How to Restore Pictures in Photoshop—Easy Fixes

Although the restore and cleanup business is not quite as much a boom thing as it was when Photoshop first came out, it still comes up pretty regularly. Even though detailed restorations take time, there are a few things you can do to get the most obvious problems solved without too much trouble.

The most common problems with most older photos have to do with age. Images yellow or fade with time, in which case doing a restore implies color correction or improving saturation. Others involve fading of contrast, or having areas too light or dark to see detail in. Recognizing the main problem(s) more or less on sight is often the key to the solution.

Restore color balance

One is correcting the white balance—getting rid of discoloration from time, or sodium lights, or greenish fluorescent light, so the parts that should be white, are white. You can start by adding a Curves adjustment layer and using the White Point sample tool, sometimes known as the White Balance tool. This lets you tell the program what parts of the picture should be white, and has the rest of the picture recolor accordingly.

Restore contrast

You can also add a Levels adjustment layer, to restore or bring back contrast. If the histogram in it shows blank spaces at either end, move the white and black threshold markers inward till they reach the beginning of the non-blank space, and the image should look less flat.

Detail in dark area

Bringing out detail in a dark area, or a light one, can also be done with a Levels layer. Select the area you want to lighten or darken, then add the layer; selecting first will define, or mask, the area, and you can then adjust only the parts which need it. (Shh—this is one of the Secret Awesome Inner-Circle Techniques for doing a restore in Photoshop—the ability to selectively adjust parts of the image. The only downside is having to learn to do careful selection.)

How to Create a Calendar in Project (and Why)

When setting up a plan in Project, it’s very important to get the calendar organized first, before adding tasks, resources, assignments, or almost anything else. Why? Because a project timeline dictates many of the scheduling details, and the calendar controls the schedule.

Calendar first step

Getting to the dialog is easy—we click the Project tab, slide to the Properties group, and click Change Working Time. Once there, we usually want to click Create New Calendar at the top right, since copying an existing one and modifying it leaves the originals for later use.

Create new calendar

We can then change the name of the copy, say, to the company name or the project name (since calendars are file-specific).

Calendar holidays

Then we need to add the usual holidays. The good news is, it’s rather like doing so in Outlook; if you use that program for scheduling, the technique is similar. Select the day, go down to the Exceptions tab, and put in the name. Selecting multiple days is fine, too.

Calendar repeats

Clicking the Details button on the right lets us set the holiday, Labor Day for example, to repeat. It’s a good idea to keep the number of repeats fairly low, no more than ten, because (unless the project is REALLY long-term) it’s not necessary…unless you want to have the file turn into a template for other projects. Even then, going for more usually isn’t required.

Although it’s possible to edit a calendar later, just before or even during the run of a project, it’s highly advisable to get it as polished as you can beforehand, and to avoid editing it later, if at all possible. Any changes during the execution of the project will almost certainly change the schedule, and often in a way we can’t predict.

This is one part of any project which really needs close attention, because it can critically affect almost every other part to some degree.

How to Use the Critical Path in Microsoft Project

The use of the critical path in Project is a vital part of getting a project to finish on time. This is especially true if any juggling of the tasks, resources, and allocations has to be done once the majority of tasks are in place. It allows refinements to be done where they can have the best effect—what is sometimes called a “force-multiplier” (no Star Wars jokes, please 😉 ); it simply means to make the most of what one has.

The critical path is that series of tasks in which there’s no slack, time-wise. Think of a group of boxcars on a railroad siding, all coupled together. If another comes down the track, and bumps into them, they all have to move. If the last one is right next to the bumper at the end, there’s only so much maneuvering room. This is sort of the situation on the critical path.

Turn On Critical Path

Once a good chunk of the project has been composed, showing the critical path is easy. It used to involve going through a three- or four-step wizard, but now it’s just turning on a checkbox. The critical tasks turn red on the right side of the Gantt chart—non-critical tasks stay blue. (These can be reformatted, if necessary.)

Critical Before

We can then see, if we start making changes to the project “flow”, that any changes not on the critical path may not affect the timeline much, or at all. And this is not good. We want changes to do something—shorten the timeline, or allow two or more tasks to run at the same time, or otherwise make things go more efficiently.

Critical After

If there are any tasks which we can inactivate, or reassign resources on, or otherwise fine-tune, again, always better to do it on the critical path. Making alterations to other tasks can be helpful, but this is the place to do it which will have the most effect on the schedule.

Using Dependencies, Lag, and Lead in MS Project

Setting up dependencies, or task relationships, is an integral part of working in Project. But many newer users ask, Which relationship should I use, and What are these “lag” and “lead” things about?

The choice of dependencies, as well as using the two other items, derives from the nature of the tasks. This is the one thing you have to bear in mind, because there’s no all-inclusive formula for determining these. That said, there are a couple of general pointers you can use to figure it out.

Usual dependencies

If Task A has to be completely finished before Task B can start, such as demolishing a house before building a new one, the relationship will be Finish-to-Start.

Say you’re writing a book and want to make sure the illustrator gets started more or less immediately along with the writing. A Start-to-Start relationship might be in order. The artwork can happen pretty quickly once you have a decent chunk written.

If you’re building a house or office, the framing has to be complete before the plumbing and electrical, the drywall, etc., can be finished. So a Finish-to-Finish relationship would work for this.

(The fourth type, Finish-to-Start, is so rarely used I won’t go into it here. Suffice to say in the twenty-plus years I’ve taught the program, I’ve seen maybe two occurrences of it. No offense.)

Okay so far. Now, what about lag and lead?

Those come into play when two tasks have to have a time gap between them (lag), or can partly overlap (lead); the dependencies still matter, but this is something else. Start-to-Start and Finish-to-Finish can overlap entirely, if the nature of the tasks allow, but lag and lead usually come in with a Finish-to-Start. (By the way, it’s pronounced “leed”, as in “lead or follow”, not “led”, as in a pencil.)

Dependencies - lag

If you pour concrete, even the quick-setting stuff needs a few days, minimum, to be ready to walk on etc. A lag—a delay—would go in there to indicate a setting time is required regardless. You could include it in the task time, but the lag makes the situation clearer to anyone who looks.

Dependencies - lead

In the book-writing example, if the author wants to get about a third of the book written before the illustrator starts sketching, it might help the artwork to have a solid direction to go in. So a Start-to-Start with a lag, or a Finish-to-Start with an overlap, or lead (sometimes known as negative lag) would be the natural thought here. (And the lag—or lead—can be written as a percentage of the predecessor task’s time, which is helpful as it doesn’t require one to do the calculation in one’s head.)

As you can see, the nature of the work, and of the tasks, and their “natural” relationship, will often determine how one hooks them together in Project. I’ve often pointed out that it can help to work on a legal pad and pencil or pen first—some people find figuring dependencies on paper before sitting at the computer can make it easier.

