Category Archives for "Reader Questions"

Reader Question: Forcing TOC entries to wrap at a specific point

I received a message from a reader earlier this week that went something like this:

I have a question about table of contents. ... I just want to know if you can wrap table of contents entries in the table of contents so that if they're multi-line entries, [they end up with an] equal amount of text on each line. I know that there's the indenting but I don't know ... if that will work to get an equal amount of text on that, on different entries. So kind of complicated question for me.

It IS kind of a complicated question, because the answer depends on which method he used to create the TOC.

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6 How to autonumber exhibits with the SEQ field

A reader came to me recently with a dilemma: He needed to create a document that had lettered exhibits sprinkled throughout, in a format that looked like this:

Example of autonumbered exhibit reference using SEQ field

Okay, so far, so good. Autonumbering I can handle.

But here was his other requirement: He wanted to be able to generate a list of the exhibits at the end of the document (including the description of the exhibits as shown above) so his assistant would know what documents to gather and attach.

At first, I proposed making the list at the bottom of the document first, then cross-referencing within the document. But he countered that the exhibits within the document would be dynamic. In other words, he might be adding or subtracting exhibits within the document, so they needed to autonumber within the document itself.

That's another wrinkle.

I had to think about this one for a bit. It's not impossible (in fact, it's not even really all that hard), but it does require deploying several techniques:

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Formatting Autocorrect Entries

Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you, reader? Seriously, if it wasn't for all of you, I wouldn't find out about all sorts of things in Microsoft Office.

Case in point: a reader contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me this:

We recently upgraded from Word 2007 to 2013. In 2007 I had set up an auto correct for the term Id. In 2013 I can’t get the AutoCorrect to underline the term. Any ideas? -- Sharon

Frankly, I never knew you could format AutoCorrect entries. So I took to the interwebs to investigate.

Sure enough, it's possible to teach AutoCorrect to correct both the spelling and formatting of an entry. But there's a trick to it.

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31 Reader Question: How to automatically number your discovery requests … in 5 keystrokes

If your law firm does litigation work, you’ve probably prepared lots of discovery. And you may have wondered if there’s any way you can (a) avoid typing the phrase “Interrogatory No. X” in Microsoft Word over and over again and (b) get that X to be an automatically incrementing number.

If so, the answer is, yes, you can!

One of the reasons I love reader questions is that the best ones get me flipping through my reference books, scouring the Internet, and testing, testing, testing, trying to find a solution to a problem I’ve been wondering about myself (but never got around to examining).

Such was the case with this reader question:

I’ve been searching for the best way to create auto numbering for discovery requests: dare I say in WordPerfect I had the most amazing macros that used “counter” and creating a set of discovery was a snap. I’ve struggled to find something workable in Word. Some people use Discovery Request No. X – Interrogatory; others use Interrogatories No. X, Requests for Production No. X, Requests for Admission No. X throughout a set of discovery. There has to be a way to do this in Word, and I’ve tried several different approaches, none of which worked out that well. Would you please steer me in the right direction? Thanks very, very much.

I tossed back a rather glib answer about using the AutoNumLgl field code to number the discovery requests, and she threw in this little wrinkle: her attorneys like to play mix-and-match with their discovery. In other words, they may put in a couple of interrogatories, then throw in a related request for production, then another interrogatory, then a request for admission that’s related to that interrogatory.

Um. Okay. So they’re going to need three numbering sequences operating independently. Back to the drawing board.

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2 Reader Question: How to double indent faster

It was one of those emails that I knew I'd get sooner or later:

When indenting a paragraph for a quote in a motion for instance, is there a way to indent both the left and right margins of the paragraph using a keyboard shortcut? I seem to recall Ctrl+M in WordPerfect, but don't know of a built-in shortcut for MS Word.

Yeah, I've kind of been bummed about that, too.

The short answer is, no. Word didn't considerately offer up a built-in shortcut key that'll automatically indent both the right and left margins for an extended quote. I do not know why. It is a mystery for the ages. (Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic.)

But where Microsoft has failed, you can succeed. Here are three suggestions I had:

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Easier date entry in Excel

A local law office manager contacted me recently with this dilemma:

If I format the column as a date column so that my dates look like 05/12/16, all is well as long as I put in the slashes. I’ve got tons of dates to input and if I could simply put in 051216 and let IT put in the slashes, that would be wonderful – but when I do enter 051216, Excel changes it to 03/21/40. What’s it doing and how can I fix this?

