Getting Started with Macros: How to Turn on and Use the Developer Ribbon in PowerPoint (or any MS Office tool)

macro iconMacros can be very useful but often go unused. Having always been somewhat of a hack, I do not like to take no for an answer. Macros have helped me work around problems which seemed unsolvable.

Although this post does not contain a single macro file, I plan to write a few posts about specific macros to make an instructional designer’s job a little easier. I will be focusing on PowerPoint as the venue for these macro blog posts, but you can use this info to use Macros in most of MS Office.

In this post, I will cover a few macro basics:

What is a Macro?

According to dictionary.com, a macro – short for macroinstruction – is an instruction that represents a sequence of instructions in abbreviated form (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/macro). An example of a real-world macro would be going to work. If my abbreviated form, macro statement is going to work, then my sequence of instructions would really be:

  • Gather work items
  • Open car door
  • Close car door
  • Put on seat belt
  • Place key in ignition and turn
  • Place car in reverse
  • etc, etc, etc, until I arrive at work

Someone will ask me to perform the going to work command instead of telling me each and every step of going to work. At the end of completing the instruction going to work, my physical appearance at work is proof that the macro ran successfully. If I did not make it to work, then going to work failed, and “troubleshooting” ensues 🙂

Macros are pretty much the same thing. A macro can type for you, add objects, set formatting, open files –  essentially anything you can do on a computer, a macro can redo for you. They can be simple commands (1. copy; 2. paste; 3. move down one line), or they can be complicated – capable of making decisions based on data you provide.

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The Macro File Type

notepad macro example

This is a macro in Notepad.

A file with the .bas extension can be opened in PowerPoint and run as a macro. Macros are written in any text editor – I usually use Notepad. When done with my text file, I change the extension from .txt to .bas.

Not a programmer? No worries! Part of the beauty of macros is the ability to share them. You will likely find little snippets of code online, and you will be copy/pasting them into Notepad or some other text editor (or directly in the Visual Basic editor). However, please be cautious about where you get macros! They can be used for good as well as for evil. The same way you would not eat food found on the street, you should use caution when finding macros online.

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How Do I Use Macros in PowerPoint?

Macros can be run from the Developer ribbon in PowerPoint (or Word or Excel). If you already have a macro, here are the steps to run it (see a short video clip here).

developer ribbon

Developer Ribbon in PowerPoint

  1. Click the Developer Ribbon in PowerPoint
  2. In the Code section, click the Visual Basic button
  3. In the window that opens, click
    macro window

    Macro window

    File > Import File…

  4. Find and open your macro file
  5. Close the Microsoft Visual Basic Window (use the X in the top-right corner)… you will be returned to PowerPoint
  6. From the Developer Ribbon, click Macros
  7. With your macro selected, click Run

When you try to save your presentation after using a macro, you may be prompted to save it as a .pptm file. However, this can be considered undesirable. Do you need to do this? The short answer is no. You can simply Save As a .pptx.

In my opinion, there are two good reasons to save as a .pptm, and both must be true:

  1. Can you share .pptm files? Some IT Departments will restrict these file types, because they can be used by bad people to do damage to your computer. If you can’t save a .pptm file, you can likely still save your finished work as a .pptx file.
  2. Are you and your team okay with using a .pptm? File types can be confusing, and some people may be wary to open the file, and some software (like web conferencing applications) will not recognize a .pptm as a PowerPoint file. Do your research first!

Help – Where Is My Developer Ribbon!

If you found that you got stuck above at Step 1: Select the Developer Ribbon because the ribbon isn’t there, don’t fret (yet…)!  Unless you are on IT lockdown, you can enable your Developer ribbon using the steps below (you can also view a short video here):

  1. Click the Office Button

    enable developer ribbon

    Where to turn on your developer ribbon.

  2. Select PowerPoint Options (lower right corner)
  3. Make sure there is a check in the box next to “Show Developer tab in the Ribbon”
  4. Click OK

Note that this setting may be hidden, grayed out, or made unavailable due to your IT Department’s security policies. If this is the case, please reach out to your IT Department for further assistance.

