Archive for August, 2011

Google Chrome & Mozilla Firefox Tips and Tricks

Everyone has a favorite browser they like to use that makes their Internet browsing experience a personalized. Here are a few tips & tricks that will help you get the most out Google Chrome & Mozilla FireFox.


Opening multiple web pages at startup

Did you think it was only possible to have one web page open at start up? With Firefox there is an option to have multiple pages open at launch. You can now have Politico, CNN, & HouseNet greet you each morning. To turn this feature on in Firefox go to Options -> General. In the homepage field enter the web addresses separated by pipes. For example: | | and so on.  Click Ok to save and next time you relaunch Firefox you will see all your tabs open.

Customizing your search with Smart Keywords

Firefox has a feature that enables you to perform searches within a webpage through the address bar. For example, this feature allows you to search for an “Apple Ipad” on without browsing to and then typing the search in their search bar. You simply have to type in bestbuy apple ipad into Firefox’s address bar.

To activate this feature and create a smart keyword, go to a website that has a Search field. Right-click in the search field and select “Add a Keyword for this search”. Create the bookmark for the site and your smart keyword is now enabled.

Bookmarking RSS feeds

If you have websites you frequent often, especially news websites,  RSS feed’s make staying updated easier. Creating an RSS bookmark will automatically update stories and headlines from that feed.

To create an RSS bookmark, right-click on the Firefox tool bar and select Customize. Drag & Drop the RSS logo (which looks like radio waves and has Subscribe underneath) onto the toolbar. Go to a website whose RSS feed you would like to subscribe to and select the RSS feed button that is now on your toolbar. Now enter a name for the RSS feed and click Add.  You will see it has been added to your toolbar and will update as new posts are made on that website.


Multiple pages at startup

Google Chrome also allows multiple pages to open during startup. Chrome makes it super easy to set up. Select the wrench at the top right of the browser,  choose Options and under the Basic’s tab check the radio button that says “On startup…open the following pages”. On launch of the browser it will open the web pages in the order listed.

Pinning Tabs

If there’s a site or service you find yourself using often in a web session, you can pin a tab in Chrome. This feature shrink’s the window down to the size of the favicon (small logo that shows up in the left portion of the tab), enabling you to better multi-task with multiple tabs open in Chrome.

To enable this feature, right-click on the tab you want to pin and click “Pin tab.” To enlarge the tab, just right-click and click “Unpin tab” again to uncheck the option.

Calculations in Address Bar

Another cool feature of Google Chrome is its address bar can also be used to perform mathematical calculations with its basic calculator feature. You can type your math equation into the address bar and the answer will show up where you normally see auto-suggestions.


There are many, many more features in both Firefox and Chrome.  For more Firefox tips visit the Mozilla Tips Page.  For more Chrome tips check out Chrome Tricks the website dedicated to Chrom tips and tricks.

Useful Shortcuts for Windows

Creating Computer Lock Shortcut

Keeping your computer unlocked while away from your desk can be risky.  You never know who might walk into the office and try to access your work.  Every time you plan to step away from your desk for more than five minutes you should always lock it.  A couple options to quick lock are through keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl + Alt + Del or Windows + L, but there is also a way to create a shortcut icon on the desktop to lock the computer:

Right-click anywhere on the desktop → New → Shortcut.


In the Create Shortcut dialog box type “rundll32 user32.dll,LockWorkStation” in the ‘Type the location of the item:’ field → Next.


Note: This shortcut example is using the lock function.  A shortcut for restart and shutdown can be made also using the following in the ‘Type the location of the item:’ field in place of “rundll32 user32.dll,LockWorkStation”

Restart – %windir%\System32\shutdown.exe -r -f -t 00

Shutdown – %windir%\System32\shutdown.exe -s -f -t 00

Type “Lock PC” (or whatever name you want to name the shortcut) in the field named “Type a name for this shortcut:” → Finish.


Double-click the newly created shortcut icon on the desktop to lock the PC.


Creating Safely Remove USB Flash Drive Shortcut

USB flash drives are used commonly in most office environments to move files from computer to computer or to home.  The proper way to eject the USB flash drive from the computer is to safely remove the USB hardware by going through the icon in the system tray.  A shortcut icon can also be created to safely remove the USB flash drive without going to the system tray:

Right-click anywhere on the desktop → New → Shortcut.


In the Create Shortcut dialog box type “RunDll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL hotplug.dll

” in the ‘Type the location of the item:’ field → Next.


Type “Remove USB” (or whatever name you want to name the shortcut) in the ‘Type a name for this shortcut:’ field → Finish.


Double-click the newly created shortcut icon on the desktop to safely remove the USB flash drive (when applicable).


As you can see shortcuts are easy to create and given the right command function can perform routine tasks that normally require multiple clicks.  If you perform a routine task many times a day and would benefit from shortcuts, ask your Systems Administrator how to automate a task and let them help you become more efficient!

Apps for Suits and Ties: Useful iPad Apps for the D.C. Staffer

So, you’ve been issued an iPad and your Systems Administrator has set you up with your email. What’s next?

