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With the 2016 version of Excel, Microsoft has really upped the game for people who aren’t great with numbers. You can now easily use one-click access that can be customized to provide the functionality you need.

This is the first of a three-part series about using Microsoft Excel 2016 to help you identify trends, construct helpful charts, and organize information to maximize the value of your data.

You can use Excel Worksheets and Workbooks in conjunction with programs like Microsoft Access and PowerPoint. Excel 2016 possesses many capabilities that aren’t readily apparent. That’s why we’re providing this three-part series for you.

What is Excel and how is it organized?

Excel is an electronic spreadsheet program that’s used to store, organize and manipulate data. You enter data into Workbooks that are made up of individual Worksheets. In the Worksheets, you enter data into cells that are organized into rows and columns. Excel data can consist of text, numbers, dates, times and formulas.

Why would you want to use Excel?

If you or your employees work with financial data, it’s a great tool to use for:

  • Basic mathematical operations like adding, dividing, and multiplying.
  • Finding values like profits or losses.
  • Calculations like averages, percentages and number counts.

Performing calculations in Excel is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more you can do like creating charts and graphical layouts to make it easier to recognize trends and more easily analyze data.


What’s great about Excel is that it has the same set up as other Microsoft products you’re familiar with. You have tabs across the top, where each tab has a corresponding ribbon with many functionalities to choose from.

The Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar is a drop-down menu where you’ll find functions that you commonly use like Print and Save. You can also customize the Quick Access menu with other functions you use on a regular basis.

The Formula Bar

This is located underneath the ribbon next to the Name Box that shows you where your cursor is located on your Worksheet. The Formula Bar is important because it’s what calculates the math for you. Excel does the calculation and displays the answer in the cell you choose. The Formula Bar also shows you the contents of the particular cell you’re in.

Adding Data

There are three ways you can add data to your Excel Worksheet. You can:

  1. Type in the data,
  2. Copy and Paste data, or
  3. Import data from other sources.

This is great if you have a large amount of data. For example, if you have customer lists in a database, you can even pull this into Excel.

You can enter data into only one cell, into several cells at the same time, or even on more than one Worksheet at once. And, as mentioned, the data can be numbers text, formulas, dates, or times.

On your Worksheet, simply click a cell and type in the information that you want to enter. Then hit ENTER or TAB. If you typed in a date, Excel will recognize this and format it the way you’ve specified in your default settings.


Excel computes the correct answer when you enter a formula into a cell. Once you’ve done this, it recalculates whenever you change any of the values. The way Excel knows that you’re entering a formula is by starting with an equal sign. Then you follow the equal sign with a SUM or AVERAGE.

For example, C2: =A2+B2 means that the number in C2 is what occurs when you add the numbers in A2 and B2.

You can type this in manually, but now Excel has great functionalities to help you do this. The simple way is to put your cursor in cell C2, hit = and type in A2+B2. The numbers in A2 and B2 will be added, and the SUM will be entered in cell C2.

Note: You always want to calculate using the actual cells rather than typing in numbers like 1 + 2, etc. The reason for this is so you can go back at any time and change the values in cells and the formula will calculate with the new numbers.

Let’s say you want to add a bunch of numbers together in your Worksheet. You can type = sum (a1:a5) in the cell where you want the answer to appear. Or you can do this and drag your mouse across the cells you want to add. Type =sum ( and drag your mouse across the cells and hit ENTER. The sum will appear in the cell without you having to typing in all the numbers! When you put your cursor on the cell, you will see the actual formula you just created.

There are many ways to do the same thing in Excel. It’s like this across all Microsoft products. You can go to the Ribbon at the top to “Auto Sum” to do the same calculation. Select a cell next to the numbers you want to add, click AutoSum on the Home tab and press Enter. Do what works best for you.

Once you create a formula, you can copy and paste it into another cell. You can also copy and paste formulas into different Worksheets as well. This can save you a lot of time.

Formatting Worksheets

With Excel 2016, you can format your Worksheets much more easily than you could before. You can use document themes throughout the Worksheets in your Workbook to present a professional and consistent appearance. You can also apply predesigned formats as well.

Let’s say you have a Worksheet with many rows that are hard to read. You can go in and create fill colors and more to differentiate the rows, columns, and headers to make reading much easier.

You have options to create borders around cells, rows or columns from the drop-down menu. You can also shade cells with a solid background. Don’t forget that you can change the style and types of fonts. Right-click the text, and a drop-down menu will appear where you can make these and other selections easily.

Creating Charts

If the data isn’t complex, you can easily read it, but if you have a lot of data, creating a chart will help you better analyze it. You can select specific cells, rows, and columns for your chart. One way to do this is to highlight the data and go to the top ribbon to select the type of chart you want to create.

With Excel 2016, you have a “recommended charts” option. Excel will help you choose the chart that best suits your data.

You can then go in and further customize your chart in the “Chart Tools”. You can change the color scheme, 3D effects, shading and more. If you change the data in the cells in your Worksheet, your chart will reflect the changes.

Some of the new charts in 2016 include:

  • Waterfall
  • Tree Map
  • Box and Whiskers
  • Sunburst

Creating Tables

You may be used to creating tables in Word or PowerPoint. Some people think the format in Excel is already in a table, but it’s not; at least until you tell it to do so. If you want to do this, select your data, go to “Insert” and select “Table.”

Similar to other Microsoft products, tabs will appear to help you format your table.

Viewing Worksheets

When dealing with lots of information, it can get unruly trying to work around various rows and columns. This is where Viewing Worksheets can be helpful. You can freeze a portion of your worksheet with “Freeze Panes” to more easily view it.

You also have the ability to “split” the data to view different parts of your Worksheet. You can compare two Worksheets in the same Workbook or even in different Workbooks by viewing them side by side.

Saving and Printing

If you have Worksheets that are so large they won’t fit on one page, go to “Save As” and decide on the name, where it gets saved, and go to “Print” where you can save the file to a pdf that you can send.

You can select options for printing the entire sheet, part of it, resizing it, and more to suit your needs. Going to “Page Setup” will allow you to shrink the entire Worksheet down to a size that’s more manageable for printing.

Sharing & Security

In Excel 2016 you can share Workbooks and Worksheets with others and password-protect them. The people you send them to need to know your password to open them, whether you send them via email, share them on your network, or via the cloud. From within Excel, you can designate who can access your Worksheets and Workbooks, and also whether they can edit them or not. There are a variety of parameters you can set within a Worksheet.

For example, if you want to hide employees’ salaries, you can hide this section when you share it. Or, you can let people see your data but lock it down, so they can’t change it. You can also protect your Worksheets and Workbooks to keep them secure from non-authorized users.

The Quick Analysis Tool

When highlighting data, click on the Quick Analysis button to create a chart, highlight specific cells, and much more. It doesn’t give you the functionality you’ll find in the Ribbon, but you can get things done quickly and easily with this tool.

3D Power Maps

This is another new tool in Excel 2016 that lets you look at information in ways you might not have seen in the two-dimensional format. This helps you strategically create your data on a 3D map. You need latitude and longitude data to do this. You can also import your own maps into 3D Power Maps.


