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Home Automation: Evaluating the Options

Home Automation: Evaluating the Options

    In Monday’s article, we discussed the various ways home automation can make life easier. Today we’ll look at the primary commercial methods of automating the home—a true and grand lifehack, in that it hacks the primary habitat in your life!

    At the end of the day, there are two main methods of home automation. The most popular is probably most popular because it is most affordable, and that’s plug-in automation provided by companies such as X10 (warning: annoying flashing lights if you follow the link) and Insteon. You plug these devices directly into the wall, and they form a network and communicate through the home’s power lines, and/or by radio.

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    The other solutions are hardwired. You need to build these into your house, whether that involves planning a new house from the ground up to integrate home automation, or doing some extreme retrofitting of your existing house. They provide a more seamless experience, of course—hard to call something seamless when modules sticking out of power outlets dot the landscape. Two companies that provide this sort of system are Crestron and Vantage.

    Weighing Up a Plug-in System

    Plug-in solutions such as the X10 or Insteon are cheap. They’re not just cheaper to purchase, but cheaper to install, since you just whack them into a power outlet (much of the time, at least). They’re also easier to move around—if you’re renting a house, it should be no problem to take your modules with you.

    Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. Plug-in modules have a reputation for being unreliable and doing strange things. You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to find all the lights around the house flashing on and off! Of course, many enjoy these products or they wouldn’t be so popular in the world of home automation, so it’s hard to say whether the problem is the product or the person using, and installing, the product.

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    I’m willing to bet that the reliability of such a system is dependent on the knowledge, skill and care of its owner and operator, if not just for the fact that if these systems were so unreliable that they barely ever worked, they wouldn’t be the most popularly selling systems with dedicated fanbases.

    That said, it makes sense that these systems would be less reliable no matter what. Instead of crafting a permanent, carefully planned system in between the walls of your house, you’re running things from power outlets. Simply knocking something as you walk by could put the system out.

    Weighing Up a Wired System

    Wired solutions are reliable by design. I’m not saying there are never problems with them. They run on electricity and they’re made by humans, so you can expect problems. But by design, they’re sturdy. They’re protected by your walls. They’re well-planned, carefully-installed, and properly-programmed systems that don’t change and aren’t modular. While the lack of modularity can be a nuisance for those perpetual experimenters who don’t have the ability to set it and forget it, it provides reliability.

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    The downside, of course, is that such systems are expensive. Far more expensive than other systems. And in the case of X10 and Insteon, the changes you need to make to your home’s wiring are minor and depend on what you need to do; even if you rent, the cost is minimal (so long as you get your landlord’s go ahead). When it comes to complicated, built-in wired systems, you need to have your own home. I’m sure the landlord wouldn’t mind if you added that sort of value to the house, but I’m also sure we all agree that’s a stupid way to spend your money unless you’re really fond of the person who takes your rent money.

    What Should You Buy?

    “Ah, here comes the conclusion,” you say. “I know what he’s going to tell us — that there is no one right decision and that it depends on personal factors.”

    Yeah, I know I say that a lot in my articles, but this time I have to say there’s a clear winner. If you have your own home, don’t waste your money on a plug-in system. The extra to wire up permanently will be well worth it.

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    That said, the decision is dependent on a variety of factors. Money, whether your home is rental or owned, whether you have the electrical skills. Add the factors up and see which is best for you, but I think if it can be helped anyone interested in good, reliable home automation should be prepared to do it properly. There’s no half-assery around these parts of town.

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    Last Updated on August 15, 2018

    25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

    25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

    Imagine if you could use 5 simple shortcuts while working in Excel, and increase your productivity without wasting time for searching information in huge tables, writing long formulas, and sorting the data.

    Or even better:

    What if you would get 25 useful shortcuts… and each of them could simplify your work, so you could do much more every day?

    You’d definitely feel excited to read about them.

    Today is your lucky day because we are going to share with you in this article 25 great Excel shortcuts you can use in your work every day! This is your lucky chance, so go ahead and become a real professional in Excel without wasting your time.

    How important are Excel shortcuts for you?

    The most effective thing to check out if people really need something is to release a survey and look at the results. So, according to the anonymous survey, 99% of people said Excel shortcuts are critical or important for them.

    In general, there are more than 200 shortcuts in Excel. But when we have analyzed the data about how many shortcuts people know, we got the next results:

    • 26% of people know 10 or fewer shortcuts;
    • 61% of people know 10-50 shortcuts;
    • 10% of people know 50-100 shortcuts.

    As you can see, not so many people know a lot of shortcuts. Probably, some of them never think about increasing their productivity in such a simple way.

    Of course, it depends on how deep you use Excel. Some people use this powerful application just for making simple tables or graphs, others use it for everyday work to count something.

