Converting Old into New

New_year_father_timeIf you've been using computers as long as I have you're bound to have some old files laying around. The problem with these old files is that unless you still have the software you used to create them with you can no longer open or edit them. How sad! Well cheer up! I'm here to tell you how to convert those old files into new files. Back in 2009 Craig wrote a TechBits article about this and I thought it might be time to talk about it again. Just in case you or a patron has an old file that they really need to work with.

There is a website called Zamzar that offers a free online file conversion service. They can convert lots of old file formats into newer file formats so that they can be worked on using currently available software. Once you go to their website the conversion steps are as follows:

  1. Select the files you need to convert
  2. Select the file format you wish to convert to
  3. Enter the email address at which you wish receive the converted files
  4. Click the convert button on the screen

The files you chose are then uploaded to their server, converted, and then emailed to you. Simple as can be and it only takes a few minutes.

Add-ons and Plug-ins

We've talked about finding and using public domain images quite a bit here on TechBits - as far back as 2009! More recently, I've been finding add-ons and plug-ins that make it even easier to use public domain images in your documents and presentations thanks to Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers*.

We've talked about Pixabay before, I think, as another place to find public domain images. It's one of my go-to sources for images for presentations. It's even easier now to find and use photos in Word or PowerPoint by using the Pixabay Images plug-in for Office. If you need help finding and installing PowerPoint plug-ins, Richard has you covered with his video here.

For Google Docs, Richard has a post showing how to use the Pixabay and Full Deck add-ons. The Full Deck add-on is new to me and uses Unsplash that Kerri talked about last December.

WordCloudMost recently, I used the Word Cloud Generator add-on for Google Docs. I had forgotten how much I like the visual representation of the important words in a discussion or exercise. Here's an example from a recent discussion about purpose. 

While I haven't used this add-on yet, It's something to keep in mind when I need to use icons in my presentations. The Noun Project has "over a million curated icons" and they're now available through an add-on for Google Docs and Slides.

Google Slides doesn't have a large number of add-ons available yet. Luckily, one of them is Unsplash for Google Slides. It's very easy to use and makes adding images to your presentations a breeze.

*If you haven't followed Richard yet, you really should! And, if you missed him in January when he presented for the 2018 Wild Wisconsin Winter Web Conference, you can watch the recording here.

Display formulas in Excel

Ever need to look through the formulas on a spreadsheet?  Maybe you need to update them, maybe you're trying to fix a problem or maybe you just want to know what's going on.  Sure you can go through and click on each cell to show the formula but did you know you can set Excel to show the formulas instead of the values in the regular display?

Select the Formulas tab and click on the Show Formulas option.  Now, instead of showing the results, Excel will display the formulas themselves for the entire spreadsheet.  Since the formulas are often longer than the results, the columns may also automatically resize to be able to display the formulas. 


When you're done, just click on Show Formulas again and the spreadsheet will go back to showing the results.  It will also automatically resize the columns back to their original settings. 

Using Instagram Photo Editing and Filters without posting the photo online


I have tried a lot of apps for editing photos.  I found Instagram very easy to use and liked the variety in filtering options.  I wanted a way to save the edited photos without having to post all of them to my account.  After some research, I found a clever way to do this.

Here’s How:

  1. Open Instagram and visit your profile
  2. Tap the gear icon on iOS (or the three dots on Android) to go to Options
  3. Scroll down and toggle on Save Original Photos
  4. Turn on Airplane Mode on your device
  5. Open the photo in Instagram and edit as usual
  6. Once you’ve finished, skip adding a caption or other info and tap Share
  7. The post will fail (because you have turned on airplane mode)
  8. You will get a failed notification that you may close out of
  9. The photo will now be saved to your camera roll
  10. Turn off Airplane Mode and use the photo however you like

Microsoft Word Tips

WordWhile preparing for a recent presentation I invested some time looking into a few Microsoft Word shortcuts that would help speed up my work. Here are a couple tips I found interesting, maybe not huge timesavers, but still interesting shortcuts I didn’t know about.

Converting to plain text
When you copy a block of text into Word from another source like a webpage or even another Word document, all the formatting is kept from the copy. One way to remove this formatting is to highlight the text and press Ctrl + Spacebar; the rich text will be converted to plain text. I’m going to try this tip for this TechBits article, so if it works, this paragraph will stay, if it doesn’t then you will never know that it failed here because I’ll delete this paragraph never speak of it again.

Moving text
Another useful tip is to move text without using the copy paste commands. Most people know the shortcut of Ctrl X to cut, Ctrl C to copy and Ctrl V to paste. But have you tried highlighting the block of text you want to move, pressing the F2 key, clicking the mouse cursor where you want the text to move to, and hitting enter? This will quickly move the text. Maybe the novelty of this one hasn’t worn off on me yet. I found myself doing this for a few minutes again today, amazed that it works!

Sharing videos via email


Have you ever wanted to share a video via email and was told that you can't because the file was too big? Kristine from LDI had this same problem and she even tried zipping the video to make it smaller, but it was still too big. She ended up finding a solution in the Office 365 application called Stream. Using Stream she was able to upload her video and then get an online link which she used in the body of her email. She said that it worked perfectly.