PivotTables help you analyze your Worksheet data. You can summarize, analyze, explore and present your data in just a few clicks. They are very flexible and can be adjusted to your unique needs. Note: Your data should be organized without blank rows or columns for this to work properly.

The good news is that Excel 2016 will also help you pick the best format for your PivotTables!


PivotCharts are another great way to add visualizations to your data. You will first need a PivotTable to create a chart. Now, your PivotTable will behave like a PivotChart. When you change the information in your PivotTable, the PivotChart will also reflect this change. The PivotTable is connected to the PivotChart.

That’s it for now! For more information on using Excel 2016 like a Pro, feel free to contact the Microsoft Experts at Symtec! (435) 817-9471

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First, there was Siri, then Cortana, and then Alexa. Each virtual assistant comes equipped with a rich package of features and capabilities, but who is the best in the business?

Virtual Administrator

Every April, organizations big and small all over celebrate Administrative Assistants Day as a show of gratitude for the staff that carries out the day-to-day administrative operations. These are the individuals that make sure communications reach the proper contacts, that calendars are maintained, and appointments are kept. Good administrative assistants are indispensable to an enterprise, and truly deserve recognition more than one day each year.

The job of an administrative assistant — or any assistant — is to support the position they assist; Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Typing, faxing, emailing, answering calls, scheduling appointments, and all duties that fall under this umbrella require great organization and attention to detail. Duties don’t always stay within the 8-5 workday, and responsiveness is key.

When the Palm Pilot launched as one of the earlier electronic mobile devices for mobile communication with features for schedules and task organization, followed by BlackBerry models, and then the iPod Touch among many others, artificial intelligence emerged as an economical option and valuable tool for consumers. These devices at the time were just an extension of administrative assistants, though.

Enter the virtual assistant. Artificial intelligence (AI) has truly enabled technology to support human activity. From machines helping build machines — think automobile manufacturing lines – to machines helping people fix people — think 3D printers creating a replica of a heart or other organ to assist surgeons in planning an operation – the common thread is that artificial intelligence enables us to improve the world through the use of machines. Do you wear a Fitbit or another activity tracker? From counting your steps to telling time to monitor your heart rate to tracking your exercise route with built-in GPS capabilities, the little machine on your wrist is pretty incredible. Virtual assistants offer support on a basic level, but with more sophisticated capabilities, like voice-enabled operations and support.

Apple launched Siri, the built-in intelligent personal assistant, in 2011. Siri was designed to answer questions and perform basic actions using Apple apps on the iPhone. Apple worked with voice actors from British, Australian and American backgrounds to offer support in native “accents” given the global use of Apple products.

Both Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana followed in 2014, bolstering an AI competition that is most beneficial to the consumer. A common misperception is that Amazon’s Alexa is tethered to devices used only in a home, enabling home automation services. Alexa is designed to work with several Acer, Lenovo, and HP desktop and laptop computers as well as the Fire tablet line-up and a handful of mobile devices – though none carry the mobile market presence as the iPhone.

  • For decades, roles in the administrative assistant capacity were relegated to females – perhaps this is why the default voice in the virtual assistant market is female?

Each of the virtual assistants offers an assortment of the same type of features: set alarms, provide weather reports, sports scores, Internet search results, and other real-time options like news, driving directions, and traffic alerts. But with so many AI virtual assistants on the market and consumers have more options, which brings the most bang for the buck? Which offers the most robust features? Which has the coolest capabilities? We break down the “Big Three” and let you decide.


Siri was the first and is thereby the model for all others that come after. Siri was the first voice-activated, voice-controlled virtual assistant, and dominated the market for three years before her first true competitor came along. With a quick “Hey, Siri!”, she was eager and waiting to help you out! Siri’s user interface was pretty basic initially, but considering the innovative concept of a responsive virtual assistant in your pocket, consumers were happy with basic. Siri has evolved into a much more robust and astute virtual assistant, though she still prefers to look things up on the Internet and just give you her search results. This is reported because of Apple’s dedication to user privacy, and a commitment to not collecting data from browser history or emails – like Google does – for Internet search results.

Siri’s lack of integration with non-native apps is rather frustrating. Some partner apps will offer more complex functionality, but with most apps, users are limited to basic “open” commands and exclude secondary commands – think “open Facebook and create new status update” or something along those lines. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not something Siri can help you with – yet.


Cortana had a built-in cult following even before she was a reality! “Cortana” was the code name for the AI virtual assistant project from Microsoft, but once leaked Cortana was a wildly popular name in user forums and users initiated a petition to Microsoft to keep the name upon release – and we now know how that turned out! The code name was a reference to a synthetic intelligence character in Microsoft’s Halo video game, and the same voice actress lent her voice to the virtual assistant.

One area Cortana has others beat is language support. Rather than just English, Cortana also supports Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.

The downside of Cortana? Depending on your browser preference, Cortana may offer limitation in this aspect, only offering Internet search results in Bing (not Google). But Bing offers users rewards based on search activity volume, so perhaps this default is beneficial. Side by side, Bing and Google search results can differ, which is why we consider this a ‘downside’. An interesting note for Cortana, too, is that it offers a built-in music recognition capability. Could Cortana have plans to take on fan-favorite music discovery app Shazam? In case you weren’t paying attention, Shazam was recently acquired by Apple (iTunes springboard, anyone?).

  • Microsoft, lover of all things collaborative and integration, has plans for integrating Cortana into Skype, and we can’t wait to see how that pans out.


Amazon’s Alexa is the exception to the rule in more than one way. Unique to the virtual assistant market, Alexa is standard on Amazon Echo devices – which are not smartphones but rather designed to primarily support home automation. This is rather genius in that Alexa supports orders and shopping through a user’s Amazon account with stored payment and shipping details, conveniently offering a built-in way for Amazon to monetize their virtual assistant.

Alexa is an audio-only voice-activated AI virtual assistant. She has to read all results out loud to you – but more importantly, interact directly with you. She is the foundation of a smart home rather than confined to a smartphone.

Alexa is also designed to work with third-party apps. Want to play a Spotify playlist? Alexa’s got you covered. Need a ride? Alexa can now order you an Uber. Alexa can help you order dinner due to integration with Pizza Hut and Domino’s, among others. Can Siri or Cortana do that? They can help you track down the phone number or website, but that’s the extent of their help. Alexa will also get you in (quick) shape — body or mind — with a daily 7-minute workout and a Jeopardy game.

  • Amazon wants Alexa to be essential to your home environment. Many households are already Amazon Prime members, relishing unlimited two-day shipping for a meager $99/year. This packages nicely with the Amazon Echo product line-up, each designed to work seamlessly with each other and integrate with your Amazon account while supporting home automation. Consumers notice weekly emails from Amazon with helpful tips on “what Alexa can do for you” details.

What’s the verdict?

Alexa is nice in your home or office, but for the power of the virtual assistant in your pocket and on the go, Siri was the first and is still the best! Setting up a to-do list, scheduling meetings and reminders, sending emails – it’s all pretty crucial for day-to-day mobile operations, and “mobile” is the keyword. Amazon is expanding what Alexa can do, but for now, it’s still second to Siri.

What will the rest of 2018 hold for the AI virtual assistant future? We can’t wait to see!

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Stranger things have happened – but in this case, we take a look at how the death of a Tyrannosaurus rex relates to your computer.

