’re getting the user where they want to go faster and easier.  We could, include things like financing and research … as an option off the page.  The idea is we get the customer to what they want, effortlessly.  We don’t waste their visuals on navigation menus, on options to download phone apps, and so on.  If we need to provide financing as an option… then we include that as an option.  A good place for this is at the bottom of the screen – because it doesn’t break the flow of what the users doing. It’s not in their face, but it’s an option available and accessible. 

And obviously we’d have a specific details page for the car itself we’ve selected.  But we don’t need all these very big navigations and distractions that break the user out of what it is they’re looking to do – which is find a car.  It lets you sell the user what they want … and not what it takes to navigate your web site.

 
 

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Why I only create things for …

I just had a discussion with a designer friend.  As usual, I got my ripping on for only doing stuff for Windows based systems.  I got my usual lecture about the glories of design for Apple and how the iPhone was going to take over the world and it really, lets face it – already had.   How Google’s chrome was right behind it.  How could I possibly still be thinking of designing anything for Windows? It was dead – a dinosaur.  Hardly bleeding edge.  It died a while ago and I needed to really jump on the bandwagon.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m the first to appreciate the design and innovation of the iPhone, even the Mac, Linux and other OS’s… Heck, I’m a huge fan of the design work that went into the OLPC.  But let’s have a reality check here before we all go running down to drink Kool-Aid and jump in the river to be saved okay?

Here’s the latest numbers on what Operating Systems are being used to access the Internet from NetMarketShare, based on actual use by people. 

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Now… if you want to know why I specialize in Windows based technologies… there’s your answer.  Pretty simple. 

But to the bigger question of “Is designing for Windows based technologies no longer “bleeding edge”?  Windows, to me, isn’t static, the desktop isn’t static.  It’s very very much alive.  Very dynamic.  Because it’s just an Operating System.  It’s just a desktop.  What I put on that desktop.  What I make it do.  How I make it do that – that’s beyond the bleeding razors edge. 

Anyone can design for a new platform and be creative or original.  Literally even bad ideas become “bleeding edge”, even the ones which aren’t really all that useful or practical or provide a level of function that people didn’t have before. 

If you look at the iPhone development community – it’s a bit like the rest of the mobile phone community.  Aside

Augmented Reality Watch Demo

from work being done in augmented reality – which are currently mostly demos using adobe after effects -I haven’t seen anything there that really excited me and made me say, “Wow I should look into more of that.”. 

Now, there’s a lot of stuff going on now in the Augmented Reality space (I’ve mentioned in previous posts the merging of video and entertainment and new technologies so this isn’t like its a shocker).  But a lot of the really really cool stuff isn’t just happening in the mobile market.  And until it’s happening on more than just the iPhone – well it’s not of much interest to me.

Why?  Look at the numbers above.  iPhones sitting with around .53% of the overall OS market share, now look at the Android… it’s not even a year old fully and it’s sitting at .09%.  In two years – the iPhone has only been able to snake out .53%??  It’s freaking everywhere it seems… everywhere I go I see people talking about building an app for the iPhone… and yet it’s marketshare is .53% of the overall Internet viewership.  

And this does not mean that I think that Androids a better OS – it’s not.  It’s that the uses of the iPhone, Android, etc., are not the uses that people are actually using.  The next jumps in technology in the mobile space will not be phones.  Phones have been done.  Phones are going to merge with something else because phones are a communications system.

I’ve said for decades now the big jump there (communications) is going to be computer telepathy.  Yeah, yeah, that’s sci-fi – it’s too weird and it’s decades out…. I know.  That’s the point.  You want to be cutting edge – bleeding edge – you go decades out and work back.  You don’t go 3-4 years back and work forward.  Android, Apple, all of these are as much stuck in their platforms as Windows is to the desktop.

Windows – is moving out of the desktop.  Surface and other cool technologies are moving it out of there and into the 2.5 and 3D spaces – ala Minority Report.  Eventually I would not be surprised if we see them move to mindspaces of communication.  If they don’t – they should. That’s bleeding edge.

The iPhone – moved to the iPad.  That wasn’t a jump forward, at best it was a jump sideways and back.  We’ve been to the eBook and the tablet space.  Yeah they’re doing some nice stuff there.  But there’s a reason they didn’t sell before and it wasn’t aesthetics, it was ergonomics and practicality and functionality.  iPad’s closer to what I would have liked for that kind of thing… in fact I’m a huge fan of the design of the iPad. 

But the iPad space… isn’t new ground.  It’s not even taking old ground to new heights.  It’s just taking it to new places.  For me – that’s not enough.  I’m also guessing that for a lot of people it won’t be either.  Don’t get me wrong we’re going to see about 11,000 iPad copiers out there and it’s going to be a huge market.  But it’s not ever going to bust into that 92% marketshare a whole lot.  Why not?  Because – if it was going to – it already would have.  Sure it’s going to dent it.  But not by a whole lot, and certainly not enough for me to justify a lot of time thinking about it.

I’m still thinking about quantum systems and mindspace systems because that’s where I want to go.  Where people will eventually have to go.  And at the end of the day… y’know what… they’ll still be using that desktop I’ll predict right now.  Eventually it will go away.  Something will replace it.  But the reign of this dinosaur is still many years from being over.

On my drive to work the other day, they had a talk radio show on technology talking about the new 3D TVs out there.  How the cost on them was pretty low.  One caller pointed out he got a 58 inch screen, blu-ray player, and 2 dinoridesets of 3D glasses all for under $3,000.  Which – is pretty impressive.  Then someone asked him, “So what movies are available?” and he said, “uh… so far all I’ve found is one.”.  <insert crickets chirping sound here>

Bleeding edge is cool.  Designing for it is really cool and I love to do that.  It’s dreamer design work and incredibly rewarding.  But designing something that isn’t used steals from that reward.  I want people to see what I’ve done  – comment – criticize – help improve it – give it life.  That’s bleeding edge. 

So… for now.  I’ll stick with making my dinosaur out live it’s usefulness and find new ways for people to ride it.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2010 in Design, Development, Rants

 

The Next Generation…

Been a while since I got into what’s going on with fringe technologies people are going to see soon (soon is naturally a relative term) so I figured it was time to get everyone up to speed.

Several years ago I made the rather bold statement we’d see a quantum computer in 2-3 years, and a functioning unit in 5.  That was 2003 as I recall.  We actually saw a quantum computer hit sales around 2008.  A lot of people have commented that’s not a “true” quantum computer since it relied on existing tech – which has known barriers with Moore’s Laws.  This is kind of the purist view of a quantum computer IMHO.  But just to be fair … here’s a blip Science Daily about a “true” quantum computer  from Japan this week…

Molecular Computations: Single Molecule Can Calculate Thousands of Times Faster Than a PC

ScienceDaily (May 6, 2010) — An experimental demonstration of a quantum calculation has shown that a single molecule can perform operations thousands of times faster than any conventional computer.

Now, it’s arguable that a this is just a fourier calculation and there’s not a full blown PC or anything connected to it… and on and on…  Let me be clear.  The future is not something created in one massive jump over night.  It’s made in a lot of very little steps that happen not every day – but every second.  It’s waves and waves of the next second, that cause you to one day wake up and discover that the tide of yesterdays has already come in… and you’re up to your neck in tomorrow.  Wink

Here’s a good example….  watch how this kind of thing goes from a news blip you don’t care about to most of the things needed to actually make it a reality – in your hands and you complaining about how the “new” model has the “cool” features…

In Japan they create a Iodine molecule based computer that’s 1,000’s of times faster than what we have today.  We saw that above … but… over in…  Zurich they’re creating an Optical Transistor Circuit for computers…

Optical Computer Closer: Optical Transistor Made From Single Molecule

ScienceDaily (July 3, 2009) — ETH Zurich researchers have successfully created an optical transistor from a single molecule. This has brought them one step closer to an optical computer.

Oh wait… how do you connect an Optical system to an Electronic system like your keyboard or your web cam on your laptop?  Hey… sorry – the future already happened on that one already… happened back in 2008 in case you missed it… so we have that…

Single-Molecule Sensing Breakthrough: Optical and Electronic Measurements Made Simultanously

ScienceDaily (Feb. 11, 2008) — In a study that could lay the foundation for mass-produced single-molecule sensors, physicists and engineers at Rice University have demonstrated a means of simultaneously making optical and electronic measurements of the same molecule.

Now… Atom based Quantum computer core(s)… Optical transistors – and optical / electronic switching and sensors… and then there’s the amplifiers and distribution systems (trust me – they have it underway), and the power supply which is most likely going to be some kind of hydrogen fuel battery (about 3 weeks between charges and uses… tap water to power it.  Yeah… its very real) .  And all of this, btw, are not the only works of their kind being done.  There are several approaches on all of this work being done simultaneously around the globe.

These are just the most recent blips I found.  Fact is – a lot of work is going on right now, and that’s not even the only quantum atom computer out there, once again it’s just the most recent.  And I know the naysayers are saying “Hey you need a lot more than just a transistor and a processor what about…”  – Microwave amplifiers needed to retrieve the data??  Like I said…  Already being put together.

Okay but what about… storing data?  Nanodots on the short term – about 3-5 years.  You’re expected to be looking at a type mega-high-speed SSD card which holds several terrabytes.  Yeah… that’s right I said Terrabytes – on one of those little cards that you use for your digital camera.  Holographic storage according to GE and 3M is just a few years after that and  the actual speeds or limits for storage are on those are expected to be frankly – science fiction levels.

The fact is the computers found on TV shows like Star Trek are just around the corner.  Sci-fi like computing capabilities for all of us keep coming out, but like the guy at the beach waiting for the tide to come in, we’re expecting some massive Tsunami while the waters inch up past our feet, to our ankles, our knees, our hips… all the while complaining it’s not here yet.

Here’s some perspective for you… 20 years ago… there was no internet a “laptop” weighed around 5 lbs or more, and you had 256 colors (if you were lucky) for a screen and the biggest hard drive was around 10 mb.  For $350 now, you can get a 3G Netbook that is more powerful, much faster, with more memory a vastly longer battery life and better graphics, than a laptop that 5 years ago – cost you $1500.   

The “Next Generation” of computers are here every day.  We’re just so busy complaining about how slow, how cheesy, how limited they are we keep missing the

advances we’re seeing.  Just some food for thought while you wait for your quantum laptop … or your computer brain interface… oh… yeah forgot to mention – award winners for Computer Brain Interface designs were announced this month too

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Posted by on May 10, 2010 in Design, Development, Future

 

what’s been keeping me up at night…

Been a bit busy… so I figured I’d give everyone a taste of the somewhat promised cXML eCommerce toy I’m working on.  So here are a few screen shots.  As you can see – it’s designed to load cXML or XML and perform validations.  It also allows the tester to actually POST the cXML PunchOut and OrderRequests directly to the server.  This retrieves complete header information.  The tester can auto-generate OCI HTML web forms that can be sent to customers for their own testing.  

You can also verify Authentication Tokens, Session IDs, and perform HostName / IP Address checks. 

The cXML validation allows the user to validate against any of a number of DTD files, from cXML to those used by OSN or even 3rd party or local files.  Anyway… that’s what has been keeping me from Posting.   In the next week or so – I’ll get some code up and discuss how eCommerce procurement systems work a little more directly. 

Until then… you’re just going to have use these shots and wonder.  (And for the record … yes I have removed any sensitive info from these screen shots.  The cXML displayed is a generic OrderRequest form. 

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Posted by on April 3, 2009 in Design, Development, Internet, Work

 

Grumblings from the field…

In a bit of a hurry this morning so this’ll just be a cap up of what’s going on.

The Job Market in the Pac Norwest for software development and IT has definitely taken a blow – but there’s still a lot of work out there.  I still receive about 4 or 5 job requests per week (my resume is unusual as I have job skills that are uncommon).  But most of these for the last three weeks are not ones I’d really look into unless the economy is bad.  The practice of sending out contact emails for positions with unrealistically low or unrealistic job requirements (usually both) for the purposes of being able to say, “We couldn’t find anyone here in the USA qualified” is still pretty rampant.  I’ve seen about 6 of those in the last month.  (When was the last time you saw an honest request for a Program Manager with a background as a Sr. Developer with 10 years experience for $25/hr??  Yeah – they seriously want to fill that position.)

