Custom Sorts in Excel

In a report that I was working on, I ran into a problem with the way Excel was sorting the pivot table.  While Excel usually sorts the 3-letter library codes without a problem, this time it pulled the listings for two libraries out of order at the very top of the list.  I couldn’t figure out why Excel suddenly forgot the alphabet for those two locations until I realized that their 3-letter codes were the abbreviations for a day of the week and a month of the year.  Excel was trying to be “helpful” by putting those two codes at the top.  

There wasn’t a convenient “don’t do that” button to force it to go back to a straight alphabetical sort and I was wondering if I’d have to manually edit the spreadsheet to put the rows for those libraries back where they belonged when Greg told me about custom lists.  They’re a way you can set up a new sorting order for Excel.  You can then choose your custom list and Excel will use that as the sort criteria.  

To create a custom sort list:

  1. Open Excel and type the values you want to sort by in the order you want them, from top to bottom, in a single column in a spreadsheet.
  2. Select the cells in the column that contain your new sort criteria. Don’t select the entire column, just the cells that have entries.
  3. In the Menu bar, click on File and then choose Options from the list. 
  4. This will open the Excel Options window.  Click on Advanced from the list on the left of the window.
  5. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the window and, just above the colored bar for “Lotus compatibility” there should be an Edit Custom Lists button.  Click on it.
  6. A Custom Lists window should now be showing.  The range you had selected earlier should be showing in the “Import list from cells” box towards the bottom of the window.  Click on Import.
  7. The list should now show in the Custom lists with the full list of the contents in the List entries box.  Click on OK.

  8. The next time you need to sort based off of this list, under Order where you’d normally choose ascending or descending, choose Custom List and then just click on the list you created.

Gail's Toolkit for technology training

What do you get when very motivated librarians teaching lots of technology courses wants to standardize their course templates to make life easier for everyone (and have a grant to do it)?
Gail's Toolkit, built by staff at the Gail Borden Public Library.

From their website:  "Gail's Toolkit is a project funded by an American Library Association Publishing Carnegie-Whitney Grant that runs from 4/1/15 through 3/30/17. This free, online portal—sponsored by the Reaching Across Illinois Library System—offers lesson plans, presentations, handouts, and surveys that librarians can use to teach classes ranging from Microsoft Word to LinkedIn. The portal also offers an online bibliography of training resources for those who want to learn more about instruction."

I heard about Gail's Toolkit at WiLSWorld this year (presentation, handout), and I thought it had a lot of potential to help libraries everywhere with technology training. The Gail Borden Public Library staff have already developed a collection of courses that are free for anyone to use. For those interested in developing their own courses, the course templates are designed to make the courses so standardized that in the case of staff illness or other unexpected changes, any staff person could step in and cover the class.


Tracks & Classes: (templates to design your own classes are also included on this page)

As of September, there are already-developed classes for computer and internet basics, Microsoft programs, Google tools, resumes, and LinkedIn. Not a bad start!

Notable Apps for Taking Notes

    Were you ever taking notes using a standard word processor and thought that the rigid, structured formatting didn’t fit your style? Perhaps using software that is more free-form and open to personal creativity would better suit you. There are many free note taking applications that allow the user to freely incorporate graphics, sound, video, and, of course, text through a variety of ways. Check out the following article for a brief description and comparison of various note-taking applications.

Article comparing various note-taking apps

    Many of the top note-taking applications are also available on a variety of platforms so whether you are on an Android, Apple, or Windows device you will have plenty to choose from. Many of the apps are free to use with extra functions available for purchase.


Modify What Facebook Memories You're Reminded of

Facebook Memories recently posted a silly picture from a fun dance retreat that I attended 5 years ago. It was a happy reminder of an enjoyable experience. Then I wondered, “What if Facebook Memories spontaneously reminded me of some past event for which I wouldn’t like to be reminded? Is there a way to tweak the Facebook Memories’ defaults?" There is. Sh


  • Once you’re logged into Facebook, select On this Day from the Apps list in the left hand pane.
  • Select Preferences near the top of the Never Miss a Memory screen.
  • The On This Day Preferences screen gives you the option to filter both people and date ranges for which you’d rather not be reminded.
    Below is a screen shot of the date range option.















Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this feature but it’s good to know that there are options.

