Technology Tuesday: Microsoft Tools You Didn’t Know You Had

A little off-topic today, and a little late. But useful! Always useful.

Apple fans, don’t run away. If you use Word, some of this could apply to you.

I’m a huge fan of Microsoft products. Yes, they have their problems, such as my recent issues with what I assume is my new wireless keyboard opening twenty new emails when I’ve put the computer into Sleep mode or waking it up and watching as the cursor obeys some odd command to add dozens of spaces (until I hit the space bar and stop the madness). And they reorder things and make things permanent that I’d really rather not have (who needs that Archive button locked right next to Delete?). But they also give us tools we probably don’t know we have.

Here are some I’ve found by accident.

Just the Fax

Need to fax but don’t have a machine? My daughter had this issue recently when working from home. But what free program to trust?

Microsoft, of course. If you have Outlook, Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, you can send an internet fax. Go here to download the free driver. Note: you do need a modem.

Speak Up

Windows Speech Recognition — part of the Accessories folder in most Windows versions and a desktop app on Windows 10 machines — is your dictaphone. No need to buy any speech-to-text program. This is it. And it’s free. Search for it on your computer. Depending on your Windows version, you may have to download it from the store.

Picture This

I don’t know how long Word has had this feature, but I’ve used it often. You have a Word document, but you need it to be a PDF. Click on File/Print (not the fast print button). When the print window appears, click on the Printer drop-down menu. Look for the option that says Microsoft Print to PDF. There you go. Oh, and while you’re at it, notice that you can also do the same thing and choose to save the document to OneNote. Though I’ve mentioned here before I’m not a OneNote fan, but if you are, knock yourself out.

The Unsaved Save

Show of hands — how many of you have shut down that document without saving? Or deleted without realizing it? Go to File, then click on Manage Document (in Windows 10). You’ll see “Check out document or recover unsaved changes.” Under that is a list of the file’s saves. There you go.

In my area which, for some freakishly strange reason, has frequent power outages, I’m already happy that Word has an autosave feature. If my computer shuts down before I intend it to, Word will show recovered files on startup. Amen. I don’t know how the Microsoft wizards did that one, but kudos.

Clearly Cloudy

While we’re still in Word, let’s just once again endure my singing the praises of the default file save to OneDrive cloud storage. You can change it if you like, but hell. If you have Word or Office, it comes with OneDrive storage space. Take advantage of file backups while you can. I can’t remember the last file I actually saved to my hard drive, which makes me wonder why I bothered with the 1TB hard drive.

Fast File Access

You’re working in a particular file folder, and you’re a little tired of looking for it each time you sit down at the computer. You know you can pin it to the task bar, right? Just drag it to the Task Bar and let go when you see “Pin to Windows Explorer.” Boom. It’s right there where you need it until you decide to move it.


Those of you who have ever worked in publishing software (Quark, Publisher, etc.) will recognize kerning. And yes, Word now has it. Kerning is adjusting the space between letters. You want it all to fit on one line and you’re about two characters too long — that’s where kerning comes in. To access the feature, go to Font, then click the Advanced tab. Click on the Kerning box. If you’ve never used it, play with it. Get to know it because it will probably be useful someday.

What computer tools — Microsoft or Apple — have you discovered on your machine?

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