Outlook: Special View Settings with Conditional Formatting

Are you lost in a sea of emails? It might be useful to make certain emails stand out with a special color or formatting. Perhaps a fillable form that comes to your inbox with a specific subject could be green, or all emails from your boss could show up as red. Customizing your inbox with conditional formatting can be a huge time saving tool to help draw attention to certain emails in your inbox at glance. Let’s take a look. Before we get started, I would like to thank Michelle for having an excellent question in last week’s Outlook Advanced class that inspired this Byte.

View tab, view settings

About Conditional Formatting

Just like we experienced in Excel, conditional formatting in Outlook will look for certain conditions and apply a specific appearance to them. Here are a few caveats before we jump in:

  • This feature is currently only available for the PC desktop application of Outlook (apologies to Mac users).
  • Conditional Formatting applies to one folder at a time. This means that you can create separate rules for each folder. It also means that you should be cautious of which folder is selected before jumping into the view setting.
  • Changes you make with this setting are at your computer application level only: it is a view setting within the Outlook desktop application. This means that other instances of Outlook (e.g. the online application, or the desktop application running on an additional computer) on will not adopt these view settings.
  • If you would like to learn more about Conditional Formatting, please attend one of my Outlook Advanced sessions (listed in myTraining).

Create a Conditional Formatting Rule

1. Start by selecting the folder where you would like to apply the rule. This may just be your Inbox if you are not a big fan of folders.

2. Go to the View tab, Current View group, and select View Settings.

View tab, View settings

3. Select Conditional Formatting.

Advanced view settings screen, conditional formatting button

Here are all your current Conditional Formatting rules. That’s right, you already have some rules… like the way an unread message uses blue font, for instance… I would not recommend changing existing default rules.

3. On the right select Add.

Conditional formatting box, add button circled.

4. At the bottom of the popup, you will be prompted to name your rule. Use a name that is relevant to you.

Properties with a name created: "amazing title"

From here, there are two settings we have to create: Font and Condition. Just like with Excel, it is easy to get carried away with creating one setting and forget to do the other…

Font Settings

Let’s set the appearance first.

1. To the left of your title, select Font.

font button in conditional formatting popup

2. A popup screen appears with various font options along the top: font type, style and size…

Font screen, font styles, sizes, color visible

… and of course the funnest part, in the lower left, Color!

Color dropdown menu

3. Make your font and color selections, then press OK once.

Condition Settings

This second part is easy to forget. Sometimes we spend a lot of time crafting the perfect appearance, and then forget to tell Outlook what the Condition is where the appearance should be applied.

1. Below where you selected Font, select Condition.

Condition button, conditional formatting screen

Take a look at your options… you have the ability to format based on:

  • Specific words in a subject field
  • Emails from or to specific people
  • Situations where you are the only person in the To: line
  • … and we will see some more examples shortly.
Filter screen, condition optiosn including items mentioned in bullet points above.

2. For this scenario, I am going to set a condition based on emails From a specific person. Click on the From button to browse the directory. Double click on the person’s name, then press OK.

  • This option works best if you browse for a name, rather than typing in the full email.
Global address list, name search for Ali Levine. OK button circled.

3. Let’s take a look at the More Choices tab, because things get even more interesting here. Not only are more options present here, but we could layer these on top of the previous selection… here are conditions based on:

  • Category
  • Only unread or read items
  • Items with attachments
  • Importance level
  • Items that are flagged
Filter options in conditional formatting, more choices visible, as described in bullets above.

So think about this, you could set your formatting to color code emails from a specific person that are unread; or emails that have specific words in the title that also have attachments. So many possibilities!

4. Once you have this set how you would like, press OK. Then OK again to get back to your Outlook folder.

Conditional formatting screen, OK button circled

If all went well, you should be able to see the effects of your lovely new rule. I picked purple for mine…

Inbox shows email from Ali Levine with purple font


What do you think about Conditional Formatting in Outlook? Do you think you will apply some of these rules to your Outlook folders? I would love to hear from you!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Samantha Dolan

Samantha Dolan

Excel: Power Query: A Simple Introduction

We all occasionally find ourselves navigating the rough terrain of ugly data. Power Query is an excellent tool to have in your back pocket for this eventuality. But here is the deal, Power Query is just that… powerful, and because of this, potentially complicated. In fact, I know a lot of people who have been interested in learning about this beast, only to get quickly overwhelmed in the complexities. So here is my aim with this Byte: a simple introduction to Power Query. Let’s check it out.

Power Query editor screen

What is Power Query?

Power Query is a feature in the PC version of Excel 2016 or later, also known as Get & Transform. There are a multitude of uses for this feature, but it really shines to take on ugly data like this:

Ugly data: lots of information crowded into one column

… and transform it into something more workable.

data neatly formatted as a table

Furthermore, since the result is a query that is connected to your data, it can be updated with a simple click of a button.