Mobile devices like the iPad are starting to fill a variety of roles for their users.  They serve as information gatherers, productivity enhancers, and even content producers.  But once you and your new toy are finally left alone, what should you do with it?

There are a plethora of informative apps out there, for good reason. The iPad is the perfect tool to get all your news in one convenient place. You can sit down with it and receive more information than a dozen or more newspapers would provide you.


The Washington Post for iPad and CNN App for iPad are dedicated apps where you can read and watch the news.


The Hill HD and POLITICO for iPad can provide you with all your Hill-related information.

Intellicast HD

Intellicast HD is a handy weather forecast app to plan your day by. You can even watch streaming radar loops for weather in the area.


Flipboard is a well designed RSS reader that you can program yourself with all the news sources you could ever want to follow.  They’ll be arranged like a newspaper and you flip the pages by swiping with your finger.


MyCongress and Constitution for iPad and convenient reference apps pertaining to Congress and the Hill.


Urbanspoon for iPad and DC Metro Map are more for after-hours DC life, for finding a new restaurant or getting around the District.

iPads can be used for a variety of purposes to make the work day easier as well.  Tablets this lightweight and thin allow you to bring your work with you wherever you may go, if you just need a few resources or full-fledged access to your desk computer. The iPad can step up to the plate and even replace a laptop in certain situations.


iBooks is the first download offered when the iPad connects to the App Store, and many overlook its ability to store and read PDF documents.  One can conceivably go paperless to meetings, storing all their printouts in this app.

CNN App for iPad

Evernote and Dropbox are great ways to store your documents and retrieve them on your iPad, phone, desktop, and on the web. Not to be used for state secrets!

Skype for iPad

Skype for iPad was recently updated to use the iPad 2’s cameras, get ready for long distance meetings at your fingertips!


Facebook and Twitter for you press and social network types out there.


Noterize is a great note-taking app for meetings and presentations. You can type or draw with your finger, and share in a multitude of ways.


Apple’s Pages, Keynote, and Numbers apps are the iPad counterparts to Office. They’ll cost $9.99 each, but will help get the job done whether you need to author a press release, create a presentation, or review a spreadsheet.

Remote Desktop Lite - RDP

RDP Lite offers remote desktop access to your Windows Desktop back at the office. Very handy when you need to your desk on the go, or run software that wasn’t designed for the iPad.

Desktop Connect

Desktop Connect will do the same as RDP Lite, but will also connect to Mac, Windows, and Linux computers with a bit more functionality. This app carries a price tag of about $14.99. Your Systems Administrator can help you get all the settings correct.

Find My iPhone

Lastly, Find my iPhone isn’t so much an App you’ll use on the iPad, but it’s one of the most important to set up. Go to Mail, Contacts, Calendar in the Settings App and Add a free Mobile Me account using an Apple ID in the Add Accounts… box.  This enables you to use Find my iPhone in case you ever lose the iPad or it is stolen. From, you can put a password on the device, locate it on a map, or even remotely wipe the iPad in case you believe it to be stolen.

There are a ton of ways to use iPads these days, with dozens of Apps to make these devices suit your needs. Let us know if you need any help getting them set up!

Creating Forms in Word 2007

Using forms saves time and energy while ensuring that needed information is provided in an easy to read format. Creating forms can be a major headache. Fortunately Word 2007 provides some easy to use tools to help create customized interactive forms. Most users choose not to take advantage of these powerful tools because they seem overwhelming.  This guide will explain just how simple it is to create forms in Microsoft Word 2007.

A form is a document with pre-defined fields for a user to complete. To start creating one, decide what type of form you’d like to create. For this example, we will be creating an Employee Leave form.

Open Microsoft Office 2007 and click the Office Button Office button (1) and choose “New”

Under the Templates heading, choose “My templates…”

    New Document My templates (2)

In the new window, select “Blank Document,” click the “Template” radio button, and click “OK”

    New My Templates Blank document (3)

Congratulations, you’ve just created a blank template! We are now going to add content to your form.

Click the Office button Office button (1) and select “Word Options”Word Options (4)

Click “Popular,” check the box next to “Show Developer tab in the Ribbon,” and click OK. This adds a new tab to the ribbon at the top of the Office 2007 screen. The Developer tab contains all the controls you need to create simple or complex forms.

On the Developer tab, the section labeled “Controls” contains a number of icons, each of which create a different form item.

Controls (5)

Rich Text (6) is the Rich Text button, which creates a Rich Text fill-in field.

Text (7) is the Text button, which creates a basic Text fill-in field.

The difference between these two buttons is that Rich Text allows you to group form fields. For our purposes, we will only use the Text button.

Drop Down (8) is the Drop Down Box button, which creates a drop down box form item, which you can fill with items to select between.

Comb Box (9) is the Combo Box button. This allows you to either select from a list of choices (like a Drop Down Box) or insert your own text (like a Text or Rich Text button).

Date Picker (10) is the Date Picker button. This allows you to quickly pick a specific date from an on-screen calendar and formats the date any way you’d like.

Picture Box (11) is the Picture Content Control button. It allows you to insert a picture from a file into a predetermined area on your document.

Legacy Tools (12) is the Legacy Tools button. This allows you to add a number of basic form fields including radio buttons and check boxes.

Now that we know a bit about the different controls we can use, let’s create that Employee Leave form.

First, let’s create the basic layout of the form. In the end it should look something like this:

Blank Employee Leave Form (13)

As you can see above, there are a number of areas that need to be filled in. Let’s start by adding a few Date Picker buttons. This will clean up the overall appearance of the form and give the employee a nice visual interface when they are filling it out.

Click next to where it says “Date:” in the top right corner of the document.

In the Developer tab, click the “Date Picker” button Date Picker (10)

    Adding a Date Picker (16)

This gives you a basic calendar to pick a day from. We are now going to customize it. Click the “Properties button” in the Controls section of the Developer tab.

Date Content Control Properties (15)

Under properties, you can give the button a Title and Tag, which will label the button. You can also choose to lock the button so that it can’t be deleted or have it’s properties edited.  Check the first box (Content control cannot be deleted) but not the second (Contents cannot be edited). If you check the second box, users will not be able to change the date. Choose the appropriate date format and click OK.

Adding a Date Picker (14)

You now have a Date form that still says “Click here to enter a date.” In order to change the text to something more instructive, click the “Design Mode” button in the Controls section of the Developer tab. You’ll notice that brackets appear around the form.

Adding a Date Picker (17)

Click inside the brackets and replace the text with something more descriptive. Once you’ve done that, unclick the Design Mode button. The final result will look like this:

Adding a Date Picker (18)

You now have added a Date Picker control to the form. I am going to add two more Date Picker controls in place of the “Requested Leave Start date” and “Requested Leave End date” fields. The form will then look like this:

Employee Leave Form (19)

Next let’s add a Drop Down Box so employees can choose their name from a list.

Click next to “Employee Name” and select Drop Down list Drop Down (8) from the Controls area of the Developer tab.

Click Properties from the Controls area of the Developer tab and add employee names by clicking the “Add” button and inserting their names. You can also change and delete names from the list in this window.

Drop Down Content Control Properties (20)

Once you’ve added all the employee names, select the first item “Choose an item” from the list of names and click Remove. Check the “Content Control cannot be deleted” box and click OK.

Change the title of the” Employee Name” drop down box by clicking on the Design Mode button and changing the text inside the brackets from “Choose an item” to something more descriptive. I chose “Your Name”

Employee Leave Form (21)

Since not all information can be added to a drop down box , let’s add a text box for “Total Time requested” and “Special notes”

Click next to “Total Time requested” and choose the Text content control Text (7). Click the Properties button in the Controls area of the Developer tab and check the “Content Control cannot be deleted” box and click OK.

Text Content Control Properties (22)

Click the Design Mode button in the Controls area of the Developer tab and change “Click here to enter text” to something more applicable for the form. I chose “Please enter time in days and hours.” Once you are finished, uncheck Design Mode.

Employee Leave Form (23)

To create a multi-paragraph text box, you only need to change one setting. Let’s create one by clicking next to “Special notes” and adding another Text content control.

Click Click the Properties button in the Controls area of the Developer tab and check the “Content Control cannot be deleted” box as well as the “Allow carriage returns (multiple paragraphs)” and click OK. Now you can type multiple paragraphs in one text control box.

Click the Design Mode button in the Controls area of the Developer tab and change “Click here to enter text” to “Add any additional information here.” Don’t forget to uncheck Design Mode.

Employee Leave Form (24)

Almost all of our fields are now filled out. We could use a drop down box for the “Leave type” field, but this would also make a great occasion to learn how to create radio buttons. Radio buttons allow you to pick one option out of a group (whereas check boxes allow you to pick multiple options.

To start, click next to “Leave type” and click the Legacy tools button Legacy Tools (12) from the Controls area of the Developer tab.

Legacy Forms (25)

This will create an item called “OptionButton1.” Click the Properties button on the Controls area of the Developer tab. Find the item called “Caption” and change it to “Annual Leave”

Legacy Forms Properties Changed (27)


Legacy Forms Properties (26)

You can add as many additional Radio buttons as you’d like. I’ve added two more buttons.

Employee Leave Form (28)

As one last touch, I’m going to add a check box next to the statement that begins “I have given…” This is very simple, all you need to do is lace the cursor in front of the statement “I have given…” and select the check box from Legacy tools.

Check Box Form Field (29)

It will automatically add the check box and the form will end up looking like this:

Employee Leave Form (30)

Now all you need to do is save the form in the correct way so that people can only edit the form data and not the forms themselves.

Click the Protect Document icon on the Developer Tab and chose “Restrict Formatting and Editing

Restrict Viewing Options (31)

On the left side of the screen, check the box labeled “Allow only this type of editing in the document:” and select “Filling in forms” from the drop down box.

Editing Restrictions (32)

Click “Yes, Start Enforcing Protection” and enter a password to protect the document.  Click OK and your document is now protected.

Start Enforcing Protection (33)

Click the Office button Office button (1) and choose “Save as à Word Template”

Select “Word Macro-Enabled Template” from the “Save as type” drop down box and your document is now ready to be used.

Save As (34)