Editor’s Note: In partnership with Microsoft Press, MVPs have been contributing to an ongoing guest series on their official team blog. Today’s article is from Office System MVP Stephanie Krieger which is the 28th in the series
From Macros to Apps: Automating Office 2013
Millions of people use Microsoft Office to create nearly as many types of content. But one thing holds true for just about all of us: whatever we need to do with Office—regardless of how much experience we have doing it—we always want ways to do it faster or easier.
So, in this post, we’ll look at two timesaving, simplifying, and downright horizon-expanding features—one brand new and one that’s not new at all. This post is all about automating the tasks you need (or want) to do with Office and maybe those you didn’t know you could do. We’ll look at a longtime favorite tool of mine—recording and writing macros—and one great, new idea that’s not just for your smartphone anymore: apps.
Reintroducing a true classic: get to know macros
A macro is a set of actions that you can name and save for easy access. Yes, technically a macro is programming—but please don’t let that stop you from reading on. You don’t have to be a programmer to use them.
For example, say that you’re creating a report in Word that will contain dozens of tables you’re pasting in from other sources. Each time you add a new table, you have to take several steps—such as clearing the existing formatting and applying a table style. If you record a macro while taking those steps in one table, you can then apply all of those steps to each subsequent table with just a click.
If you want to take that one step further to save far more time, learn a bit about how to edit and write your own macros and then edit that macro to apply those steps to every table in your document at once (or even just to tables that meet specific criteria).
In Word, Excel, Visio, and Project, you can record macros without ever seeing a single line of code. Or, if you learn just a bit about the language behind macros, you can also edit and write your own macros in those programs as well as in PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and Publisher.
Note: Even though you can’t record macros in Outlook, you can automate many repetitive tasks easily using the really cool Quick Steps feature, which is not a programming language. Click here for more info on creating Quick Steps.
Exploring built-in features first
Each time a new version of Office is released, regardless of how many new and cool features it brings, one question I always hear more than most is how to save time on repetitive tasks. But the answer is often not new at all. Sometimes, it’s an existing feature that’s designed to save time and improve results, and it might be much easier than you think. For example:
· Use a paragraph style in Word to save and reuse a collection of formatting attributes and apply them to text with one click.
· Customize a slide layout in PowerPoint to automatically size and position content consistently across multiple slides.
· Convert a range to a table in Excel for shortcuts such as built-in sort and filter tools or the ability to add a formula to an entire column of data at once.
· Use the Replace feature in Word or Excel to replace formatting.
· Convert a bulleted list in PowerPoint to a SmartArt diagram.
I love macros and can’t recommend strongly enough that almost any experienced Microsoft Office user can benefit from knowing a little bit about them, even if it’s just using the macro recorders. But the simplest method is usually the best way to go about any task in Office, and this is no exception. So, if there is a built-in feature to do what you need, it might be faster and easier than trying to do it with any type of code. But for tasks that don’t have a built-in feature to offer as a solution, the answer is often to record or write a macro.
To help you get started with macros in Office 2013, I’m not going to give you the basic steps you can get from many other places. Instead, let’s take a look at some tips to save you time and help you feel like a pro from the get-go.
About the author
Stephanie Krieger is a Microsoft Office MVP and the author of three books on advanced Microsoft Office content creation and extensibility. As a professional document consultant, she specializes in developing custom solutions for Microsoft Office content and teaches clients to build great content by helping them understand how Microsoft Office programs “think.”
About MVP Monday
The MVP Monday Series is created by Melissa Travers. In this series we work to provide readers with a guest post from an MVP every Monday. Melissa is a Community Program Manager, formerly known as MVP Lead, for Messaging and Collaboration (Exchange, Lync, Office 365 and SharePoint) and Microsoft Dynamics in the US. She began her career at Microsoft as an Exchange Support Engineer and has been working with the technical community in some capacity for almost a decade. In her spare time she enjoys going to the gym, shopping for handbags, watching period and fantasy dramas, and spending time with her children and miniature Dachshund. Melissa lives in North Carolina and works out of the Microsoft Charlotte office.