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Configure NEWS web parts in SHAREPOINT – complete tutorial

This third video in our SharePoint news publishing masterclass teaches you how to set up the news web part on modern SharePoint intranet sites.

We will cover how to select which intranet site(s) to pull news from; how to configure the layout of the news web part; how to filter news based on keywords, dates and authors; and how to organise and change the order of news posts as they appear in the news feed.

In this video

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:31 How to add a news web part to a SharePoint page
  • 02:08 How to select SharePoint news sources
  • 05:00 How to change the layout of SharePoint news feeds
  • 15:16 How to filter news feeds in SharePoint
  • 16:31 How to organize and change the order of news in SharePoint
  • 18:30 Outro

7 fantastic writing tools to supercharge your writing

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As a writer, your main job is to produce lots of useful, accessible, easy to read content. Here are seven online writing tools that will let you put lots of words on the page quickly, save time and improve your writing style.

Writing tools to get words on the page

Microsoft Word (Microsoft 365)

The big kahuna of the word processing scene, Microsoft Word is a staple in writing circles worldwide. Whether you’re a blogger, copywriter, journalist or work in – let’s face it – practically any major company anywhere in the world, Microsoft Word will be your go-to word processing tool.

If blogging is a side hustle for you and you use Microsoft Word in your day job, chances are you’ll be entitled to install a copy of the whole Microsoft 365 (what used to be Office 365) suite on your home computer. Just check in with your employer first, to see if that option is available to you.

If you don’t have access to Microsoft 365 through work, or if you want your own cloud storage along with your Microsoft 365 copy, check out the personal and family plans over at Microsoft.

Recently, Microsoft included the new-ish functionality Editor in most of its Microsoft 365 apps including Word. Editor is Microsoft’s answer to Grammarly and ProWritingAid. We’ll talk more about Editor in the ‘spelling, grammar and style’ section below.

Google Docs (Google Drive)

For many writers, Google Docs is one of the go-to writing tools for creating and collaborating on documents. With lots of useful writing features and the ability to export your Google Docs to any number of file formats, this is a great option if you’re on a limited budget and you can’t get Microsoft 365 through your employer.

Google Docs is also the tool of choice for many writers when it comes to collaborating on documents.

If you have an account with Google, you already have access to Google Docs along with 15 gigabytes of free storage. If you don’t, you can set up a Google account now, for free.

Scrivener

This one’s is for writing nerds. Like me! Clocking in at US$49 for a licence (with student discounts available), Scrivener might not be for everyone. But for the amount of word processing power it delivers, this is an insanely good price.

Scrivener is a great writing tool for authors and writing nerds

Scrivener can be described as Word meets OneNote meets EndNote meets your filing cabinet with a learning curve to match its complexity.

That learning curve can put aspiring writers off ever getting started, but if you persist you will have one writing app to rule them all. Scrivener lets you write anything from blog posts to novels to movie scripts. It’ll keep all of your research together in one easy to find place. (Seriously, you can store URLs, documents, notes, practically any sort of file in your Scrivener research sections.)

And there’s lots of tools inside of Scrivener that can be useful for writers of all flavours. (Going slightly off the blogging track here, but how does a fictional character name generator sound? Or the ability to compile that novel you’ve been working on into a ready-to-go ebook format or beautifully formatted PDF?)

I’ve been using Scrivener for a couple of years now, and it’s great. If you want to take it out for a spin, get a free Scrivener trial at Literature and Latte.

Writing tools to improve your writing

Hemingway App

Ernest Hemingway is a GOAT! One of the greatest authors of all time! Not all of his writing has aged all that well. (Keep in mind, his writing career spanned the 1920s to 1950s, when certain norms and values were a bit different.) But, his writing style is still fantastic!

By style, I’m thinking short sentences, simple word, direct and active language, minimal adverbs (avoiding most words ending in -ly) and so on. Surely, we bloggers could do with writing a bit more like Ernest Hemingway to make life simpler for our readers.

Enter the Hemingway Editor, also known as the Hemingway App. It’s one of the simplest and best free online writing tools I’ve come across, and it’ll have you writing in the style of Hemingway in no time. The Hemingway Editor checks that you’re not overusing adverbs and passive voice, and it tells you which sentences, phrases and even words could be made simpler.

It also does a quick calculation of how readable your content is by giving it a grade level. That grade level corresponds to years of schooling. So a grade level of six means a sixth-grader should be able to read it. Did you get a grade level of 15 on your text? That’s university graduate stuff. As an insider tip, aim for a grade level of no more than seven for general blog content.

Check out the Hemingway Editor to start writing like a GOAT right now.

Grammarly

Grammarly is like the Hemingway Editor on AI-powered steroids. It integrates into practically every writing tool you could possibly want (except Scrivener) to keep check of your writing projects.

Grammarly is a great writing tool to improve your writing

It’s great for practically all types of writing you would do in daily life, including emails, short-form content, business documents, documentation and much more.