Dinosaur Computers

Sue Hendrickson was just poking around a cliff while waiting for a flat tire to be repaired when she made the most extraordinary archeological find of her life – or that of any to date. That hot summer day in 1990 in South Dakota, Sue stumbled upon the now infamous skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex, the most complete and best-preserved fossil ever discovered of a T-rex. The rather mundane series of events that led to this find only further underscore the mystery behind its existence.

Nicknamed “Sue” after the paleontologist that discovered the skeleton, the T-rex was found protruding from a cliff and was transported to a facility for cleaning and examination. Sue started to come alive again! Most of its teeth were still intact, and overall the skeleton was in incredible condition – not bad for being roughly 65 million years old!

What happened to Sue, the T-rex? How did she die? Was there a majestic battle to the death with another giant beast? Or was it much more boring and Sue perhaps died of what we today would call “natural causes”? Various testing proved Sue was about 28 years old at the time of her death. Small holes were detected in the skull that found Sue had a parasite akin to an ancient bird flu similar to an aviary illness today that is known to cause death by starvation due to neck swelling. Other stories of bodily injuries were told by the bones, but an exact cause of death was never proven. Scientists are good, but maybe not that good. Perhaps the “bird flu” saved Sue from a much worse fate, depending on your beliefs of the many claims of what happened to cause dinosaur eradication. The “giant meteor” (more likely an asteroid or a comet) is one popular working theory, and massive volcanic activity is another. No matter how it happened, more than half of the world’s species disappeared, leaving mammals, turtles, crocodiles, birds, frogs, and some sea life among others.

To better understand history, and also to prevent mass extinction from repeating itself, we devour information to educate ourselves on these creatures and maybe one day have an answer to what did happen. To get a picture of what we don’t know, we start with a picture of what we do know. To support the “giant meteor” working theory, data shows that metal only found in meteorites has been discovered all over the globe and shown to be the same age as the time when dinosaurs disappeared. Also, an enormous crater in Central America is roughly this same age. Coincidence?

The technology required to study the bones of dinosaurs and provide deep insights is equally incredible. It’s rather ironic to discuss technology and dinosaurs in the same sentence. Machines that are less than six months old are inspecting Sue’s bones, which are tens of millions of years old – and interesting paradox.

Speaking of technology, how old is your computer? You don’t need an X-ray to estimate its age – and if you have to think for more than a few seconds, your computer is probably too old. “Too old” – we sound rather harsh and judgmental when saying that.

“My computer runs just fine”.

Sound familiar? When was the last time you checked for system updates and ran thorough diagnostics? Outdated operating systems and applications can be super sluggish and even freeze. Letting security updates wait could put users at significant security vulnerabilities, leaving your computer open to hacks, viruses, malware, ransomware, or worse. Applications not kept up to date run slow and become “buggy”, where they freeze often or present glitches, losing valuable time and productivity – like Sue’s skull with the holes from the “bug” infection. For the record, holes in your skull are rarely a good thing…

Compare today’s computers, like the MacBook Air or the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, or the latest version of the Apple iPad, to the Tandy models in the early 1980’s. It’s pretty common to refer to those older machines as “dinosaurs” – but we think that insults dinosaurs! Even Sue still has something to offer. Sue teaches us about climate change, evolution, and even the food chain from her time. The Tandy models from the 1980’s have taught us that not everything is quite so black and white and that technology is an ever-evolving concept.

If you had a Tandy model today, what purpose would it even serve? It couldn’t run a word processor; nor could it support Internet usage for video streaming. That computer may as well be buried in the wall of a cliff in South Dakota, holding close its secrets for the future generations to learn about upon discovery by a (robotic) paleontologist.

Given how much technology impacts our daily lives, and how much we rely on software, the Internet, and all things digital, it’s pretty critical that we have a decent working model on which to rely. That’s not to imply we’re saying you should go out and purchase the latest model of the coolest gadget every six months – no, that’s excessive and wasteful spending. But what you do need to think about is how old your machines are, their current ability to function, and whether what you have is the best tool to do your job. Upgrades are expensive, but the cost of not upgrading is even greater. Slow machines equate to decreased productivity and efficiency, neither of which is a friend to business operations. Slow machines also translate into slower connectivity, slower email responses, slower sales proposal development and sharing. Bad, bad, bad!

A few things we can recommend to help get more out of your system:

  • Check for, and run updates regularly
    • Companies like Microsoft and Apple will regularly release updates for applications and security, and installing the latest packages help keep your system operating at its most efficient
  • Save or download files into cloud storage, when possible.
    • Taking less space on your hard drive supports faster processing speeds.
  • Maintain an active antivirus program, like Avast
  • Don’t let your machine operate in direct sunlight for extended periods
    • Heat is not a friend to machines! Prolonged heat can age a machine prematurely, quickly.
  • Keep your system clean
    • Literally, remove dust and dirt particles from your machine as often as possible, and prevent debris from infiltrating the “inner sanctum” of your computer!

These tips are just a few of the things you can do to keep your system running at its best, but the most important thing you can do above anything else is to keep aware of the latest technology available. Once a computer becomes obsolete, problems compound exponentially and users are faced with costly repairs or loss of time and resources in addition to the potential loss of data.

Avoid a fiery death for your computer and you’ll get more life out of it! Just remember, when it’s time to upgrade, do so before the giant crash to avoid using a dinosaur and a constant battle.

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The Internet of Things – and of course, the Internet –has created an endless network of connectivity. Consumers have embraced living in a digital world, and all the ways the Internet makes day-to-day life easier.

Google Internet

Is there one single piece of information you wish you knew about your customers that just evades you? We already know the answer to that question – yes! Don’t you wish there was a magical process by which you could answer every question you’ve ever had about your customer base? Would you cater your operations and marketing to their needs to develop a deeper sense of loyalty and longevity?

There are ways to better understand your target market. Focus groups collect incredibly valuable information in a controlled environment, but are very expensive and only represent a fraction of your customer base. Telephone surveys rely on clear communication and carefully constructed questions which are properly delivered – but first, the target respondents have to answer the call. It’s neither cheap nor easy to get answers, but it’s not meant to be. Consumers are protective of their privacy and their money!

So, what’s the best way to figure out what your target market is thinking? Instead of trying to read your customers’ minds and potentially making costly mistakes, we suggest a better option – just ask them.

Email surveys were the darling of the decade until the last few years, but are still heavily used. All a business needs to have is an email address on file for a customer — whether former, current, or potential — and the ability to craft questions that will deliver meaningful responses. What is meaningful depends entirely on how the business plans to use the information obtained through the survey.

If you’ve ever designed an online survey, you’ve tried SurveyMonkey. With limited features and use parameters, it’s a free tool – and a fantastic option. That word “limited” is the challenge that users face: why limit yourself when your business depends on the outcome? Sure, simplified surveys with radio buttons, checkboxes, or drop-down menus are easy, but they can be misinterpreted – or worse, the user can choose the incorrect response by accident and still record it.