    Most of the accountants and businessmen use much more Excel functions for more complex tasks such as creating VBA macros, managing PivotTables, recalculating huge workbooks, outlining data, etc.

    But even those people who work with Excel every day very close may know a few shortcuts. Needless to say, they can do their job without shortcuts, but it usually takes for them much more time. T

    his sounds not funny, especially if you must finish a huge amount of work urgently. There is a great opportunity for you to increase your productivity in Excel and do your job faster with our useful shortcuts.

    5 Main reasons to learn excel shortcuts

    Many people don’t understand why they should use shortcuts if they can work without them. Of course, if you use Excel twice per year to make a simple table or a graph, it is probably not so important for you to know many shortcuts.

    But if you work in Excel every day, sorting huge tables and managing with tons of data, then shortcuts will help you to reach the next five goals:

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    1. Work efficiently and faster in Excel
    2. Manage big amounts of data easily and fast
    3. Stay calm and concentrated even while doing a tedious job
    4. Make your work accurately and properly without errors
    5. Get a better understanding of Microsoft Excel

    Who can use Excel shortcuts?

    There are a lot of people who can simplify their life with Excel shortcuts, and here are the groups that will definitely love using them:

    • People who work in banks, finance organizations, etc.
    • Businessmen who make tons of various reports and presentations in Excel for meetings and briefings.
    • Students who usually are lazy and impatient to make their homework because they don’t want to waste a lot of time working in Excel.
    • Private entrepreneurs who keep various data in Excel tables.

    Whether you are a student who hates Excel because it seems a time-wasting and boring application, or you are an accountant who must recalculate huge worksheets every day without making errors, we recommend reading and learning these Excel shortcuts to make your work simpler and save some time.

    With these simple but useful tricks, it is so easy to finish your job and get more time for yourself.

    25 Excel shortcuts to increase your productivity

    Here are 25 great Excel shortcuts you should learn and use for work or studying to make your job faster and simpler. Try to use them all and you will realize you were totally blind before while working in Excel:

    1. Format whatever object fast with Ctrl+1

    If you select any object in Excel – a cell, a chart, a chart axis, a drawing object – then press Ctrl+1, and you will get the Properties dialog for the certain object. This shortcut offers a very quick and easy way to format whatever object you’re working with.

    2. Use range names with Ctrol+G or F5 key

    If you use range names (which we strongly recommend to do) and you want to choose the range with a specific name references, press either Ctrl+G or the F5 key, which launches the GoTo dialog.

    If the name is simple, you can click on it in a list in that dialog. But if it’s at all unusual, Excel won’t list it; so you will need to type in the name. Then press OK.

    3. Use a range name in a formula with =sum( and F3

    Suppose you want to use a range name in a formula. For example, you want to sum the Sales range. Enter…

    =sum(

    …and then press F3.

    When you do so, Excel launches the Paste Name dialog. Just choose “Sales” from the list, press the OK button in the dialog, then enter the SUM function’s closing “)” to complete the formula.

    4. Launch Function Arguments dialog easily with Ctrl+A

    Suppose you want to check the help topic for a worksheet function. For example, you want to read about the MATCH function. In a cell, type…

    =match(

    …and then press Ctrl+A, or click the Insert Function (“fx“) button to the left of the formula bar.

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    When you do so, Excel displays the Function Arguments dialog, which might offer all the help you need.

    But if you still want to see the complete help topic, click the blue “Help on this function” hyperlink in the lower-left corner of the dialog. This technique works with all documented Excel functions.

    5. Copy stuff down the column without scrolling with Ctrl+D

    If you added a formula in a new column on the right of a huge dataset, and you want to copy that formula down without scrolling, do these steps:

    • go to the right to the column that has data (the column to the left of the new column with the formula);
    • press Ctrl+Down – to get to bottom;
    • move one cell to the right (with arrow key naturally);
    • press Ctrl+Shift+Up to select the new column, at the top of which is the formula you just created;
    • press Ctrl+D to fill down the formula.

    6. Quick access to any function with Alt+

    By customizing the quick access toolbar, you can create simple shortcuts to commands that you would otherwise have to find in the Ribbon tabs, or macros you have created yourself.

    The keyboard shortcut is simply selecting Alt+ (the number of the command you wish to select).

    For example, if you have customized your quick access toolbar to have Calc Sheet, Save, Open. To calculate sheet you would hit Alt+1, for save Alt+2, and for open Alt+3.

    A lot of people are unaware of this useful function, and it’s a great time saver.

    7. Format cells with Ctrl+1

    When you need to format cells, use Ctrl+1. Most people know this as the shortcut for the Format Cells dialog, but you can also use it to format almost anything in Excel, without a care about the state of the ribbon. Try this amazing and simple shortcut!