It’s insulting and disgusting that companies will go to that length to justify hiring outside the US, and it’s more annoying that the offers come from respected legal and recruiting firms.  I won’t say who I’ve seen use this the most – however you might be surprised their one of the longest and major supporters of Open Source software and similar initiatives.  I’ve said it before that one of my core dislikes of the OSS community is it’s naiveté regarding the fact that their largest supporters exist because they’re too cheap to pay for software and have always felt software had no value.  It becomes pretty obvious when a companies true motivations for greed and being cheap are so thinly veiled behind the cloak of “We’re one of the good guys!”. 

Let’s face it – if you’re not making your money off the development of the software that people use, then you have to be making it off the process of selling it or supporting it.  In a model such as that the guy on the low end of the totem pole will always be the guy who created it in the first place.  They are the ones who’s efforts are not perceived as having value because it’s their efforts they place as having little or no cost associated to them.  (If you’re not charging anyone for the hours it took to develop  product – which is where that model places the cost recoup at – then the developers and creators are effectively valued at ‘zero cost”.)

So where do these companies place value?  They place it on the management end of things and the sales end of things.  The sales of the software, and over a long term the sale of the software support, or the sales of the software as a service.  Bottom line – the jobs they really care about are managers and sales people.  For the people who come up with the software, who spend the hundreds and thousands of man hours to code it to test it and to bring it to life?  Well, they’re a necessary evil – one which if they can find anyone to do it cheaper – they will.  Which is why yes… they do send out emails to people here in the USA looking for jobs, people they’ve often

laid off or let go, giving unrealistically low, or unrealistic job requirements, or in some cases just bizarre job requirements, all so they can be turned down.  They can then go before the US Congress and Senate and say, “We looked for people here in the USA for these jobs – but there aren’t any who meet the qualifications!  Can we go overseas and get them without losing our tax breaks???”. 

The HR departments of these companies can sign up for (and line up for) classes to learn how to do this.  And this doesn’t burn you up – the fact is this is not the “American Job” vs “Overseas Job” issue that drives this, and those probably hardest hit are – as incredible as this may seem – overseas wokers.  Overseas, in places like Hyderabad, Beijing and the former Soviet Republics you’ll find the amount of fraud based job services there is a full blown industry not all that different than Coyote hustlers that tell immigrants they can sneak them through the American border but take their money and leave them, often with no hope of survival.   Now, if you say, “Hey we’re cracking down on these bastards”, I’d like to point out – they busted 11 people and companies.  11 of them is not even a band aid on this gaping wound.  11 busts isn’t even lip service to the literally billions being spent on this.  The fact is that as long as it’s profitable for these companies to treat the people who create products you use like dirt (and for many of us – that person is us) they will continue to do so. 

So – hey – support the open source movement – make software free to everyone.  It is after all, just someone’s idea – it’s not like has value right?  Anyone can do it, and with the right sales model we can recoup the loss by selling maintenance, and services.  While you’re at – you may want to head down to Walmart and buy a nice coat made by children overseas to keep warm in on that unemployment line.  Just some food for thought. 

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2009 in Design, Development, Internet, Work

 

Project Status Template deux

Got a ping from someone asking if the Project Status Email Template could do …. MS Project inserts.

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Indeed you can – but it is a bit tricky.  As you can see from the screen shot – the end result in an email looks pretty well… cool.  image

Some caveats – first of all – you gotta have MS Project on the machine to insert an MS Project Object into the template.  So that’s a bigge – because you’re actually inserting an MS Project Object into the email. 

The other users – will not need to have MS Project installed – because the areas you have showing will become images.  The same is true for excel spreadsheets and other embedded inserts.

So … how do we do this? 

Real simple… first we’re going to create our template – just like in the last blog posting.  But where you want to Insert the MS Project (place the cursor where you want it in the file – it’s easier than moving this later) … then click on the “Insert” tab and select “Object”.

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Now – this will bring up the Object menu.  Scroll down the list to Microsoft Office Project Document and Click “OK”.  This will embed the object into your email template.

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Once embedded – you’ll need to adjust the various values to your liking.  But… what’s that you say?  “Oh NOES!!!  I DON’T WANT TO PUT IN ALL THAT DATA AGAIN!!”.  Then don’t.

You simply open your Project Plan.. copy the rows… and then open the email template – and copy them in there.  It really is that simple. You will need to adjust the viewing area displayed – the Height and Width to reflect the email but – updating it is pretty simple.  And the results make you look great as you can see.

So … save yourself a ton of time, a ton of effort – and template. 

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You can find this file here:

http://cid-e46e5f5a0e3b5854.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Office%20Templates/Project%20Status%20Advanced.zip

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2009 in Design, Development, Work

 

Outlook Template power ACTIVATE! Form of… a Status report!

I’ve been doing a lot of documentation lately, which is brain numbing at best, and time consuming at the same time.  So when a boss asked if I’d need more time for a status report I naturally said, “No I should be good…”. 

Now I can do that (and look really good) because of a little trade secret that almost no one I’ve met uses… the power of the outlook template.  I’ll go one further and say, almost no one uses templates except those of us that seem to be in some hidden fraternity of Program Managers who share these little secrets… like templates.

I keep a template around that does all kinds of fun Project Summary things – and I’m including it here.  Here’s a list of things that are built in:

  1. Has all the people who need to be on the report – already in the "CC” line for me.
  2. Has a current spreadsheet of the issue items (my more advanced version actually pulls the values from a Issue Tracker – which you can look into doing sometime but this has the drop downs and auto-formating for status.
  3. Drop downs (see Sheet2 when you double click on the table – you can edit the values there)

So all I have to do – is basically load it, click on the fields I want to update and hit send.  Major time saver and everyone thinks you’re like… the coolest most on top of things guy ever.

Let’s cover how this magic happens – first you need to know how to make a template from Outlook.  Which… is surprisingly really easy.

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All you do – is literally create an email just the way you want it In this case, I’ve put in all the elements that I want in the email I want to send out.  I’ve done a couple other things as well so that it will make it easier to customize things later – like special headings. 

When I need to swap my status from Green to Yellow and so on all I need to do is select the text and click on the “Format Text” tab and select the style I want.

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I also want to have my CC and To fields preset with the names of everyone who will need to receive my status report.  The thing to keep in mind is that this is not a “one time” message.  It’s going to have certain things in it that I’ll need to do over and over.   So I can create all my headings, any graphics that I’ll want to reuse, and any tables that will need to be updated.  Now – if I’m going to just update some fields then I’ll probably use the Table feature of imageOutlook and embed a table.

If the table is going to have a lot of data that I’ll be typing in often (like names or email) then I’ll use the table feature to embed an excel spreadsheet, and on the Sheet2 page I’ll create a series of terms and names.  Here I’ve put in terms for my Status types, I’ve created a range of values for percentages of completion, email addresses of those who I’ll use in my report.  These ranges – I’ll use by going back to the Main Sheet – the one I want to display and use them as Drop Down Lists.   The drop down list is a little used feature, but very handy for tricks like this one. 

imageYou create it by first creating a range of values somewhere either in the workbook or on the same sheet.  You then select imagewhere you want to create the drop down box, and then on the Data tab (which you’ll note that you now have one in Outlook once you are in the Spreadsheet, just like you do in Excel).  imageClicking on this will open the Data Validation Dialog Box.  Once you have this you’ll want to select “List” from the drop down list.  This will bring up the options for drop down lists from the dialog box.  

 

In the Source section – you’ll want to put in the range you created over on Sheet2.  You can do this either by having named the range, or by putting in the actual range “=Sheet2!$B$3:$B$7” in the imageSource.  Either will work, although using a named range is somewhat easier, especially if you have a lot of ranges to deal with.    The end result will create a cell that has a drop down list on it.  You can copy this cell as you would any other and that makes automation a bit easer.