Exercise File

If you would like to follow along with my steps below, here is an Exercise File:

A Couple Notes:

  • You will need the PC desktop version of Excel 2016, 365, or 2019 to use this feature.
  • For this Byte I am assuming you have worked with Tables and Pivot Tables in Excel before. If you haven’t, please come to my Excel Essentials and Excel Pivot Tables Sessions and learn about them!
  • Needless to say, this is all fictional data.

The Scenario

The scenario is we have some ugly data that we have exported from a different source. The source has thrown lots of data into one column of a spreadsheet. Monthly, we are asked to create a pivot table of fees owed by class and area code, but this will be rough going, given how the data looks:

Unformatted data

Format as a Table

I have mentioned before that formatting your data as a table has many advantages, and here is another excellent example. There are many data sources you can use for Power Query, but let’s start here for now.

1. Click on any cell inside the data. Do not preselect the entire column.

2. In the ribbon, select Format as Table, and select any style.

Format as table dropdown selected

3. Make sure that all the data is encompassed in your range, make sure My table has headers is checked, and press OK.

Create Table dialogue box, my table has headers selected.

More details about tables are discussed in the Excel Essentials training, so check out one of those sessions if you have not already.

Same data, formatted as a table.

Create a Query

1. Go to the Data tab, and in the Get & Transform Data group, select From Table/Range.

(note: you can also access this from the Get Data dropdown if it is not readily visible)

Data table, Get and transform data group, from table/ range.

2. You will be taken to the Power Query Editor.

Power Query screen

This is a little like an alien abduction from your comfortable Excel home… the look and feel are kind of the same as the rest of Excel, but also kind of different. Power Query uses a different type of code than the rest of Excel, so some things will not be intuitive. I don’t want to get too far in the weeds, but for now note that:

  • There is no undo, but you can always delete a step on the right,under Applied Steps, where coincidentally, every step of the query will appear forevermore.
  • There is a ribbon with Transform and Add Column option. Although options will look similar on both tabs, items on the Transform tab will change an existing column, and items on the Add Column tabwill create a new one
  • A lot of options are also accessible on a right click menu.

Transform the Data

In the query, there is only one column with a lot of ugly data, but I notice most of the data is separated by a colon “:”. Let’s begin by splitting up the columns by this delimiter.

1. Click at the top of the column to select all of the data in the column.

2. In the ribbon, or on a right click menu, select Split Column –> By Delimiter.

Split column, by delimiter circled

3. Make sure Colon is selected, and Each ocurrence of the delimiter is selected. Press OK.

Split column by colon, at each occurrence of the delimiter selected.

Your data should split into separate columns at each occurrence of a colon.

Same data split into separate columns in Power Query screen

4. Let’s work on splitting the phone number. Select the phone number column, and Split Column –> By Number of Characters.

Split column, bu number of characters

5. We want to split after 3 characters, Once, as far left as possible. Click OK.

Split at 3 characters, once, as far left as possible.

Cool, now we have a separate column for the area code!

6. At the top of each column, double click on the title and give each column a name: Name, Area, Phone, Grade, Class, Fees.

Titles typed for name, area, phone

Load the Transformed Data

1. You have the option to name your query on the right side of the screen, under Query Settings –> Properties. If you will be doing multiple queries, this might not be a bad idea.

Query Properties, Name of Students entered.

2. After this, the final step is to press the Close & Load button in the Home tab.

Close & Load circled in home tab.

Like magic! Our data loaded to a new tab in a new table.

Old data organized into a table.

Good News Part One: Data is Easier to Work With

Okay, this data is going to be so much easier to work with. Remember, my original goal was to make a pivot table showing fees owed by area code. Now that this data is in a table, in a few clicks, I have exactly the information I need. Beautiful!

Pivot table by area code and class, calculating fees.

Good News Part Two: Updating Data

We could have fixed up that data in a variety of other ways in Excel (hello, Flash Fill!), but the especially cool part about Power Query is the ability to refresh data in the future with one click. Remember I mentioned this was a monthly report I had to create… so here is what I would do next month… rather than recreate all the steps to make the data readable again:

1. Load the new data into the source table.

2. Right click on the query table and select Refresh

All the query steps we did in the previous section will happen automatically with my new data.

Right click menu, Refresh circled.

More Types of Queries

This example involved a query from a table within a document, but you can query tons of different sources: Excel documents in seperate locations, Access databases, Azure databases, online sources… seriously, check out all the options on the Data tab, Get Data dropdown.

Get data dropdown with location options

Interested in a Power Query Session?

This was a very basic introduction to Power Query. There is a lot more to cover about this amazing feature. WSU friends, I would like to poll the audience here… I think it would be fun to offer a Power Query Session to delve more deeply into its various abilities, but would like to hear from you all if this is something that would interest you. If you are interested, please send me an email!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Christina Covey

Christina Covey

Brandon Whiteside

5 Tips for Optimizing Charts

Charts can be incredibly challenging. They represent where the right brain and left brain meet… where computations and numbers collide with art and color. To be able to convey true meaning with graphics is a very special skill; here are 5 tips to help you along the way.

