Cubicle Etiquette: Getting the Word Out

Cubicle etiquette is something that everyone sharing space in an office — any office — should observe. Alas, one person’s “common sense” isn’t always as common as another might hope. Loretta McNeil writes:

Hi, Chris. I’m currently temping in a large office space with dozens of other coworkers. It’s nice that we each have our own cubicles (I’ve worked in places where we’ve had to share), but it can still be hard to focus when a seemingly large percentage of my fellow cubicle drones don’t know the first thing about boundaries. Maybe it’s my fault for growing up as an only child, but personal space is very important to me! When I need to get work done and I have nincompoops playing volleyball with wads of crumpled paper over what functions as my “office” as the divider, I want to scream. And kill.

Obviously, while screaming and killing would feel good for the short term, it would accompany all sorts of other messy problems. I was hoping that you could get the word out about the importance of cubicle etiquette in the workplace — before it’s too late?

Thanks for all that you do!

Cubicle EtiquettePlease don’t scream and kill, Loretta! Then you’ll get sent off to the penitentiary, where I’m told that the cubicles are much smaller, more crowded, and the concept of “personal boundaries” is completely thrown out the window. (Also, there aren’t many windows.) Out of the cubicle and into the cell? In the immortal words of Oklahoma City’s own Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” A little cubicle etiquette goes a long way, and you shouldn’t need a protocol droid hanging around the office to remind people of this fact.

So maybe I’ve never spent much time in an office environment aside from the one that’s in my own home, and the interruptions are usually welcome (e.g. Diana bringing me delicious food, Wicket coming in to tell me a hilarious joke that he read on the Internet, or Pixie letting me know that she’s secured the perimeter against all potential intruders), but plenty of people I know have spent thousands of hours in the cubicle trenches to pass along the wisdom I’m going to share here. If you work in a cubicle setting, here are a few guidelines to which you should adhere.

Cubicle Etiquette: Respect Privacy

Privacy is a major factor when your workspace is in a cubicle. Given that there are often half walls and no doors, privacy is minimal. However, a cubicle is still an individual’s personal office space and should be treated this way. With this in mind, avoid barging into a coworker’s cubicle uninvited. Instead, stand at the entrance until your presence is acknowledged.

Cubicle Etiquette: Don’t Bring on the Noise

Still on the lines of privacy, be aware of noise level. Whether you are talking on the phone or having a conversation with a coworker, keep your voice level to a minimum. One sure way to irritate coworkers in surrounding cubicles is to carry on loud conversations, constant chattering and laughing.

Cubicle Etiquette: Keep It Secret. Keep It Safe

Confidentiality is also a major factor in cubicle etiquette. Thin half walls do not prevent others from hearing your conversations, regardless of how quiet you attempt to be. When it comes to discussing confidential information, it may be more appropriate to do so in a private meeting room or in person.

Cubicle Etiquette: Tidiness is Next to Professional… ness

If you have read up on email etiquette, you know that carelessly worded emails can reflect poorly on your professionalism. The same goes for your office space. A cubicle that is untidy, disorganized, or littered with personal items can leave the impression that you may not be the most professional person in the office.

Cubicle Etiquette: Noise Annoys, But the Nose Knows

Finally, remember that some people around you may be sensitive to certain odors, such as smoke, strong-smelling food, and even body odors. Not only can it irritate people in surrounding cubicles, but it may deter people from visiting your cubicle.

So those are just some basics, but I’m sure we haven’t covered every pet peeve and periwinkle to be found in the office environment. What suggestions might you have for someone seeking sensible guidelines for cubicle etiquette? Please leave a comment below and let’s get the word out together!

Microsoft Office Labs Offering Free Tools to Increase Your Productivity

Microsoft Office Labs Offering Free Tools to Increase Your ProductivityHave you ever sent an email and forgotten to include the attachment? Almost every one of us has at one time or another. Over at Microsoft Office Labs there’s a tool under development that could assist in making sure the attachment goes with the email. The tool is called Forgotten Attachment Detector (FAD) and will alert you with a message stating ‘You may have intended to attach something’ and confirms if you wish to continue sending the email or not. System requirements are Windows XP or above, Outlook 2007, Net 3.5 SP1, and VSTO 3.0.

Another free tool from Microsoft Labs is called Sticky Sorter. This add-on allows for the brainstorming of ideas onto virtual sticky notes, and can be used in collaboration with others of your choosing. The sticky notes can be color coordinated, arranged by the user, and even categorized. The program is simple to use and only requires Microsoft Windows XP or above, plus Network 2.0 to function.

Do you need a faster way to launch stuff you require immediately? Give Speed Launch a try. The free program adds a bull’s eye to your desktop in which you can drag any document, file, or any Web site URL onto the target. Once in the bull’s eye, anything can be opened by just clicking on it. The program requires Windows XP or above and .NET Framework 3.0.

In addition to the above programs, Microsoft Labs is offering what it calls Concept Tests. These experimental programs are designed to let the user take a free test ride and experience (and offer feedback about) future concepts that may or may not make it into a Microsoft product. Some of the products are designed just to entertain a user, while some of the other concept programs are designed to actually increase productivity.

I would recommend that you these free tools and see what you think.

Microsoft Office Labs can be found here.

Comments welcome.

What is the Tipping Point for Open Source?

If you work with or around your company’s IT department, chances are you know someone that is an absolute evangelist for open source. The concept of putting your code out there for the world to see and improve upon has become a philosophy that a growing number of tech enthusiasts are beginning to embrace, but where is that tipping point that takes open source software from the point of being an occasional alternative to the industry standard?

Video Editing
Recently, Lightworks has announced plans to make their robust and award winning video editing program open source. Unlike a lot of open source software on the market, Lightworks comes as a professional-grade program with a background in award winning video production. Being freely available, if it has the functionality to go head-to-head with Final Cut Pro, Avis, or Adobe Premiere, could it compete to become the industry standard in low-budget video production? Down the line, could it capture a larger share in the blockbuster film industry?

Office Software
Office software has been thus far dominated by Microsoft’s Office Suite. Open Office has been improving over the years and is beginning to gain ground in the battle for market dominance. Being free, it makes me wonder why more companies aren’t taking advantage of the deal. After all, in today’s world are the extra little tidbit features of Office really that necessary?

Audio Editing
The world of audio editing is driven by programs like Pro Tools and Adobe Audition. Currently, the biggest player in the open source world is Audacity. I’ve mentioned before a few features that would make Audacity a serious contender for Adobe Audition’s market share, but as of right now there isn’t a lot of competition for Pro Tools in the world of open source.

Photo and Graphics
PhotoShop leads the graphics world by leaps and bounds. It’s become such a popular tools for creating and improving images that the word PhotoShop acts as a verb in the English language meaning improving or altering images.

Currently, the biggest open source competition to Adobe’s product is Gimp. Gimp has an impressive feature set, but it falls short too often to become a viable replacement.  At one point, a derivative of Gimp called GimpShop was created to mimic PhotoShop’s layout in order to make the transition easier for seasoned PhotoShop users.

Browsers
For the longest time, Microsoft Internet Explorer has been the heavy hitter in the realm of browsers. Over the past five years, open source contenders like Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome projects have slammed their way in to the browser battles and in some cases surpassed IE. As I’m writing this, Firefox 4 has overtaken Internet Explorer 9 while IE 8 and Firefox 3.5 are within mere percentage points of each other.

Operating Systems
The debate between Windows, OS X, and Linux is practically a religious one among the tech minded. Linux is given a bad wrap because of its low market share and lack of a single primary contender.  Unfortunately, the debate isn’t limited to the main OS types. The debate over which Linux distribution (distro) is best is just about as heated as the other. This scattering has put a severe damper on Linux’s ability to cross over from a server and fringe platform to something more.

Not only are there seemingly hundreds of distributions out there, but each one typically has multiple derivatives that branch off at various points of development.

Currently, Ubuntu has made great strides towards bringing Linux to a wider market of home users. By being distributed through OEMs such as Dell, the OS has become more of a household name and less of another small fish in a giant pool of distros.

Open source software has come a long way in the past few years, gaining ground and proving that a community can come together and build something great. Whether or not open source software will become an industry standard among professionals for anything beyond web hosting is, only time will tell.

Three Reasons Why Your Company Should Seriously Consider OpenOffice

OpenOffice has been around for years and is considered the most popular open source alternative to the Microsoft Office Suite. While it lacks some of the finesse and features Microsoft Office is known for, it does have some very strong points that business users can take advantage of.

No Licensing Fees
Many small and even large businesses are weighed down with fees they have to pay just to keep the software their employees are using operational. Many companies pay extremely high amounts to lease systems, license software, and for the support that keeps them both running. If even a single program cost can be removed from the business’ budget, this can make a remarkable difference on the bottom line and open finances up to spend on more important things, like hiring more employees and taking them out to lunch.

Compatibility isn’t a Big Problem
If I were to tell a graphics-heavy business to switch from Photoshop to Gimp to cut costs, they would probably laugh at me. The reason for this is simply that Gimp can’t handle many settings present in a typical .PSD file since it’s a proprietary format that contains features and quirks programs like Gimp don’t fully support. In the world of office applications, however, file formats and features are much less restrictive. A spreadsheet created in Microsoft Excel without an intense amount of macro functionality attached to it will most likely open just fine in its OpenOffice equivalent. The same goes for Word documents.

It’s Consistent on Any Operating System
Some offices have diverse IT needs requiring employees to work on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. A graphics artist or video editor might feel comfortable on a Mac while customer service and human resource work is done primarily on a Windows machine. Your IT department might be run entirely on Linux machines and everyone needs to be able to access the same information in the exact same way. This can be achieved with OpenOffice as every distribution looks and feels the same no matter what machine it’s installed on. This kind of consistency can save you from having to retrain staff should management decide to switch the company from one platform to another.

To be clear here, Microsoft Office is extremely robust and by far the most recognized office productivity software suites on the market. This is the result of millions of dollars of research and development. OpenOffice is built on the backbone of a more open market depending on a community of driven developers to create a usable solution to otherwise expensive software. The purpose of this article is to share a few examples of how OpenOffice can not only save your company money, but give it a more consistent and productive workflow between departments, no matter how diverse your IT infrastructure may be.

Mobile Google Docs Gets 44 Languages

Google has gone a long way with their Google Docs project since it’s original founding. Moving to HTML-5 and mobile support, users have been able to view and sometimes edit online documents using their mobile devices. Until recently, support for languages other than English hasn’t been entirely available.

Google Docs has updated to support an additional 44 languages for mobile users this week, giving support to more users. The new rollout adds support for mostly Europian and Asian languages including, Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malayalam, Marathi, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazil), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

Editing functionality is still limited to iOS 3.0 and above or Android 2.2 (Froyo) and above. Users of older or less supported platforms may still be able to view docs.

At this time, language support is the only new feature added to mobile Google Docs in this update.

Customize The To-Do Bar In Outlook 2010

There should be an image here!I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again, the To-Do Bar in Outlook is a great feature. When I open Outlook I can see at a glance what appointments and tasks I have coming up. To really make the To-Do Bar work for you, consider customizing it to meet your specific requirements. For example, I removed the Date Navigator because I only want to see my upcoming appointments and tasks.

To customize the To-Do Bar in Outlook 2010:

  1. While in Mail, Calendar, Contacts or Tasks, click the View tab.
  2. Within the Layout group, click To-Do Bar to open a drop-down menu.
  3. Select one or more of the following options:
    • Click Date Navigator to see a calendar page in the To-Do Bar.
    • Click Appointments to see upcoming appointment in the To-Do Bar.
    • Click Task List to see your list of tasks in the To-Do Bar.

[Photo above by Jeremy Keith / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Wrap Text In A Cell In Excel 2007

There should be an image here!If your text exceeds the size of a cell, the text automatically spans into multiple columns. Some people find this a nuisance and prefer to wrap the text in a cell. Personally, I always wrap text because I find it difficult to read text that spans multiple columns.

It’s easy to wrap text in Excel 2007. Simply select the cell that you want to wrap (you can also select multiple tabs). Click Home on the Ribbon and select Wrap Text.

That’s all there is to it.

[Photo above by konradfoerstner / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Magnify A Cell In Excel 2007

There should be an image here!Most people who use Excel stumble across the fact that you can increase or decrease the size of a document. A little less known tip is that you can also magnify a single or set of cells, as opposed to an entire document. For example, if you’re working on a table, you can zoom in on just the cells containing the table.

To magnify a group of cells in Excel 2007, begin by selecting the cells you want to magnify. Next, select View on the Ribbon and select Zoom to Selection. Excel magnifies that cells you selected. To return the cells to their normal size, click 100%.

[Photo above by konradfoerstner / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Freeze Column Labels In Excel 2007

One of my favorite tips for Excel 2007 — keeping column labels in view. Otherwise, for large spreadsheets, you have to scroll back to the top of a column to see the column label.

There should be an image here!To keep column labels in view:

  1. Within Excel, click View on the Ribbon.
  2. Select Freeze Panes.
  3. Click Freeze Top Row.

That’s all there is to it. Now as you scroll down a large spreadsheet, the column labels remain in view.

[Photo above by konradfoerstner / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Customize The To-Do Bar In Outlook 2010

There should be an image here!I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again, the To-Do Bar in Outlook is a great feature. When I open Outlook I can see at a glance what appointments and tasks I have coming up. To really make the To-Do Bar work for you, consider customizing it to meet your specific requirements. For example, I removed the Date Navigator because I only want to see my upcoming appointments and tasks.

To customize the To-Do Bar in Outlook 2010:

  1. While in Mail, Calendar, Contacts or Tasks, click the View tab.
  2. Within the Layout group, click To-Do Bar to open a drop-down menu.
  3. Select one or more of the following options:
    • Click Date Navigator to see a calendar page in the To-Do Bar.
    • Click Appointments to see upcoming appointment in the To-Do Bar.
    • Click Task List to see your list of tasks in the To-Do Bar.

[Photo above by Jeremy Keith / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Enter The Degree Symbol In Word

There should be an image here!Adding symbols to into your Word documents is sometimes challenging. If you don’t know the keystrokes for inserting special symbols, you may have to go searching for it in the character map or symbol dialog box.

If you want to add the degree symbol into your document, you can use the following keystrokes: press [email protected] and press the spacebar). The degree symbol now appears in your document. Alternatively, just hold down the Alt key as you type 0176 on the numeric keypad.

Finally, if you choose, you can search for the symbol in the Symbols window. Just click the Insert menu and click Symbols from within the Symbols group.

[Photo above by Ian Muttoo / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Add A Signature In Outlook 2010

‘Email signatures’ is not a new feature in Outlook 2010. You can create signatures in previous versions of Outlook. However, options, such as Signatures, have been shuffled around in Outlook 2010 so it may not be obvious where to go to create them.

To create a signature in Outlook 2010:

  1. Click the Office button and click the Options button.
  2. Select the Mail tab.
  3. Click the Signatures button.
  4. From the Signatures and Stationery window, create your signature. You can also add multiple signatures.
  5. Click OK and you’re done!

