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Entries in software (4)


High level guide to making flowcharts


Flow charts are CRUCIAL visual aids in modern word processing. I rely on them heavily. I use a process that allows me to embed flowcharts in Microsoft Word documents while future-proofing them as much as possible - meaning I want to be able to edit the flowchart in a Word document at some later date. So, no pasting images/pictures of flowcharts.

I have found some issues with creating flowcharts in Office 2010. So here's what I do.

-        Create the flow chart in a powerpoint slide using CONNECTORS instead of arrows. Drag the connectors until they “bond” with the shapes they are connecting (the dot will turn red instead of green when you get the connector lined up with a little placeholder on each side of a shape)

-        Create text as a text box and then add a shape as a border. Do NOT write text and then draw a border around it (like a rectangle or circle). Add the shape as a BORDER. Text should be centered in the box. Boxes should be aligned using powerpoints “Align center” or “Align middle”. This will make the connectors look straight as well. Note that getting things perfectly aligned may require that the dimensions of the connected boxes (height and width) are the same across several boxes.

-        Now, in Powerpoint, select the entire slide in the SLIDE SORTER view of Powerpoint. Copy it to the clipboard. Do NOT try to copy a subset of the flowchart by lassoing and selecting.

-        Switch to Word, and use the PASTE SPECIAL command (look it up and make paste special your friend) to paste as a Microsoft Powerpoint Slide Object.

-        Now, when you want to edit the flow chart, right click on the slide object and choose “Slide Object, OPEN” (not edit). This opens the flowchart in Powerpoint with all commands available. I've found that using EDIT instead of OPEN creates issues, as my diagrams shrink when I close.

The reasons for following this admittedly complex procedure  include:

-        First and foremost, flow charts should be easy to edit by future users of your documents. This means moving boxes and having arrows stay connected. It means minimizing formatting. I can spend 4 hours on a flowchart easily; and I don’t want future editors (including me) to experience any barriers to adding a step or moving a box.

-        Word 2010 does not have good connector capabilities for flowcharting but Powerpoint does. (This is one of these aggravating examples where Word 2010 is worse than previous editions.) That’s why you edit flowcharts in Powerpoint.

-        Powerpoint also has better alignment and other graphics facilities than Word

In general, I write a LOT of flow charts and I almost NEVER use anything exotic (like Inspiration or Visio) because I want future users of my documents (protocols etc) to be able to edit the flow charts with the a very widely available program. So I make sure they show up as powerpoint-editable objects in Word. 



Samsung U5 mp3 digital audio-recorder

I use digital audio a lot in my work. I have a simple set of requirements for recorders: must record straight to mp3; must connect by USB to a computer; must have a rechargeable internal lithium-ion battery... For years these simple requirements have been somewhat hard to come by. Lately I'm using (and recommending) the Samsung U5.


Squarespace website authoring and hosting

When personal blogs and websites took off, I wanted to create my own but I didn't want to become a computer programmer. I wanted an authoring environment that would provide great flexibility with a point and click UI. That probably describes quite a few tools now, but I've stuck with the first one I've found: Squarespace. For a long time Squarespace was just some young computer prodigy named Anthony Casalena. Then, in a small world coincidence, my childhood buddies at Index Ventures made an investment and Squarespace is going even bigger. I like the fact that it is easy to use but has some sophisticated features, like user access controls so I can create password-protected portions of my websites for collaborators.


Freemake video editing software

Do you ever feel caught in the middle of video format wars? I often need to edit video for personal or professional reasons. I'll spare you a lot of the technical issues, partly because I don't fully understand them, but for years I have suffered from having video in, say, mp4 format, and wanting to display it using, say, Microsoft Powerpoint. I needed to convert from one video format to another. I spent a lot of time shuttling between Quicktime software and VLC Media Player. RealPlayer proved useful, but came with a lot of overhead - additional software that I didn't want nor fully trust. Along comes Freemake, a free software program that provides a very user-friendly interface for editing and converting video.