Line chart showing two years of chocolate pie revenue

1. Determine Your Message

Two important questions to ask yourself before you dive in to chart creation:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your message for them?

Cognitive Overload: Be Kind to Your Audience

One mistake a lot of us make is overloading the audience with too much information. This concept is called cognitive overload. Sometimes we zoom out in an attempt to show lots of data… and end up burying the story we are trying to tell in the process. The audience loses patience, and the entire message is lost.

Horribly messy pie chart titled Star Trek Fans

Consider this unfortunate pie chart… what story was the creator trying to tell? We are going to find some better solutions for this data shortly.

Audience Motivations

Some other important questions to ask are:

  • What is important to your audience?
  • What motivates them?
  • What is their level of knowledge on the topic?

All of these questions should influence the way you determine your message. We are going to revisit this first point frequently throughout this article. Even though it seems like the simplest of concepts, it is often the most forgotten.

2. Select the Right Chart Type

If the picture above gave you minor palpitations, part of the problem may be that someone picked the wrong chart to convey this information. There was a lot of data to comprehend here, more than a pie chart could feasibly tolerate. The chart below uses the exact same data set formatted as a column chart. Is this easier to understand?

Column chart showing star trek fans by state

Alright, the message is still pretty unclear, but we are moving in the right direction.

Here are a few general rules for selecting chart types:

Pie Charts

  • Pie charts should contain no more than 5 pieces, and preferably fewer than that.
  • Pie charts are supposed to show portions of a whole, so the whole should ideally be represented, even if you incorporate grouping (discussed next).
  • Remember your message and your audience (Tip #1), and then consider: are all your pie pieces all the same size? If so, is this pie chart really showing what you want to tell? Maybe it is… maybe your story is that all things are equally represented. But if that is not your message, consider a bar or column chart.
  • Consider incorporating data labels and callouts for further clarification.
Pie Chart titled Favorite Weekend day, showing 86% Saturday and 14% Sunday (fictional data).

Bar Charts and Column Charts

Bar and Column Charts are a great option if you have more information to display.

  • The main difference between bar charts and column charts is that bar charts are composed of horizontal data bars and column charts are composed of vertical data bars.
  • Both are great options for showing larger numbers of data sets.
  • Still, beware of cognitive overload with too much information (see Narrow your Focus for more tips below).
  • Clustered column charts are great for showing quick comparisons between small groups.
Clustered column chart showing dessert sales by three people.

Line Charts

  • Line charts do well comparing two competing data sets over a time period, like monthly sales figures this year stacked up against sales figures last year.
  • They also can help a viewer quickly ascertain overall trends at a glance.
  • One tip: when possible, start the Y axis at 0. This should already be the default setting.
Chocolate pie revenue line chart showing two years of data.

So Many More…

There are so many more charts to choose from! Check out this helpful Chart Chooser for more assistance with selecting the right type of chart.

3. Narrow Your Focus

For this section, I would like to revisit our original problem chart from the beginning. Remember, we started with this:

Horribly messy pie chart titled Star Trek Fans

And changed the chart type to a column chart:

Column chart showing star trek fans by state

…but this is still not an ideal situation.

What story do you want to tell?

Tip #1 will help you narrow your focus for this step. In this case, we had a (fictional) chart of total U.S. Star Trek fans broken down by state. Let’s explore a few stories you may want to tell with this data.

Avoid displaying too much information

Because all the states are represented, this means there are 50 data points. Do we really need to show all of this information? Perhaps, you decide that the story you want to tell is to show the states with the highest rates of Star Trek Fans.

How about removing the states that are not pertinent to your story? Let’s try to narrow our focus by filtering out some unnecessary information (i.e. the lower figures in the data set) with the filter button to the right of the chart.

Filter dropdown next to chart

This leaves us with a more manageable data set, down from 50 points to 7…. let’s keep going.

Column chart titled states with the most star trek fans, showing 7 states.

Highlight Important Information

Another useful technique to drive home a point is to use contrast to highlight important information, visually pulling it to the foreground. Select any data bar, right click, and select Fill to choose any color in the color wheel.

Right click menu, fill selected.

Let’s make use of this opportunity to pull the highest states to the foreground with a deep color, and grey out the others, pushing them to the background.

Take a look at the same filtered graph, recolored. Maybe the story you want to tell is that Hawaii, Kansas and New York had the highest populations of Star Trek fans… if so, this could be a cool way to do it.

Column chart for states with the most star trek fans, with highest figures in a darker red shade.

Group information together

We initially started with a pie chart, and there still might be a case for this type of chart with this data. Grouping together pieces of information is another great way to focus in on your overall message.

Perhaps your goal is to spotlight Kansas, and tell the audience that Kansas contains 5% of the country’s Star Trek Fans. Why not group together the states that are less relevant? We can also incorporate the previous highlighting technique.