    8. Choose visible cells with Alt+

    When you need to choose visible cells only – use Alt+. This is the trick to copy only what you see. It is a priceless shortcut when you’re manually hiding rows and columns in the table.

    9. Use filtering

    Filtering – it is a powerful way to slice, dice, and sort through a huge table of information.

    It’s amazingly effective when you’re participating in a meeting to discuss something like a sales forecast, and everyone is looking in real-time at your spreadsheet projected on a screen (or on their monitors).

    To some people, you will be seen as the God of Spreadsheets, and this is not a joke!

    10. Insert or delete column/row easily with the Ctrl key

    Some people waste a lot of time even for simple operations, for example, when they need to insert/delete columns and rows in Excel.

    Use this shortcut to insert: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl+Shift ++.

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    To delete: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl + –.

    11. See formula results with F9

    If you want to check formula results within multiple formulas, highlight the formula and select F9 to see formula result.

    Don’t forget to undo before exiting the formula.

    12. Use ALT+Enter for more text within a cell

    If you want to add a second line of text within a cell, use ALT+Enter.

    13. Use EDATE to move a date on by a full calendar month:

    Here’s how to use EDATE:

    =EDATE(15/01/16,+1) = 15/02/2016 (15th Feb 2016)

    =EDATE (15/01/2016,-2) = 15/11/2015 (15th Nov 2016)

    14. Use EOMONTH to move a date onto the end of the month:

    Here’s how to use EMONTH:

    =EOMONTH(15/01/2016,0) = 31/01/2016 (31st Jan 2106)

    =EOMONTH (15/01/2016,-2) = 30/11/2015 (30th Nov 2015)

    15. Remove spaces with TRIM

    TRIM is a useful function known by few people. It removes any spaces at the beginning of a value. This is useful if you are pulling in values from somewhere else.

    16. Repeat commands with F4 or Ctrl+Y

    In many cases, you may need to repeat your last action. Use F4 or Ctrl+Y; you can repeat many commands like applying the same borders, format, or insert a worksheet again.

    17. Quick access to cells with the Ctrl key and Shift key

    When you need to go to the first or last cell of a worksheet, no matter where you are, use Ctrl+Home, Ctrl+End combinations.

    And here is a pleasant bonus for you: add the Shift key to select everything on the way!

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    18. Use Ctrl+ to create a timestamp

    If you need a date stamp and/or a timestamp in your document, there is no need to type a date and time! Use shortcuts Ctrl+ ; (date) Ctrl+Shift+ : (time). It works like a magic and helps to save your time and nerves.

    19. Use autosum shortcut for sum function anywhere

    Autosum shortcut – use Alt =. It is a “magic” shortcut of Excel to automatically insert a sum function.

    You can use this shortcut to sum rows, columns, or even an entire table in one step without wasting your time.

    20. Use data validation

    This is an amazing but underutilized tool in Excel, which can be used for a variety of things:

    • Create dependent drop-down lists;
    • Create drop-down lists;
    • Protect/restrict data input of specific cells (without the need for VBA macros).

    21. Use conditional formatting

    It can be used for various purposes such as color format or cell format of cells, rows or columns based on dependent cell values or formats.

    22. Use formula auditing

    This is a great tool to analyze and trace precedent or dependent cells, check errors and evaluate formulas.

    The “Watch Window” is a feature to keep a snapshot of an area of the spreadsheet, and then move to another area of the workbook – particularly valuable if you’re managing large spreadsheets or don’t have a second screen.

    23. Use Scenario Manager to generate summary outputs of a spreadsheet

    Scenario Manager (under “What-if Analysis”) enables users to generate high-level, summary outputs of a spreadsheet – without the need to replicate the entire workbook.

    It will present multiple scenarios of a spreadsheet in a succinct, high-level summary worksheet.

    24. Use INDIRECT to set up large tables

    INDIRECT makes it easy to set up tables which reference larger tables without a lot of referencing work or cutting and pasting; especially for dynamic spreadsheets.

    25. Use OFFSET for complicated calculations or formulas

    OFFSET can be useful for things like calculating YTD numbers or creating formulas that take data in rows and using in columns.

    The bottom line

    As you can see, when you have a boring or tedious job to do, the best way to do it fast is not looking for a way how to avoid it, but searching for the shortest variant to do it!

    That is why we suggest keeping in mind these Excel shortcuts that will help you to save a lot of time and nerves.

    If it seems hard for you to remember all them, you can print out the list of shortcuts and keep it on your worktable. Use it to search for some help when you need it, and over time, you’ll remember all shortcuts easily.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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