Normally, speedy data entry isn’t a problem in Excel. As long as you set up the “where the cursor goes after you hit Enter” setting correctly, you can just type away.

Dates, however, are a bit of a pain in the … neck. As our hapless office manager has noted. Keep reading →

Reader Question: How to get footnote citations to show up in Table of Authorities

Julie contacted me recently with a real puzzler:

I am working in Microsoft Word 2010.  For some reason when I am marking a citation, it will not include the case from a footnote in the Table of Authorities.  It will pick up a statute or rule, but not [a case from] the footnote.  Any suggestions??

Ooooookaaaaay. Something’s really amiss here. And what made it more puzzling was, when I tried to replicate her problem on my own computer, mine worked just fine. (I actually kind of hate when that happens, because then I really feel stumped.)

Turns out, though, this a real problem that Microsoft knows about. Fortunately, it has a real solution.

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2 Reader Question: How to embed the current paragraph number in your text

One reader who works in insurance defense law (a woman after my own heart — so do I) asked me this question recently:

In a case where I am automatically numbering the beginning of each paragraph (sometimes up to 100)...and then have to refer to the same paragraph number in the text (e.g., 1. Deny the allegations contained in paragraph "1"), how can I get the number in the text to match the corresponding number of each specific paragraph so that if I have to delete a paragraph, I will not have to go into every paragraph to change the text to say responding to paragraph"2" to correspond with the actual numbered paragraph? I know it has something to do with using fields in the text.

Again, a woman after my own heart. She's trying to automate something to minimize the amount of repetitive editing she'll have to do as the document changes. I like people who think ahead like that.

And she's right: it does have "something to do with fields in the text." But which one is appropriate here? The answer may surprise you ... and you might find a use for it in your own documents, too.

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24 Reader Question: Getting rid of hard line breaks in pasted text

Reader Benjamin e-mailed me recently with this request:

I've got text (imported badly - I don't have access to the original source) which is spaced badly in Microsoft Word 2010 — meaning I have to manually cursor + delete then space-bar to put it back together without the green wiggles.It's time consuming and I would like to know if there is an automated alternative. I'm sure I'm one of millions who are suffering with this. Can you help us?

He attached a video demonstrating his problem, which immediately made clear what he was up against:

When he says he's "one of millions who are suffering with this," I believe him. Because I'm one of them, too. And between the two of us, we might've come up with a good solution.

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How to create your own Pleading Paper template, Part 2

If you completed the first unit in this course, you know that there are two basic formats of Pleading Paper:

  • In the 25-line template, the line numbers are embedded in a Text Box which is placed in the Header, and the vertical lines separating the numbers from the text are graphic objects drawn using the Shapes feature on the Insert tab. While this format is more vulnerable to misalignments between the numbers and the text, it will allow for certain parts of the pleading (such as the style in the signature block) to be single spaced.​
  • In the old 28-line template, the line numbers are placed on the page using the Line Numbering feature in Word, and the vertical lines are drawn using Bar Tabs. The line numbers and the text do not get misaligned in this template, but it will not accommodate single spacing in the style or signature block, nor can you use a Table to insert the case style.

Armed with this knowledge (and your familiarity with your court's particular requirements), you've chosen which template to start with. But it needs adjusting, doesn't it? So here in Part 2, I'm going to show you how to modify the standard template to make your own.

How to modify the standard templates

Using the 25- and 28-line templates as a guide, here's how to make some formatting adjustments to a standard template for your own use.

Adding/removing/moving vertical lines

25-line/26-line/new 28-line/32-line templates

In these templates, the vertical lines are embedded in the Header as a graphic object. To move or delete any of these lines, double-click in the Header area (or go to the Insert tab and click Header | Edit Header), then select the vertical line by clicking on it (you'll know you've selected it correctly if you see an anchor character floating nearby). To remove it, simply click the Delete key. To move it around, simply hold down your left mouse button and drag the line around to wherever you want it.

To add a new vertical line, go to the Insert tab and, under Shapes, find the straight line tool as illustrated below:

Your cursor will change to a cross-hair. Place your cursor where you want to start the line then, holding down your left mouse button, drag the mouse to where you want to line to end. Release the left mouse button to finish the line.

If your line needs adjusting (thickness or horizontal position), see "Extending vertical lines into the header and footer (28-line template only)" below for instructions.

