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Tagging along  
By J. Carlton Collins
March 2012

Q: I see an increasing number of colorful square patterns popping up in magazines and newspapers, but I don’t understand their purpose. Could you enlighten me?

A: Those colorful square patterns you see are Microsoft Tags. To use them, download the free Microsoft Tag reader to your smartphone and scan the Tag, which works like a hyperlink. Scanning a Tag launches your smartphone’s browser and links you to a specific Web page. Tags have many practical applications; a few examples are listed below:

  1. Tags in magazines and newspapers often link to sound clips, video clips or detailed data on the Web.
  2. A Tag included on your business card could link to your picture and biography on the Web.
  3. A Tag on your Yellow Pages advertisement (or letterhead) could link to your company website.
  4. A Tag on a conference brochure could link to a Web page describing the conference agenda in detail.
  5. A Tag on a real estate sign could link to a detailed description and interior photos of the home for sale.
  6. Tags included on products in retail stores could link to each product’s detailed description and specifications.
  7. Tags included on asset labels could link to Web-based product manuals or warranty information.

You can create Microsoft Tags for free at, as follows. Select Tag Manager from the MY TAGS menu and sign in using your Windows Live ID. (If you do not have a Windows Live ID, click the Sign up button and follow the instructions for creating a free account.) On the left side of the screen, click the Create a Tag button, as shown.

Enter a title for your tag in the Tag Title text box, and the desired URL (Web address) you want the Tag to refer to in the Mobile URL text box, then click Save. Information about your new Tag will then appear in Tag Manager. To complete the process, click the down-arrow icon under the Download column, place a check in the box confirming that you have reviewed the guidelines, and click the Submit button. In the dialog box that follows, click the radio button labeled Tag Barcode, then click the Download button, as circled below.

This produces a PDF file containing the new Tag. (Windows 7 and Vista will display a security dialog box prompting you to either Open or Save the resulting PDF file.) Click the Save dropdown arrow and select Save and Open, and your new Tag will be saved and displayed.

You can use a number of tools to copy and paste the image, or save it to an image file. For example, Windows 7 and Vista users can use the Snipping Tool for this purpose, as follows. Click the Windows Start button and select All Programs. From the Accessories folder, select Snipping Tool (which causes your computer’s monitor to fade to gray). Then use your mouse to click and drag a selection box highlighting your Tag. Next, from the Snipping Tool menu, select File, Save As, enter a name in the File name box, select a file format from the Save as type box (such as GIF or JPEG), and click Save. As an example, scanning the Tag shown below launches a Web page linked to some of the articles I have published.

Test your Tag to make sure it works properly, then include it on your business cards, letterhead, advertisements, product packaging, T-shirts, coffee mugs, baseball caps or anywhere you want to provide quick access to supporting data, driving directions or detailed contact information.

Tags can also be linked to application downloads, text, vCards and phone numbers. You can specify starting and ending dates for Tags linked to time-sensitive information. Be aware that, although Microsoft Tags are rendered in color, they still work when printed in black and white.

Tip: When creating Tags, it is a good idea to link them to Web pages that are specifically sized and formatted to be easily read on a smartphone screen.

Note: Microsoft Tags have evolved from QR (Quick Response) codes, which were originally created by Toyota in 1994 to track vehicles as they moved through the production process. Since then, many variations of QR codes have emerged that can be read by popular QR scanners such as ZXing or Kaywa. You can also create QR codes using the Microsoft Tag tools described above. An example of a QR code is pictured below.

Ready, set, Excel!  
By J. Carlton Collins
March 2012

Q: I’ve just installed Excel 2010. Can you tell me which default settings, if any, I should change to make it easier to use?


A: When I install Excel, I typically adjust the default settings as outlined below. (These suggestions tend to be more of a personal preference than hardened advice. The settings you change will depend upon your personal preferences.)


1. Specify default file location. Set the default location of your Excel data files so Excel will automatically open and save files from/to the correct folder. To make this change, from the File tab select Options, Save, and under the Default file location, enter the default path and folder where you want to save your Excel files.


