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8 Tools That Make You More Productive With Microsoft Office

8 Tools That Make You More Productive With Microsoft Office

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook: these are what make Microsoft Office the most used suite of tools on the market. But even Office has its limitations. There are issues that you run into on a daily basis that take time – time that could be better spent on other things. While you may have amazing apps that increase your productivity in other areas of your life, you may not be aware that there are also some great add-in tools for Office. Some of them are even free. Here are eight of the best, ready for quick download and immediate use.

1. ShapeChef

ShapeChef is a great tool recently published by Wulfsoft. It provides templates, diagrams, graphics, and a huge set of icons for PowerPoint, and the collection keeps growing. The ShapeChef site gives you an idea of all that it has to offer. There are packages from individual to large organization, and the licenses never expire.

ShapeChef adds a library pane to your PowerPoint window for quick access. The elements are organized into categories, or you can use the search feature to find what you want. Once you have found a suitable image or icon, drag and drop it from the library pane into your PowerPoint slide. It’s that easy.

There are other benefits too. You can add your own images to the library and, of course, share with others so that everyone benefits from your creations. This feature makes it easy to maintain consistency throughout your team or organization.

The best part? No more searching all over the web for an appropriate image and worrying about attributions.

2. FlowBreeze

If you are sick of trying to develop flowcharts with drawing tools and arrows that never quite end up in the right place, you can give up all of that hassle by using FlowBreeze. This incredible tool is an add-in for Excel that makes it easy to create flowcharts that look completely professional.

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All you need to do is enter the text and the tool automatically generates the shapes for each step. Each shape and piece of text is formatted and the symbols are perfectly aligned with connecting arrows put in place automatically. Even better, there is a “text-to-flowchart” wizard that will convert an existing Word file into a chart. With FlowBreeze you can:

  • Start creating quickly using the easy-to-follow startup guide;
  • Use 84 built-in formats to style your own symbols;
  • Choose from 21 formats for connectors: straight, elbow, or curved;
  • Insert pictures right onto the symbols;
  • Export finished flowcharts in your choice of five picture formats; and
  • Save charts as Excel files so that others can view and edit them.

After a 30-day free trial period, you can purchase either a single-user or site license. It’s a one-time payment.

3. ASAP Utilities

Definitely not a new kid on the block, ASAP Utilities is an Excel add-in that fills the gaps and helps with those things you can’t do with plain Excel. It has been around for 17 years and was just updated to its latest version (5.6) in December 2015. You really have to visit the ASAP Utilities site and view some of the videos that demonstrate all of its features. Then hop on over to the customer reviews page and see what the pros currently using it are saying.

There are over 300 features – too many to name here – but suffice it to say that you will save bundles of time using them. For example, have you ever wanted to transpose a column into multiple rows so that you could create a table? ASAP Utilities makes it so easy.

While the number of features may seem overwhelming, you can just pick and choose those you need as you need them. Follow the simple instructions, and ASAP Utilities will save you both time and stress.

4. Wikipedia Add-In

So, you are writing along, composing maybe an essay or a piece of content for your blog, and you need some basic information about an artist, a city, or a book. You could stop what you’re doing, go online and access Wikipedia to get that information, and then copy what you need, go back to your Word document, paste it in, and then rephrase to put it into your own words. Talk about a lot of interruption to your flow of work. And so unnecessary.

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With the Wikipedia Add-in app, you can access Wikipedia information right from your Word file, saving time and hassle. When you type in your search term, the app automatically searches the Wikipedia database and provides the results in a task pane. You can then choose to view text, images, or both. Even better, you can select a quote and it will be automatically inserted into your Word document.

There are a few system requirements for this free app: Internet Explorer, plus Word or Excel 2013, Word or Excel online, or Word or Excel for iPad. That’s it.

  • The Wikipedia add-in is available in over 20 languages.
  • If you are looking for the quickest way of accessing reference material, there is no better tool than this.
  • To get started, just access the site and click “Add.” Done and done.