This is much easier on the eyes than the original pie chart.

Star trek fans by state, showing Kansas pulled out on its own and the other states grouped together.

Do you see why asking yourself the questions in Tip #1 can put you on the right track for creating a meaningful chart?

4. Choose Words Carefully

Take a look at the chart below. ..

Very wordy pie chart

How long did it take you to grasp the meaning of this chart?

Wherever possible, keep the words to a minimum. And when in doubt, refer back to Tip #1 and ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your message?
  • How much time would you like them to look at your chart, and what would make the biggest impact?
simpler pie chart: people who like pie.

Remember, the point of a chart is to create a visual illustration of data. More words means less visual impact…

5. Don’t Forget About Your Colorblind Friends

Hey, don’t forget about your colorblind friends!

  • Approximately 8% of the male population and 0.5% of the female population is colorblind or color deficient. This means if 1000 people will be viewing your chart, about 45 of them may not be able to differentiate between certain colors.
  • You can still use color in your charts… Just remember that you don’t want to use color alone to convey meaning.
  • This is something we have talked about before, so if you would like to read more information about the use of color in documents, check out my previous article on the subject.

Just remember, this chart may look perfectly clear to you:

Student Satisfaction pie chart, inaccessible colors.

… but here is how it looks to someone with the most common type of color blindness:

Student Satisfaction pie chart from before, run through a color blindness filter, and the pieces are indistinguishable.

More Notes and Disclaimers

You probably know this stuff, but just in case…

  • You have seen example charts throughout this article. All the data used to create the charts is entirely fictional.
  • Do you want to learn more about how to make charts? Please attend one of my Excel: Pivot Tables, Charts and Pictures sessions listed in myTraining.


Okay, what do you think Power Users? Do you think you will be able to put some of these tips to use with your data? I would love to hear from you!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Tera Park

Tera Park

Mary Ann Hollander

Mary Ann Hollander

John Keckeisen

John Keckeisen

Amanda Conner

Amanda Conner

Excel: Formatting an Entire Row Based on One Value

Have you ever gone through a list row by row to highlight rows based on one value in the row? Here is one example: you have a list of students, and you want to highlight their entire entry if they have an “A” in your class… so you hand-select an entire row, fill in the desired color, and repeat this process 100 or so times per semester. Never do that again! Let’s check out another versatility of Conditional Formatting: the ability to highlight an entire row based on one value in a specific column.

Before we jump in… big thank you to Samantha and Amanda for inspiring this Byte with this excellent question in (two different) Excel Advanced Formulas sessions!


If you would like to follow along, here is a fictional class list to work with. Our goal with this exercise is to make an entire row yellow if a student has an A in the class.

A Word About Conditional Formatting

In my Advanced Formulas training we touch on formatting specific cells based on their value with Conditional Formatting, but this will be a bit different… in this case, we would like the entire row to be highlighted based on the value of one cell in the row (the grade).

If you haven’t already, I hope you will consider checking out an Excel Advanced Formulas session… for one, we cover Conditional Formatting in more detail, and for two we talk about concepts like absolute references, which I reference later in this Byte.

Create a New Rule: Crafting a Formula

1. Start by selecting all the data you would like the formatting to apply to: A2 through H77.

2. In the center of the Home tab, select Conditional Formatting, New Rule.

3. In the popup screen, select Use a formula to determine which cells to format.

4. Click into the box underneath the text Format values where this formula is true.

  • In your data, click on the cell with the first grade, in H2.
  • Excel will bring in its own language for this cell “$H$2”.
  • Type an equals sign ( = ) and (with quotes) “A”.
  • Your formula at this point will look like : =$H$2=”A”

Sidebar: We hit this in more depth in Excel Advanced, but as a reminder…

  • The “$” means an absolute reference, so a stagnant location in Excel. We see an example of this in class when we try to use autofill to carry down a formula.
  • The A has to have “” around it, since it is text.
  • If you want to learn more about these two points, please come to one of my Excel Advanced Formulas trainings.

Okay, we are not done with the formula yet… if we leave the formula like this, it will highlight the entire selection range (A2 through H77) if H2 has an “A” in it… this is not what we had in mind. To correct this, we are going to remove one dollar sign…

5. Since we realized that the row should not remain absolute, let’s delete one dollar sign (absolute reference). We are going to delete the dollar sign in front of the number 2. This will tell Excel that the row is relative; but the column will remain absolute.

  • Here is what your formula should look like now:


We are not done yet, though… we still have to set up formatting…

Creating a New Rule: Formatting

It is easy to get so caught up in the formula that you forget to set a formatting rule. Right now the formula looks great, but Excel won’t make it look any different until we pick some formatting.

1. Select the Format button in the New Formatting Rule popup underneath where you placed your formula.

2. In the popup that appears, select the Fill tab. Select a color, then press OK.

3. Alright, this looks pretty good! We have a formula and a formatting. Press OK to see the results.

If all goes well, you should have something like this.