How to Create Custom Fields in Microsoft Project

MS Project has a LARGE number of fields set up by default, for almost anything the program can track. But even with all the feedback the design team gets, they can’t anticipate everything a user might need to monitor during a project. So the team built in the ability to create, or rather modify, “custom” (unnamed generic) fields which are held in reserve for just this situation.

Resource fields

One example might be which resources belong to which department in a company. The Group field in the Resource Sheet could be used to contain this information, but some users already employ it for, say, internal versus external, or a non-company-related item. So setting up a resource field for this would make some sense.

Custom fields dialog

Bringing up the dialog box is easy—Project tab on the Ribbon, Properties group, and click the Custom Fields button. We then choose from the fields what we want to create; in this case, the Resource (at top), along with what kind of data it will hold (Type: on the right), namely text (as in department name). We rename the field (Text1), call it Department or DeptName, or similar, as we like.

Department list
The next step is to bring up the place where we can write in the department names. Almost right in the center of the Custom Fields box, we click the “Lookup…” button. And in the second dialog box, the Value and Description columns make this part easy. Values and descriptions can match, or not, as we see fit; as long as we understand what we’re selecting, it’s fine.

Custom field inserted

Finally, we OK out of the boxes, navigate (in this case) to the Resource Sheet, and add the column on the end, or wherever we feel appropriate. A lookup table allows us to choose from a drop-down list, saving at least a little time for the user/manager, and giving the manager a little flexibility on what can go into a project in the way of fields.

Using Conditional Formatting for Sections in Crystal Reports

When we use conditional formatting, we usually think of it in terms of things like making better sales numbers green and lower numbers red. But we can be more subtle than that in Crystal.
No conditional formatting
A common example is where records are incomplete, or where data are filled in at some levels and not others. Sales databases might have country-level data, and city-level data, but not state-level if there are no states in a small-enough country. So if there are no states, or provinces, we don’t want to see blank spaces in the report.
Section expert
We can go into the Section Expert in such a report, and having set up grouping for the levels in question (country, state/province, city), we select the state/province group header. We then go to the Common tab on the right, and click, not the Suppress (No Drill-Down), as we don’t want this to be the norm, but the X-2 button next to it, as we want to have the suppression be as needed—that is, conditional.
Conditional formula
The formula we write to look at it asks, basically, if there’s anything to show. More specifically, in our example, are there fewer than two states or provinces? (This is the “conditional” part.) If so, we don’t need to see the (blank) space where the information would appear. And we can use the same formula in the section footer, too.
Conditional formatting done
This is a very useful point, which has application on a wider scale within the section organization. We can suppress sections, but make exceptions, so as to show something when it’s important; we can also have a section show, but suppress it when there’s nothing to show or the info is unneeded or redundant. The hard part is writing the formula, but if one can phrase the condition clearly in words, writing the formula is easier. Sketching the overall structure can sometimes help too. (May sound kind of old-fashioned, but it’s tried-and-true.)

How to Use Table Joins in Microsoft Access

The use of table relationships in Access allows tables to cooperate in the use of data, but table joins, while they look similar, serve a different purpose. The relationships, which allow coordination while organizing data, nevertheless don’t directly affect, say, the results of a query. Joins do.

A table join in a query allows for a filter effect. The thinking is that a query is a question one asks of the database. But redundant answers are no use, and a waste of space. So when we pull data from more than one table, which is frequently the case, we need to make sure we don’t get repeat answers, or every possible permutation of the answers/data.

No joins

When creating the query, we choose the tables (assuming we need more than one, which is normal) and insert them.

No join repeat data

If we run the query without a join, we get every possible combination of the field data for an answer…which often leads to repeat results.

Join

So we decide which field(s) to use in the join (this is often dictated by the nature of the database), and specify the nature of the join—usually an “inner” join, which shows only results both tables share. We create the join the same way as we create a relationship, by dragging from a field in one table to its counterpart in the other—the main difference to the program is, the join only gets “activated” when the query is run, saving time and memory usage. There’s also the fact that some joins are only useful at certain points in the database’s operation, so creating a permanent relationship outside the query is unnecessary.

Result with join

When we run the query with the join, to filter out repeats, the number of answers becomes more reasonable. In many cases, we can use a key field as one of the query result fields, which certainly cuts down on repeats, as a key field has the same effect in a query as it has in a database in general—unique identification of a record. But the important point is that table joins will “insist” on reducing if not eliminating repeats, and will do so even more with a key field involved.

It’s been my experience that very few business database-related queries will have no repeat results at all—the data are such that this seems almost impossible. But if we can eliminate 95+% of repeat data in a query, only the most massive sets of results will have a significant problem with them.

Using the Cost Tables in Microsoft Project

The Cost Tables feature in Microsoft Project reflects a point which is particular to this program—it is, basically, time-sensitive. Since a business project takes a minimum, usually, of several weeks to run, the things that happen in a project must take time into account. And, no pun intended on this phrase, accounting for costs which might change during the run of the project is therefore an integral part of the resource data we can (and often must) enter.

Fortunately, the first part is pretty easy. When creating a resource, one can (in the Resource Sheet) start by entering standard and overtime pay rates for a work resource (usually a person or group of people).

Resource Sheet

If, however, one knows the resource’s pay rate will change at some time during the course of the project, opening the Resource Information dialog box and going to the Costs tab gets us to the cost tables. (Just double-click the resource to get in.)

Cost Tables 1

There are no less than five Cost Tables in any resource’s info box. We usually look at just the first, as each contains twenty-five rows, so there are 125 slots for cost table data. If there are going to be that many changes of rate, it’ll be WAY out of the ordinary.

So in Cost Table A, the default, we enter the initial standard and overtime rates, if they aren’t already in the Resource Sheet. The assumption is, these rates are in effect at the start of the project.

Cost Tables 2

In the next row, we enter the date at which the rate will change, up or down, and then the changes themselves. We can even enter a percentage change (+15%, say), instead of a straight number, if someone doesn’t actually know the amount but does know how far up or down it should go. And repeat as needed.

The project manager has to be conscientious about entering the info ASAP, preferably before the project start date, to make sure the budget numbers stay current. But the actual entry of the data is pretty straightforward, thanks to the cost tables.

 

Using the Three Normal Forms in Microsoft Access

One of the more abstruse points of procedure in Access involves the three so-called normal forms. What, exactly, are they? If you think “guidelines”, or “protocols”, you’d be in the ballpark.

When building a database, especially a relational database, there are some “streamlinings” which allow it to function more efficiently. Knowing the how is important, but the why can be too. “Why” is what I’d like to go over here.