Old (2003) 28-line template

If you have an older (version 2003) 28-line template, the vertical lines are actually bar tabs (which explains why they do not extend into the Header or Footer). The only adjustments you can make here are to either delete the line or move it. To do either, first select all the text in the document with CTRL-A so your new tab settings will be effective for the whole document. Then, click the launcher in the lower right-hand corner of the Paragraph section of the Home tab to get the Paragraph dialog box. Click the Tabs button on the bottom of that dialog box to get the Tabs dialog box:

To remove either of these lines, click on the appropriate one (either the -0.25" or -0.23" setting), then click the Clear button. You can't directly move one of these lines, so you'll have to delete a line first and then reinsert it at whatever vertical point you wish. Just type the new setting under Tab stop position, Select Bar under Alignment, then click Set.

Changing the number of text lines to be numbered

I will tell you this up front: I was an English major in college for a reason. Math is not my strong suit. So it's with great trepidation that I approach the subject of reformatting a 25- or 28-line template to accommodate 24 or 31 or however many lines according to your court's requirements. Because there will be math. (That always sounds vaguely like a threat to me.)

I would recommend that you tackle page margins first. To do that, go to the Page Layout tab and click on Margins:

Put the correct values in the boxes next to Top, Bottom, Left, and Right, then click OK.

Once you have your margins set correctly, then you can reset the number of lines on the template.

25-line/26-line/28-line/32-line templates

In the 25/26/28/23-line templates, you'll have to adjust the Line Spacing for both the line numbers along the left and the actual text of the document:

To change the Line Spacing in the Text Box that contains the line numbers, double-click into the Header, single click into the Text Box, then press CTRL-A to select the entire contents of the Text Box.

Now, click the launcher arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the Paragraph section of the Home tab to get the Paragraph dialog box:

Okay, here's where the math comes in. If, for example, you have an 11 inch long piece of paper and your top margin is 1.5 inches and your bottom margin is 0.7 inches, that leaves you with 8.8 inches of text. Because most of us don't deal with text the way a typesetter or desktop publisher does (in points rather than inches), we don't commonly know that 72 points = 1 inch. (Since there are 2.54 centimeters in an inch, it looks like there are about 28.35 or so points per vertical centimeter ... I think.)

So you'll have to take that 8.8 inches and multiply it by 72, then divide it by the number of lines your form requires to come up with the correct point setting to type in next to "Exactly" above (which may require some decimal places, like the aforementioned 22.75 pt setting). You may have to tweak and test little bit (I told you math wasn't my strong suit) to get this exactly right, but the above formula should at least get you in the ballpark. (If you'd rather work strictly in inches or centimeters, you can actually type that value in with "in" or "cm" next to it, and when you click OK, Word will do the conversion for you. Points, however, are going to be a bit more precise.) Use the exact same setting for your document text (and be sure the font sizes match, too), and your numbers and text should align just fine.

If your line spacing settings are the same in both places, but your line numbers and lines are a little askew, you can nudge the Text Box in the Header up or down slightly by dragging it up or down slightly so that the number 1 is aligned with the first line of your text. You can also use the key combination CTRL-UP or CTRL-DOWN to nudge it up or down by small increments (you have to select the Text Box with your mouse so that you see the anchor character appear above it first).

Old (2003) 28-line template

This whole operation is a lot simpler in the old 28-line template. Since the Line Numbering always tracks with the actual text, it simply a matter of adjusting the Line Spacing (see formula above) until you get the correct number of lines between your top and bottom margins.

Inserting a case style

25-line/26-line/28-line/32-line templates

The 25/26/28/32-line templates already have a case style format embedded in them. Those shaded items in brackets are actually fields that are left over from the way Word 2003 and earlier used macro-driven bookmarks. You can simply type over this information with your own, or if you really want to get fancy, click here to find out how you can embed Bookmarks that will enable you to repeat information like a party's name throughout a document.

Notice that the part containing the plaintiff's and defendant's names, etc., is within a Table. I've found that this is a good way to format this kind of information because things tend to stay put. (By the way, if you need to insert a Tab inside of a Table, hit CTRL-Tab rather than just Tab.)

If the format above doesn't meet your particular court's requirements, contact your local court clerk or law librarian to see if a better template is available.

Old (2003) 28-line template

Since the older 28-line template is completely blank, you've got pretty much free reign. Except for one problem: inserting a table (like you can in the 25/26/28/32-line templates) makes the line numbers and vertical line <em>disappear</em>. (Bummer.) But you can still use tab stops to format everything, and if you're not totally wedded to a particular separator character (like * or ) ), then you can use a Bar Tab (just another type of tab stop, like Center Tabs or Right Tabs) to insert a straight line in the middle that never moves, no matter how many parties you enter.