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[CYA] Disclaimer 🙂

Perception of macros are pretty broad, and sometimes the unknowing person can make them sound like they pose a devastating threat, akin to leaving your keys in your car, with all the windows open and a sign that says “STEAL ME!”.

Generally, people can do bad things with macros, but if you are not looking to do bad things, nothing I ever tell you or show you will ever get you into trouble, break PowerPoint, or make you lose data. However, macro security is important. Do not use macros from untrusted places or sources. I will show you how to build macros, and if they do not work, they simply stop running. If you stray from my steps, risk-wise, you are on your own… but I encourage calculated curiosity and do wish you lots of luck!

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First Time Hosting an All-day Instructor-led Course

Yesterday was the first time I was host for an all-day training. Although my past experience may have helped me prepare for all this stuff, there were some things which surprised me. I’ve been the instructor for five-day software training events, some where it was business analysis followed by training. I was the instructor for a 14-week A+ certification course. I’ve taught 8-week Microsoft Office adult ed classes. I’ve hosted countless numbers of WebEx training sessions, and I have somewhere around 30 eLearning courses under my belt.

Being the host of an all-day event required pulling from my personal experiences, but it also made me realize that there was far more expertise involved. Here’s a diary of the day.

The course was scheduled to start at 8:30am. I was at work until almost 7pm the day before setting up the room and adding last minute printouts to the student handbooks (individual presentations are also posted online).

  • 07:30am: Planned time of arrival to work
  • 07:42am: Actual time of arrival to work (thanks, Springfield traffic)
  • 07:46am: BSOD (blue screen of death) when I tried to print the script for the class
  • 07:52am: Finally got the room. A SME was already there before me. In my head, I was chagrined.
  • 08:02am: Confirmed with IT that everything was up and running.
  • 08:15am: Realized the laser pointer was not functioning. Went on a pilgrimage to find AAA batteries.
  • 08:20am: The two brand new sets of batteries did not fix the laser pointer. I announced to the class to eat food… I will be back. I went on a second, high-speed pilgrimage to find a new clicker.
  • 08:29am: My second pilgrimage failed, so I ran back to get to the front of the room, thinking, it’s okay, we’ll make due without the clicker.
  • 08:30am: I turned on the slide show for my presentation, and the keyboard and mouse stopped responding. I buried my head behind the laptop (though everyone could see the projector) and my brain went into IT Troubleshooting mode.
  • 08:30am: I determined that some setting in reused slides was the problem. I turned on Rehearse Timings during my presentation… it was the only way I could get the keyboard and mouse to work.
  • 08:32am: My worst fear – I started two minutes late! I rolled through my module almost apologetically, forgetting the best practice to not point out flaws. The timer window in top-left corner of the presentation was a constant visual that something went wrong.
  • 08:40am: My first SME took the stage – right on time! Did anyone else notice that I ran through the room introductions like a drill sergeant? STATE YOUR NAME. STATE YOUR TITLE AND DEPARTMENT. STATE THE YEAR YOU STARTED. NEXT. NEXT… MOVING ON. Ouch.
  • 09:20am: I set the timer on my iPhone but forgot to shut it off when the module was done, so after directing that all mobile devices be set to silent, mine started beeping. Chagrin, again.
  • 09:21am: I realized I needed a bin to place the evaluations, so attendees started placing them in different spots. I corralled the evaluations and apologized for not providing a bin.
  • 09:30am: As soon as the next presentation began, I ran off and stole the first plastic “thing that would be the evaluation bin” from next to a random printer.
  • 09:32am: I realized that the bin that I stole had about three years of dust on it. Made a pit stop to clean it.
  • 10:35am: Thinking the SME was lagging behind, I held up a sign that said, “SPEED UP”, and then my SME finished 5 minutes early. Chagrin, again. I decided to limit my use of this agreed-upon cue for every other SME.
  • 02:10pm: Forgetting to reset my timer app, I based all of my cue cards off of an 1:10 class when it should have been an hour. Thinking he finished early, this SME was the first to finish late… and it was because of ME!!!! (Chagrin x 100)
  • 04:08pm: I took the stage 12 minutes early to present a small piece on our company’s website redesign. This was the first instructor-led course I presented since August, 2009. As I began to show the main navigation of the site, I looked out to see some of my attendees looked like they were going to fall asleep, die, or kill me. I cut 2/3 of the demo portion of my presentation out, completely sure I was going to get a score of 1 out of 5 and a resounding, “What the heck was that crap???” from the group.
  • 04:30pm: The class was done! And, on a beautiful summer day, I let everyone out 1/2 hour early.

