Collaboration with Microsoft Word

When it comes to collaboration there are several under utilized features in Microsoft Word that enhance collaboration and organization. First, using these features assumes your organization has a common filing system. Second, using these features assume your organization supports or promotes collaboration and sharing. A document is not mine. A document is ours.

  1. Watermarks. Using a watermark is an effective method for marking a document as a draft. Using the document file name often leads to confusion. It is not uncommon to find a document in several versions that include "draft", "final", "old", "new" or "new final". This typically starts with the "draft". Multiple copies of a document hinders effective search.
  2. Track Changes. Using Track Changes allows a group to collectively make and manage changes. It is important to personalize your copy of Word with your name and initials for effective tracking identification. Emailing changes, for example, versus inserting them directly in a document is a time waster and diminishes the value of team work. Too, often I witness users changing the font color to highlight their changes.
  3. Compare and Combine. If common document storage is not possible, using the Compare and Combine function provides a means for tracking and managing changes.
  4. Comments. If you have questions or a comments, Word provides the ability to insert Comments to a particular selection. This is helpful since all participants may view the comments within the document. Since each comment contains the contributor identification, it promotes a dialog. A document can retain comments indefinitely without hindering the ability to print. Users unaware of this feature, add text in the document, which requires the removal of the text after review.
  5. Read-Only. When a document reaches a final form, save the file as read-only. This can be done with or without passwords.
  6. Properties. Document properties are often ignored. They often inherit the properties of a copy. Therefore the embedded author (owner) and title are incorrect. Identifying the document owner is useful, especially months or years after publication.

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Jott

Jott is a mobile transcription service that transcribes messages into popular forms such as email or Google Calendar. This is a great multitasking tool. No more typing on my SmartPhone while I am driving.


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Microtrends - Pay Attention

When I read Microtrends I kept thinking the opportunities are there if we pay attention. The book presents interesting information from polls about behavior. Behavior that may influence company strategy or offer new business opportunities. While you may not agree with the some of the analysis it provokes thought. There are the seeds of a business plan in there somewhere.


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audible.com

For many years I have been using audible.com to deliver audio books to my MP3 player. This is a great time shifting or multitasking tool. Yet I find many are unaware of this service. There are many opportunities to listen such as in the car or while exercising. The best time to listen for me is during my morning run.


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Gaming and Exercise

This is the time of year we start our new year resolutions or simply work to loose that weight we gained during the holidays. I'm no exception. I enjoy gaming and I exercise to remain healthy. So, a few years ago I found the GameBike that combines gaming and exercise. We bought the Recumbent GameBike Pro from gamebike.org. We added a Viewsonic 42" LCD, PlayStaion 2 and Logitech surround sound speaker system. The LCD hangs from the ceiling in front of the bike.

My favorite game is ATV 4. Playing ATV 4 on a recumbent bike with a steering wheel feels real. Not that I ever raced a dirt buggy off road. And it is good the game warns you during load that it is just a game or there is no telling what I may have done.

It really makes the time pass while exercising and it is fun.


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Driving Without A License

At times reading email is like watching people drive without a license. There are not email traffic cops. There is no email bible or rule book. We just get on our computers and email. Often with unproductive, embarrassing or ineffective results. The following are guidelines we use and suggest to clients.

Addressing E-mail: To, Cc, and Bcc

E-mail can be sent to multiple individuals who may or may not need to take action on the message.

  • To: The addresses in the 'To' are for the people you are addressing directly or from whom you expect a response.
  • Cc: The addresses in the 'Cc' are for the people you are addressing indirectly and do not expect a response. Copy only those who need to be copied.

Subject Lines

A subject line that pertains clearly to the email body will help people shift to the proper context before they read your message. The subject line should be brief like a title, does not need to be a complete sentence, and should give an indication to the contents of the message.

Example: Subject: Tuesday Staff Meeting Agenda

For time-critical messages, starting with URGENT: is a helpful. You should also 'flag' the message as high priority. Do not abuse it or eventually the recipient will no longer consider them urgent.

Example: Subject: URGENT: Tuesday Staff Meeting Agenda

If you are offering non-urgent information that requires no response from the other person, prefacing the subject line with FYI: (For Your Information) will help your user determine the nature of the message.