Use Horizontal Windows To Compare Documents In Word 2007

There should be an image here!In a previous tip, I showed you how to compare documents side by side in Word 2007. However, not everyone likes viewing the documents vertically because it can be difficult to see any comment balloons. In such cases, you can compare two documents in horizontal windows. To do so, follow these simple steps:

  1. Open the two documents that you want to compare.
  2. Select the view tab.
  3. In the Window group, select the View Side by Side tool.
  4. In the Window group, click Arrange All. Word re-arranges the two documents so they are displayed as two horizontal windows.
  5. Finally, in the Window group, click Synchronous Scrolling.

[Photo above by Ian Muttoo / CC BY-ND 2.0]

World's Oldest Ground-Edge Implement Discovered In Northern Australia

The oldest ground-edge stone tool in the world has been discovered in Northern Australia by a Monash University researcher and a team of international experts.

Evidence for stone tool-use among our earliest hominid ancestors dates to 3.4 million years ago, however, the first use of grinding to sharpen stone tool edges such as axes is clearly associated with modern humans, otherwise known as Homo sapiens sapiens.

Monash University archaeologist and member of the team who made the discovery, Dr Bruno David said while there have been reports of much older axes being found in New Guinea, the implements were not ground.

“This suggests that axe technology evolved into the later use of grinding for the sharper, more symmetrical and maintainable edges this generates,” said Dr David.

“The ground-axe fragment is dated to 35,000 years ago, which pre-dates the oldest examples of ground-edge implements dated to 22,000-30,000 years ago from Japan and Northern Australia.”

Archaeological excavations undertaken in May 2010 at Nawarla Gabarnmang in Northern Australia uncovered the artefact.

Nawarla Gabarnmang is a large rock-shelter in Jawoyn Aboriginal country in southwestern Arnhem Land. The discovery of the rock-shelter was made by Ray Whear and Chris Morgan from the Jawoyn Association while flying by helicopter on 15 June 2006.

The discovery of the axe was made by a team of researchers including Jean-Michel Geneste from the Centre National de Prehistoire of the Ministry of Culture in France, Hugues Plisson from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at the University of Bordeaux in France, Christopher Clarkson from the University of Queensland, Jean-Jacques Delannoy from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at the University de Savoie in France and Fiona Petchey from the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

“Axes fulfilled a unique position within the Aboriginal toolkit as long use-life chopping tools, were labour intensive to manufacture and highly valued,” said Dr David.

“During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, axes were understood by local Aboriginal communities to carry with them the ancestral forces which characterised the particular quarry from which they came,”

“Their trade across the landscape moved not just the tool itself, but more importantly the symbolic and ancestral forces of their point of origin. The Nawarla Gabarnmang axe, found some 40km from its source, is evidence of 35,000 years of the movement of tools, technologies and ideas across the northern Australian landscape,”

“This new evidence for the earliest securely dated ground-edge implement in the world indicates that Australia was an important locale of technological innovation 35,000 years ago.”

“This discovery will assist researchers in Australia and around the world as we examine the evolution of human behaviour and the earliest technological advancements,” said Dr David.

The find is reported in the December issue of Australian Archaeology, the official journal of the Australian Archaeological Association Inc. The project was funded by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Heritage Program administered by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Megan Gidley @ Monash University

Change Default Settings In Office 2007

There should be an image here!You can customize various aspects of Office 2007 so that the settings match your preferences and requirements. In fact, customizing the default settings is something everyone should do to ensure they get the most out of their Office applications.

For example, you can customize proofing options such as AutoCorrect. You can customize the Save settings to change the default location for saving document. You can also customize autorecovery settings so your documents are saved more frequently.

To access the plethora of settings within Office 2007, open any office application. Click the Microsoft Office button in the top corner and click Word Options. From the window that appears, click each option from the list along the left hand side of the window to see the various customizable settings associated with each one.

[Photo above by Ian Muttoo / CC BY-ND 2.0]