Of course, surveys are notorious for low levels of response, though average response rates have risen in recent years. The current average response rates hover around 1 in 4, or 25% of recipients will answer. This rate tends to increase rather significantly with an incentive to respond. You’ll need to account for a “margin of error”, which will vary, but basically, it means that of those 1 in 4 recipients that respond, some of their answers will not accurately reflect their preferences, like where we said they might have accidentally chosen the incorrect answer. Most people expect the average margin of error to be about 5%.

Now that we’ve talked about some statistics, let’s talk about the meat of a survey. Here is where the true difference between platforms like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms matters.

First, how to create a new Google Form:

  • Go to
  • Click on “Blank” with the plus sign in the box.
  • You’ll see the options to toggle between “Questions” and “Responses” at the top.
  • You can type the title of your Form (survey) where the large bold text says “Untitled form”.
  • Underneath this, there is a section to add a description if you desire.
  • Simply type in your Question in the appropriately labeled field.
  • Next to the field where you can type in a Question, you can select the type of Question you want to ask, with responses in the following formats:
    • Multiple choices
    • Checkboxes
    • Dropdown
    • Short answer
    • Paragraph
  • Type in your first Response option.
    • You can add an image here, or even a YouTube video.
  • Underneath this, you can click “Add Option” to add more responses.
  • Form designers can also choose whether the Question requires a response, or if the respondent can bypass that Question with a “skip” feature.

Google Forms has updated its user interface recently, and now you can add responses in a grid display format. You’ll want to play around with the options to see what looks best for your needs. Think carefully about the number of questions you need to ask, and the number of responses to choose from within each question. Too many of either can overwhelm a consumer, and best practices suggest that asking no more than 5-7 Questions is ideal, with each having no more than 3-5 responses.

Other cool features you can add to your Google Form include:

  • Themes
    • In the main navigation menu at the top of the screen, you’ll see an icon that resembles a painter’s palette. Clicking this will drop down a menu of color circles or the icon that looks like a photo – clicking here will open the Themes menu where you can truly customize the user experience.
  • Results can be stored in a shareable spreadsheet
    • Google can’t track who responds automatically, but it will automatically store all results from responses within a shareable spreadsheet, and like with any Google Sheet, you can edit this with charts or other visual representations of the data collected.
  • Results can be emailed to a designated user, rather than a user (or teams) needing to check a dashboard continuously.
  • Using Google Forms functions with the same basic principles as Google Docs, in that collaborators can access a shared file to help design survey questions and flow.
  • Forms are already mobile-friendly; the impact of this feature is huge given the number of people that access email via their smartphones or tablets outnumbers those accessing email via desktop or laptop computers.

Readily-available free survey tools aren’t always so feature-filled. Paid tiers of SurveyMonkey offer tools like geotargeting and more robust features, which are useful if responses are tailored in such a way that this is necessary. Google Forms can’t help you with geotargeting, but Google does offer a paid option with its Google Surveys solution.

How else can you use Google Forms?

  • Manage event registrations.
  • Share the Form via social media channels or to website traffic to collect email addresses for email marketing or email newsletters.

One more feature we want to touch on is logic processes. In Google Forms, designers can change the user flow of the Form at the individual respondent’s level and based on their answers. You can toggle certain responses to one question to skip the next question, and even do what the Marketing world would all an “A/B split” where one response would take the respondent in one line of questioning, but a different response would take another user down a different path.

Use Google Forms to get to know your customers, and take full advantage of the Internet. Consumers like to share their opinions, and if they can do this using their smartphone while on the go, you’re much more likely to increase responses.

Get to know Google Forms and see how Google wants to help you — and your business — win the Internet!

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In the Professional Productivity Wars, Microsoft is the reigning victor, but that wasn’t always the case.

The 1980’s were a crazy time. MC Hammer wore baggy pants that became a major trend, Madonna wore the equivalent of metallic traffic cones as a top, and Michael Jackson walked forward and backward at the same time. VHS beat out Betamax as the better technology for watching films, Tandy desktop computers were literally huge and heavy and data storage involved “floppy” disks – that were actually floppy!

If you’re old enough to remember using a Tandy, you’re part of a rather exclusive club. Tandy released the TRS-80 in 1980, its first computer that supported colored graphics and ran on Microsoft Basic. And that floppy disk? We’re talking about the version that’s about 5” square and stored a whopping 1.44 MB of data.

That storage space might hold a file or two, so long as the files were simple and didn’t contain a lot of information or heavy formatting. No, floppy disks would not be ideal for transporting data in the modern era. Ironically, some government divisions still utilize floppy disks, if you can believe it!

In August 1981, International Business Machines (IBM) released the IBM Personal Computer and revolutionized the technology industry. It’s safe to say that happens at least once every year now, but in 1981 this was a life-changing event. Over 100,000 units were sold before Christmas that year, with consumers eager to get their hands on one. This is also the same year that Apple began developing the Apple Lisa, in case you’re keeping score.

As the personal computer models began to take over offices all over the globe, so did the professional programs developed for use with them. IBM launched Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983 on the heels of its desktop personal computer model and became the spreadsheet standard for the better part of two decades. Lotus 1-2-3 was promoted as a 3-in-1 offering, including a combination of charts and graphics, database functionality, and spreadsheet capabilities. In truth, it looked a lot like Microsoft Excel looks today. Interestingly, Microsoft Excel was also launched in the 1980’s, though later than Lotus 1-2-3, and it took a while for Microsoft Excel to become the spreadsheet software of choice. Given that Microsoft was tasked by IBM with developing the operating system of the initial personal computers under the IBM label, perhaps Microsoft was just catching up on the learning curve back then.

There’s no mistaking it today, Microsoft Excel is THE spreadsheet product used by professionals everywhere. Not only does Microsoft not apologize for dominating the industry for decades, but they don’t even support floppy disk drives anymore. The extensive features built into their Office suite products would likely generate file sizes that exceed the storage capabilities, but more importantly, it’s just outdated technology. Microsoft maintains its prime professional position by staying ahead of the proverbial curve and developing ceaselessly innovative technology.

Microsoft Productivity

Why did Lotus 1-2-3 go the way of the dinosaurs? Compared to Microsoft Excel, its limitations weren’t excessive, but the primary issue was that Microsoft Windows hadn’t yet gained its stronghold as the dominant operating system. In the short window, Lotus 1-2-3 enjoyed the #1 spot in the hearts of office staff everywhere. By the early 1990’s, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Excel displaced Lotus products, and its capabilities grew with each year. What is perhaps most notable about Microsoft Excel is that it was not designed to be used as a database. Microsoft Access was launched in 1992 in this capacity and was intended to be a database management software.

Microsoft Excel users today have access to a host of features built into the platform, and many of the most popular features have been maintained and have simply evolved. What’s even more interesting is that many features popular in Microsoft Access are available in some form in Microsoft Excel due to the similar natures of the programs.

A few particular features many organizations rely on include:

  • Importing data through the Power Query feature
  • Pivot tables and charts
  • Options for editing, cleaning, and manipulating data

Microsoft recognizes that most of the time analysts spend with data in Microsoft Excel is in the cleaning process, through the manipulation and preparation of the data model for getting insights. Here are some incredibly helpful tools inside Microsoft Excel that can offer your business robust reporting options:

  • Power Query is now Get & Transform Data
    • Users still import data, but Microsoft Excel allows users to import from multiple data sources at once
    • Data can be imported from numerous sources, including SharePoint, the cloud, etc.
  • Users can select from options in the lower right corner upon import
    • Data can be routed into a table, a pivot table, or a pivot chart
  • Bringing the data source through the Power Query lets the user transform the data as needed
  • Multiple data sets can be connected within the Power Query Transformation process

Instead of merely acting as a spreadsheet software program, Microsoft Excel gives users an immersive editing experience in which data can be cleaned for insightful use.