The free Grammarly plan checks for spelling, grammar and punctuation. It also helps you with clarity by pulling you up when youre writing is not concise. And, it’ll assess your text for tone, telling you whether you sound formal, worried, forceful, excited an any other number of things.

Grammarly’s paid premium plan takes it up a few notches, adding suggestions for how to adjust your tone. It also scrutinises your choice of words, fluency, clarity and much more.

A free plagiarism checker will tell you whether your text contains similarities to writing found online or in academic papers. For paying customers, the plagiarism detector will also highlight which passages of text may be considered plagiarism.

The free plan will be more than enough for many writers, and if you think you need more, you can trial Grammarly Premium risk free to improve your blog right now.

There’s one type of writing where Grammarly doesn’t necessarily shine. And that’s for long-form content. As in, very long-form content like novels. For that, we recommend ProWritingAid.

ProWritingAid

As writing tools go, ProWritingAid is to authors what Grammarly is to copywriters. Just like Grammarly, ProWritingAid is an AI-powered grammar checker and text editor that integrates into more or less every writing tool you could possibly want. Including Scrivener (and Word, Google Docs, Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari).

ProWritingAid is possibly the best writing tool for improving your writing skills as a novelist

ProWritingAid is my editing software of choice. The reason being said integration with Scrivener. I’m a bit of an aspiring author, you see, so by integrating with Scrivener, ProWritingAid can keep an eye on my book writing.

With ProWritingAid, you will get somewhere in the vicinity of 20 different tools to improve your writing, picking apart everything from your writing style and grammar to pacing, dialogue tags, alliteration and consistency.

A really cool feature, which I love, is that ProWritingAid will compare your writing style to that of world famous authors and copywriters like JK Rowling, Stephen King and Seth Godin and show you how you can write more (or less) like them.

The free version of ProWritingAid is word-count limited and will only work in your browser, while the paid version removes the word count limit, gives you access to integrations for Scrivener, Word and Google Docs, and you get access to the ProWritingAid writers resource library.

As a paying customer, you also get a few credits towards ProWritingAid’s plagiarism tool, which checks for similarities in your writing against online and offline content, including academic papers. But, if you’re a frequent user of that functionality you will need to pay anywhere between US$1 and US$0.20 per check, depending on how many credits you purchase at a time.

You can take ProWritingAid for a spin over at their website.

Microsoft Editor

Is Microsoft Editor the Grammarly killer? I’m sure Microsoft hopes it is… To be honest, it probably isn’t. But, it’s included with Microsoft 365 products (such as Word and PowerPoint), so if you’re already a card carrying member of that club, then you might not need to join the Grammarly or ProWritingAid crowd as well.

Microsoft Editor runs a bunch of checks on your writing, such as spelling, grammar, clarity, conciseness, formality, punctuation and so on. It will adapt the checks depending on whether you’re putting together a casual, formal or professional piece of text.

There’s even a free similarity checker, which is a plagiarism detector of sorts that checks if your writing is similar to any online sources that Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, can find.

What are your favourite writing tools

I either do or have used all of these writing tools for a long time, and they’ve helped me become a much better writer.

But how about you? What are your favourite tools of the writing trade? Let me know in the comments!

Remove PowerPoint speaker notes in 30 seconds – from all slides at once

Sometimes you need to remove all PowerPoint speaker notes before sharing your presentation with others. This is really handy if you have left notes for yourself that you don’t want your audience or boss (or cat) to see.

Video transcript – how to remove PowerPoint speaker notes

Here’s how to remove all speaker notes from your PowerPoint slides in about half a minute.

It doesn’t matter how many slides you have in your presentation… A few clicks and about half a minute is all it takes.

This trick is useful if you have lots of notes down here to help with your presentation, but then you want to send a clean version without the notes to someone else.

First things first, go to the FILE tab and hit SAVE A COPY.

This is so that you can make a separate file for sending out, so that you don’t lose your notes in the original file.

In your new copy of the presentation, click on the FILE tab again, then go to INFO right here.

Next, where it says INSPECT PRESENTATION, hit CHECK FOR ISSUES and INSPECT DOCUMENT.

The document inspector here is a great tool for finding problems with your presentation.

You can run lots of other checks here as well. But for now, here’s the option we want. Make sure PRESENTATION NOTES is checked, then hit INSPECT.

In this window here, scroll down and look for this note about presentation notes. Hit REMOVE ALL to delete all of your notes,
and that’s all there is to it.

You can close out of the document inspector now, and all the slide notes will be gone.

Did you forget to save a new copy of your presentation and lost your notes in the process?

If you have stored your presentation in OneDrive, it’s easy to get it back.

In that case, check this video here about how to roll back files in OneDrive to a previous version.

For more tips and timesavers, check our Microsoft 365 playlist.

How to roll back any file in OneDrive – OneDrive version history tutorial

OneDrive will let you undo any changes to your files for the last 30 days. And the great thing is, this works for both free and paid plans.