So, this sounds like it should have been a disaster? It certainly did to me. However, for as devastating as all these things were, I had a few people tell me it was one of the best training programs they’ve attended. My evaluation was over a 4.5 out of 5.

In retrospect, I think I may have been the only one to notice most of this.

  1. I need to be more confident. My husband will probably read this and say, “I TOLD YOU SO… AGAIN!” A knowledgeable and well-respected colleague noted that I have the skills needed, but I need to have confidence that I’m competent. I continue to work on and struggle with this..
  2. Instead of sweating the small stuff and beating myself up, I should instead appreciate my problem-solving capabilities. Nothing that went wrong was the end of the world. It felt like it to me. Simple mistakes made me feel stupid, incompetent, and inexperienced. I’m actually kind of good at what I do (and that was the hardest thing to write on this page).
  3. SMEs do not all think or present the same, and the more I can accommodate their needs, the better they will present. Some have 20 years of instructing experience while others have just begun. What became very important during planning was to understand how each SME presents and to support each style.
  4. Tone down personal enthusiasm and limit my goals realistically. As my first instructor-led experience in my current capacity, I wanted to employ every technique that would make the day better. More examples! More scenarios! A full-fledged student workbook instead of PowerPoint slides! I handled a lot of my meetings as if they were brainstorming sessions. I think I created some extra stress for my SMEs. I treated some preparations as if I needed SMEs to chime in and approve every detail, while patting me on the back and telling me it’s all wonderful (back to point #1: I need to build confidence).
  5. Some decisions should be left to the me, the instructional designer, and that’s OK. This goes hand-in-hand with point #4 (and #1, again). It’s important for me to focus my SMEs on what they can do to improve the content that requires their expertise. It’s also important to realize that they have a bit part in an entire day, and that should be okay with me. Post-training feedback was that they didn’t care about a lot of the little things that make an entire day great, but they liked them. For example, I added a photo slideshow in between each session to run during break. I brought it up several times in planning sessions but got nearly nil feedback from SMEs – I almost nixed it because of the lack of interest. However, the slides sparked interest in the room, and I found SMEs and students congregating in front of a picture of a generator, sharing interesting stories about the industry! I loved it. I wanted to take pictures of the scene. What can I do for my SMEs without their blessing, and will the addition make things easier and better?
  6. Project management experience trumps instructor experience in some cases.  This is pretty self-explanatory; however, I would like to point out that to prepare for this, I found myself expanding my internet searches. Initially, I was looking at all best practices for the classroom and for business presentations. Ultimately, I found a lot of time management, leadership training, and business partnerships training to be very valuable to me.
  7. Last but not least – Sheesh! I need to see more of the positive stuff! I intended to only write my happy take-aways from this course, but the timeline is what came out.

Reviewing my timeline, I can summarize my next steps with a promise: On October 1st, I deliver this same day-long course again. I am going to post the same kind of timeline, but I am going to highlight all the good things. And it’s going to be excellent. Sound convincing? 😉

Pixel Perfect: How to replace text in pictures with gradients or solid backgrounds using PowerPoint

blog pictureLet’s say you have a picture with text that you need to update. Typically this will happen by accident – you have a great picture, and you accidentally save over your original with text added (happens to me all the time when building web-based training programs). Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the Clone Tool (or the eye dropper and paint brush tools for solid backgrounds) in Photoshop. But what if you do not have a photo editor with these tools?

You do not need Photoshop or a dedicated image editor to fix this – you can do it right in PowerPoint!

High-level steps:

  1. Duplicate the picture
  2. Align the picture (optional)
  3. Crop the picture
  4. Add new text (optional)

Details
blog picture 2

  1. Duplicate the picture: Hold down Ctrl and Shift keys, and drag original image with mouse
    In my example, I moved the picture to the left. Moving it down or up would have impacted the gradient and could yield unpolished results.
  2. Align the images as needed: From the PowerPoint Format Ribbon
    • Format > Align > Align Left | Top | Etc
    • Line up the gradient backgrounds before editing (see illustration)
  3. Fix the background:
    • Select the top, cropped duplicate image
    • Picture Tools > Crop (Size Panel)
      Tip: You may want to group your two pictures!
  4. Insert a new text box object, and add your updated text.

 

blog picture 3

Important Tips:

  • You may want to save a blank copy after step 3!
  • Watch the file size. The original picture size is doubled with this technique! You may need to re-save and replace the picture.
  • For gradients, alignment and direction are key (not so critical with solid colors). If you make a mistake, it’s best to undo and try again.

blog picture 4

Useful Keyboard Shortcuts in PowerPoint

Here’s my attempt to compile the best list of keyboard shortcuts I use that can help you become more efficient in PowerPoint. These keyboard shortcuts and other tools make the development process a little less painful, and it will open doors for using some of the advanced features which make PowerPoint an extraordinary presentation tool.

In a future blog post, I will focus in on keyboard shortcuts (and keyboard/mouse command pairs) for images and objects. There are so many ways to make your presentation look stellar. It makes me feel soooo good when someone asks if we outsource our presentations to a professional designer. Nope! One of my secrets is being efficient with all the little stuff, freeing up my time to get graphics and other details in order.

Common keyboard shortcuts to speed up everyday tasks (these work in many software applications):

  • Undo: Ctrl + Z
    Note: I use this at least 50 times per day! You can set the number of “undos” to a max of 150 from Office Button > PowerPoint Options > Advanced. Undo should be your best friend!
  • Redo: Ctrl + U
  • Edit inside of a text box (when an object is selected): F2
    Also is a lifesaver when editing cells in Excel!
  • Save:   Control + S
  • Save As (to save in different formats): F12 (function key)
  • Screen capture the window that has focus: Control + Alt + Shift + PrintScreen: Screen captures the window which has focus (not your entire screen, which PrintScreen alone does)
  • Switch between 2+ open documents:  Alt + Tab
  • Switch between open PowerPoints: Ctrl + F6
  • Quit editing text in text box (and to select the whole box object): Escape
    Note: Escape is my favorite button – it gets me out of trouble in many applications 🙂
  • Copy/Paste:  Ctrl + C to copy; Ctrl + V to paste
  • Cut/Paste: Ctrl + X to cut; Ctrl + V to paste
  • Print: Ctrl + P (opens print dialog box)
  • Make font size bigger: Ctrl + Shift + >
    Note: Will work with either text or an object with text selected
  • Make font size smaller: Ctrl + Shift + <
  • Bold: Ctrl + B
  • Italics: Ctrl + I
  • Add a hyperlink to selected text/object: Ctrl + K
  • Select text one character at a time: (position your cursor, then) Ctrl + left/right arrow key
  • Select text one word at a time: (position your cursor, then) Ctrl + Shift + left/right arrow key
  • Duplicate a selected object: Ctrl + D
  • Duplicate an entire slide: Ctrl + Shift + D

Explore These! Other Shortcuts to Try Out

  • What to do when there is no obvious keyboard shortcut? Press the Alt key on your keyboard once. Notice that letters appear on your PowerPoint ribbon. For example, notice that the letter “F” appears over the Office button in the top left corner. Press the “F” key, and the menu will open! Try pressing “Alt” on your keyboard and then see how using other letters will open different tools.
  • See available shortcuts by hovering over items in PowerPoint. If there is a keyboard shortcut, it will be displayed in a little pop-up message. Hover over the Bold tool in your Home ribbon. What does the pop-up say? Does it show the same keyboard shortcut noted in the list above?

Do you have a PowerPoint shortcut to share? Please leave it in the comments! I’ll try to return back to this list to update it with the latest and greatest from the professional world.

 

The Index is Understood – An Easy Way to Shorten Hyperlinks (and make them look nicer, too!)

Whenever I see a link like this: http://www.iso-ne.com/mkts_billing/mkt_descriptions/index.html, I’m reminded of my K-12 English class when learning about subject pronouns (or somesubject thereabouts), “The I is understood!”. This basic grammar principle is similar for websites, except in this case I mean “index.htm”, “index.php” or “index.html”. I think it also works for home.htm and home.html, but test first!

Often, my presenters prefer to have the entire path of a link visible in our printed materials, but we have lots of subfolders in our CMS! It’s important to make it look nice, and that means removing any excess URL.

So, these three links will work, and they will take you to exactly the same place:

no index.html

index.html is unneccessary in this example.

Which would you rather see when you are reading? Which would you prefer to try and type?

So, when you are adding a hyperlink in, say, PowerPoint, you can remove the index.html from the end. Of course, if you do not like showing the full path of a URL, you can always change the Text to display to anything you so desire!

Caveats:

The way you post a link in some materials will have an impact on search engine optimization and SEO results. I do not have this concern, but if you do, I recommend you read this article: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4255317.htm.

If the word before “.htm” or “.html” is not index, this probably will not work (home is the only exception I’m aware of)! Likewise, if my file extension is not a common web-file extension (.htm, .html, .php), I cannot remove the file extension. For example, I cannot change these URLs:

(these are non-functional URLs; none will work)

How to: Increase How Many Times You Can Undo (Ctrl+Z) in PowerPoint (and other Office Products)

The undo button is a near-universal feature in most software applications, and it can be a lifesaver! However, sometimes, software will limit the amount of times you can undo. For example, in Notepad, you are limited on one, single undo (why I use Notepad++ at home). In Microsoft, the default is set to 5 or 10 times. That is not enough for me. I like to try things, and I can get myself into trouble. Without undo/redo, I would go crazy, like I did 15 years ago.

Did you know that in Microsoft Office, you can set the number of times you are allowed to undo? I believe this setting is available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, though it may also be available in other Microsoft Office Products 2007 and newer.

  1. Click the Office button Image.
  2. Choose PowerPoint Options from the menu Image.
  3. Select the Advanced tab. Set the Maximum number of undos text field. The highest you can set it to is 150 undos.Image

Also remember, that you can redo. However, if you undo xx steps and then make a change (while xx steps back), you will no longer be able to redo back forward again! Be very careful when undoing!

Webinar Gold: Master Slide Layouts in Adobe Captivate

I recently completed and published my first two elearning modules using Adobe Captivate 7. However, I couldn’t figure out themes and templates and the Object Manager. Putting it all together was too cumbersome, and when the template got pulled from the project, the design suffered.

In an attempt to get back on track, I just watched a webinar by Mark Hooper, called Master Slide Layouts in Adobe Captivate. WOW! Although some stuff I was familiar with, Mark presented other indispensable nuggets of information that I absolutely needed! At first, I found Mark’s style to be a little slow, but all of his information was excellent, and the reading chat filled the gaps in areas where I already knew the topic. I will look for more of his work in the future! 🙂

I will try and summarize the most important pieces I’ve learned, but I highly recommend viewing this free, recorded webinar: https://lodestone.adobeconnect.com/_a1022323674/p4gzhnxwbw4/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

Here are my million-dollar takeaways. If you desire to learn how to do any of these, I recommend taking an hour and watching this webinar:

  • 1024×768 is still the standard size, especially for mobile devices. 1280 is achieved when counting the width of the navigation bar.
  • I can store custom gradients! If only I’d known this weeks ago!!!!
  • Themes and Templates work hand-in-hand, but they are different:
    • A theme (.cptm) can store Master Slides and Styles
    • A template (.cptl) can store Themes, Filmstrip slides, and Library objects
  • The Object Style Manager allows you to set defaults for objects (like the default style of a text object)
    • You can save and send stored object styles (.cps) to other Captivate users
  • Master Slide Snippets:
    • The top-left, slightly larger master slide is the main slide (name of theme)
    • You can store a background and slide objects on the larger master slide, and then choose whether or not to use either:
      • the background
      • objects in other master slide templates

This is my lazy blog post for the day, but I hope it helps!