Example: Subject: FYI: Birthday Treats

Stationary and Backgrounds

Use of e-mail stationary or backgrounds is not recommended in business communications. Stationary rarely looks professional to the recipient.

Fonts

We recommend a 10 point font be used for e-mail communications. Large fonts feel child-like and fancy fonts are difficult to read.

E-mail Content

Messages should be brief and to the point. If the message is a request, ask specific questions that solicit a specific response. Remember, some people receive hundreds of e-mail messages a day. Clear and concise presentation of information results in efficiency and you are more likely to get a quick response.

Salutations

The question here is "How personal is too personal?" or to be more specific, how do you begin your e-mail?
Dear Sir
Dear Mr. Smith
Dear Joe
Joe
None of the aforementioned

Each situation will need to be evaluated on its own, but in general, use the following as a guide:

  • If you normally address a person as Miss/Mrs./Ms./Mr./Dr. Smith, that is how you should address them in an e-mail.
  • If you normally call them by their first name, use their first name or either omit the salutation. The salutation is implied in the "To:" e-mail field.
  • If you are unsure, stick to the formal salutation.

Capitalization

E-mail should follow the same capitalization rules as any other business correspondence.
Use of upper case letters throughout a word or phrase is discouraged. In the world of e-mail, upper case use denotes yelling.

Example: I NEED AN ANSWER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

Use of all lower case letters is common in text and instant messaging, but is not appropriate in business electronic correspondence.

Punctuation

Do not use excessive punctuation. Some people put multiple exclamation points at the end of a sentence for added emphasis. If something is important it should be reflected in your text, not in your punctuation. If added emphasis is needed, bold, italicize or underline the font. However, do so sparingly or you will dilute the message.

Abbreviations

Abbreviation usage is quite rampant with e-mail. In the quest to save keystrokes, users have traded clarity for confusion (unless you understand the abbreviations). It is recommended that you use abbreviations that are already common to the English language, such as 'FYI' and 'BTW'. Beyond that, you run the risk of confusing your recipient. Use of words shortened by removing vowels or substituting numbers for letters is common in text and instant messaging. These types of abbreviations are not appropriate for business correspondence.

Example: r u ready 2 go? ill c u l8tr.

Tone

Facial expressions, body gestures, and auditory variances assist the listener in determining the context of a message being relayed. E-mail does not allow the use of visual or auditory cues that are found in face-to-face or telephone conversations. Since there are no visual or auditory cues with e-mail, read your messages carefully before sending to make sure the tone of the message correctly relays your intent. Place it safe by avoiding adjectives.

Signatures

The use of a descriptive signature is recommended because the originator is not always clear to the recipient. Using a signature assists the recipient with a response.

Recommended Signature Template

First Name Last Name
Title/Position
Company
414.456.XXXX Office
414.456.XXXX Fax
E-mail Address
Web Site Address

Reply: versus Reply to All:

The 'Reply to All' button can generate unnecessary e-mails. Unless your reply pertains to everyone who received the initial e-mail, do not use the 'Reply to All' button.

Use the 'Reply' button when possible. Other recipients can be added to a reply if the message does not need to go to the entire group.

If you narrow the subject of the message in a reply consider updating the Subject in the reply.


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Southeast Wisconsin High Performance Computing

On December 14th, I attended a Southeast Wisconsin High Performance Computing (SeWHiP) planning meeting led by Craig Struble, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Director, Master of Bioinformatics Program at Marquette University. SeWHiP is facilitating the collaboration of high performance computing resources among several institutions. Participating were the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Medical College of Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.


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Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

Wikinomics is my latest book recommendation and my book of the year. This is a best selling book and one of CIO Insight Editor’s Pick for Best Books of 2007. This book on mass collaboration has thought provoking application for businesses and their customers. BusinessWeek did a series on Wikinomics early this year. At Tushaus we are challenging ourselves to apply collaboration in our business and for our customers.


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Vudu

Our family has been using Vudu for 2 months now in our theater. This is the first on-demand DVD quality and soon HD quality in widescreen movie service that connects directly to your display or theater systems. It requires broadband Internet. Vudu currently has 5,000 titiles. It is convient to browse the movies titles and instantly watch a movie. You pay a premium for the convience. Some new releases or poplular title are missing. Not all movies are available for rent. It is easy to use. Overall, it is a good product/service.


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