Another thing you can do with this cell is… use Conditional Formatting Options so that if the values are within a range or if the cell contains certain text – we want it to appear a certain way (background color red – text white) or even contain specific icons or color bars.  Really it’s pretty amazing how in-depth you can get with reporting features doing this.  And with all of it – you just click on a value, and spreadsheet updates it on the fly.  Which leaves you more time for whatever details or other information you need to add and still look like a rock star. image

Now – when you’ve finished creating your email artwork of status reporting – or whatever it is you need to template out… you just… click Save As.   The Save As dialog box will appear and you save it as an Outlook Template by selecting that option off the Save As Type drop down.

Now, it will save this by default in your profile.  So if you want to save it for sending it for someone else to use, use Save As and select another location that’s easier to find.

If you’ve done all of this properly – you’ll now have a spiffy template all ready to use over and over again, and not have to fill in all those fields and do all that work all over.   All you’ll need to do is load the template and use it.

 

Step Step Two – Load the Template….

To load the template – just click on “New” in Outlook and scroll down to “Choose Form…” which, imageironically enough will allow you to load a form.  Now there are all kinds of forms that you can pick from – and if you’ve never played imagewith this do so – you can get really creative with forms. 

But for today, we just want the form we’ve created – which is in the “User Templates in File System”.  And you locat that by clicking on the drop down box at the top of the dialog, and then picking the “User Templates in File System” category, which if you’ve done imagethis right… will bring up all the files you have saved that are templates.  If you do it wrong…. it will cause an error and ninja assassins will be dispatched to your home from their secret lair beneath the Google headquarters.  (Okay – I made that up… their lair is actually just south of Portland near a winery that they use as a cover.)

 

Anyway… you want to pick out the form you’ve created.  If you’re using the one I have up as a sample imagehere the name will be “Project Status and Summary”.  So – if that’s what you’re using – click on it so it can load and you can begin being a genius. 

Now when the template loads – you’ll want to fill in all the categories and in one of the screen shots above I’ve given you some clues – but you should modify this to your own liking and add the kinds of things YOU need.

  The one I’m providing is just a starting point for you – in the words of the beloved Ms. Frizzle, “Get Messy!  Make Mistakes!  Learn!”.  And one of the cool things you can learn how to do – is use embedded excel spreadsheets.

 

The table on the form – looks like a table until you click on it … so click on it.  Because it’s really an excel spreadsheet with fun stuff you can update on the fly.  So click away.   But you should know that when when you click on it – it’s going to say something like this:image

so ignore that and click “Yes” because what’s the point of doing all this… if we just click “No” and end it all now?  We know the item that we’re loading and we also know it’s got an excel spreadsheet built into it so we know why they gave us that warning.  We WANT to be able to do cool things with it, so there’s no security issue.    Which should, give you some idea of the real power of a good template – since you can actually do stuff with them that requires an occasional security warning.  image

Now – if you play with this you’re going to note that there are drop down boxes – and there is conditional formatting on those drop down boxes.  So when you enter a task name – and click on the boxes to the right of it…. you can change the values without having to type them in every time.  Just grab one and click it, move on to the next… wash, rinse, repeat until done. 

Here are some examples… of the stuff in them… the first set of drop downs allow you to select from various project status types – imageCompleted, In-Progress and so on … and IF you pick one of them – it will automatically reformat it to the color scheme that corresponds to that type of status.  The next is the degree of completion – which goes from 0%-100% and you get these very cool traffic light colors when you pick those. 

imageBasically, this allows you to focus on filling in the information instead of filling in all kinds of cool formatting, setting up things every time.  As time savers go – this one is definitely a keeper for anyone who has to do reports, news letters or any process that requires you fill in a lot of repeated information, terms, titles and so on.

There’s tons more you can do – this is just the tip of the iceberg, like most of the stuff I do here it’s a starting point for you.  You can find out more about – and lay your hands on literally hundreds of great templates you can customize and make your own at Microsoft Office’s Template Library.  Free templates for almost every Office Product are available here.

You can … of course also snag the template I used as an example from my Skydrive here:

Direct Link:
http://cid-e46e5f5a0e3b5854.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Office%20Templates/Project%20Status%20and%20Summary.zip

Until later… have fun… be productive… and someone find out when the next new Venture Brothers Episode is for me? 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2009 in Design, Development, Work