5. Office Tabs

Working with multiple documents at one time is a bit of a hassle in Microsoft Office. You have to go back and forth between different windows to gather and insert information into Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

Office Tabs lets you open all the documents you need at once in a single window and view each document as a tabbed file. And it works with all editions of Microsoft Office from 2003 forward. There are three components to the tool: Tabs for Word, Tabs for Excel, and Tabs for PowerPoint, so you can pull up documents from any of those three sources to view together.

The tool allows you to work with all of the files and then close them all with one click (it’s still possible to close them individually, if needed). You can also save pending changes for all documents with a single click on “Save all.”

Just a few of the other features include:

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  • The ability to customize your tabs using any of the eleven styles provided;
  • Whole file names (currently, if your file name is too long, it will be cut off; Office Tabs will display the full name);
  • Small file size, so the performance of Office is not slowed down in any way; and
  • Lots of shortcuts.

Access the site, take a look around and download either the free basic edition or the enterprise edition, which obviously offers additional features. With a permanent user license, you also get free updates and support for two years. You’ll find a tutorial on the site too.

6. Kutools for Outlook

This one offers a huge number of features to be used with Outlook designed to streamline your email-handling and save you so much time. Basically, Kutools for Microsoft Outlook provides features to simplify all the mundane tasks that you have to perform every day, such as:

  • Creating automatic “out of office” replies;
  • Creating automatic CC and BCC customizations for those forwards;
  • Forwarding several emails at once; and
  • Sorting through junk mail with better filters.

With a single click, you can also:

  • Search for all emails from a sender, an email address, or a domain;
  • Reply to or forward several emails all at once;
  • Delete all emails from a sender or with a specific subject line;
  • Delete duplicate emails, contact names or email addresses; and
  • Block senders, subjects, or by body keywords.

A lifetime license will also give you free upgrades and support for two years. Multiple licenses come with discounted pricing.

If email takes up a large chunk of your work day, you need this tool.

7. E-Mail Follow-Up

This is another very simple add-in tool for Outlook. If email is an important part of your professional work, then you understand the frustration of sending an email, expecting a reply and then not getting one, or even forgetting that you sent that email and needed a reply. It’s an easy thing to forget when you’re busy. And failure to follow-up can affect productivity down the road, when you realize that you cannot move forward without that response.

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E-Mail Follow-Up will make sure that you never forget about that needed reply. When you send your email, you can schedule a reminder to send a follow-up email. If you receive the reply, or even a phone call, before the calendar date you set, just delete the follow-up reminder from the calendar. It’s simple, streamlined, and will save you time checking and re-checking your sent emails to see when you sent messages and to whom those messages were sent.

This tool will add just two buttons to your Outlook message editor. For a single-user license ($24), you will get lifetime use, new versions, and support for one year. You can download a free trial version first to see if it works for you.

8. Onetastic for OneNote

Free is always good, and that is exactly what Onetastic for OneNote is. If you already have Microsoft’s digital note-taking app OneNote and love it, you will be thrilled with this add-in that gives you even more functions. Onetastic allows you to:

  • Perform repeated tasks automatically,
  • Download additional macros as needed,
  • Set up calendar views for your OneNote pages,
  • Crop or rotate printouts and images,
  • Set up custom styles, just as Word does, and
  • Set up menus and tables of contents.

Videos and tutorials are available on the website, along with an FAQ section.

We are all looking for ways to boost our productivity, especially at work, and we all use lots of different methods for getting more organized and less stressed. Now, however, there are tools that can streamline the work itself. That’s a big plus.

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Elena Prokopets

Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

1. Find Your Good Reasons

Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

  • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
  • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
  • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
  • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

2. Make It Fun

When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How can I enjoy this task?
  • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
  • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

4. Recognize Your Progress

Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

5. Reward Yourself

This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

Mix and Match

Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

More to Boost Your Motivation

Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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