The first of the normal forms is basically this: In any field, in any record of the database, there should be one and only one piece of information. The simplest examples are things like phone numbers.

First Normal Forms Wrong

Since today computers can be hooked up to, and can dial, phones, if two numbers are in one field, the computer might not be able to tell which one to dial, or it might think they were one long number. And that would mess the process up.

First Normal Forms Right

It also allows easier querying, filtering, and other kinds of analysis of data. Another common example is entering addresses: If the street address, city, state, and Zip code are all in one field, sorting or filtering by any of those would be much more difficult. But give each one a separate field, and it’s quite straightforward. This is part of what’s known as normalization. If the data are divided into the smallest pieces which still have meaning, you have raw ingredients in the kitchen—you can do more with those than, say, premixed pancake batter, which is pretty much only good for pancakes.

The second of the normal forms is about key fields—the ones that act as unique IDs for each record, in tables which need them. (The usual example here is a Social Security number, or employee ID number, or SKU number for merchandise.)

Second Normal Forms

It is possible for a table to have two, or more, key fields per record, and occasionally this is necessary (as in a table of merchandise orders). But the uniqueness should then depend on the entire set of key fields (a composite key), not just one, because otherwise it will be possible to have duplicate data in the table, and this is a major no-no. (This is basically the second normal form.) Duplicate info wastes space, and can confuse query results. If any of the fields’ data don’t depend on the whole key (multiple fields), they should be in another table.

Third NF Redundant

The third of the normal forms is a little more complicated to explain, but the point is simple: Redundant information should be in a separate table. One situation in the real world has to do with employee databases including health plan info. There’ll be a number or letter indicating which plan someone is on, and then in the next field, the name of the plan. But if these are the same each time, why not use just the letter in the employee table, and put the detailed information in another table? It reduces the amount of typing someone has to do, and simplifies the table in question.

Third NF Right

It also offers a hidden benefit. If one puts the letters for the plans in another table as the primary key, and has plan names or other data in other fields in that same table, changing data in the plan table will affect everyone who uses the plan letters at once. This means that the subset of data regarding plan details is centralized, and can easily be changed for everyone with a minimum of work. So a sort of corollary to the third normal form is, one kind of data per table (if redundant data is a second kind per table, this falls into place pretty neatly).

One piece of info per field; one key field per table where possible, and use all the key fields for ID if not; split off redundant data to another table, which also offers easier changes to some kinds of data. Those are the essentials of the normal forms. There’re other data models, and other operating ideas, but since Access is so commonly used, understanding how to make it run better is good.

QlikView Keyboard Shortcuts

SkillForge SkillSheet

QlikView Keyboard Shortcuts

Click here to download the PDF version.

 

File Menu Command Shortcuts

Press

For

Ctrl+N Equivalent to New on the File menu.
Ctrl+O Equivalent to Open… on the File menu.
Ctrl+Shift+O Equivalent to Open in Server… on the File menu.
Ctrl+S Equivalent to Save on the File menu.
F12 Equivalent to Save As… on the File menu.
Ctrl+P Equivalent to Print… on the File menu.
Ctrl+Shift+P Equivalent to Print As PDF… on the File menu.
Ctrl+E Equivalent to Edit Script… on the File menu.
Ctrl+R Equivalent to Reload on the File menu.
Ctrl+Shift+R Equivalent to Partial Reload on the File menu.
Ctrl+T Equivalent to Table Viewer… on the File menu.

 

Edit Menu Command Shortcuts

Press

For

Ctrl+Z Equivalent to Undo Layout Change on the Edit menu.
Ctrl+Y Equivalent to Redo Layout Change on the Edit menu.
Ctrl+X Equivalent to Cut on the Edit menu.
Ctrl+C Equivalent to Copy on the Edit menu.
Ctrl+V Equivalent to Paste on the Edit menu.
Del Equivalent to Remove on the Edit menu.
Ctrl+A Equivalent to Activate All on the Edit menu.
Ctrl+F Equivalent to Search on the Edit menu.
Ctrl+Shift+F Equivalent to Advanced Search on the Edit menu.

 

View Menu Command Shortcuts

Press…

For…

Ctrl+Q Equivalent to Current Selections… on the View menu.
Ctrl+G Toggles layout design grid on or off.

 

Selections Menu Commands Shortcuts

Press…

For…

Shift+Left arrow Equivalent to Back on the Selections menu.
Shift+Right arrow Equivalent to Forward on the Selections menu.
Ctrl+Shift+L Equivalent to Lock on the Selections menu (locks all selections).
Ctrl+Shift+U Equivalent to Unlock on the Selections menu (unlocks all selections).
Ctrl+Shift+D Equivalent to Clear on the Selections menu (clears all selections).

 

Settings Menu Command Shortcuts

Press…

For…

Ctrl+Alt+U Equivalent to User Preferences… on the Settings menu.
Ctrl+Alt+D Equivalent to Document Properties… on the Settings menu.
Ctrl+Alt+S Equivalent to Sheet Properties… on the Settings menu.
Ctrl+Alt+V Equivalent to Variable Overview… on the Settings menu.
Ctrl+Alt+E Equivalent to Expression Overview… on the Settings menu

 

Bookmarks Menu Command Shortcuts

Press…

For…

Ctrl+B Equivalent to Add Bookmark… on the Bookmarks menu.
Ctrl+Shift+B Equivalent to More… on the Bookmarks menu.

 

Tools Menu Command Shortcuts

Press…

For…

Ctrl+M Equivalent to Edit Module… on the Tools menu.
Ctrl+Alt+A Equivalent to Alerts… on the Tools menu.

 

Object Menu Command Shortcuts

(List box, Statistics box and Open Multi Box)

Press…

For…

Ctrl+Shift+L Equivalent to Lock on the Object menu (locks selections in active object).
Ctrl+Shift+U Equivalent to Unlock on the Object menu (unlocks selections in active object).
Ctrl+Shift+D Equivalent to Clear on the Object menu (clears selections in active object).
Alt+Enter Equivalent to Properties… on the Object menu (opens the Properties dialog of an active object).

 

Script Keyboard Shortcuts

Press…

For…

Ctrl+G Go to line number in the script.
Ctrl+K,C Comment lines in script.
Ctrl+K,U Uncomment lines in script.
Ctrl+Q,T,A Add tab in script.
Ctrl+Q,T,P Promote active tab.
Ctrl+Q,T,D Demote active tab.
Ctrl+Q,T,N Rename active tab.
Ctrl+Q,T,R Remove active tab.
Ctrl+Q,Q Creates an autogenerated script.
Ctrl+Q,U,I Opens Unicode input utility.
Ctrl+Q,J,P,G Creates a script for reading attributes from jpeg files.
Ctrl+Q,M,P,3 Creates a script for reading attributes from mp3 files.
Ctrl+Q,W,M,A Creates a script for reading attributes from wma files.

 

F Key Keyboard Shortcuts

Press…

For…

F1 Activates context sensitive help.
F3 Enters search mode if a searchable object is activated.
F6 Activates the immediate left sheet tab of the currently active tab.
F7 Activates the immediate right sheet tab of the currently active tab.
F12 Equivalent to Save As… on the File menu.
Ctrl+F6 Activates the leftmost sheet tab.
Ctrl+F7 Activates the rightmost sheet tab.

 

How to Import and Export Data in Access

The good news is, the import and export processes in Access—and in general—are two sides of the same coin. And there really isn’t any bad news, other than making sure the data are set up in a way that Access can understand—namely, something row-and-column-ish when importing. There’s even an External Data tab in the ribbon, so it’s just a matter of knowing what kind of data you’re bringing in, or what format the recipient needs if you’re exporting.

Import Start

For an import, other than making sure you know where the data are, simply go to the External Data tab, and look in the Import and Link group. We’ll use a text document here.

Import Box

We can choose whether this will start a new table, be appended to an existing table, or link to the data source (which allows updates, but has some limitations).

We also have to specify where the document is. We can do this in any order, but we have to do both.

If (as in this case) we want to append the data to an existing table, we need to tell the dialog box which one. And, though the box doesn’t say, we have to make sure the incoming info is set up to fit in the same “slots” (fields) as the existing info. (Opening the file and checking in advance is a good idea here.)

Once this is done, we go through the File Import wizard, which lets us see how the incoming data will work.

Import Step 1

We choose “Delimited” or “Fixed Length” according to how the pieces of info are marked off (a delimiter is a marker telling us where things start and stop).

Import Step 2

We then indicate what kind of delimiter is used (commas, tabs, and semicolons are among the more common ones); and let the program do the rest.

Import Step 3

Exporting is even simpler. We select (but don’t have to open) a table, query, or other object, go to the External Data tab, and in the Export group, click the type of receiving file we need to create, and specify location and file name (the program will default to the object name).

Export Box

So, “Where are you getting the data?” and “Where are you putting the data?” are the only two questions we have to be specific about. Access pretty much handles it from there.

Using Photoshop — More Tips, Tricks, and Hints

Figured I’d mention a few other techniques which might be of use. Photoshop is almost a gold mine of cool tip after cool tip; I’d never deny it takes some practice to become comfortable with the program, so here’re some more.

Tip 4. Always be aware of the Layers panel if the image has more than one layer (not all images do). Particularly, which layer is selected. Whatever kind of edit you’re about to do, with whichever kind of tool, the layer selected is the one that’ll show the change. If it’s the “wrong” layer, you can undo, but it’s irritating. Better to know in advance, and choose the right layer up front.

Linking tip

Tip 4a. Once you’ve built a “structure” involving more than one layer, and want to keep all the pieces in the same places relative to each other, select the layers (Control-click on the PC, Cmd-click on the Mac—these let you select non-adjacent layers), and link them (using the panel menu at top right).

Fill tip

Tip 5. When adding color to an image, using the Edit > Fill command/dialog gives you easy access to both the blending modes (controlling how the color interacts with what’s already there) and the opacity (how solid the color you’re pouring will be). The blending modes could be a seminar on their own, but basically you can use them to produce all kinds of neat effects. And even just using the opacity control lets you add washes or “glazes” of color, if you need subtle changes in color. (Da Vinci would be delighted.)

Navigator tip

Tip 6. Don’t forget the Navigator panel. You can use the Hand tool and the scroll bars to get around in the file if you like, but the Navigator shows where you are and how close you’ve zoomed, so even if you prefer some other means of navigating, the panel is a good situation display.

Using Photoshop — Tips, Tricks, and Hints

Photoshop has been around for a while, and it’s a fairly sophisticated program, but there are some tips one can learn to work a little more efficiently no matter what your level of expertise.

1. A lot of the work we do depends on selection. Refining selections takes time; actually doing things with the selected area usually takes less. But when done working with a selection, don’t forget to DE-select it! Kind of like turning the oven off when finished cooking. (Ctrl- or Cmd-D is quickest.) Otherwise you might end up doing the right thing to the wrong part of the image.

Photoshop Channels

1a. If you have any idea you might be doing further work on the same piece of the image, save the selection (Select menu>Save Selection). You can store about fifty selections in there as selection channels (usually known as alpha channels), so there’s no need to skimp unless there’ll be a really big number of selected pieces that need lots of changes.

Photoshop Inverse

2. If you need to select all of something in an image, say a person, but the selection would take time, see if you can select the background or surroundings more easily—then go to Select>Inverse. Select everything except the hard part, then invert the selection. Voila. It isn’t always possible, but if the background of the image is relatively plain, give it a try.

Photoshop Hand

3. This is a really simple one, but I’ve had at least a few people tell me it was helpful: When finished working on something for the moment, switch to the Hand tool. The Photoshop equivalent of putting a stick shift in neutral, it means you won’t accidentally move something, or paint something, or otherwise edit something if you don’t mean to. When a Photoshop file is open, you have to have a tool selected, so if it’s a tool which won’t do any editing, it’s a safe choice when you want to pause. The Hand tool simply moves the image around in the frame if you’re zoomed in, but can’t edit. So it’s much harder to mess up the image with it selected.

Microsoft Project Keyboard Shortcuts

SkillForge SkillSheet

Microsoft Project 2010/13/16 Keyboard Shortcuts

Click here to download the PDF version.

 

Navigate Views and Windows

In order to…

Press

Activate the Control menu ALT+SPACEBAR
Activate the entry bar to edit text in a field F2
Activate the menu bar F10 or ALT
Activate the project control menu ALT+HYPHEN
Activate the split bar SHIFT+F6
Close the program window ALT+F4
Display all filtered tasks or all filtered resources F3
Display the Field Settings dialog box ALT+F3
Open a new window SHIFT+F11
Reduce a selection to a single field SHIFT+BACKSPACE
Reset sort order to ID order and turn off grouping SHIFT+F3
Select a drawing object F6
Display task information SHIFT+F2
Display resource information SHIFT+F2
Display assignment information SHIFT+F2
Turn on or off the Add To Selection mode SHIFT+F8
Turn on or off Auto Calculate CTRL+F9
Turn on or off the Extend Selection mode F8
Move left, right, up, or down to view different pages in the Print Preview window ALT+Arrow keys

 

Outline a Project

In order to…

Press

Hide subtasks ALT+SHIFT+HYPHEN or ALT+SHIFT+MINUS SIGN (minus sign on the numeric keypad)
Indent the selected task ALT+SHIFT+RIGHT ARROW
Show subtasks ALT+SHIFT+ = or ALT+SHIFT+PLUS SIGN (plus sign on the numeric keypad)
Show all tasks ALT+SHIFT+* (asterisk on the numeric keypad)
Outdent the selected task ALT+SHIFT+LEFT ARROW

 

Move in a view

In order to…

Press

Move to the beginning of a project (timescale) ALT+HOME
Move to the end of a project (timescale) ALT+END
Move the timescale left ALT+LEFT ARROW
Move the timescale right ALT+RIGHT ARROW
Move to the first field in a row HOME or CTRL+LEFT ARROW
Move to the first row CTRL+UP ARROW
Move to the first field of the first row CTRL+HOME
Move to the last field in a row END or CTRL+RIGHT ARROW
Move to the last field of the last row CTRL+END
Move to the last row CTRL+DOWN ARROW

 

Use a timescale

In order to…

Press

Move the timescale left one page ALT+PAGE UP
Move the timescale right one page ALT+PAGE DOWN
Move the timescale to beginning of the project ALT+HOME
Move the timescale to end of the project ALT+END
Scroll the timescale left ALT+LEFT ARROW
Scroll the timescale right ALT+RIGHT ARROW
Show smaller time units CTRL+ / (slash on the numeric keypad)
Show larger time units CTRL+* (asterisk on the numeric keypad)

 

Move in the Side Pane

In order to…

Press

Move focus between the side pane and the view on the right side CTRL+TAB or CTRL+SHIFT+TAB
Select different controls in the side pane if the focus is in the side pane TAB
Select or clear check boxes and option buttons if focus is in the side pane SPACEBAR

 

Creating Themes in Microsoft PowerPoint

When preparing business presentations using PowerPoint, one needs more than usual to make sure the show has a coherent, consistent appearance; themes are an easy way to do this. Because the brain is wired to start understanding and working with pictures from infancy, keeping the graphic elements (backgrounds, fonts, colors) uniform in a presentation allows the audience to pay attention to and absorb the actual content, without distraction from other things.

Themes dropdown

To use themes, one merely needs to open a presentation and, on the Design tab, click the theme one wants to use. There are normally a few dozen installed with the program.

But it’s fairly easy to create a theme, and there are several reasons, most notably product branding (a company’s official set of fonts, colors, logo(s), etc.) which can prompt the need.

On the right side of the themes collection are the dropdowns for Color, Fonts, and Effects. We can’t edit the last group, but we can use it. Fonts and Colors, though, we can go in and set up in whichever combination we like.

Fonts dropdown

In Fonts, we can pick any pair we like—the same for title and body, or different, as the need dictates. Usually we name the combination distinctly so we recognize it or can use it for something specific.

Colors dropdown

As for Colors, we have to select several, since colors get more use than fonts regardless of the graphic elements we start with, but we still need to keep something like a coherent color scheme. Try thinking of it like painting a house: All the colors need to work together. (If your company has product branding standards, just go with the colors in there and you’re set.)

And when you get to Effects, about the only downside is we can’t easily create them and store them as part of the theme. But we can use the built-in ones.

Save Theme

Once all this is done, click the More dropdown button on the right side of the Themes list, slide down to click Save Current Theme, and give the new one a name and location. You can use Browse for Themes right above it, later, if you need to find it again.

Best of all, anyone else can use the themes too. And if you (or your company) has prepped a theme, they can push it out on your network in a matter of minutes, so everyone can use the same theme(s) and be as close to 100% consistent as possible.

Using Specified-Order Grouping in Crystal Reports

As we get into some of the more subtle ways to use grouping in Crystal Reports, we sometimes find that either groups of groups, or arranging groups in a hierarchy, can improve the usefulness of the report. One of the overarching keys to a good report is that it be organized so as to make it easier to understand, and therefore more useful. This is even more important given the size of the batches of data we work with now.

A good example would be customer sales “levels”—gold, silver, etc. based on how much a customer spent with a company.

Basic Report

We can start by creating a report with the necessary data, in this case the company name, country, and sales amount. (In a real-world situation, one would include whatever data the grouping should be based on.)

Insert Grouping

Then, we can insert a group (Insert–>Group), but we use the In Specified Order capability to create arbitrary-but-logical groups based on (in this case) sales amounts. This is where we can customize the grouping using any reasonable criterion we want. The example here is sales levels, but any data from the database can be used. It can even be categories of items sold rather than quantities, just so long as there’s some way to tell one group from the other.

Set Up Group Names

We set up names for the groups using the Named Group box, and limits (in this case monetary) in the Define Named Group box which pops up for the purpose.

Other Customers

We also need to make sure we set up a space for the customers which don’t fall into one of the three “main” groups. (“Occasional”, “Other”, etc., are fine.)

Grouped Report

Once we rearrange the labeling a little for convenience, and maybe sort the customers by name, we’ve got a decent grouping set up. One thing to consider about this (and many other kinds of business documents) is to try and have a good idea of the final layout or structure in advance, if possible. It’s a lot easier if you know where you’re going, and you have a decent map.

Conditionally Formatting Multiple Sections in Crystal Reports

Alright, I admit it—this item on conditionally formatting sections has a little nostalgia for me, but it’s useful nostalgia. If you run a web search for “greenbar paper” you’ll see where this is going. The reason is a sound one, though. The horizontal stripes, sometimes called “banded rows”, let the user see what’s in which row of a report, or other printout, more easily.

Insert section below

The first step, after setting up the report and laying out the data, is to create a Details “b” section in the report—with no data in it. Right-click the section name, and “Insert Section Below”.

Borderless box

The only thing we want to do there is create a horizontal box, borderless, of any light fill color (since it’s going behind some of our data) in the same place as the data will be. Take your time when drawing, as the box should be the same height as the section, or just a hair less.

Conditionally formatting

The slightly more complex part comes with the conditionally formatting portion of the recipe. We want this color background to show up behind every other record. Luckily, the formula is simple. We go into the Section Expert, click the X+2 button for “Suppress (No Drill-Down)”, thus into the Formula Editor for the section, and type RecordNumber Mod 2=0. Basically, this function looks for even-numbered records/rows by doing the division, and if the remainder is 0, the color details section is suppressed. So…on, off, on, off. The conditionally part being, even- versus odd-numbered rows.

Underlay following sections

Finally, still in the Section Expert, we go to the Details A section and check Underlay Following Sections, so as to get them to overlap (or underlap, as the case may be).

Completed work

Granted, we don’t usually print much on 15-inch wide pinfeed carriage paper in high-speed dot-matrix printers anymore, but with the density of content in some reports, stemming from smaller print sizes and such, you never know when this trick might come in handy.

Ah, nostalgia. “Everything old is new again.” And still useful.  😉

Creating Report Alerts in Crystal Reports

In Crystal Reports, a feature called Report Alerts has become more important the last few years. It has to do with the fact that there are at least occasional exceptions to many kinds of report data. “Problems or conditions outside the norm” is a good way to phrase it, and when those happen, we often need to know about them ASAP. Hence Report Alerts.

Creating one isn’t hard—we just have to know three things going in. [a] What to call it, [b] what condition triggers it, [c] what message to show when it kicks in—this last is optional but strongly recommended.

Report Alerts box

Looking for a low order count is a good example. Having set up a field to count orders per company, we can now set up an alert to see who placed less than, say, thirty orders for the year in question. In the Report menu, we slide to Alerts, then click Create or Modify Alerts.

Create Report Alerts

Next thing is to set up the actual alert. We click New on the right side of the box, give the alert a name, and write a user message—some people skip this, but having at least a brief message is important, as you never know who’ll be using the report.

Report Alerts condition

Then, most important, set up the condition which triggers this alert. (Back to our old friend, the Formula Editor.) In our case, we’re looking for suppliers who placed fewer than thirty orders this year, so the formula reflects this.

Refresh for Data

When done, we OK or Close out of all the boxes, save (desirable), and refresh (F5).  We should see the alert kick in, with the option to let us know which records triggered it.

Report Alerts result

Here we can see the number of records has narrowed down to only eighteen pages’ worth, rather than fifty-nine, and at least one supplier’s data confirms only twenty-three orders (less than thirty). So the alert lets you know something’s different, then allows you to see what the changes are.

As is often the case, the hard part is getting the details clarified. Someone said, “Computers don’t do vague.” It’s a point to bear in mind with Report Alerts.

Creating and Using Parameter Fields in Crystal Reports

When setting up layouts in Crystal Reports, the parameter field can be a tremendously helpful feature. As with a parameter query in Microsoft Access, it gives the report a significant degree of flexibility—the report’s basic structure and purpose are the same, but the ability to change, say, the range of dates involved, means a single report can be used to answer a larger number of related questions with reasonable efficiency. Since the user can input anything the field allows, parameter fields simply need to be set up for the necessary data type.

New Parameter Field

Once you have a file open, you start by going to the Field Explorer, right-clicking the Parameter Fields item, and clicking New.

Name Type Static Dynamic

The dialog box which opens will ask for the name, type (of data), and whether the field should be dynamic or static—meaning whether it should get choices from the database, or from a separate list you load in.

The critical thing is, if you want to hook the type to a value from somewhere, regardless, the type of the field and the type of the value have to be the same—number to number, string (text) to string, and so on, for the same reason that two railroad cars have to ride on the same gauge rails and have the couplers at the same height. If they don’t, they can’t work together.

Prompt Text

Once you’ve told the field what kind of data, there’s one other thing you should do—enter a prompt text or phrase. Most times a user will know what the input should be about, but setting up a prompt is still a good idea, since even someone who uses the report may not use it for a while.

Design View Preview

Parameter fields can even be used in or next to text objects, as labels which are specific to the report you’re running. You can put them almost anywhere you need the viewer to see what the report is reporting on. So even your labeling is flexible.

Creating a Cross-Reference in Microsoft Word

The process of setting up a cross-reference in Word, frankly, can take a little time to get comfortable with. So don’t worry if you need a couple run-throughs.

The recipe goes like this:

Bookmark

First, create a bookmark (there are a couple other things you can use, but a bookmark is simplest) wherever it is you want the reference to point. (Insert tab—>Links—>Bookmark) THIS IS ACTUALLY THE KEY STEP. Give the bookmark a name that makes sense for what it’s marking—what you’re pointing to. This helps with the other part.

Text

Next, go to the part of the text you want the cross-reference from (that is, where it starts). Type the appropriate text (e.g., “See the reference to so-and-so on page”, plus a space, and any other punctuation as needed). If you visualize the way such a thing normally looks, you can see all it’s missing is the page number.

Cross-reference

With the insertion point at the spot right after the space, go to References—>Captions—>Cross-reference. Although there are other items you can use in this situation, the thing most people insert is the reference to the page number which the bookmark is on.

And that’s it. Again, it is possible to use this feature for a few other things, but the idea of a cross-reference in most cases is to refer a point or item in the text to another item somewhere else.

The benefit is, if you reformat the text, add or remove some, or otherwise make changes, you don’t have to go through your document retyping up the wazoo as far as redoing cross-referenced items. Instead (ALERT—BONUS FEATURE AHEAD!), simply press Control-A (to select all the text), then the F9 key, which will refresh everything selected in the way of tables, references, etc. (Hint, hint.) You may have to specify the whole document in a dialog box. Oh well. And if you inserted any of those other things, you just made sure they’re updated, too.

Creating Cost Resources in Microsoft Project

There’s a quirky thing about Microsoft Project, having to do with resources—more specifically, Cost resources. The other two types, Work and Material, are pretty easy to understand and use, but Cost takes a little bit of extra work to make do its thing.

A Work resource is a person or a piece of equipment, someone or something that stays around. A Material resource is a consumable, such as reams of paper or toner cartridges—something that gets used up. Even gasoline might be looked at this way. But Cost resources, at first, seem a little more indescribable. And where to put the actual cost?…

The basic definition, though, is not too hard once you understand it. A Cost resource is an intangible, like an airfare, a hotel rental, or a software download. It’s something you use, but can’t exactly hold in your hand.

Cost Resource

So how do we use it? First, we have to create the resource, say, Advertising Money. We can’t insert any numbers in the Resource Sheet, because—and here’s the key thing—a Cost resource has to be attached to a task in order to enter a number. In other words, you have to specify where the money is going.

Assigning Resource

Then, in the Task Information dialog box, we set up the assignment of the resource, and there we can enter the amount. Since the program tracks all the costs, it’s not really too big a deal where we enter the numbers, as long as we enter them.

Total Cost

Later, when we need to know what all the Cost resource numbers add up to, the information is pretty easy to get. One simple way to check it is to add the Cost field to the Gantt chart. The Project Summary Task gives us the overall amount in that column.

Once you understand it, dealing with it is routine. It’s a good thing, because it gives the project manager a means of keeping better track of the money. Never hurts….

Creating Calculated Fields in Microsoft Access

When setting up reports in Access, it is sometimes necessary to learn something which wasn’t in the original data, whether calculated, derived, or otherwise figured out from the existing information. It’s fairly easy to do, though there are a few steps involved.

After determining the requirement—a sales tax or a shipping fee, and what calculation is needed to find it—we create the field for the calculation.

Text box

With the report open in Design view, clicking the Design tab under Report Design Tools gives us the Controls group. There, we click the Text Box tool and click or drag where we want the text box (which shows field data). This normally creates a label too, which one can use or delete as desired.

Calculated field

Once the text box is in place, we leave it selected, open the Property Sheet, and click the Data tab. One of the Data properties is Control Source, where we can tell the text box how to get its data. On the right of this property, we bring up the Expression Builder with the Build button […].

Expression builder

In the Expression Builder itself, we can either double-click the fields we need for data or type in what we want manually. We also add the other items (operators, additional figures, and so on) to perform the calculations—essentially, we build a formula much like those in Excel. (Don’t need the equals sign at the front, though.) This makes it a calculated field.

Field and Label

Once we OK out of the box, we can fine-tune the position and size of the text box, and either move the label or create one of our own so the users of the report will know what it’s showing. (This is more important than some people think—in a business report it’s very important not to make assumptions about who’s going to see it, and no guesswork should be involved in understanding it.)

The term “calculated field” seems kind of unofficial—one usually sees it called an “unbound field”, as it isn’t directly connected to any of the actual database data. But since we often create such fields to derive info from other info, and it’s often mathematical, saying calculated is at least logical.

How to Use Color Libraries in Photoshop

For some reason, a few people I’ve talked to seem a little uneasy about the Color Libraries. Either they don’t know what these are, or they don’t know how to use them. But they’re easy to bring into play, they’re very useful, and sometimes even necessary. They’re standardized sets of colors anyone can use to make sure the viewer sees precisely the color which was intended.

Many companies have what are called “product branding” standards: Official fonts, official colors, logos, and so on. If I mention Coca-Cola, or John Deere, you can probably see the right shade of red or green in your mind’s eye. But if you were creating an ad for these (or other) companies, you’d have to match the color EXACTLY, for reasons of copyright (the color plus the logo).

Libraries in Swatches

This is where the Libraries come in. Once you’ve created your basic art (and found out what the specifics are for the product branding colors), you can call up the correct library from the Swatches panel menu. (Usually, we append the choice of “book” to the existing palette.)

Another approach is to go through a color picker—say, for example, by clicking the foreground color swatch in the Tools panel. From the picker, you can click the Color Libraries button on the right, and call up the appropriate book at the top, then the specific color, which we add to the swatches simply by clicking “OK”. It normally shows up at the top of the Swatches panel, properly named so you won’t mistake it if you hover on it.

Picker Libraries

The key to the technique is knowing in advance which of the libraries (or standards) the company, coworker, or whoever is using. Many companies will stick with a particular library or set of libraries to make things as simple as possible, and then all one has to do is check the type of paper or printing surface to be used.

The color libraries are also the idea behind the concept of “spot color”. The plain-language definition of spot color is a color NOT mixed from the C-M-Y-K inks, but brought in separately, in another cartridge, ready to go; it must match perfectly the desired color for (as I mentioned earlier) copyright purposes. It is normally not used everywhere in the document, only in certain spots, hence the name.

Tableau Training Classes from SkillForge

Announcing Our New Tableau Training Classes

Companies around the world are collecting more data than ever – about their customers, their sales and many other aspects of their business. With all of this data, though, the problem becomes how to analyze, make sense of it – and more importantly – make sound business decisions based on it. Business Intelligence tools have increased in popularity in the last few years to help companies do just that. One of the tools that is particularly popular currently is Tableau. Tableau offers five products currently: Tableau Desktop (both Personal and Professional Editions), Tableau Server, Tableau Online, Tableau Reader and Tableau Public. The last two of these products are free for use.

Tableau allows users to connect to many different data sources including relational databases (like SQL Server and Oracle), OLAP cubes, cloud databases (like Azure), and spreadsheets (like Excel.) Once connected data can be linked and analyzed using a variety of different data visualizations including line, bar and pie charts and more advanced visualizations like geographical maps.

tableau-training-classes

Although it’s a very powerful tool, Tableau does have a bit of a learning curve. To assist students in learning Tableau, we offer three different Tableau Training Classes:

Tableau Training: This course introduces students to Tableau, familiarizes them with the Tableau interface, shows students how to connect to a variety of different data sources and introduces students to the main types of data visualizations in Tableau.

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Advanced Analytics with Tableau and R Training: In this course, students take a deep dive into using R with Tableau. They will also learn how to use advanced analytical techniques such as forecasting, predictions, association rules, clustering, classification, and other advanced Tableau/R calculated field functions.

Wherever you are on your journey to learning Tableau, our Tableau Training classes can help you take your data visualizations to the next level. Visit our Tableau Training course list to learn more about each of these courses. Or contact us if you are interested in having one of these courses delivered at your location for your team.

How to Use Duotone Mode in Photoshop

One of the least-known color modes in Photoshop, or certainly lesser-known today, is Duotone. This may be partly because it requires converting a file to grayscale first, which means that for color images the very name is grayed-out on the menu. But it has a couple of interesting properties.

Convert Gray

The first thing, as I mentioned, is to take an image and convert to grayscale; from there, one can go to Duotone mode. And then, as the one chap said in the movies, the fun begins. Duotone mode allows the user to “tint” the image with between one and four ink colors, rather like “dunking” the image in a dye bath. So what? you might ask.

Convert Duotone

Although one might want to do brightness and contrast adjustment beforehand, Duotone mode allows some artistic things to happen to an image. For one, it’s possible to print a grayscale-like picture in the four-color process (since the max number of colors one can use is four, they can be cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—CMYK) and make the grayscale-like image a little warmer or cooler by tweaking the balance of the colors in the dialog box.

For another, it’s capable of closely simulating a couple of older photographic printing processes which were considered very beautiful and elegant back in the day. Some illustrated novels, even graphic novels, occasionally still use these kinds of repro art styles.

Cyanotype

One, called cyanotype, was used till fairly recently not only to do photo printing  but also to create traditional-style blueprints for building and manufacturing. (Since the chemicals involved, ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, are both rather nasty, being able to create the appearance without the potential to poison oneself is certainly a plus!) Even the sub-mode called Monotone can handle this one.

Sepia Tone

Another, perhaps one of the most beautiful, is sepia toning. A print was washed in a bath that included sepia ink (from the marine animal called the cuttlefish), which both stabilized the image chemically and gave it the lovely golden-brown cast we often associate with antique photographs. Sepia toning helped prevent fading, and gave the image a warmth which a normal silver print would sometimes lack due to its regular color. Duotone mode with all four inks (Quadtone) makes this version easy.

Some newer users of Photoshop love playing with the ability to bend reality—which is cool. But there are a lot more capabilities built into the program. Using it to reproduce some of the beauty of yesteryear doesn’t hurt.

How to Create Subprojects in Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project was designed with the idea that one might need to set up subprojects, or projects within projects. If you think of a set of manuals, or a company-wide reworking of hardware and software, or a movie (such as Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) where many departments have to coordinate their efforts  to  all be ready for filming at about the same time, you have an idea of why this might be. But Microsoft set the feature up with a couple of hidden little bonuses, which I’ll talk about in a moment.

Project

To start with, one simply sets up regular projects. Whatever they might be about, whatever one does normally. Add tasks, resources, assignments, calendars, and so on. Save them, polish them, etc. They can sit on individual drives or shared, but if you know you’re going to be creating a set of subprojects to be parts of another project, best to put them on a shared drive so all concerned can work with them, as individuals and together.

Master Project

The next step is to open a blank project, to use as a container. This is referred to as a “master project” in the program’s terminology. Make sure you’re in the first task row; then, in the Project tab, over at the left, click the Subproject button in the Insert group. Navigate to the project you want as part of the master, and double-click it.

Subprojects

For additional subprojects, click the next task row down on the left side of the Gantt chart (where one usually sets these things up) before inserting the next one. Turning on the Project Summary Task from the Gantt Chart Tools Format tab is usually a good idea too (Show/Hide group on right). Save the master as needed, just like any other project.

Linked Tasks

But the bonuses are interesting. First, you can link tasks from different subprojects within the master. To use the movie analogy, if the wig-makers, clothing-makers, and sword-makers all have to finish for wardrobe within a day or so of each other, linking the end milestones for all those projects is done the same way as within a single project—select the tasks and click the Link button.

Second, and even cooler in my opinion, if you modify a subproject and save, the individual project will reflect the change if you open it separately—master and sub are linked. And the same goes for the other end—open a project at the individual end, change and save, and the master/subprojects will update accordingly! As in its brother program, Access, changes and updates in Project are a two-way street when working with native-format files. So all concerned can see everything going on, whether single project manager or multi-project supervisor.

Using the Appearance Panel in Illustrator CC 2018

If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone who worked on Adobe Illustrator had a crush on the idea of layers, because they appear not only in the Layers panel, but in the Appearance panel. There are no less than three places where the idea of layering, stacking, or something similar appears in this program—the Layers panel itself, the idea of Sub-layers, and Appearance.

The latter uses the concept a little differently. This panel shows data only for the object (or group) selected, and it’s things like fills, strokes, effects (such as drop shadows), and so on.

Appearance panel

If you have an object selected, you can show the Appearance panel (Window–>Appearance) to see how its attributes are set up. A key point is that the attributes are “stacked” from top to bottom the way you see them, so having a fill above another fill can block the lower one from being seen.

Object

If this happens, you can adjust, say, the transparency/opacity of the upper to partly show the lower, or change the stacking order by dragging the item up or down as you would any layer, sublayer, or other component, or remove the upper one entirely.

Then, editing the attributes is quite straightforward; clicking or double-clicking on most items will bring up the appropriate dialog box, and from there it’s pure vanilla.

Group

When a group is selected, any attribute you change, add, or remove in the panel will affect the group as a whole. In order to do something with one member of the group, you either have to ungroup and select the item in question or otherwise narrow the selection down. This is an example of the kind of step-by-step mindset one often has to develop working with these kinds of programs, but it’s not hard to do.

The normal issue one runs into in doing all this is keeping track of where to go to do what. Changing layers and stacking order of objects and groups is done in the Layers panel; changing the attributes of objects or groups in the Appearance panel. Jotting this sort of thing down initially can help.

Creating Custom Tools Panels in Illustrator CC 2018

I’ve gotten so used to the Tools panel (or Toolbox, as we old-timers call it) in Illustrator as it has been for years that although we can go from single- to double-column for convenience on smaller screens, I hardly ever think about it otherwise. But one feature in Illustrator CC 2018 which is both novel and very much a help is the ability to create one’s own Tools panels—that is, to create custom collections of tools as one needs.

We could do something like this with the panels themselves for quite some time, separating and recombining them as we like. This made possible the idea of the workspace, and Illustrator comes with a bunch of those preinstalled. But not too long ago, someone at Adobe realized it would be helpful to be able to do the same with tools—after all, we occasionally find we need what might seem arbitrary but logical (to a particular user) collections of tools for drawing, selecting, etc.

Luckily, it’s dead easy.

Window Menu

There doesn’t even need to be a document open, but it helps to know what you’ll usually need. Simply go to the Window menu, Tools, and on the submenu, click New Tools Panel.

Dialog Box

The dialog box will ask what you want to call it, and you can type any name you like—though if you need to create more than one (and you can put together as many as you need), it’s a good idea to use names that more or less describe what each will be for.

Tools

Once it has a name, the main bit is old as the hills. Drag and drop tools from the main Tools panel into the new one, in any order (a little planning for convenience might be helpful), and there you are. And since this is a program-level feature, not a document-level one, the new collection(s) will be there on that copy of Illustrator from that point on, whenever needed.

Dealing with Dust Using History in Photoshop

There’s another trick for dealing with dust in Photoshop (to sort of continue from the last blog post), which takes a little setup but is even more subtle. It involves the History Brush tool, and the History panel. The advantage is that the corrections are very unobtrusive, especially if one takes the time to do them carefully. The disadvantage, such as it is, is that the recipe has to be followed rather carefully, which is why I’m taking the liberty of condensing it at the end of the post.

After opening the file, it’s advisable to save it as a PSD, and make a copy of the layer containing the artwork; work on the copy for safety.

Gaussian Blur

The first real step is to go to Filter—Blur—Gaussian Blur, and set it for 6-12 pixels (all numbers approximate; your mileage may vary).

Then, in the History panel, take a snapshot of this state (call it Blurred, or whatever you’ll recognize). After which, click one step up in the History (which will un-blur the art but leave the snapshot blurred). THIS IS A KEY STEP.

History Panel

Click the selector for the blurred snapshot (left side of panel) to indicate what the History Brush should work from. Then select the History Brush itself in the Tools panel.

Blending Mode

THE OTHER KEY STEP is this: When painting a dark spot with the History Brush, switch the blending mode in the Control panel up top to Lighten, and vice versa. So you’re lightening and blurring the dark spots, and darkening and blurring the light spots. Lightening or darkening makes them less conspicuous; blurring blends the repair in.

Before

Before

After

After

Don’t panic if you need to practice this one a bit. The recipe is a bit more complex, and has to be followed. But I can tell you it works, as I’ve used it myself many times.

 

Short version:

Open file, save as PSD if necessary, make copy of layer

Blur image (Filter/Blur/Gaussian, 6-12 pixels)

In History panel, take snapshot and name accordingly

Go back one step

Select blurred snapshot

Use History Brush tool to paint blur back in (Lighten mode on dark spots, and vice versa)