New & Improved Wisconsin's Digital Library Coming Soon

WIDigitalLibraryIn case you missed last week's announcement, Wisconsin's Digital Library is getting an upgrade. According to OverDrive, the new site will be faster and easier to use. You can see a preview of the site here.

The process will take place over a month or so and you can preview the new site and participate in training webinars. Barring any complications, the new site is scheduled to go live on November 7.

There will be several opportunities to participate in training webinars. Register for the date and time that works best for you - or watch for the recordings on that will posted here when available.

General OverDrive Training:

OverDrive Training on Wisconsin's Digital Library Site:

Because of the upgrade to Wisconsin's Digital Library, I've rescheduled the OverDrive Support Course to begin on November 14. There are a few spots left and you can register here.

Mobile Apps Overload?!

Overwhelmed by the amount of Mobile Apps out there?  You are not alone.  I personally have a very difficult time keeping up with the latest Apps and choosing which ones may be useful for me.  It can become frustrating when you download an App that doesn’t work the way you expected it to.  Our reliance on electronic devices makes it necessary for us to keep current with this information.  But how? 

Recently, I found a web magazine that was helpful for me.  PC Magazine provides lists that can help you navigate the App world.  The latest Apps are categorized by topic, device, cost and ranked on their functionality.  They also provide summaries and tips for using a particular App.  For instance, if you are an Android user like myself, they recently published the list of the “100 Best Android Apps of 2016.”  There are other resources out there.  Please share resources you have found useful in the comments section. 

Resume where You Left Off in Firefox

Did you know that you can set Firefox so that it will open with the same webpages you had open last time you closed it instead of opening with your homepage? If not, I'm going to you show you how you can make it so.

First, click on the "hamburger" button in the upper-right corner, then click Options:


Next, from the option "When Firefox Starts:", choose "Show my windows and tabs from last time":


That's all there is to it.

Screenshots with Microsoft Word

I like to use Microsoft Word for much of the documentation that I write.  I also like to include screenshots in my documents when they can be more effective than words.  I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know until recently that Word has built-in screenshot capability.  There's no need to bring third party screenshot software into the mix! Screenshot

Next time you need to add a screenshot to a Word document, simply select the Insert tab then click Screenshot.  You'll have the option to make a screenshot of any window that you have open or to make a custom screen clipping on your own.  Once you have the screenshot inserted into your document, the Format menu will appear in the toolbar.  You can change the color and shape and add some artistic effects to enhance the screenshot.


Adjusting website content settings in Chrome

You probably already know that you can adjust Chrome's settings to choose how Chrome handles things like cookies, images, plugins, notifications, and more on a global basis.

Did you also know that you can adjust these (or even just view how Chrome is set up to handle these settings) on a website-by-website basis?

Packers arrowWhen you're at a website, simply click on the icon to the left of the URL in the address bar. You'll see all all sorts of information about what Chrome's global settings allow the page to do, as well as details about how many cookies the site is deploying.  It's also an easy way to allow specific pages to show/not show pop-ups or notifications.


Solid State Drives vs Hard Disk Drives

Photo curtesy of pcmagIf you have seen the SCLS PC order form recently you may have noticed the addition of Solid State Drives (SSD) to the list of options available for you to choose. Previously we’ve only offered traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDD), but now you have the option to get either one.

What is a Solid State Drive and what’s the difference between the old and new technologies?  I’m glad you asked! A SSD and HDD perform the exact same function in a PC or laptop; they store system files and your data. A HDD uses spinning metal platters to perform this function while the SSD utilizes flash memory chips to store data.

The advantage of using a SSD is that it accesses the data much faster than a HDD. A typical patron PC using a HDD with MyPC and DeepFreeze installed on it takes roughly 2 minutes from when a patron logs out to when the next patron can log in. The same PC with a SSD takes about 30 to 40 seconds before the next patron can sign in, from what I’ve seen it’s closer to the 30 seconds, I’m just hedging my bet.

The disadvantage of the SSD is that it costs more than the HDD per gigabyte. Since SSDs cost more the typical size of a SSD is between 128 and 256GB whereas the HDD is between 256 and 500GB. These sizes are based on the systems we currently purchase. If you look in the consumer market you will see HDDs in the 500 GB to 2 TB range for the same price as the 128 to 256 GB SSDs.

To learn more about SSDs check out this informative article in PC Mag.

Photo from