To find this application you would need to be logged into your Office 365 Outlook SCLS email account. Then in the upper left-hand corner you would click on the button that has nine little squares in it. You should then see a list of applications, one of which is called Stream. Click on Stream and you will be taken to the Stream website where you can "Securely upload" your video. You will then be given a link to your video. You can then use that link in an email to send to whomever you want.

Photo by Gabriel Petry on Unsplash

Using Google Calendar for Task Reminders

I have been using Google Calendar as an online calendar for years, but more recently I have utilized the "Reminder" feature to keep track of daily tasks, especially repeating tasks.

To create a Reminder, click on the appropriate day, enter the information, and select the Reminder button (instead of the Event button).  Googlecalendarreminder-create

You can set up the Reminder for a certain time, or leave it as "all day." You can make it a one-time task, or set up a schedule for the task.

The many options for Repeating the task are highly useful. There are multiple tasks that I do on a regular schedule, such as monthly, every other month, etc. I even have Reminders set for tasks that are only done once a year. 

Googlecalendarreminder-markasdoneWhen you have completed the task for the day, you can mark the task as done to cross it off of your list (hover your mouse over the task to get the Mark as done option). If you don't mark the task done, it will appear on the next day. The tasks keep appearing until you mark them done or delete them. 

Community Data - How do we compare?

Want to understand the industries, occupations, poverty, education, cost of living, and more in your community? 

Want to go further and see how you compare to other communities, the state, or the nation?  

Want to know how your community has changed over time? 

If so, here are a few resources to help make the analysis easier: 



Combines multiple public U.S. Government data sources into one visualization tool. The data sources are cited so you can check for more current data or actually get the underlying data so you can generate your own charts. Don’t miss the ADD COMPARISON option which allows you to compare to another community.



Applied Population Lab:

The Applied Population Lab, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison publishes research on Wisconsin trends. The reports and chartbooks tend to be at the county level, but many of the websites can be searched by village or town. Be sure to check-out their Wisconsin Food Security Project: and the GetFacts: websites.



American FactFinder:

The primary source of data used by many websites. The advanced search allows you to get the details by geographic areas including summary data for a neighboring community, the state of Wisconsin, or the entire United States. Explore the various topics including Product Type-Comparative Profiles that looks at trends over time of demographic, economic, housing, and social characteristics for populations of 5,000 or more. For details on what data can be compared, go to Comparing American Community Survey (ACS) Data:

Easily combine text or csv files

I am totally nerding out. I admit it. I had a folder full of text files, and I wanted to dump them all into a single Excel worksheet. It turns out there is a super-easy way to do this, provided you're willing to open up a command line and type in a few DOS commands!!

Here's where I found the instructions:

In my case...

  1. I put the .log files (which are all really text files with a fancy extension) in a folder named "logs" on my desktop
  2. I clicked on the Windows Start button and typed cmd to open a command prompt
  3. My path showed that I was already in my user account. 
  4. I typed cd desktop/logs to navigate to the "logs" folder on my desktop
  5. I typed copy *.log all.txt  to copy ALL the .log files into a single text file titled "all.txt"
  6. Then I opened Excel, chose File->Open and navigated to the all.txt file

I am ridiculously excited about this trick!

Gratitude for Technology

PresentIf you've attended a workshop* with me presenting, you'll hear me ask you to put your device away and be present. In fact, this is one of my favorite images to use when talking about being present. This doesn't mean that I'm anti-technology, though. I think it's just the opposite. I use technology all the time and am working to be more mindful of how I use it.

With Thanksgiving next week, I want to take a few minutes to tell you about some of the technology that I'm grateful for this year.

  • My new iPhone 7 (we upgraded from an iPhone 5s that we've had for over 4 years). It has lots more space for photos, podcasts, and audiobooks.
  • Speaking of podcasts, I truly appreciate the Note to Self podcast with Manoush Zomorodi. This podcast reminds me to utilize technology as a tool. And Manoush recently came out with a book, Bored and Brilliant, based on a Note to Self project. It's a great read and I highly recommend it!
  • Speaking of books, I'm grateful for digital access to advance copies from Edelweiss and NetGalley. You can have access, too. 
  • Also speaking of books, I'm grateful for Wisconsin's Digital Library, Libby, and the OverDrive App to keep me supplied with audiobooks and my husband with ebooks.
  • Google Docs makes it easy to share spreadsheets, documents, forms, etc. with my personal book club, my work groups, colleagues, etc. I use it everyday and can't imagine doing without it. There are other Google products that I use regularly - Keep, Maps, email, etc. too.
  • I discovered two new cooking/food related sites that I'm still learning about and wanted to share with you:
    • Copy Me That is a recipe manager, shopping list, and meal planner. You can also create a custom cookbook from here (I'll let you know how that goes).
    • Eat Your Books is a place where you can make better use of your personal collection of cookbooks. I heard about this one from Julia Collin Davison from America's Test Kitchen at ALA this past summer. I'm still learning about it and will keep you posted.

What technology are you grateful for this year? I'd love to  hear!

*The exception to this is when I'm training on using various tablets, phones, and devices to  use Wisconsin's Digital Library. Then, using a device is mandatory!