Tame your computer: automate repetitive tasks


In her weekly series for Cambridge Network members, software training expert Karen Roem offers handy tips to help you 'Tame your computer'.

This week she looks at how to automate those boring repetitive tasks ...

Last week we talked about how to print more efficiently using Microsoft Office. Hopefully you've tried some of the suggestions, which might mean you're now in the habit of printing specific pages only. (Apparently it takes 21 times to change a habit and you've had several days to practise!)

Quite a few mouse actions involved, wouldn't you say so? Even if you use keyboard shortcuts it's still five clicks (CTRL+P, ALT+E, ENTER in case you're making notes ;-). However,

Did you know...?

You can automate those repetitive tasks by creating macros. A macro is a sequence of keystrokes and/or mouse actions that are stored as a series of instructions. When a macro is executed (run), the associated operations are carried out automatically, saving you the time it would take to manually perform the same operations. You can create a macro from scratch by entering Visual Basic code, but for simple macros you can get the same result using Microsoft's (less nerdy) built-in macro recorder. It's easier done than said!

Here's how:

Let's say you want to create a macro in Microsoft Word that will print the page where your insertion point is located - the so-called 'Current page'.

1. Choose the Tools, Macro, Record New Macro command.

2. In the Record Macro dialogue box, which is subsequently displayed, enter a name for the macro. For instance, PrintCurrentPage. (The name cannot include spaces, hence the 'strange' name. Underscores are allowed though, so if you prefer you can name the macro Print_Current_Page.)

3. To assign the macro to a shortcut key, click on the Keyboard button.

4. Press the preferred key combination (say, ALT+P). The key combination is listed in the Press new shortcut key box, and Word informs you whether or not the keys are unassigned.

5. Click on the Assign button.

6. Click on the Close button. The Macro Recorder is turned on and the Stop Recording toolbar is displayed.

7. Perform the commands that are to be included in the macro. To stick to our PrintCurrentPage example click on the File menu, followed by Print, followed by ticking the Current page radio button and OK.

8. Click on the Stop Recording button on the Stop Recording toolbar.

By default, the macro will be stored in the Normal template, making it available to all Word documents. There are two ways in which you can run the macro you have just recorded:

1. Simply press the assigned shortcut key combination (for instance, ALT +P) or

2. Choose the Tools, Macro, Macros command, select the macro name in the Macros dialogue box, and click on the Run button.

There is an even nicer way to launch macros by customizing your Word toolbars and adding Macro buttons, but let's save that for another time.

Work faster. Use macros.

* Unless stated otherwise, these tips were written for Microsoft Office 2000. Most of what is covered however will also apply to earlier and later versions.

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3 February 2005

Karen Roem offers software training and support through her company Roem Ltd.

Contact her by email Karen@roem.co.uk or visit her website at www.roem.co.uk.


Highly respected training company, specialising in Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. Since 2001 we have successfully developed and delivered training courses for public and private clients, large and small, across 23 countries around the world. We feel passionate about sharing the best of what we know with others and strive to help as many people as we can.

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