2. Disable default cursor movement. By default, Excel moves the active cell selection down one cell when you press the Enter key. I find this setting undesirable because often I prefer to move in a different direction, or remain in the same cell to apply formatting; therefore I choose to disable this default. (Note: Even with this action disabled, I can achieve the same downward cursor movement by pressing the down arrow key after entering data.) To disable the default action, from the File tab select Options, Advanced, and in the Editing options section, uncheck the box labeled After pressing Enter, move selection.


3. Default number of recent documents. I prefer to display the maximum number of Excel documents I’ve recently opened, which is 50. To adjust this setting, from the File tab select Options, Advanced, and in the Display section, set the spinner box labeled Show this number of Recent Documents to 50.


4. Transition navigation keys. As discussed in the December 2011 Technology Q&A topic “From Here to Eternity” (page 66), I like to enable the Transition navigation keys so that pressing the Home key moves the cell pointer to cell A1. To enable this option, from the File tab select Options, Advanced, and under the Lotus compatibility section, check the box labeled Transition navigation keys. (Note: Without adjusting this setting, you can still move the cursor to cell A1 by pressing Ctrl+Home.)


5. Edit the Quick Access Toolbar. I find it useful to customize my Quick Access Toolbar to include hidden tools (such as the PivotTable and PivotChart Wizard, Speak Cells and Send to Mail Recipient) and other commonly used tools (such as Encrypt Document, Quick Print and Strikethrough). Specific instructions for customizing the Quick Access Toolbar are described in the January 2011 Technology Q&A topic “I Command You” (page 63).


6. Default date format. By default, Excel displays dates with four-digit years, but I prefer two-digit years. This setting adjustment is described for Windows 7, Vista and XP in the April 2011 Technology Q&A topic “Displaying a Two-Digit Year” (page 61).


7. Default file format. If you frequently work with macros, consider changing the default file format to Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook so that Excel will save your macros automatically. To make this change, from the File tab select Options, Save, and under the Save Workbooks section, select Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook from the Save files in this format dropdown box.


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Monitoring the field  
By J. Carlton Collins
March 2012

Q: I enjoyed the February 2011 JofA article “Increase Productivity With Multiple Monitors” (page 28), which addressed using multiple monitors with a desktop computer, but is there an easy solution that allows our audit staff to use dual monitors with their Windows laptops in the field?


A: I applaud the desire to help your audit staff become more productive in the field. In this situation, consider using a Field Monitor—a durable, lightweight external monitor from Mobile Monitor Technologies LLC that attaches to your laptop using a simple USB connection. Its Monitor2Go device (shown below) is priced starting at $279 and, if desired, up to six Field Monitor display units can be linked together daisy-chain style on a single laptop without the need for using a special video card. You can learn more about these devices at


In addition, Matrox Graphics produces a device called DualHead2Go (shown below) that lets you connect up to two additional monitors to your laptop using the video output port. The device is priced starting at $229, and you must supply the additional monitors. For more information, visit


Plugable provides a similar device, called a UGA-2K-A USB to VGA/DVI/HDMI Adapter (shown below), which connects an external monitor to a laptop using the USB port, and up to three additional monitors using three adapters and three USB ports (in which case a USB hub may be required). It is priced starting at $64, and you must supply the additional monitors. For more information, visit


Watering your documents  
By J. Carlton Collins
March 2012

Q: Is there an easy way to insert a prominent disclaimer on each page of a Word 2010 document that reads “For Management’s Eyes Only”?


A: Word 2010, 2007 and 2003 provide a watermark solution that likely meets your needs. To use this feature in Word 2010 and 2007, click the Page Layout tab, and from the Page Background group, select Watermark, Custom Watermark. Select the radio button labeled Text watermark, and enter the phrase "For Management’s Eyes Only" in the box labeled Text. Select a font size and color, click the Apply button, and click OK.


The resulting watermark appears on each page of your Word document as a semitransparent phrase positioned behind your text, as shown below.


Advanced watermark tip: The watermark image that Word displays is actually an object inserted in the header with Behind Text formatting. You could achieve the same result by inserting a text box, graphic image or WordArt into the header, then right-clicking on the object, selecting Wrap Text, Behind Text and repositioning the object into the body of the document as desired. Compared to Word’s Watermark tool, this approach provides greater control over the size, format and rotation of the watermark image.

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