Fixing numbering/text alignment problems

With the old 28-line template, you should never seldom have any alignment problems between the numbering and the text, since this template employs the Line Numbering feature in Word.

Update: H. Scott Leviant over at The Complex Litigator points out that line number/text alignment problems that occur on the first page of pleading paper can be fixed easily with a setting in Word Options. To take advantage of this setting, click on the File Tab (versions 2010 and 2013) or the Office Button (version 2007) and choose Options. In the Advanced section, scroll all the way to the bottom and expand the Layout Options by clicking on the arrow to the left of the phrase "Layout Options". Check the box called "don't center 'exact line height' lines", like so:

But since the 25/26/28/32-line templates have line numbering embedded in a Text Box, misalignments are a frequent hazard, particularly for those who copy text out of other documents.

And to explain this, I have to go to video:

Extending line numbering into the footer (25/26/28/32-line template only)

I seem to remember having had someone ask me this, although I frankly don't know what jurisdiction actually requires this (or why). But never mind that, because this is actually easy to do. Just double-click into the Header, scroll down to the end of the Text Box, then place your cursor after the last number, hit Enter, and just add as many numbers as you need.

Extending vertical lines into the header and footer (old 28-line template only)

See that example above of the case style in a 28-line template? Since that template uses Bar Tabs to put the vertical lines between the line numbers in the text, the vertical lines don't actually extend into the header and footer. I cheated.

To add extra length to those vertical lines, double-click into the header or footer, then go to the Insert tab and click Shapes to find the vertical line tool:

Your cursor will change to a cross-hair. Place your cursor at the end of the existing line created by the Bar Tab, then, holding down your left mouse button, drag the mouse to the top or bottom. Release the left mouse button to finish the line. Rinse and repeat in the Header and Footer for as many lines as you need. If you find your lines are a little thicker than the ones in the template, click on the line to get the Drawing Tools contextual tab, then click Shape Outline, Weight, and choose a thinner line weight.

If your lines need to be nudged over a bit to be perfectly aligned, select the line with your mouse and use CTRL-Left-Arrow or CTRL-Right-Arrow to move the lines over in small increments. (You may have to zoom your view in really tight to get it just right.)

Removing the line numbering

25/26/28/32-line templates

Easy as pie. Just double-click into the Header, select the Text Box with your mouse, and hit the Delete key. And those numbers are outtahere!

Old (2003) 28-line template

To turn off Line Numbering, go to the Page Layout tab, click line Numbering, and choose None.

And when you're done ... SAVE IT!

I hope you're really not considering going through all this reformatting every single time you create a pleading. Because it's absolutely not necessary. Once you get this thing tweaked to your exacting specifications, take my advice and save it as a template.

To do that, instead of just hitting that little diskette icon to do a regular Save, go up to the Office Button (if you're in version 2007) or to the File tab (if you're using 2010 or later) and click Save As. (Since I don't have version 2007 on this PC, you 2007 users will have to click here for more exact instructions.) If you're a Word 2010, 2013 or 2016 user, you'll see a dialog box like this:

Word 2010

Word 2016

If you want your template to be available as a choice when you click File | New, or if you want to make your template available on your office network for others to use, click here and here to find out what folder you should save your template in.

Ensuring your line numbers appear on every page (not just the first one)

If you've created your own pleading paper template, but you only see your line numbers on the first page, It's probably because your headers/footers are set to have a different first page header/footer (commonly used in letters):

  1. Double-click into the first page’s header or footer area.
  2. Press CTRL-A to select everything in the header/footer area.
  3. Press CTRL-C to copy it.
  4. Uncheck the box next to Different First Page on the Header and Footer Tools contextual tab shown below.
  5. If you find that the numbering scheme you worked so hard on has vanished, don’t panic – you just copied it! Use CTRL-V to paste it back into the header/footer area.

Your line numbering, etc. should now appear on all pages.

Questions, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

If 3,000+ words in this course didn't answer your particular question (hey, it could happen), give me a shout in the survey below.