  • Users can convert the first row of data to a header
  • Awesome feature: if the set-up and shape of the data is not conducive for use in a pivot table, Microsoft Excel offers an amazing feature for users to “unpivot” the data
  • Power pivot feature – users have an editing experience that allows them to view, edit and manipulate, and then build analytics on top of data model

Another feature you’ll want to play with is Manage Data Model, and anyone with Microsoft Access experience will recognize some of the basics of this feature:

  • Users can create relationships between data sets from different data sources
    • Drag the connector between fields to create the relationship
  • This feature doesn’t require the use of formulas, but just a drag-and-drop action to create the relationship

Play with this feature to really see what it can do and how it can help you. One way we found was by adding a slicer to the filter, to shift views within the pivot table by reviewing different information as it relates to the data at large. In doing this, you’ll also notice that a history of all steps has been recorded – a helpful feature if you can’t recall how you came to a certain point in the process.

These cool features are far and above anything Lotus 1-2-3 offered, and we don’t sense any remorse from Microsoft for burying its competitor’s product in the dust.

With the innovation of Microsoft Office 365 and the productivity applications that Microsoft has launched in the last few years, it’s safe to say who won the Professional Productivity War – but Lotus 1-2-3 likely claimed a few battles, early on!

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Give Free Global Radio A Try Instead

Listening to free, global radio stations is a great way to broaden your horizons and liven up your listen to habits. It’s also a lot easier than you may think.

Local Internet Radio

Why Listen to Global Radio?

Many people are saying that radio is dead, but that’s not true at all. It has morphed into something much greater than it once was. Today, many of us have friends and family living in other countries, which is why someone might want to listen to a radio station in Hong Kong. There is a wide range of other reasons as well. Maybe you grew up in the Philippines and just want to keep up with what’s going on in your hometown. Tuning into one of their local radio stations is a great way to do this.

Say you just moved from Seattle to New York, but maybe you’d like to continue getting daily news from Seattle. Or maybe you might be thinking of moving to New Zealand. What better way to find out what life is really like there than by listening to local radio stations?

Get Local News & Weather

You can get local news, weather and other fun, interesting or weird information by tuning into radio stations in other parts of the world. The best part about this is that there are now several services that offer you the ability to listen to dozens of different radio stations from Ireland to Australia. Many of these services allow you to browse by station or by country. Let’s say you want to listen to a radio station in Latvia.

Latvia is a small country on the western border of Russia. Estonia lies to the north, while Belarus lies to the south. In spite of this being a small remote nation, one global radio service offers 19 different radio stations in Latvia. Some of these stations are broadcast in Russian while some are broadcast in Latvian or other Baltic languages. If you’re trying to learn to speak Russian, listening to a Russian radio station would enhance your efforts.

Whether you were born in France and yearn to hear the language spoken by French people or you are trying to learn about a new culture, listening to a French radio station would make your efforts more enjoyable. As mentioned above, access to global radio stations is free on many websites. Most of these sites give you choices as to what you’d like to listen to. You can listen to talk radio shows, local news, and weather for any city, sports news for any country or city, or just music from the city or country of your choosing.

How to Get Started

Search for internet radio stations or services that provide multiple choices. Good search phrases for this include:

  • Listen to radio stations worldwide
  • Global radio stations
  • Internet radio

Multiple choices will come up depending on exactly what you typed in the browser. Some of these will be paid services like Amazon Music Unlimited. Though they do offer 30 days of free music, at some point you’ll have to start paying to listen. Of course, a paid service will offer other perks like being able to listen using your Echo device. These are Alexa voice-controlled devices that make it easy to hear your favorite tunes from Spain, India or anyplace in the world.

If you’re not ready to sign up for a paid service, you’ll also find many free services like Pandora, Screamer, TuneIn, and Jango. Most of these allow you to search for your favorite artist, search by genre, or search by specific song/artist titles. You might be looking for the latest Hip Hop music or some good music for your workout routine. Simply click on something that peaks your interests and listens. If you don’t like what you hear, use the back button to return to the original page.

At Pandora, you create your own personal “station” by choosing favorite artists or genres of music such as country music. You can add favorite tunes or artists as you desire. Pandora offers ad-free listening for around $5 per month. This type of “radio station” does not include local news and weather; it’s just music.

Tips for Success

With so much cultural, musical, and lifestyle information available through radio stations, there’s no reason not to become an avid listener. You can broaden your musical tastes or just find out what’s going on today in Rome simply by tuning into an Internet radio station. However, there are many other reasons to listen – become better informed about what’s going on in the world, or track new emerging technology in Southeast Asia.

Since there are so many choices now available, select a station or service based on what you’d like to accomplish. If you simply want to listen to music, then Pandora or Jango are both good choices. If you want to listen to an actual radio station, then Screamer and TuneIn are good ideas. Most stations and services offer ad-free content for an additional charge. You may have to pay extra for specific content, such as comedy programming.

The interface for many worldwide radio stations will allow you to manage volume control, play, stop or resume listening. They may also have an information box that will tell you what song/artist is currently playing. You can tag a song or a station as a “favorite” so that it’s easy to return there.

Improving your Sound Quality

With music, sound quality is usually important. That’s where many computers and laptops fall short. You may have to spend over $1,000 to get a computer with a decent sound card. If you are unable to afford this, there are workarounds. Amazon and other online sellers, offer devices that allow you to hook your computer up to external speakers.

External Speakers

To find out more about this, simply search online for “how to hook up my computer to external speakers” and other similar phrases. Usually, it’s just a matter of wiring your computer to a device like a Lepai LP2020 amplifier and then wiring that device to your external speakers. You can also purchase external speakers made specifically for this purpose. These speakers will have a 3.5mm jack or USB plug that can be plugged directly into the laptop or computer.

Of course, all computers have a headphone jack. For about $100 you can buy headphones with amazing sound quality. This will make your listening experience more personal and intimate. This is a good idea when you have others in the family or home who may not want to listen to, say, Latvian Folk Music.

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Though terms like the Dark Web and Deep Web are often used interchangeably, they aren’t the same place at all – read on to learn everything you need to know about both.

Dark Web

The term Deep Web is used to describe any content that is not indexed by Google. These are typically not the disgusting, creepy sites that might contain illegal images, drugs, and other nefarious information.

Instead, the Deep Web contains any gated content that requires user login credentials. Sites like this might include a company’s backend intranet site or a university site where only students can access the content. Organizations that host their own intranet cannot be crawled by Google Bots and therefore are considered part of the Deep Web. Even your Gmail account cannot be indexed by Google Bots and so it is considered Deep Web content.

The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web. This is like the Back Alley of Main Street USA, where all sorts of (often) illegal interactions take place. There, you’ll find a wide range of seedy content and illegal activities, along with products and services that most folks would prefer to avoid.

