Friday, July 10, 2009

MS Word and problems formatting merged data

I have developed a simple template in Word 2007 that reads information for invoices from a MS Acess Data Base. It is very cool because using Word's mail merge functionality I can print invoices easily.

The system has 3 parts:

  1. A Windows SharePoint Services intranet. There we include all the new orders from customers into a list called "invoices", that list is related to another one named "Accounts" that provides the name and details about customers.

  2. A MS Access DB merges both SharePoint lists and filters all what has been invoiced in the past.

  3. A MS Office Word document template that receives the processed information from Access and create the invoices.

The problem is that Word does not formatt the information correctly. For example the amounts that are formatted as "currency" doesn't display the currency symbol; or the dates are displayed in american formatting (month/day/year). So how to change it?

There is something called "switches". Click here to find all of them.

So, once you know which kind of switch you need to use, yo will need to do the following:

  1. Select the merged field

  2. on your keyboard press "Shift+F9" and you will see that the field changes

  3. Add the switch

  4. "Shift+F9" again

  5. Right click on the merged field and select "Update field"

Thursday, July 09, 2009

PALM and Adobe

Once I have sent an email message to Palm, that was many years ago, sending them some sincere and constructive feedback. I said to them, between other things, that competing with Microsoft was to get into the rat's race where many finished bad. And the arrogant answer I received was: "We are sorry but Palm does not accept feedback from outside the company". Years later and with problems piled up I'm sure Palm is not arrogant as before. Now they need ideas and success. If they achieved it, better for all of us.

The World of operating systems is getting close to a very interesting moment.
Palm introduced the WebOS, Google is talking about a Chrome OS, Microsoft is not talking about a secret project called Midori.

In the meantime Adobe is creating really cool and innovative Web applications destined to be even better while all the others are trying to get the media on their side. I'm talking about
Apple is doing well but not perfectly well. The update to OSX 10.5.7 is still painful for many users. And it is coming to the common sense that a never crashing OS is more a myth than anything else. Apple failed with MobileMe, even now is getting much better.
Linux is also getting a good share of attention, the latest version of Ubuntu is really good!

So what is there for you? well, Microsoft tends to make good products when is under pressure. When they thought they are invincible they forgot about Internet Explorer, released Windows Vista and made a mess of Live services. And I think Microsoft wasn't so vulnerable in years! and I think that is not over.
Eachone of us will like more to experiment and try different OS. We will be able to do that easier than ever.
Competition will be fierce and I believe will be needed for contestants to be stronger.

Why not Adobe and Palm as a team? I think that would be a good mix. Adobe has the Web apps and Palm the OS. They don't need to run the same rat's race. Just to work together to get a nice WebOS into a beautiful and very functional productivity platform. I think that PALM needs to expand the concept of their business and the opportunity is that lightweight computers are becoming popular. PALM introduced in the past the idea of a Phone companion and after that unsuccessful initiative many things changed: more Web oriented phones, Netbooks, cravings about a Mac tablet computer. That makes me think that the World is now ready for notebooks and desktop computers that run the same OS. Something like the iPhone, but including desktop and mobiles apps. For example:
  • I would be happy to install a Word processor in my notebook and have it automatically available in my phone and other computers.
  • I would like to install a game on my phone and being able to play it in my notebook.
Adobe and Palm could do it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Effective communication and the IT PRO

Have you went trough the problem of being too techie for the rest of the organization? So far that your ideas are underestimated?

Many IT pros share that frustration. Many of us feel like we could provide much more value to the companies where we work but our superiors just can't get it! It is easy to feel like any additional effort is worthless.

I found out that the problem is a communication one. Even we understand how the company works and we know how to fix processes our superiors speak about profit, revenue and cutting costs when we speak about information security, information flows, bandwidth and others.

We are not speaking the same language! But we need them to care about our opinions and ideas.

If we want to be capable of growing our influence within the organization we need to achieve others to care about the value we can provide. We need to learn to communicate our ideas in such a way that they "stick". I advise you to give a check on "Made to STick" or to join the Facebook group for the same title.

I have learned that one of the problems is that when we speak we start from the point our experience and knowledge is. That means that we forget when we didn't know what we know now and that becomes a principal barrier. In the other side the one listening also understands according to what they know now, not what they knew. So how to make them care? How to achieve effective communication?

Well it is not only about saying stories. It is more to call their curiosity with topics they understand. Comparisons, proverbs and of course a clear sense of value. The book is really cool!