How to create your own Pleading Paper template, Part 1

I've gotten a fair number of questions from readers about how to format pleadings with line numbers down the left, commonly known as Pleading Paper. Typically, they sound something like this:

My text never quite lines up exactly with the numbers on the pleading paper. What's the trick??
PLEASE work on the pleadings template!  I’m sure I and many others would pay bonuses for your guidance.
Pleading paper instructions would be fantastic! I mostly work in California state and federal courts, and our office just reuses old documents to keep the pleading paper formatting.  Unfortunately this brings along a host of other formatting issues, and while I'd love to be able to start from scratch I don't know how. Any help you could give would be terrific, thank you!!
I am not sure of the technical name for it, but years ago law firms had stationery with double lines on left side of a page and one line on the right. I know Word can duplicate it, but I don't how to add them or what it is called.  I will try the [pleading paper] template, but is there a way to remove the page numbering on the side?
I wish WORD was like WordPerfect in that we could just add the pleading format into the document after the document is completed. Anyway, if you could help me figure this out it would be great.  I recently added [a plug-in] to Word/Office which provides a host of automated functions, like cite checking, quote check, and table of authorities, which would make finalizing a brief a breeze.  However, if I can't get out of the WordPerfect format for my brief writing, I don’t see where all these extra functions will benefit me.

Okay, okay, I get it, I get it! Clearly, my standard reply (which I used so often that I actually created an entry in Quick Parts in Outlook for it) isn't getting the job done. So, while I would love to create a custom template (like I did for that last person above) for each and every one of you, there just aren't enough hours in the day!

So, in lieu of becoming a template factory, I'm going to show you how to make some common adjustments to those musty old the latest Microsoft templates (the 24-line template, the 25-line template, the 26-line template, the old 28-line template, the 2013 28-line template, or the 32-line template) all by yourself. And if you don't see your particular question addressed in this series, by all means leave it in the comments at the end, and I'll add the answer.

Update: Apparently, not so "musty and old" anymore! It looks like Microsoft has updated the pleading templates for versions 2007 and 2013. They also have 26-line and 32-line versions. I've updated the links above so they point to the new versions (the old ones no longer exist).

And Another Update: What Microsoft giveth, Microsoft also taketh away. It seems they don't supply these templates anymore. Fortunately, I had downloaded some of them the last time I encountered them, so the links should work now. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for alerting me to the change.

Pleading Paper Templates - An Introduction

Since I don't work in California or any other jurisdiction that requires Pleading Paper formats, I'm not exactly an expert on all the ins and outs of the formatting requirements. However, some common themes are evident:

  • Most have line numbering down the left margin​
  • Some have one (and occasionally two) vertical lines down the left margin just to the right of any line numbers​
  • Some also have a vertical line down the right margin as well​
  • Some of these vertical lines extend the full height of the page; some only to the height of the main text (excluding headers and footers)​
  • The number of lines that are numbered varies​
  • Some formats have line numbers that extend into the footer; most do not​
  • The line spacing is almost invariably funky (like, it can't just be double-spaced, it has to be 22.75 points or something)

In short, every time I look at Pleading Paper, I have a bad flashback of my one experience back in the late 1980s of formatting a U.S. Supreme Court brief. (And, for those of you who may be asking: yes, I did it in WordPerfect.)

How pleading paper templates work

The Microsoft Word pleading paper templates</a> that seem to be available mostly date back to the 2003 version of Word. (There's one 2007 version with 24 lines.) Clearly, nobody at Microsoft thinks these are worth updating, and Even though Microsoft has updated the pleading paper templates to 2007 and 2013 versions, they've apparently ditched the previous pleading creation wizard. So we are going to learn how to update these ourselves. (And by "we," I mean you. Because I already have.)

Of course, the 28- and 25-line/26-line/32-line templates work in different ways. (We wouldn't want to be consistent, now, would we?) The line numbers in the 25-line version (as well as the 26- and 32-line templates) are actually embedded in a Text Box placed in the Header. The vertical lines are also placed in the Header. The line spacing in the template is designed to match the line spacing in the Text Box so that the lines of text will align with the line numbers. (Try saying that last part three times fast.)

The old 2003 28-line version (assuming you saved it when it was available) uses Word's Line Numbering feature to place the numbers. And those vertical lines? They're Bar Tabs. (Insert your favorite alcohol-related joke here.)

If you use the template in the way that Microsoft seems to think you should (by simply opening a new document based on the template and then typing into it) the text will align with the numbers just fine. But, as we all know, lawyers love to cut-and-paste from old pleadings, and this is quite often where the formatting fun begins, particularly if the old text is coming from WordPerfect.

And if the court you're practicing in requires something other than those formats, then heaven help you.

First, let's take a look at the typical formatting of the standard templates:

So, to summarize:

  • If your entire document including the case style and your signature block will be spaced identically (no switching to single space for any section of your document), then you can start with the old 28-line template and modify according to your needs.
  • However, if in your jurisdiction the case style and/or signature block (or anything else) require single spacing, start with the 25-line template, since the numbering on the left side is embedded in a Text Box and therefore independent of the line spacing of the actual document text.