To sum up,Excel is looking through column H (which remained absolute with the “$”) for an “A”, and if it finds an “A” there, the entire row is highlighted all the way down (because the “2” was not absolute, thanks to removing the “$”)

Managing Conditional Formatting Rules

A few more things that might be helpful:

  • If you want to see the conditional formatting rules you have created, click on the Conditional Formatting dropdown, and select Manage Rules.
  • The default view shows you the rules present for any cells selected. So if you would like to see all the rules for a sheet, you can alter the Show formatting rules for dropdown accordingly.
  • Here is where you can also make adjustments to your rules: edit, delete, alter the cells it applies to (helpful if you selected too many or too few cells to begin with).


What do you think, will you try out this type of conditional formatting in your documents? I would love to hear how you use this!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

  • Kaylee Nungesser
  • Andrea Glessner

Word: Compare and Combine

In the last Office Byte, we talked about the ability to compare two Excel documents via a special Add In. In the case of Word, we can use a feature already present on the Review tab, and in many ways it is even cooler. We cover this Compare feature in the Word Advanced training… if you would like to learn more about this, I would love to see you at a future session! Let’s take a look.

Compare dropdown, Compare circled


If you would like to follow along, here are a couple of exercises. The first is a fictional draft of a document, and the second is a final version.

Much like with the Excel example, our goal is to ascertain the difference between the two documents.

Also, big thank you to Hannah in HR for letting us use her Final document as an exercise (the draft is a fictional version of her final).


In Word, the Compare feature lives on the Review tab. This will make sense when you see what happens after we load up both documents.

1. In a blank Word Document, go to the Review tab, Compare group, and click on the Compare dropdown.

Compare dropdown in the ribbon

2. Select Compare.

Compare dropdown, Compare circled

3. A popup will appear. Click on the folder to the right of the Original Document and browse to select the draft document. Then click on the folder to the right of Revised document, and select the final version.

Compare documents screen, folder icon circled

4. Notice you have the ability to label the changes. You could list the name of the author of the revised document here. Click OK.

Label changes with: James T. Kirk as author

One more note… there is a button that says More at the lower left of this screen. For now, I am going to skip that, but it is worth taking a look as you use this Compare feature more.

Navigating the Compare Screen

Hey look, a mission control screen! What are we looking at here?

Compare screen mission control


On the left side you will see Revisions. you can click on any of these to be taken directly to the appropriate area of the document.

Revisions Screen

Original and Revised Documents

On the right side, you have two panes: the Original and the Revised document.

Original and revised screens

Combined/Compared Document

In the center are both documents together. As you scroll down in this document, you will see the left and right panes scroll with you.

Compared document

Already, this “mission control” view (not the official name) is making it much easier to compare the differences between these two documents, and see exactly what my coworker changed. But there are some other cool things about this feature.

Changes: Accepting or Rejecting

I mentioned there is a reason this feature lives on the Review tab. The center document effectively took our original, overlaid the revised version, and is retroactively treating it like comment and markup.

What does this mean? For one, you can accept or reject each of the revisions, just as if your coworker had used markup to change your document. What a cool tool! Especially if your office doesn’t regularly use Track Changes features, and you want to utilize their functionality…

Accept dropdown

Additional Notes

A couple more things I want to make sure to share:

New Document

When you chose to Compare these two documents, take a look at the top of your Word screen. This created a new document titled Compare Result.

Word document title: Compare Result

You can save this as its own document. It will not have the mission control experience when you reopen, however it will retain the changes as if it were a document with track changes enabled, and you will be able to come back later and decide to Accept or Reject changes.


So that was compare… what is this Combine option in the same dropdown? If you selected Combine instead of Compare and ran through the same exercise, you actually wouldn’t see a huge difference.

Compare dropdown, Combine circled.

So a common question is… what is the difference between the two features? I have heard it said that the difference is Compare is only for two documents, and Combine is for multiple documents… this confused me, since I don’t see a way to add more than two in the Combine screen. What I came to learn is that Combine allows for track changes to be turned on on the documents that are being compared… it is basically Compare for two documents with tracked changes already enabled… allowing for more collaborators.

Long story short (too late)… the features behave remarkably similarly, with the one exception that if Track Changes is turned on in either of the documents to be opened, Combine seems to be the method of choice.

Annnd… if you want to learn more about Track Changes, check out Word Essentials training! [/shameless plug]


So what do you think, do you think you will use Compare with your Word files?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

  • Tierney Mount

Excel: Spreadsheet Compare

Has this happened to you? You create an Excel spreadsheet that you share with your coworker. She edits the document, sends it back to you, and you are left scanning through a long list of entries to try to determine what changes she made…

In our Word Advanced sessions, we talk about the nifty Compare feature in Word. This feature is absent in Excel, but there is a similar option for Excel users via a Microsoft Add In called Spreadsheet Compare. This Add In comes with PC versions of Microsoft Office 2013, 2016, and 365… in other words, you probably already have it…

Compare Files button in ribbon

Before we jump in, thank you so much to Hannah and Jamie for inspiring this Byte!

