Copying a Spreadsheet as an Image

Have you ever wanted or needed to copy a spreadsheet (or part of a spreadsheet) as an image? Maybe you used Excel to input a bunch of data and created some spiffy graph that you’d like to export as an image file to a Word document. Using one very easy – but almost universally unknown – trick, you can do this. Just open the spreadsheet in question and navigate to the worksheet you’d like to copy (NOTE: if you only want to copy a portion of the data, make sure the cells in question are highlighted). Then hold down the SHIFT key and click Edit > Copy Picture. A small box will then appear asking if you want the data copied either as it would appear on the screen or as it would appear when printed. Pick your poison. Then use image manipulation software like Photoshop or MS Paint (included free on every computer running Windows) to paste the new image. You can also paste the image directly into Word or whatever program you’d like.

Cool Remote Desktop Shortcut

Remote Desktop is a fancy new word for “Terminal Services”. It’s a cool way for systems administrators (or sons and\or boyfriends) to troubleshoot any computer running Windows XP Professional from any other computer in the world. It’s also a cool way of using one keyboard and mouse to control several computers, or for the IT guy to do routine server administration from his desk two floors down from the server room. But there’s one annoying behavior of Remote Desktop that a lot of us geeks don’t like: once someone has logged on to a computer with Remote Desktop, that computer’s console session (the session displayed on the monitor) is locked until the someone physically walks up to that computer and unlocks it. This is more of a personal annoyance than a problem, but let me give you a scenario when this might actually hamper the usefulness of remote administration.

Let’s imagine that a company has several monitors embedded in the wall of the receptionist area of their office. These monitors are connected to several older PCs that continuously run Powerpoint presentations that show pictures of the company’s products and welcome messages for visiting clients. If the company wants to change or update the Powerpoint presentation, the IT guy normally has to walk to the closet wherever these PCs are located and manually copy the new PPT file to the PCs and restart Powerpoint. He or she could do this from their desk using Remote Desktop, but unfortunately since Remote Desktop locks the console session, the IT guy will still have to walk to the closet and manually press CTRL+ALT+DEL to unlock the computers… unless you follow this trick:

Right-click on any empty area of the desktop and select New > Shortcut. In the “location” box, enter (or paste) this text:

%windir%\System32\tscon.exe 0 /dest:console

Click “Next”, then give the new shortcut a name and click “Finish”. Once this has been done, you can copy the shortcut to any PC you’d like. To have XP end the Remote Desktop session and immediately return to the console session, simply click the new shortcut you made to end the remote session.

Robocopy

Although “Robocopy” sounds like something robots do to make baby robots, it actually stands for “Robust File Copy” and is a popular (and free) tool from Microsoft. It’s included with Windows Vista and is available for Windows XP and Windows 200 as part of the Windows 2003 Server Resource Kit (despite the “Windows 2003? name, Robocopy works just fine in Windows 2000, XP and Vista).

What’s so cool about it is that it’s a command-line program for copying files from one place to another, yet it has some powerful features that you can’t get simply by dragging and dropping files using Windows Explorer. For instance, you can have Robocopy copy all the NTFS security information from certain files. You can set the number of retries on failed copies, exclude or include changed, newer or older files, copy subdirectories but not empty ones, copy subdirectories including empty ones and much, much more.

One of my favorite Robocopy options is /mir, which creates an exact copy of any directory on another drive or network share. This is an *excellent* tool for making backups. Here’s a sample of a batch file I use to copy my application and music files over to my server:

robocopy.exe \\mycomputer\applications \\server\applications /mir /eta /tee
robocopy.exe \\mycomputer\jukebox \\server\jukebox /mir /xd Recycled Recycler “System Volume Information” Temp /eta /tee

Both commands use the /mir switch to mirror the source directories and also use the /eta switch to show the estimated completion time and /tee to send output to console window. Since the “Jukebox” share is sharing the root of the drive I use the /xd switch to exclude various folders on the drive, such as the “Recycle Bin” and “Temp” folders. Neat huh? Of course, Robocopy with the /mir switch will (by default ) only copy newer or changed files, so it doesn’t waste time copying unchanged files. If I add four or five new albums to my music collection and then run the batch file, only those new albums will be copied to the server. This is *such* a time saver! Robocopy works far better than many shareware utilities that do the same thing.

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Outlook Calendar Shortcuts

One of the best undocumented features of Microsoft Outlook – well, undocumented as I can tell – is the “calendar shortcuts” feature. When you create a new appointment or task, you don’t need to know the exact date of the appointment or task – let Outlook figure that out for you!

For example, if your boss tells you that a particular report is due in 25 days, you don’t have to manually figure out when that is – just enter 25d in the “Start Time” for the appointment (make sure that today is selected in your calendar, otherwise the appointment will be added 25 days from the selected day).

Other available operators include W (weeks), MO (months) and Y (years) as well as TODAY, TOMORROW and NEXT TUESDAY (or whatever other day you need next week). Note that these calendar shortcuts also work with Tasks as well.

Virtual Coolness!

Most large software releases – operating systems, office suites and anything else big enough to use an entire CD-ROM disc – are transferred legally (or illegally) in the form of disk images. These are single files (which usually have the extension .ISO, hence “ISO file) that contain the entire contents of the CD or DVD disc with extra “metadata” included – such as the discs’ name and boot information, if required. This allows the end-user to put a blank disc in their drive, open his or her software burning program and click “Burn Image” and end up with a CD full of stuff in just a few minutes. In a nutshell, I can create a CD-ROM named “Pictures” with a variety of digital images on it, create an .ISO file of the disc that I can distribute to anyone, who can then create a million discs just like mine – or send it on to someone else who can then make a million copies of their own.

This is not new. The Linux operating system has been distributed this way for ages. Microsoft rarely mails actual CDs of beta software to testers these days and instead opts to allow users to download ISOs of the beta program – like Windows Server 2008 for example. But what good are the image files aside from allowing users to make flawless copies of CD or DVD discs?

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Helpful Outlook Shortcuts

Microsoft Outlook is much more than just an email program. Outlook has robust contact, calendaring and tasking capabilities and even has a built-in function to create electronic Post-It notes. However, if all you need to do is create a quick note, it’s kind of a pain to have to open Outlook and click New > Note, especially if your office computer is a PII-300. Fortunately, there’s a way that you can create a new Contact, Appointment, Task, Note, Journal Entry or even email without having to open Outlook itself. The following trick works with Outlook 2000 and higher:

First of all, you need to find the path to OUTLOOK.EXE on your system. With Office 2003, this would typically be C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\OUTLOOK.EXE but you or your IT guy might have installed Office to a different location. To find out for sure, click on Start > Search and look for the file named OUTLOOK.EXE. Once you know the path, write it down.

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Installing Office & That Stupid Product Key

I have to install Office all the time at my job. One thing I absolutely hate about it is entering the stupid product key. If you have to install Office on a regular basis there’s an easy way to have the Office installer automatically insert the CD key for you. All you need to do is insert the Office CD-ROM in your computer and edit the SETUP.INI file that’s located in the root of the Office installation CD. When you first open the INI file, you’ll see a section that looks like this:

;[Options]
; If a value is present, the [Options] section gives the values of properties to apply to
; this installation. Specify them in the format:
; PropName=PropValue
; Remember to uncomment both the section name and the value names.
;
;USERNAME=Licensed User

Delete the semi-colon in front of the [Options] header and add the value PIDKEY= along with your CD-key like so:

[Options]
; If a value is present, the [Options] section gives the values of properties to apply to
; this installation. Specify them in the format:
; PropName=PropValue
; Remember to uncomment both the section name and the value names.
;
;USERNAME=Licensed User
PIDKEY=M36WHQTFRRJYMYXXXXXXXXXXX

Save the edited INI file on your desktop (or Office network share, if you do network installations. If you go this route, you’re done). All you need to do next is burn a copy of the Office CD with the edited SETUP.INI file and the next time you install Office the CD key will automagically be filled in for you.

For more information, click here.