(And for those of you who are interested in using the Bookmarks feature of the 25 line template, click here for a tutorial.)

It's also worthwhile to note that, in some states, law schools and law libraries make templates available online. (See https://saclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/form-pleading-paper.rtf as an example.) Those might give you a better start than the standard Microsoft templates.

Where to go from here?

Now that you've:

  • Learned the two different ways these templates are constructed, and what implications those design decisions have on line spacing; and​
  • Decided which of the two templates would give you the best starting place​

... you're ready to learn how to alter the existing templates to your court's specifications.

In the next lesson in this course, we'll cover:

  • Adding/moving/removing vertical lines​
  • Changing the number of numbered lines (in case your court requires something other than 25 or 28 lines)​
  • Inserting a case style (here's where choosing the correct template to start with becomes really important!)​
  • Preventing and/or fixing numbering/text alignment problems​
  • Extending line numbering into the footer​
  • Removing line numbering altogether

If you've been just getting by with your current template (or, as one reader noted above, "just reus[ing] old documents to keep the pleading paper formatting"), then click the Next Unit button below to go to the next lesson!

2 Reader Question: Cannot select single cell, row, or column

One reader wrote in recently that she was having a problem selecting cells in Microsoft Excel:

When in a spreadsheet and I click on a line it selects at least four lines.

In other words, she couldn’t select a single cell or just one row in the spreadsheet. It was as if her mouse cursor had a mind of its own!

Well, this was certainly a new one for me. I personally had never run across that particular problem, so I had no solution off the top of my head.

So what did I do? I went to Microsoft Answers (http://answers.microsoft.com) and did a little search. And not one but two possible solutions presented themselves.

Keep reading →

3 From the Comments: Cool TOA trick

One of the things I love most about doing this blog is what I learn from readers. People often chime in on the comments to suggest solutions to problems others are having or better ways of doing things.

One recent comment especially deserves its own spotlight.  Debbie Leonard Lovejoy stepped forward to help fellow commenter Ariel with a tricky formatting problem in a Table of Authorities post. Specifically, this is what Ariel wanted:

I’ve searched high and low for a way to automatically format the cases in the TOA so the case name up to the comma is on a line by itself and then the reporter information and year and the page number are on a second, indented line, but no luck. I know I can manually do this just before printing by editing the table but I lose that formatting when the table updates and would like a more permanent solution if one exists. Strangest thing is that on the “Table of Authorities” dialog box, the example table in the Print Preview box has it formatted the way I’d like (though I imagine that is more a result of limited space in that box than some taunting and unavailable formatting option). Any idea? Thanks!

I had nothing. The only thing I could suggest was to "edit the right indent of the paragraphs to make them wrap a lot sooner than they would otherwise (in other words, not so close to the page number on the right margin)." Close (sort of), but no cigar.

Here's Debbie's much better solution:

Keep reading →

4 Reader Question: Calculate difference between two dates in Microsoft Excel

A reader contacted me recently with a deceptively simple Microsoft Excel question: “How do I calculate the difference between two dates?”

I say “deceptively simple” because the answer depends upon the context, namely, whether the two dates being compared are actually embedded in cells within the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Keep reading →

20 Reader Question: Type Once, Repeat Many?

Ever had one of those forms that repeats someone’s name or some other piece of information, um, repeatedly? Say, a will or a power of attorney or something similar?

If you’ve tried to make yourself a homegrown forms database, knowing that you’ll have to go in each time and fill in the variable information (name, he/she, his/her, son/daughter/children, etc.) in all (and I do mean all) the right places, then you can appreciate this reader’s dilemma:

Keep reading →

9 Reader question: Page number macro misfire

One reader recently took up my challenge to not run screaming from macros ... and was a little disappointed in the results.

I defined a macro successfully [to insert "Page" and the page number], with a button on the Quick Access Tool Bar. It works until I log off. After re-entering and trying the macro, I get an error message “Run Time error 5941 The requested member of the collection does not exist.” Any suggestions?

A macro that only runs until you log off. Well, that's a puzzler.

As I told him in our email exchange, I've noticed that in Word 2010, macros are sometimes spotty in picking up settings from actions you take in the Ribbon. (It used to work fine — not sure what's changed.) I myself had a similar problem with a macro I tried to do for a watermark.

I suspected he was attempting to embed the page number command using Word's Insert Page Number command from the Header/Footer Tools contextual ribbon menu:

Keep reading →