Exercise Files

If you would like to follow along, below are a couple of Exercise Files. Save these to a place where you can easily find them for the next step (e.g. Desktop).

This is a fictional class list of students. We are going to assume that the FictionalClass download is the original and the FictionalClassEdited is what your coworker altered and sent back to you.

Spreadsheet Compare Add In

To access the Spreadsheet Compare Add In, click on the Windows icon in the lower left of your task bar, and search for Spreadsheet Compare.

Windows button searching for Spreadsheet Compare

You will be taken to a sort of mission control for comparing spreadsheets. You haven’t loaded anything in here yet, so there is not much to see.

Spreadsheet Compare program with no files loaded

Compare Files

1. In the upper left, click on the first button called Compare Files.

Compare files button in the ribbon

2. A pop up screen will appear. Notice it is asking you to select an “older” file and a “newer” file.

3. Click on the folder to the right of each of these fields, and browse to find the FictionalClass (older) and the FictionalClassEdited (newer) that you downloaded from the exercise files above.

Compare files pop up with folder icons circled

4. The two workbooks will load into the left (older) and right (newer) panes. Notice that changed cells are highlighted in green. Click on one of these cells, and it will select the corresponding cell in the other sheet.

two spreadsheets next to each other with changed cells highlighted.

5. Look at the bottom of the screen for an outline of the various changes that were made. This list notes all sorts of changes that were made, including the contents of cells and the formatting of cells. You can also click on any of these to be taken to the change in the worksheet on the panes above.

Changes lined out underneath

6. Try double clicking on one of the changes highlighted in the bottom pane. You can also access this feature by clicking on Show Details in the ribbon.

Details of the changes that were made to a cell.

It is a little disorienting. This popup screen is showing you what was in the original document, and the change that was made in the second sheet, in kind of a strange format. Simply click on the X in the upper right to go back to the main Spreadsheet Compare screen.

Export Results

It is possible to export all the results from this comparison. in the Export group is a button called Export Results.

Export Results button circled in the ribbon.

This will create an Excel file of all the differences between the two workbooks.

Differences exported in a new Excel document.


While this is a nifty way to quickly see changes between two Excel files, it lacks some of the handiness of the Word Compare feature…

  • You can’t accept or reject the alterations/differences, you can only see them displayed and highlighted. Any desired changes will still have to be made by hand in the source document.
  • There is not a way to save a combined document containing both the original and changed document.

Other than that, a pretty cool tool!


Do you think you will find a use for Spreadsheet Compare? Do tell!

100th Power User Certificate Awarded!

This is a most exciting week in Power User history! We have a three way tie for 100th WSU Microsoft Office Power User. Big congratulations to:

  • Tiffany Morgan
  • Matt Stiles
  • Lauren Wilson
Lauren Wilson, Tiffany Morgan, and Matt Stiles on a poster titled "Congratulations, Power Users!"

For more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, visit wichita.edu/poweruser

Mail Merge With Tricky Number Formats

Have you ever attempted to mail merge with fields that contain formatted numbers, only to find that the formatting does not carry over onto your merged Word document? This is a common source of frustration with mail mergers, and something that we can quickly remedy on the Excel end. Let’s take a look… but first, big thank you to Jamie for having this excellent question at Wednesday’s Excel Essentials session and inspiring this Byte.

Insert Merge Field dropdown in Word

Exercise Files

If you would like to follow along, download today’s exercise files below to your desktop.

For this Byte, I am assuming you know the basics of working with Mail Merge in Word. If you are not comfortable with Mail Merge, please attend a Word Essentials training with me! I would love to show you how it works.

Excel File

Let’s take a look at the Excel file first. This is a list of employees… here are all out new professors who we are going to send letters to, welcoming them to Starfleet.

There are columns with Last Name, First Name, Salary, FTE, and Phone Number. The number fields are all formatted: Salary as currency, FTE as rounded to two decimals, and Phone Number as the Special Phone Number format.

Excel file with names, Salaries, FTE, Phone Number, and TEXT columns

Heads up: Notice that, highlighted in yellow, there are also some “helper columns” with TEXT titles. Let’s ignore those for the present, because in real life, perhaps you haven’t created those, and instead incorporated number formatting, as most of us do in our Excel Files

Word File

Opening up the Word File, you will find a letter welcoming professors to Starfleet Academy. Our plan is to enter merge fields into the bold area circled below.

Letter with merge field entry circled

Mail Merge with Formatted Number Columns

Let’s start our merge. We are going to build this using our number formatted columns. Again, I am assuming you have merged before for this exercise. If you are not comfortable with Mail Merge, please come attend one of my Word Essentials session. I would love to show you!

