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Weekly Computer Tip # 92
11 December 2004

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Automating repetitive tasks (Microsoft Office)

Today's tip was inspired by Fiona, Carol, Malcolm and Davina of St John's College. Back in the summer they got their heads together and - apart from picking and choosing topics from my "off the shelves" Intermediate and Advanced Word course - they asked "How to set up an icon for "print this page only". Ever since the delivery of the course I've been happily using my icon, so it's about time I'm sharing this with a larger audience. (The tip was featured in last Tuesday's Business section of the Cambridge Evening News so hopefully it'll save local businesses a lot of time.)

In tip # 87 (http://www.roem.co.uk/tip_87.html) we talked about how to print more efficiently using Microsoft Office. Hopefully you've tried some of the suggestions, which might mean you're now in the habit of printing specific pages only. (Apparently it takes 21 times to change a habit and you've had 30-odd days to practice ;-) Quite a few mouse actions involved, wouldn't you say so? Even if you use keyboard shortcuts it's still 5 clicks (CTRL+P, ALT+E, ENTER in case you're making notes ;-). However,

Did you know ...

You can automate those repetitive tasks by creating macros. A macro is a sequence of keystrokes and/or mouse actions that are stored as a series of instructions. When a macro is executed (run), the associated operations are carried out automatically, saving you the time it would take to manually perform the same operations. You can create a macro from scratch by entering Visual Basic code, but for simple macros you can get the same result using Microsoft's (less nerdy) built-in macro recorder. It's easier done than said!

Here's how:

Let's say you want to create a macro in Microsoft Word that will print the page where your insertion point is located - the so-called "Current page".

  1. Choose the Tools, Macro, Record New Macro command.
  2. In the Record Macro dialog box, which is subsequently displayed, enter a name for the macro. For instance, PrintCurrentPage. (The name cannot include spaces, hence the "strange" name. Underscores are allowed though, so if you prefer you can name the macro Print_Current_Page.)
  3. To assign the macro to a shortcut key, click on the Keyboard button.
  4. Press the preferred key combination (say, ALT+P). The key combination is listed in the Press new shortcut key box, and Word informs you whether or not the keys are unassigned.
  5. Click on the Assign button.
  6. Click on the Close button. The Macro Recorder is turned on and the Stop Recording toolbar is displayed.
  7. Perform the commands that are to be included in the macro. To stick to our PrintCurrentPage example click on the File menu, followed by Print, followed by ticking the Current page radio button and OK.
  8. Click on the Stop Recording button on the Stop Recording toolbar.

By default, the macro will be stored in the Normal template, making it available to all Word documents. There are two ways in which you can run the macro you have just recorded:

  1. Simply press the assigned shortcut key combination (for instance, ALT +P) or
  2. Choose the Tools, Macro, Macros command, select the macro name in the Macros dialog box, and click on the Run button.

There is an even nicer way to launch macros by customizing your Word toolbars and adding Macro buttons (which was, after all, what Fiona, Carol, Malcolm and Davina were asking for), but let's save that for a next tip.

By the way, there are only 14 days to go before Christmas (with even less shopping days!) so as the countdown is on I'd like you to know that you can purchase gift vouchers that you can redeem against any of my training and coaching services. Getting a computer for Christmas is a start. The real challenge is making them work.

Until next week.

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December 2004