That means, if you accidentally change something in a file and you can’t undo it, you have the option to go back to a previous version of the file and get it back. This should also work if a file has broken and you can’t open it all of a sudden.

This video shows you how to use OneDrive version history to get back an older version of a file!

Video transcript

On a computer, you have two options to get back to a previous version of your file.

Here in File Explorer, I will just right click the file that I need to roll back, and then select VERSION HISTORY.

OneDrive normally makes a new version of a file every time you save it.

Looking through the list, here’s the version I want.

Clicking on the three dots here, I have the option to either DOWNLOAD the file or RESTORE that version see.

If I select RESTORE, OneDrive makes a copy of that particular version and turns it into the newest version of the file again. None of the versions will actually get deleted. So that means, it’s no stress if you roll back to the wrong version. You can always roll back to another one.

Here in the browser version of OneDrive, it’s pretty much the same.

I will right click the file I want to roll back and go to VERSION HISTORY. This tab shows me the available versions of
the file. And if I click on the three dots there will be two options, with one of them being slightly different to what we saw in File Explorer.

Here I have the option to either OPEN the file — or RESTORE it. And that’s all there is to it.

Check out our Microsoft 365 playlist for more useful tips and timesavers.

These 12 power toys make Windows better! COMPLETE GUIDE to Microsoft PowerToys in 2022

Today we’re talking about Microsoft PowerToys. Don’t you wish there was an easy way of keeping apps on top of the screen or stopping your computer going to sleep in the middle of uploading a video to YouTube?

And how awesome would it be if you could mute yourself or switch off your camera during a video conference call using the same two keyboard shortcuts, no matter which service you’re using?

Microsoft’s released some new toys to make Windows that little bit nicer to work with! And we’re going to go through them all.

If you don’t have PowerToys installed, just launch the MICROSOFT STORE, search POWERTOYS in the search bar, and hit the INSTALL button.

Once PowerToys has installed itself, it’ll be in the START MENU, right at the top, as a recently installed app. If it’s not there, you can always just search for it.

Let’s have a look inside!

General settings

Opening up PowerToys, we start in the GENERAL settings menu. There’s nothing much to do here, except to make sure RUN AT STARTUP is switched ON.

Down the left-hand column, you’ll see each of the different toys. This is where you go to activate and configure each toy.

Always On Top

The first one is Always On Top. This one is great for keeping one window on top of all the other ones. Like if you’re using the calculator to crunch numbers from a different window.

You’ll see that it’s already enabled for us right here. To activate Always On Top, the default key combination is WINDOWS or START, CONTROL and T together.

If you don’t like that key combo, just click the PENCIL to change it.

Let’s open CALCULATOR and have a look at how Always On Top works.

Press the shortcut keys – WINDOWS, CONTROL and T – while Calculator is active and you’ll see a thick coloured border around it. Now, you can open other apps and work in those, but Calculator will stay on top.

To switch Always On Top off again, just hit the same key combo while you’re in Calculator. You’ll see the border disappear again.

Aside from the key combo, you can tweak a few other settings for Always On Top as well. You can change the colour and thickness of the border – I set mine to green. You can switch off the sound that plays when you activate Always On Top, and you can exclude apps that you don’t want to ever pin on top.

Awake

The next toy we’ll look at is called AWAKE.

This one is simply a quick and easy way to stop your computer from going to sleep without having to mess around with power plans.

When ENABLE AWAKE is toggled ON, the selection you make in MODE will decide if your computer will actually go to sleep.

Right now, the mode is set to KEEP USING THE SELECTED POWER PLAN, meaning that if the power plan says my computer will go to sleep after five minutes of not being used, then that’s what will happen.

If I change the mode to KEEP AWAKE INDEFINITELY, PowerToys will keep the computer awake until you switch ENABLE AWAKE OFF.

So, if you set the computer to do something that takes a while, like rendering a video or uploading a large file to the internet, your computer will not go to sleep in the middle of the job.

The third mode is KEEP AWAKE TEMPORARILY. Selecting that, you get another setting where you tell PowerToys how long you want to override the power plan and keep the computer awake. If you set it to two hours, then after that period of time has passed, PowerToys will stop overriding the power plan.

The last setting here is whether you want to keep the screen on. If you toggle KEEP SCREEN ON to… ON… Then the screen will stay on when you’re not using the computer.

Color Picker

This next toy is one of my favourites! Let’s check out COLOR PICKER.

It’s active right out of the gate, and the key combo to use for this one is WINDOWS, SHIFT and C together. If you don’t like that key combo you can change it from the PENCIL button here.

The Color Picker is great for getting the colour code for any colour anywhere on your screen. This is super useful if you’re a designer, photographer or just anyone who works with colours and design on your computer.

By default, Color Picker will give you the HEX colour code, which is what web designers normally use for designing websites. You can also grab a bunch of different colour formats, all of which will result in the same colour.

By default, RGB (that’s red, green, blue) and HSL (which is hue, saturation, lightness) are also switched on. But you can get other color formats as well, like CMYK, which is great to have if you do a lot of printing.

Let’s take Color Picker for a spin!

I really like the colour scheme of my desktop background, so I want to grab the color codes for the main colours, so that I can use those to draw a picture for myself in Photoshop.

Let’s hit WINDOWS, SHIFT and C. That activates the colour picker. You’ll see the mouse cursor changes into a pipette. That means we’re ready to select colours.

As I hover over different colours, you’ll see the HEX colour code change, and it’ll also tell you what that colour is called.

Once I click on a colour, the colour editor launches. This is where you can grab all those other colour formats I mentioned earlier.

You can also click on the slightly lighter or darker colours on either side here to get the colour codes for those instead.

And you’ll see the editor will remember the last few colours you picked down the side here.

FancyZones

With FancyZones you can create window layouts to help organise “multiple windows on your screen. It works by letting you divide the desktop into zones for where your app windows will go.

When FancyZones is on, the activation shortcut WINDOWS, SHIFT and BACKTICK will launch the layout editor. Backtick is the symbol that looks like a slanting quotation mark, next to the number one on English keyboards.

You use the layout editor to select or make your own screen layout.

By default, you can snap windows to a FancyZone by holding the SHIFT key down while dragging a window, but you can change that behaviour and a bunch of other settings in PowerToys.

File Explorer

In the File Explorer section, you can set up previews of various file types either in place of the file icon itself or in a special preview pane.

Some of the file formats available here – like markdown and Python files – might not be for everyone, but I do find especially the PDF preview to be useful.

Once you’ve flicked the toggles on for either the preview pane or icon preview – or both – you can preview the files in Explorer without launching the apps.

Image Resizer

For anyone working with images and graphics, the Image Resizer is an excellent little toy.

Long story short, it lets you resize images with just a couple of mouse clicks. No Photoshop or any other image editing app required.

In PowerToys, you set up some pre-determined image sizes and then Image Resizer will resize any image you want to fit within these dimensions.

The small, medium, large and phone presets should be the default sizes when you install PowerToys. So for example, if I want to resize a photo to medium size, it will be no more than 1366 pixels wide and 768 pixels high.

Keep in mind, that those are the maximum width and height. So if you have a vertical photo, it will be resized to 768 pixels high while the width will be less than that.

To resize an image, just right click and select RESIZE PICTURES. That will bring up a dialogue box where you can select the size you want, and also a few other options like removing metadata or whether you want to increase the image size if it’s smaller than the size you wanted.

Keyboard Manager

With Keyboard Manager you can change what your keyboard keys do.

This can sometimes be useful if you use keyboard shortcuts. Or, if you want to mess with someone’s head.

I couldn’t possibly think why you’d want to do this, but to change a key to something else, just click REMAP A KEY. Then you enter the key you want to change – like D – and what you want to change it to – like an asterisk.

And there you go – hours of fun to be had.

I’M GOING TO *UCK OFF NOW

Mouse Utilities

The next PowerToy is an absolute godsend for screen sharing and tutorials such as this one. Notice how my mouse pointer lights up when I click a mouse button? That’s thanks to Mouse Highlighter!

Mouse Highlighter gives you a way to easily find your mouse pointer – or in the case of screen recordings, a great way to highlight something on the screen.

By default, you just click the left CTRL or CONTROL button twice and that will dim the screen except for a circle around the pointer.

Mouse highlighter will highlight mouse clicks. The default shortcut to turn that on is WINDOWS, SHIFT and H. With that on, your cursor will light up whenever you click a mouse button, which is heaps useful when you record tech tutorials like this one.

The last little tool in this section is mouse pointer cross hairs. CTRL, ALT and P will turn that on, and it puts your cursor in the centre of crosshairs that will follow the cursor around the screen.

You can tweak the look and behaviour all these mouse tools by clicking APPEARANCE & BEHAVIOR, so for example you can change the colour of your mouse button clicks.

PowerRename

If you rename files all the time, then PowerRename will quite possibly be your new best friend.

To put it simply, it’s a search and replace tool where you can rename a bunch of files by searching for and replacing words or characters in the file name.

It goes way beyond that… But here’s an example.

I’m going to rename these files, so I highlight them, then right click and select POWER RENAME.

In the window, I can put in the keyword I want to replace – for example IMG – and then what I want to replace it with – like IMAGE.

You can see on the right here what the resulting file name will be.

You can also use Regex to turbocharge your file renaming. If you want to try it out, tick the USE REGULAR EXPRESSIONS checkbox and then use Regex operators to control the renaming.

You can click the info bubble here to see all the Regex operators. But, here’s a quick one for you:

The CARET ^ character is Regex for “starting with”. So if I simply put a CARET in the SEARCH FOR field, then whatever I put in REPLACE WITH will be added to the start of the file name. And that, my friends, is super handy!

PowerToys Run

PowerToys Run is a quick launcher that will let you run apps and a bunch of different commands from a simple text field.

When it’s enabled, the default keyboard shortcut to launch PowerToys Run is ALT and SPACE.

From here, type in the app you want to run, like CHROME.

Or you can do some math – three plus three equals six.

There’s a bunch of other functionality too, like the UNIT CONVERTER, which lets you convert for example feet to metres if you’re metrically challenged.

By default, you have to type in PERCENT PERCENT to use the unit converter, but you can tweak how that and the other plugins work by expanding the plugin like this.

So if I don’t want to have to type the percentage signs, I can just tick the INCLUDE IN GLOBAL RESULT box, and then next time I need to convert a unit, I can just type away and the result will show up below.

Shortcut Guide

Windows contains a lot of useful shortcuts that hardly anybody uses. But fear not. With the PowerToys Shortcut Guide, you can get a list of useful Windows keyboard shortcuts with the help of… Another keyboard shortcut.

The shortcut to rule them all is WINDOWS, SHIFT and FORWARD SLASH.

All of the shortcuts you see here work in combination with the WINDOWS or START key on your keyboard. So for example WINDOWS and P will let you extend your desktop to multiple displays if you have more than one hooked up to your computer.

While WINDOWS and L is a quick way to lock your computer so that nobody can send interesting emails from your work computer while you’re hanging out at the water cooler.

Video Conference Mute

Finally, a very useful tool now that we all use multiple online meeting apps all with different shortcuts for muting your camera or microphone.

Video Conference Mute gives you a system-wide keyboard combo for killing the microphone or camera quickly.

So, if we switch this on, then next time you’re on a Zoom call or Teams meeting, just hit WINDOWS, SHIFT and A to turn of your microphone. Because A for audio, I guess…

You can tweak the keyboard shortcuts via the pencil button here.

Before you go ahead and try this out, make sure to select your microphone and camera in the settings, so the PowerToys knows which device to mute.

Outro

So there you have it… 12 really useful little toys to spice up your computing life.

Did you try out PowerToys recently? Let me know what your favourite tool is in the comments.

And if you like this tutorial, help me out by hitting the subscribe button!

Thanks and see you next time!

7 tricks to take better photos with any camera in 2022

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A wise photographer apparently once said “the best camera is the one you have with you”. And that is true to an extent.

If you compare the latest professional DSLR camera to any smartphone on the market, the professional camera is going to come out on top every time.

But, it’s perfectly possible to take great with any half-decent smartphone from the past few years.

You just need to know and apply a few simple photography techniques.

The wonderful thing about the seven techniques I will walk you through here is that even practising just one of them (take your pick!) will help you take better photos.

Time-tested photography techniques that will work on any smartphone

We’re all about keeping it simple here at wordpress-515405-2618150.cloudwaysapps.com. Technology doesn’t have to be tricky, and most modern smartphones are very smart about how they process images without any input from you.

With that in mind, here are seven time-tested, analogue, real-world techniques that will serve you well on any smartphone and, for that matter, any other camera you carry around.

I’ve changed a couple to suit smartphones, but these techniques have been around since long before the first smartphone came about. And they will help you take better photos regardless of which device you’re using.

Make sure you have enough light

We’ll start off this guide with something a bit basic: Photos are recordings of light (just like songs are recordings of sound). The camera sensor in your phone needs to be exposed to a certain amount of light to put together a viewable photo.

The more light the better (to a point). It means your sensor won’t have to work as hard to record the scene you want to save for the ages.

Having enough light will enable you to take better photos both indoors and outdoors
Having enough light will enable you to take better photos both indoors and outdoors

This is important, because the harder the camera sensor must work the more noise there will be in your image, which makes the image quality drop.

There will also be more camera shake because it takes the camera sensor longer to record the image (exposure time). Also, colours and contrast won’t be as nice in poor lighting.

Modern phones, like the iPhone 12, are getting incredibly good at taking photos in low light through some seriously smart image processing.

Nevertheless, there’s no real substitute for photographing in a lit-up room or landscape.

So, before you start snapping away, what can you do to increase the amount of light in your scene?

It could be something as simple as turning on a couple of lamps or opening some blinds if you’re indoors.

Or if you’re outdoors, look for well-lit areas that will naturally provide lots of light for you to work with.

Watch where the light is coming from

Next time you pull your phone out to take a few photos, keep these simple steps in mind:

  • Seek out soft, warm light from a lower angle, like sunlight in the early morning or late afternoon, to take better photos.
  • When possible, keep your back to the sun or whatever the main source of light is for your photo.
  • Tap the subject of your photo before taking a picture to help your phone work out how much light it needs to capture.

Ever heard of the golden hour?

It’s like happy hour for photographers, only there is usually no alcohol involved and there’s two of them each day. (You win some, you lose some…)

The golden hour is a brief period just after sunrise and just before sunset, when the sunlight is all golden and lovely and comes at you from a low angle.

When the sun is low in the sky, the sunlight is all golden and lovely, making for very nice-looking photos

This light is ideal for taking photos outdoors, whether of landscapes or people. It will really make your photos pop on any smartphone.

The same goes for indoors photography. Instead of relying on ceiling lamps to light up your subject, find a source of light that comes in from a lower angle – like daylight from a window or a floor lamp.

If you’re photographing people, this will minimise unflattering shadows and make your photos much better.

The direction of light will make a huge difference when photographing people. Avoid having a bright light source directly above the person you’re photographing unless you want them to look rather scary!

The next step is to photograph using light that comes from somewhere behind you.

It’s not a fixed rule, especially if Instagrammers have anything to say about it. But if you want an effortless way to improve your photos using light, start doing this and you will instantly get better photos with any smartphone.

Oh, and that thing about tapping the subject of your photo on the screen before snapping away?

That’s about as technical as we’re going to get in this post:

Smartphones and other cameras use a lot of smarts to measure light and work out how long a photo needs to be exposed to make it look as close as possible to what the human eye sees.

Too short an exposure gives you a dark, grey, and muddled photograph. Expose your photo for too long and it’ll end up too bright and washed out.

Most of the time, your smartphone will work this all out by itself.

But if the subject of your photo, like your super-cute baby-boy, looks muddled or washed out, tap his face on the screen.

This will tell your phone to concentrate on measuring the light on his face and set a suitable exposure time.

Keep steady

Lighting is the painter’s equivalent of mixing and using colours to make the key details – your subject – stand out.

As for keeping your camera steady, that’s the painter’s equivalent of using the right brush for the job and making sure each brushstroke lands where it should.

Any movement of your smartphone while taking pictures is bad. Okay?

Whatever it takes... Keep your camera steady to take better photos!
Whatever it takes… Keep your camera steady to take better photos!

While many phones come with digital or physical image stabilisation, this will only help so much.

So as a rule, the more shaking or moving around of your phone while shooting, the blurrier your images will be.

To help keep your phone still and take clearer photos, try this technique:

  • Use both hands to hold your phone, taking care not to cover the lens.
  • Bend your elbows and tuck them in so your upper arms rest on the sides of your chest.
  • Breathe out and pause when you’re ready to shoot.
  • Gently press the shutter release button on the screen using your thumb.
  • Breathe again!
A great example of how to hold your camera for maximum stability!

Using both hands and resting your bent arms alongside your chest lets you hold your phone much more still than using one hand on an outstretched arm.

It also means you will be less likely to wobble your phone while trying to hit the shutter button.

The breathing part is a shooting technique. (As in actual weapons.)

An expert shooter or sniper (might want to correct me or elaborate on this, but from what I’ve learnt) will breathe out to a point where no more air comes out unless forced, then hold their breath.

This stops your breathing from moving the weapon (or in your case, camera) while aiming and firing.

For bonus points (we’re splitting hairs here – it might matter for snipers but not too much for photographers), time your shots in-between heartbeats.

As for the shutter release, tapping or pressing gently cuts that last bit of potential movement that could kill your image quality.

Newer touch screens are super sensitive, so it shouldn’t take much to release the shutter.

If you do struggle with the on-screen button, you might be better off using the volume button (or in the case of some phones, the power button) to snap your photo.

Mind the background

I learnt this next technique in my high-school TV production class many moons ago, back when VHS tapes were not something you’d only find in museums and video cameras were big enough that they sat on your shoulder. Just goes to show that the technique we’re about to look at now is time-tested and true and has been for a long time.

To really focus attention on your subject, you want your subject to stand out from the background. There’s a couple of ways to do this:

  • Light up your subject and place them/it against a darker background to create contrast and, once again, make your photos pop.
  • Move your subject away from things in the background, especially walls. This helps remove distracting shadows and might also make the background go a little blurry while your subject stays in focus.
Darker background, move subject a couple of steps away from the wall… Great portraits will ensue!

Use the rule of thirds

It’s time to talk about composition.

There’s a lot of rules and theories as to how you can use composition to super-charge your photography and take pictures that are interesting to look at.

But we’re all for keeping it simple and picking the low-hanging fruits.

The easiest technique for composing your photos is the rule of thirds:

  • Place your subject or key details one-third of the way into your photo. That’s one-third from either the top, bottom, left or right edge.
  • Place the most important detail where two imaginary lines of thirds meet.
It doesn’t have to be exact… But place the most interesting part of the subject on or near one of the points where two lines of thirds cross.

Imagine, for a second, if you could draw a grid on the smartphone screen to help you work out where “one-third of the way into your photo” is. Scratch that… You can do that on most modern smartphones.

If the 1/3 grid lines are not showing already, you’ll have to do a quick search to work out how to. I suggest googling “turn on camera grid phone type” and replace phone type with the type of phone you have.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll have two horizontal and two vertical lines showing on the screen, telling you exactly where one-third into the photo is.

All you must do then is framing the photo such that the subject or most interesting detail is on one of those lines.

As an example, if you’re photographing a person’s face from close, place their eyes along the top horizontal line.

If you’re photographing a couple standing together, but from further away, frame the photo such that one of the vertical lines is just in between them and with their heads along the top horizontal line.

Not photographing people? No problem!

Say you’re at the beach and you pull out the camera to snap a photo of some impressive waves and a bit of sky in the background: Aim to have the horizon along the top horizontal line.

Or let’s say the waves aren’t that impressive but there’s a storm brewing out at sea… You’ll want to focus more on the sky, so place the horizon along the bottom horizontal line.

Like all rules, the rule of thirds is there for you to break.

Once you’re used to applying that rule, start experimenting with other ways of framing your photos to get interesting results.

Find an unusual angle

Warning: Super simple tip coming up!

Our first instinct when taking photos tends to be to place the camera at our own eye level. And why not?

For more than a century, we have had to practically jam the camera viewfinder into our eyeball to get an idea of what we’re photographing.

Over the past 20 years though, most digital cameras and smartphones have either offered a screen as an alternative to the viewfinder or done away with the viewfinder altogether.

So why do we still place our smartphones at eye level when taking pictures at least 90%. Percent. Of. The. Time? (I made that stat up, but gut feeling says it’s correct.)

Think about what the world looks like to your kids who are half your size…

What about your German shepherd dog?

Or your teacup chihuahua?

Or that mushroom on your lawn?

Not that mushrooms can see, but my point is: Take photos from different perspectives!

All you need to do is stop, think, lower (or raise) your smartphone, look at the screen to see the world from a new perspective, hit the shutter button and you’re done!

Find a different perspective for more interesting images!

“But hey!” I hear you say. “That mushroom perspective… Does that mean I have to crawl around in the grass?”

To that I say, it’s entirely up to you, my friend.

Crawl around in the grass.

It’ll give you more of a personal feel for the life of a mushroom.

Mushrooms have interesting lives too!

But look, your smartphone has a big screen and if you crouch down and hold your phone upside down near the ground, you’ll get the camera lens right down at ground level for a rarely seen view of the world.

Most importantly, experiment and have fun with your pictures!

Focus

This last tip is more of a box-ticking exercise and a reminder to check one little detail to make sure your photos turn out the way you want them to look: Tap the screen to focus on the subject!

Smartphones and other modern cameras are good at automatically making the subject of your photo sharp.

Long story short, if the subject (e.g., a face) of your photo is the nearest thing to your camera and doesn’t sit right on the edge of the frame, your smartphone should have no problem setting a good focus.

Didn’t tap the screen to focus…

Your photo will turn out great and little Johnny’s beaming face will be sharp and beautiful.

Problems arise when there are multiple objects in the photo at about the same distance, or when the subject is too close.

The autofocus may end up throwing its arms in the air, scream “I’m outta here” and just focus on the background instead.

To help the poor fella out, all you need to do is tap on the part of the image that you want to be in focus.

Our autofocus friend will thank you profusely and sharpen up the subject quick smart.

Wrap-up

This was a long post on how to improve your smartphone photography on any phone from the past five years. Well done for sticking with us to the end.

You’ve learnt about light, keeping your camera stable, minding the background, composing your photos using the rule of thirds, finding unusual perspectives, and helping your smartphone focus on the right thing in the photo.

I wouldn’t expect you to now run out and apply all seven tips straight away. (Unless you want to, of course!) But, how about you pick one tip every few days and try to apply it whenever you take a photo. Every. Single. Time!

After you’ve worked through all seven tips, you will have a handy arsenal of photography techniques that will make your photos so much more interesting and enjoyable.

Have fun shooting and let me know in the comments if these tips helped you out!

Change the COLOR SCHEME of your SHAREPOINT intranet site

It’s easy to change the color scheme of your modern SharePoint intranet site, as long as you have the correct permissions. In this very short tutorial, I’ll show you how!

While on your SharePoint intranet site, click the cogwheel in the top-right corner.

As long as you have the correct permissions and your company hasn’t locked down a colour scheme for your intranet sites, you will see this option here called “Change the look”. Click on that one, then go to “Theme”.

Just click the colour combination you like. Let’s try this one.

You’ll see a preview here, and then you just hit “Save” to update your site with the new theme. If you don’t like any of the themes, you can customise them. Click on a theme – that one looks ok – and then hit “Customize”. All you need to do here is to select the main colour and accent colour you want for your site.

Finally, remember to hit “Save” to apply the changes.

Get a custom YouTube channel address

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You can get a YouTube vanity URL or – in other words – a custom channel address once your channel hits 100 subscribers. In this video I celebrate hitting 100 subscribers on this channel and show you how to set up your own channel with a vanity URL. It’s easy, I promise!

Here’s how to get your very own YouTube vanity URL! That’s the kind of YouTube address that a normal human can read and remember.

Like https://youtube.com/pixamoo.

To get started, simply pop into YouTube studio.

In the left hand menu, click through to customise your channel.

This is where you change the look and feel of your channel, like which videos appear on your channel home page.

Skipping across to branding you can set up your channel logo and banner. But not your channel URL. That one lives under basic info.

Once you’re eligible to get your very own channel URL, you’ll see the option to “Set a custom URL for your channel”.

It takes a couple of days from when you hit a 100 subscribers until that option shows up. So if it’s not there yet, just wait a little.

If you want to make a custom URL, you can do that too. You’re still stuck with your channel name as part of the URL, but you can add more letters and numbers after it. No spaces or special characters though.

Once you’re ready to lock in that new channel URL, just head up to the top right corner and smash the publish button.

YouTube will quickly check that you’re happy with the URL, and once you hit confirm, the new channel address is locked in.

How to rank numbers in Excel

There’s been so many times in the past where I’ve needed to rank numbers in Excel from one to whatever based on size, weight, height, score, duration or any other number of factors.

I must have been living under a rock, because it was only yesterday that I realised Excel can rank stuff for you with two really simple formulae: =RANK.EQ() and =RANK.AVG().

I don’t know why I never thought to look into it… It randomly came up in an email newsletter called the Morning Brew, which I subscribe to. That newsletter has nothing to do with Excel, but there you go.

Anyways, here’s a tech tutorial showing you how to rank stuff in Excel!

First you’ll need a list of things to rank. We’re going to rank cars based on how fast they accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour (that’s 0 to 62 miles per hour if you’re metrically challenged). Of course, you can rank anything based on a list of numbers, but let’s stick with cars.

Here’s a list of cars. And how fast they accelerate. If you’re both an Excel nerd and a rev head, go easy on me. I grabbed these numbers off the first website I could find, so the numbers aren’t necessarily accurate.

how to rank numbers in excel

Anyways, I will show you two rank functions in Excel. The first one is rank equal. The other one is rank average.

How to rank numbers in Excel using the RANK EQUAL formula

If you’re into sports, you’ll like rank equal. You know how if you have two runners finish their 100 metre sprint in exactly the same time, they’ll share the rank – so equal first, for example… That’s what the rank equal function does.

To do rank equal, just type =RANK.EQ. You can hit tab once the formula you want is highlighted to autocomplete it.

using the rank.eq formula in excel

Then, the first thing you want to select is the number next to the car on this line.

Then hit comma, and select the entire list of numbers. Remember to make this an absolute reference by hitting F4. Otherwise, when you copy the formula down, it’ll get messed up.

Hit comma again, then you have to select 0 for descending or 1 for ascending. What that means is, if you select to rank the items in descending order, it’ll make the largest number rank as number one.

But, for our cars, low is better, so we’ll select 1 for ascending, meaning the car with the fastest acceleration will be ranked number one.

Once you’ve done that, put in the ending bracket and hit enter.

Then you can copy the formula down to the other rows or just double click the little dot in the bottom-right corner of the cell and Excel will take care of it for you.

So there you go! The Saleen S7 is pretty awesome when it comes to accelerating quickly.

Notice how the Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren all do 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 2.9 seconds. That’s the fourth fastest time, so Excel has ranked them all as equal fourth, and then the next one down is number seven.

How to rank numbers in Excel using the RANK AVERAGE formula

Let’s see what the rank average formula does! It works the same. Just type =RANK.AVG, hit tab to autocomplete, and select the same stuff again.

using the rank.avg formula in excel

This time around, you’ll see Excel has ranked the three cars that do 0 to 100 in 2.9 seconds as equal fifth.

That’s because these three cars would occupy the fourth, fifth and sixth place on the ranking, so it’s gone ahead and averaged that. And as you know, four plus five plus six equals 15, then divide that by three to get five.

But what if there were only two cars sharing the same rank? Let’s fudge the numbers! Maybe the Lambo had a bad day and actually only managed 3.1 seconds?

The two cars in our list that do 2.9 seconds now share fourth and fifth place. They’re still showing as equal fourth in the rank equal column. But in the rank average column, they’re now showing as 4.5. Because four plus five equals nine, divide that by two and you get 4.5.

So there’s how to rank numbers in Excel! Was that useful? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to check out more of our Microsoft 365 tutorials!

How to publish and manage SharePoint news links

In this tutorial we look at on SharePoint news links. This is the second tutorial in our series that will turn you into a SharePoint news publishing expert.

This series is highly relevant for corporate communication professionals, but even if you’re just looking to make the most of your team’s SharePoint site, you’ll get a lot of value out of this one.

What you’ll learn in this SharePoint news links tutorial

In this video we examine the differences between news links and news posts and teach you how you can use news links to avoid creating duplicate content on your intranet.

We show you how to create and edit news links and look at how news links show up in the SharePoint news feed just the same as news posts.

If you’ve published nothing on SharePoint before, we suggest you look at our video on how to build your first SharePoint page and make it awesome.

Check our other SharePoint tutorials

Want to learn more about Microsoft SharePoint intranets? Check our other SharePoint tutorials now.

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