1. In the Mailings tab, go to Start Mail Merge, and select Letters.

Start Mail Merge dropdown

2. For Select Recipients, select Use an Existing List. Browse for the Excel file, wherever you chose to save it.

Select Recipients dropdown

3. Take a look at the Insert Merge Field dropdown, and make sure that you see all the columns you saw in your Excel file. Remember, we are focusing on the first five merge fields for now (not the TEXT ones).

Insert Merge Field dropdown

4. Insert each merge field in the indicated location. It should look like the example below.

Merge fields inserted into Word document

5. Let’s toggle the Preview Results button to see how this will look.

Preview Results button

This is usually the point where people realize that certain types of number formatting do not come through in Mail Merge. The salary, phone number, and FTE are just general number formatting. The phone number has no dashes, the salary has no commas, and the FTE is missing a “0.”

Merge fields previewed with unformatted numbers.

6. Let’s remove the Phone, Salary and FTE merge fields, and try this again. This time, insert the TEXT options that we saw in our “helper” columns in the Excel file.

Insert Merge Field dropdown with TEXT fields circled.

So Salary should be replaced with TEXTSal, FTE with TEXTfte and Phone with TEXTPh.

Merge fields inserted as described

7. When you Preview results, it will look much more like what we had in mind.

Preview with formatted numbers

What difference! Let’s see what makes these columns different in our Excel file.

Text Formulas

Open the Excel file again, and let’s do some investigating. We are going to check out our “helper” columns in columns F, G, and H that contain TEXT in the header.

1. Let’s see how the formula for TEXTSal is set up. Click into cell F2, and take a look in the formula bar. The formula used for Sal was:


Excel, F2 selected, formula bar circled

2. Do the same for TEXTfte in G2. The formula used was:


Excel, G2 Selected, formula bar circled

3. … and finally, TEXTPh in H2. The formula used was:


Excel, H2 selected, formula bar circled

So our investigating reveals that TEXT formulas have been used in these columns, which came over in a much better format for mail merge purposes.

If you would like to learn more about the TEXT function, take a look at this handy guide from Microsoft that will walk you through creating all of these used above, and more!


Has this ever happened to you when you were mail merging with numbers? Do you think you will incorporate TEXT functions with your future merges?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Haley Underhill

Outlook: Search Folders and Smart Folders

Search Folders often elicit an “aha!” moment for attendees in Outlook Advanced training. Many people discover these handy folders can take the place of their existing complicated folder rules. Let’s see how these special folders work.

New Search Folder View

Exercise File

Hey there is no exercise file for you today! Just open up your Outlook and follow along.

Oh, and if you are a Mac user and think this won’t apply to you, think again! I have a solution for you toward the end.

PC Users: Create a Search Folder

On the left side of your Outlook mail, you likely have all sorts of folders. Scroll all the way down to the bottom, and you will find Search Folders

Search Folders on left menu

1. Right click on top of Search Folder and select New Search Folder.

right click menu, new search folder

2. A popup screen will appear with a plethora of options. Lets start with one toward the top: Mail Flagged for Follow Up. Select this option and press OK.

New Search Folder View

3. A new folder appears on the left side of your screen under Search Folders. Click on it, and here is a shortcut to all the mail you have flagged for follow up.

Don’t have any messages flagged for follow up? No problem, we are going to create some more folders.

For Follow Up Search folder visible on left side of screen

Create Another Search Folder

1. Follow step 1 above, and this time select Mail from and to specific people.

2. Toward the bottom of the popup, press Choose to search for a person.

New search folder view, choose button circled.

3. You will be taken to the old familiar search screen (blurred out here for WSU employees’ privacy). In the upper left, type the last name of someone who emails you often.

Global Address List

4. When you find their name on the list, select it, and press OK.

5. Now you have a folder of all the emails in your inbox from this person.

More options

It is worth your time to look through all the Search Folder options. Popular Search Folders include:

  • Unread mail
  • Mail flagged for follow up
  • Important mail
  • Mail from specific people
  • Categorized mail
  • Mail with attachments
  • Mail with specific words (think about form results that come to you with the same title)
  • Custom Search Folder: if all else fails, you can completely design your own
New Search folder view, mail with attachments selected.

Since most of us have a lot of activity on the left side of our Outlook screen, if you want to draw attention to your new Search Folder, you can add it to favorites by right clicking on it.

Right click menu, add to favorites circled

In this way, and a couple other ways, Search Folders are going to behave very much like other folders. But there are some important differences.

A Word About Search Folders

Since they behave similar to regular folders, it is easy to forget that Search Folders are a different type of animal.

A shortcut to search

A search folder is a shortcut to search, nothing more. It is a window into what could have been an advanced search. This is important for several reasons:

  • The mail in the folders still only exist in your inbox, not a separate folder within the inbox.
  • Deleting a search folder will not delete the contents, just the search window.
right click menu, delete folder circled.

If you delete a search folder, you will even receive a message that tells you as much.

warning message indicating that items items in the folder will not be deleted if folder is deleted.