The Dark Web requires a special web browser and other tools that can protect your identity. The most common browsers used to access these areas are Tor (the Onion Browser), Freenet and I2P. Though many people are curious about the content on these sites, just a single visit to one of these sites may place you on an FBI watchlist, so proceed with caution.

How Big is the Internet?

Some experts say that only 4 percent of the whole Internet is readily available to users. The other 96 percent is hidden behind walls that require special tools to access. Much of this content is not illegal or unethical; it’s just content that the creators do not want to be made public for whatever reason.

On the other hand, there is a huge amount of content that is of questionable origin. For instance, one very well-known black market online site called Silk Road was highly popular on the Dark Web. At Silk Road, people all over the world could purchase illegal drugs, fake IDs, and other such items. Silk Road was finally shut down by the FBI in 2013, when the owner Ross W. Ulbricht was arrested. Other similar sites have tried to spring up, but the FBI keeps close tabs on this type of illegal drug trade on the Internet.

Proceed With Caution

You should never visit a site like this without a VPN, which will mask your identity. Many other precautions are usually recommended, such as enabling “noscript” in the TOR browser and turning off your webcam. Even with all precautions in place, just one visit to a Dark Website can alert local police. Sites like this always deal in Bitcoins and rarely take credit cards. No one wants a $50,000 transaction to hire a hitman to show up on their credit card statement.

Many people, even savvy Internet users, are very uneducated when it comes to the Dark Web and that’s actually a good thing. It means they haven’t gone searching for content that is probably illegal or unethical. It’s also a topic that has been so taboo in the past that users simply couldn’t or wouldn’t go looking for answers. Though there are a great many Dark Web sites, how do you find them?

As mentioned above, you need a special browser, but often word of mouth is one way people find out about sites that might deal in unlawful activities. There are a number of forums and directories that also make mention of Tor activities, such as Reddit.

The Tor network hosts many clandestine or hidden services that you can’t find using a regular browser, including hacking software.

How to Access the Deep Web

Typically, those who want or need access to corporate content already know how to access it. Other examples include webinars or forums that require registration. This includes online classrooms and other teaching materials owned by schools and universities. Most company databases cannot be indexed by search engines. Academic journals and scientific papers are also excluded from the indexing process. Your banking information and most other personal financial information is not indexed by search engines and therefore considered deep web content. It is possible to exclude your website from search engines and sometimes people do this to protect their privacy.

How to Access the Dark Web

First of all, not all sites on the Dark Web are associated with illegal activities. The well-known site, WikiLeaks first began on the Dark Web as a secret place where whistleblowers could vent. In addition, the FBI has been cracking down on sites that deal in illegal drugs and dozens of these sites have recently been closed down.

Tor software encrypts web traffic in layers that allow it to bounce traffic around the world. With each pass, a layer of encryption is deleted before the data moves to the next network. Though it isn’t foolproof, it’s the best-known way to prevent anyone from spying on computers that enter the Dark Web.

Below are the step-by-step instructions for accessing the Dark Web. Remember to tread carefully. Enter at your own risk:

Step 1: Install the Tor browser on your computer. The download begins with the Tor bundle and you’ll need to install all of this onto your system.

Step 2: After the download is complete, install all files. Follow the screen prompts to correctly install everything.

Step 3: After installation, open the Tor browser.

Step 4: Install an Advanced VPN Service. There are numerous VPN services available today, such as ExpressVPN, PureVPN, and Hotspot Shield. These services charge a monthly fee ranging from just a few dollars per month to $30 per month. The rates are typically based on how many countries you can access, whether streaming services and games are included and other perks like that.

Step 5: Type something into your Tor browser that indicates your interests.

Security Tips

In spite of all precautions you may take, the Dark Web can be a dangerous place to hang out. For that reason, it’s a good idea to take certain precautions:

  • Cover your webcam.
  • Be sure to turn on the “NoScript” extension in the Tor browser and enable “Forbid Scripts globally”.
  • Never trust anyone you meet on the Dark Web.
  • Create a virtual identity.
  • Be aware that government law enforcement organizations may still be able to track your activities.
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We Support Accounting Software For CPA Firms!

Is the software your CPA firm relies on letting you down?

At tax season, you and your employees don’t have time to blink – much less deal with hardware and software conflicts that slow you down. The SymTec team helps you drive high-productivity by supporting accounting software for CPA firms in Cedar City, Idaho Falls, and St George areas.

If you’re struggling with wrangling one of these nineteen software packages most used by accounting firms, our team is here with Managed IT, Cloud Services, and Hardware Purchase Consulting to help you get back to peak efficiency!

#1 – Microsoft Office 365 is a powerhouse software suite that is the gold standard for all accounting firms. Among its many strengths is its tiered licensing program which allows accounting companies to scale their usage as they grow. Office 365 allows accounting firms to continue with the Microsoft software offerings that they have come to know and love, yet there is much more to this advanced IT suite. Designed specifically for commercial use in mind, Office 365 provides applications and hosting opportunities designed to drive accounting businesses forward.  Among these great options are Microsoft Office, OneDrive, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and Exchange Online.

Microsoft Office 365 is available through SymTec as a monthly, all-inclusive subscription service.  The fees are tailored to reflect the size of the business and the number of users, ensuring that companies are not paying for services they aren’t using while still allowing for the possibility of future expansion.  It is an affordable system that increases productivity while reducing overhead costs.

If Your Firm Is a Small Business, You May Be Using – And May Be Struggling With – One Of These Software Solutions.

#2 – Adagio by Softrak is a great solution for businesses who deal with revenue in the 2-100 million dollar range.  The program efficiently manages a high transaction load and requires a minimum of one dedicated person for program oversight.  While Adagio provides excellent tools for a variety of specific industries, it particularly shines in its approach to accounting.  Adagio is divided into modules for ease of use and is particularly suited to people who prefer batch input methods. These modules deal with ledger work, accounts payable and receivable, invoicing, inventory tracking, costing, and reporting and sales tools to name but a few. In addition to these tools, Adagio is compatible with some leading third-party software applications to enhance overall software capability and provide a well-rounded approach to accounting needs.  Adagio is not available as a subscription service.

#3 – Peachtree by Sage is another solution for smaller accounting firms. Marketed under the brand name Sage 50 U.S., its most potent strength is in equipping busy accountants with the tools necessary to make better-informed decisions for their clients. It is a program that is user-friendly and that poses an interface that is simple for technology laymen to navigate successfully.  Its foundation is built upon double entry practices to ensure accuracy, and its security is reinforced through trackable audits, monitored security, and regular automated process checks. Like Office 365, Sage PeachTree comes in tiered packages to meet the needs of each accounting business perfectly.  Each package comes with additional services.  At this level, Sage 50 U.S. assists businesses with managing inventory, forecasting projects costs, generating effective reports, implementing proactive security, and enabling multiple user access.  It is a system built for technology newbies.

#4 – QuickBooks Accountant is a software solution marked by its simple interface and “out of the box” technology.  This program is equipped with tutorials to assist in learning the various functions.  QuickBooks Accountant has customized its approach to relating to the different industries it services.  There are a number of add-on tools and services available to enrich the capabilities of this program. It is available for a one-time flat rate purchase as well as in tiered, scalable solutions for affordable, monthly fees.  QuickBooks Accountant offers a comprehensive approach to financial management.  It provides solutions for everything from invoicing, tracking of inventory, basic sales reporting, and tax preparation to payroll and project cost forecasting.

#5 – Sage Simply Accounting provides all the services of Sage 50 U.S. along with bilingual services.  It is exceptionally user-friendly, making use of terminology for both the accounting professional and the layman.  Sage Simply Accounting offers the option of additional paid support to assist with more advanced accounting functions.  Add-on programs and services are also available for this product to improve overall company time management and productivity.  It is available in tiered packaging with each package containing more sophisticated tools.

#6 – FreshBooks is the final offering in the accounting software niche for small boutique accounting companies. It was formulated specifically for use with smaller, independent businesses and was designed to improve overall efficiencies by reducing time spent in online processes.  It can be easily integrated with PeachTree software solutions to increase access to more accounting tools.  It is a web-based tool which offers online payments options for existing clientele and boasts of capabilities to increase professional appearances through invoicing with a customizable corporate branding presence.

Is Your Mid-Size Operation Dealing With Headaches Related To These Software Packages For Accounting Firms?

#7 – Sage CRM Solutions known as Sage ERP MAS 90/MAS 200 is one of the leading accounting software solutions for mid-size businesses.  It is ideally suited for businesses with 1-25 system users and deals primarily with basic accounting functions. Like Adagio in the small accounting firm category, Sage CRM Solutions is based on modules.  This clever setup allows companies to purchase just the modules suited to the work that they do. Wizard generated financial statements allow for easily generated and accessible documents, budgets, and reports.  This program is more sophisticated than other financial software programs designed for smaller enterprise and as such comes equipped with the latest tools to provide the ultimate in accounting functionality.  Among the great services available with Sage CRM Solutions are e-commerce, advanced accounting processes, enhanced reporting solutions, human resources/payroll services, project management techniques, and customer management systems.  Other modules include inventory tracking and forecasting of project oversights and costs.  It is sold per module and via licensing for multi-users.

#8- Traverse (Open Systems Traverse) excels in the 5-75 users market.  It is an affordable solution for mid-sized accounting businesses and is available as a pay as you grow option.  It functions flawlessly with Microsoft Office 365 and is easily integrated for internet and e-commerce usage.  It is a .NET solution that is fully compliant with Microsoft Office 365 processes.  Traverse makes use of Excel-based materials for all financial data and reporting.  It is equipped to deal well with multiple languages and over multiple currency options.

#9 – Intuit (Quickbooks Enterprise Solutions) works best with 1-25 users seeking basic accounting tools.  Its easy to use interface provides interactive options to increase user-friendliness and overall functionality. It comes in a variety of industry specified versions to ensure the best tools for the correct field.  This is the most accepted version of QuickBooks amongst business owners for its ease of use and overall comprehensive set of services. Among the options available with this version are cheque printing and advanced payroll/employee time tracking programs. This program is the choice of companies who require financial management tools yet have employees who are unfamiliar with traditional accounting terms and practices.  For the utmost in security, online screen markers record data entry to prevent fraud and system abuses.

#10 – CYMA Financial Management System is a software solution which is integrated for use with vendor management as well as employee tracking and account processes.  It excels in payroll processing and includes advanced payroll deductions and compartmentalization.  It is available in a set of 19 different modules allowing for complete customization.  This program is considered a more sophisticated system that other software programs available within the same category. It was specifically designed to grow as your business grows.  CYMA is equipped with industry-leading technology services including Crystal Reports and F9 Financial Report Writer.

Is Your Large Accounting Firm Being Drained Of Productivity Because You Need High-Level Support For Your Accounting Software?

#11 – Sage ERP ACCPAC Advantage Series is the industry-leading choice for large-scale enterprise businesses needing to equip 21-100 plus users. This well-respected program is universally beloved throughout the United States and Canada. It is easily scalable to meet the needs of your growing business.  From data storage and advanced encryption tools to integrity checking and sophisticated reporting tools, this powerhouse program is the ideal solution for large accounting corporations. Like the mid-size versions of this software, Sage ERP ACCPAC Advantage Series is equipped to cope with multiple languages and currencies for the utmost in financial efficiencies. Best of all, ACCPAC has a solid history of quality products and commitment to excellence.  It requires expert installation.

Is Your Accounting Firm’s Progress Slowly Grinding To A Halt – And Maybe Insecure – Because Of Your Current Document Management Solution?

#12 – E-File Cabinet offers world-class document management software solutions.  It is an industry leader in document storage, indexing, and retrieval systems. One of its greatest strengths is the flexibility of the program allowing it to be utilized for desktop solutions, mobile devices, or the cloud.  E-File Cabinet integrates beautifully with other programs including QuickBooks, Salesforce, and Microsoft Office.   It is appropriate for use in compliance regulated industries. One of its primary selling features is its user-friendliness and mobile apps.

#13 – Doc-IT Suite 3.6 is a comprehensive system for managing documents and workflows.  It operates in the cloud and allows users to optimize document storage and retrieval as well as paperless billing and filing. Doc-IT is comprised of several tools all available under this software umbrella for a fixed monthly cost that is scalable with your growth.  It is affordable and has an excellent return on investment reports.

#14 – File Cabinet CS-Thomson Reuters is a platform specifically designed for use by professional accountants who specialize in tax-based work.  This product works best in conjunction with other Thomson Reuters software products but is a cloud-based solution that provides solid tools for document management and offers advanced security measures for the ultimate in safety measures.

#15 – GoFileRoom – Thomson Reuters’s content management system is hallmarked by intuitive work process simplification.  It requires a high-speed internet connection to function properly.  GoFileRoom is a user-friendly program that improves overall accounting office efficiencies.

#16 – ProSystem fx Document-CCH is a comprehensive system designed specifically with accountants in mind.  It operates on a simple premise of dragging and dropping communications directly to and from Microsoft Outlook – enabling work processes to proceed efficiently.  It is equipped with backup solutions that are protected.  Collaboration is improved with enhanced file-sharing capabilities.  This system offers regulatory compliance assistance to ensure proper adherence to applicable legislation.  It is a cost-effective approach to document management for accountants.

#17 – SmartVault offers all the great services of other document management programs but without all of the added expenses.  It is well-integrated with QuickBooks and provides a simple, user-friendly approach to optimum software performance. Its cloud-based technology allows for flexibility in collaborative efforts and ease of document access and retrieval from mobile devices and laptops.

Who Helps Your Accounting Firm Keep Its Practice Management Software Running Flawlessly?

#18 – Core Powered by BQE offers software solutions that combine the best of accounting software with document management to save you time and money.  Within this one powerhouse software suite, you can track project management, billing, accounting practices, employee time and expenses, and much more.  You also gain access to powerful apps and integrations.  It is a cloud-based solution offering the best in flexible software to increase collaborative efforts.

#19 – APS Advance is marketed specifically to firms specializing in accounting and consulting.  It is built upon the foundation of Microsoft SQL.  It brings together the best in reporting tools and project management resources.  It has a simple user interface and is available in modules for customization.  It is easily integrated with Microsoft Office.

Would you like to read more about getting software management off your plate? We have all the answers you need! Click Here

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Microsoft Word sets the bar when it comes to word processing programs on the market today, because of all the helpful tools and features that it offers.

In the Beginning

Microsoft first introduced Word to the public when they distributed free demo copies of it on floppy disks in the 1983 edition of PC World Magazine. It didn’t reach commercial success until Windows 3.0 was released in 1990. It was then that Microsoft Word took off and has dominated the market ever since. The Autocorrect was first introduced in Version 6.0 in 1993, and the ribbon made its first appearance in 2007.

The Ribbon & Quick Access Toolbar

Customizing your Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar can save you a lot of time and frustration. You can place any tool that you frequently use in the Ribbon. To get started, right-click anywhere on the ribbon itself and click Customize the Ribbon. You can do the same with the Quick Access Toolbar. It’s located in the upper left corner of your computer screen above the Ribbon.



To open the Ribbon, just click the View menu. Do the same to close it.

You’ll see that the look of the Ribbon is very well organized, and it’s very intuitive. Most of the elements you’ll want to add will be under the Insert menu. Design is where you’ll find themes you can use. Select the Layout tab and click the command you want for your Page Setup.


Clicking Draw will provide you formatting options.


Perhaps you liked the way the 2010 version of Word looked – the good news is that you can customize the Ribbon to reflect the way it used to look.



If an item is missing, you can add it by clicking the boxes on the right to add, or the choices on the left to remove.

One of the biggest changes in Word 2016 was the “Tell Me What You Want to Do” feature. Instead of typing “How do I add a hyperlink?”, you just type “link,” and it will bring up the option for you to do this. You don’t have to read how to do this, Word 2016 will do it for you. This new feature is in all of the Microsoft solutions now.

Researcher & Insights

Researcher is one of the secrets in Microsoft Word 2016 that many people aren’t aware of. Researcher helps you locate information for a project without leaving your Word program. Highlight text from your document that you need to research, Right Click and go to Smart Lookup.


The first time you use Smart Lookup, it will ask you to input some settings to enable the information. When you click on a link for a particular resource, your internet browser will display that web page. The Insights panel opens on the Explore tab by default, and that’s where the Wikipedia and Bing results show up. There’s also a Define tab that displays a definition of your word or phrase.

Researcher in Word 2016 helps you easily find topics and incorporate reliable sources and content for research papers or other projects in just a few steps. It will give you both sources on the web as well books that contain the information you’re looking for. Plus, you can easily add citations in the document without leaving Word.

Researcher was developed for students but has many applications for businesses as well. You can drag and drop information right into your document, or go to Reading View to open it up.

Click Add and Cite the source, and it will add this content to your document with citations. Plus, you can bookmark these sources so you can use them later. Researcher is a robust solution that makes your research and writing much easier.

Quick Parts

Quick Parts are like mini-macros so you don’t have to key in content that you use frequently (like your company information).

Here’s How to Create a Quick Part

  • Highlight the phrase, sentence, or other content in your document that you want to save to the Quick Parts Gallery.
  • On the Insert tab, in the Text group, click Quick Parts.
  • Save To Auto Text Gallery.

From here you will Create a New Building Block. This is where the information will be captured and stored for future use.



Make your building block names and starting text unique. If you create two building blocks that start with the same text, they won’t appear when you type the text. If you have a lot of building blocks you can create new Galleries and Categories to help you better organize and search for them. Then when you want to use your text, go to where you want it inserted, go to Quick Part>AutoText and your text will drop right in.



The Building Block Organizer will store your Quick Parts AutoTexts in alphabetical order. You can change this if you want with the Edit Properties prompt in the lower right. There is also a selection of pre-designed blocks of text and formatting that you can insert into your document. Building Block galleries are available throughout Word, and they include preformatted Headers, Footers, Page Numbers, Text Boxes, Cover Pages, Watermarks, Quick Tables, Tables of Contents, Bibliographies, and Equations. You can customize each Building to suit your needs, and, as mentioned, you can create custom Building Blocks and add them to their relevant galleries.

Styles & Themes – Make it Yours

Branding sets the tone for everything you create for your business. Word 2016 helps you do this with Styles & Themes to give your document a consistent, professional look. There are many you can select.

First, select a Style: On the Home tab, point to a style to see how your text would look with that style.

he Styles gallery is on the Home tab

Select the style you want to apply to the text. Place the pointer in the text that you want to format. If you highlight an entire paragraph, the style you choose will be applied to all the words selected. You can also make your own styles and name them.

To select a Theme, go to Design > Themes.

ffice 365 Word Themes

Point to a theme to see how it would look in your document and select a Theme. This sets all your font types, colors, spacing and more. You can also edit Themes and customize them the way you want.

Table of Contents

The Table of Contents option is useful when creating long documents. This feature in Word 2016 helps you build a Table of Contents automatically grabbing your headings. When you change a heading, it will be reflected in the Table of Contents. Here’s what to do:

  • Click on your document where you want to insert the Table of Contents. This is typically placed at the beginning.
  • Click References > Table of Contents, and select an Automatic Table of Contents style from the list.


You’ll have a number of automatic styles to choose from. Don’t select the manual option if you want your Table of Contents to automatically update as you work on your document. You want Word to use the headings and subheadings that you create to populate the Table.


Format Painter

Try using the Format Painter (on the Home tab) to apply formatting, such as color, font style, and size to your text or graphics. It also lets you copy the formatting from a selection of text and apply it to another. Select the text or graphic that has the formatting that you want to copy. Think of it like a paintbrush that you swipe over your document to give it a certain look.

ormat Painter

The pointer changes to a paintbrush icon when you select it. Take the brush and “paint” over your text or graphic. The format you selected will be applied.

To change the format of multiple selections in your document, double-click Format Painter. When you’re done press ESC.

Find & Replace 2.0 – More Powerful Than Ever Before!

Find & Replace is now more useful than in past versions of Word. You probably already know that you can Find & Replace words or phrases. Now you can Find & Replace formatting as well. In the Replace tab, you can find style, font, color, and more throughout your document, and replace them quickly. There’s a multitude of options.


AutoCorrect – How to Make It Work for You

We all know how to quickly change a misspelled word using AutoCorrect, but now you can do more. Did you know that you can ask AutoCorrect to read the word out loud, or view a synonym so you can make sure you have the right word?


If you constantly misspell certain words, you can add them to the AutoCorrect Dictionary. Or, do the same with proper names, so AutoCorrect doesn’t alert you each time you use it.

Plus, in Word Options under Proofing, you can make many customizations to AutoCorrect.


Sharing & Collaboration

Word 2016 has improved collaboration so that multiple people can work on a document in real time. You can share a document by saving it as a link that you can send to others. To work in real time with others, you need to save the document to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or a SharePoint Online location rather than to a local folder. People you share the document with can view or edit the file using either the free Word Online app or Word 2016.

It’s easy to do!

  • Save the document to OneDrive or SharePoint Online.
  • Invite the people you want to edit it for you.
  • When they open and work on the document you’ll see each other’s changes as soon as they’re made.

Microsoft Word 2016 has many other great features. The Microsoft Experts at SymTec would be happy to tell you more. We serve businesses in the Utah and Idaho. Contact us here, or give us a call at (435) 817-9471.

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