Note: be careful when you do so that you are selecting Delete Folder, not Delete All.

Mac Users: Smart Folders

Mac users, it is finally your turn! While you don’t have Search Folders, you have something arguably cooler. They are called Smart Folders.

1. Start by clicking into the Search bar in the upper right. This will activate the contextual Search tab.

2. Click on the Search tab, and create a customized search: perhaps email from a specific person, then plugging in their name underneath.

3. In the upper right of the Search tab, press Save Search.

Mac view: search tab circled, save search button circled

4. A new folder is created in your Smart Folders, all you have left to do is name it!

New folder appears in Smart Folders on the left.

In a lot of ways, the Mac Smart Folders are more user friendly than the PC Search Folders, but they both accomplish the same task: they give you a very special window into a search of your inbox.


What do you think? Will you find a use for Search Folders or Smart Folders? Will this eliminate the need for some of your folder rules?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

PowerPoint: Custom Slide Shows

Did you know that you can create custom slide shows in PowerPoint? Let’s say you have a PowerPoint document that you would like to use for two different presentations, but you have a few different slides that you would like to show for each presentation. You can easily create several custom slide shows from the same document. Let’s check it out.


If you would like to follow along, you may download today’s exercise here:

This is a PowerPoint document about Wichita State University. The data is all fictional, of course!

The idea is that you would like to create two possible presentations from this one document: one presentation for parents and one for students.

Set Up Custom Slide Shows

1. Go to the Slide Show tab in the ribbon.

2. In the Start Slide Show group, select the dropdown for Custom Slide Show and select Custom Shows.

3. In the popup that appears, press New.

4. Give the slide show a name in the box provided. Perhaps our first one will be the student presentation, so we can title it Student Show.

5. Select the slides you would like to appear in the slide show: perhaps everything except Finances and Statistics.

6. Press the Add button, and make sure the slides appear on the right pane. Notice you have the ability to rearrange the slide order with the arrows on the right.

7. Press OK.

8. Repeat the steps above, but this time create a Parent Show, consisting of all the slides except Recreation.

9. Now when you visit the Custom Slide Show dropdown, Custom Shows, you can see both the shows you created.

Access Custom Slide Shows

Are you ready to show one of your presentations? Revisit the Custom Slide Show dropdown, and select either the Student Show or the Parent Show to start one of these presentations.


What do you think? How will you use Custom Slide Shows?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

Carody Bryan

Linda Steinacher

Excel: Navigating Inside a Document with Links

Utilizing links in an Office document can do so much more than simply take your end users to a website. Links are also a great way to help people navigate around a document. Below is a great example… let’s check it out.

Exercise File

Feel free to follow along with today’s Exercise File:

This is a special file full of (fictional) information; there are a variety of sheets at the bottom of the document: a Home sheet, a Management sheet employee information, a sheet with a Class List, and last but not least, Dessert Sales.

You would like to share this document with a group of people who may or may not be very proficient with Excel. Just like we saw with slicers, creating buttons for people to press can be a huge help if people are not familiar with navigating around an Excel document.

Assigning Links

Linking within the Document

We want to assign links to the icons on the Home sheet.

1. Click on the icon of people to select it.

2. Right Click on top of the image, and select Link. (note: this may be called Hyperlink in your version of Office)

3. Notice on the left side of the screen there are a variety of location options. For the icons, we are going to select Place in This Document.

4. Select the Management sheet and press OK.

5. Test out your link by deselecting the icon (click on any cell), then click on the icon.

6. Follow the same process to link the Backpack image to Class List, and the Cake Slice to Dessert Sales.

7. Notice each additional sheet (besides Home) has some arrows in an icon to the right of content. Click on this icon to select it, then link this to the Home sheet.

Test out the icons you just created! You should be able to navigate to a sheet by pressing on an icon in the Home sheet, then go back home by pressing on the Arrows on any other sheet. How cool!

Linking Outside the Document

We have created all sorts of links inside our document. Let’s take a look at linking outside the document.

1. On the Home sheet, press on the WSU Logo to select it.

2. Right click on top of the logo, and select Link (or Hyperlink).

3. On the left side of the screen, press Existing File or Web Page.

4. In the Address box, type http://wichita.edu

5. Press OK.

Test out your newly created link by clicking on the WSU Logo.

Additional Notes

  • Linking to Documents: When you linked to the webpage, you might have noticed the contents of your computer pop up underneath. You can link to an existing document, but remember that the only people who can open the link will be people who have access to the location you are linking to. If you link to something on your desktop, probably you are the only person who can open the link (and only on that machine).
  • Cell Reference: When linking to a place in this document, you can have the link go directly to a specific cell. Enter the cell name in the field provided, otherwise it will default to A1.
  • Removing a link: At any time, links can be removed or edited by right clicking on top of the link and selecting Remove Link or Edit Link.


What do you think? Will you use links to navigate within your shared documents?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser