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“Get that report to me, ASAP!” That’s the line that can stricken many office workers with abject terror and fear. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way, if you can develop at least 5 essential Microsoft Office skills.

What are these MS Office skills? Obviously, there are are least some you need for your specific job. If you’re an accountant for example, you’re likely well-versed using all of the Microsoft Excel financial functions Make a Personal Budget on Excel in 4 Easy Steps Make a Personal Budget on Excel in 4 Easy Steps Read More . If you’re in the field of management, I’ll bet you’ve got a long list of tricks you’ve developed over the years to put together professional presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint 10 Powerpoint Tips for Preparing a Professional Presentation 10 Powerpoint Tips for Preparing a Professional Presentation Read More .

Aside from those job-specific things, nearly everyone needs to know a core set of MS Office skills when entering into an office job. If a cubicle is your home, and you’ll be expected to analyze information, give occasional presentations, or write up any kind of reports, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got these tips in your back pocket at all times.

Microsoft Excel Skills

Excel should be discussed first simply because it is one of the most versatile Microsoft Office products of them all. Nearly every profession in the world should have some use for Excel. Okay, well maybe not toll booth operators or McDonald’s counter clerks – but you get my point. Organizing and better understanding information and data is at the core of what Microsoft Excel is for How To Use Microsoft Excel To Manage Your Life How To Use Microsoft Excel To Manage Your Life It's no secret that I'm a total Excel fanboy. Much of that comes from the fact that I enjoy writing VBA code, and Excel combined with VBA scripts open up a whole world of possibilities.... Read More , and being able to do that more quickly will also let you get your job done faster.

1. Make Use of Autofill

You can save a tremendous amount of time with two methods of filling in data in Excel. Skill #1 is the “autofill” feature –  filling out numbered data in columns and rows.  While tutoring a realtor on how to use Excel to replace his paper financial documentation, I learned quickly that many people are not aware of this one, single feature of Excel that can save hours of data entry. To use it, simply type anything into the first cell that ends in a number.

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Click and hold the lower-right corner of the cell, and drag the mouse down the column. You’ll notice that the number on the right will automatically increment for each cell.

2. Use Autofill for Formulas

Skill #2 to learn is using autofill for formulas. If you write a function at the bottom of each column – for example averaging all of the values in that column – you can use this same autofill feature to do the same calculation at the bottom of each other column as well.

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You do this the same way. Click and hold the lower right corner of the cell where you just typed in the formula, and then drag it across the other columns to the right of it.

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When you release the mouse, all of those column calculations will automatically correct for the right column letter. You’ve basically performed the identical formula for every column in just a few seconds, and you didn’t even have to type another keystroke.

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3. Manage Data Easily With the PivotTable Tool

The third skill you really need to learn in Excel if you want to save yourself a tremendous amount of analysis time is a tool called a PivotTable.  PivotTable is accessible under the “Insert” menu. Just look for the “PivotTable” icon. If you click this icon after highlighting an entire table of data (including headers), the PivotTable tool Do Visionary Web Research Studies Using Deep Web Data & Excel Web Queries Do Visionary Web Research Studies Using Deep Web Data & Excel Web Queries What would you say if I told you that you have the tools at your disposal to do ground-breaking, Earth-shattering research? Well, you do, and I'll show you how. Read More analyzes that data and brings it into a new sheet where you can manipulate that data in various ways.

The PivotTable tool allows you to select the columns of data that you want to analyze, and then choose how you want to manipulate the data. Simply add them all up? Average them? Calculate the standard deviation?

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Using a PivotTable saves a tremendous amount of time. To accomplish these same things in a standard Excel sheet would require all sorts of functions and re-formatting data. PivotTables automatically do the work, while you can spend more of your time studying the results.

Microsoft Word Skills

One of the most commonly used Microsoft Office products is Microsoft Word, Using Microsoft Word? Here's How To Become a Time-Saving Ninja Using Microsoft Word? Here's How To Become a Time-Saving Ninja Over the years, Microsoft Word has become one of the best word processors in the world. I'm sure there are people out there that disagree - particularly Linux or Mac folks who would really rather... Read More  for example to write up reports to management or write important business letters and other correspondence. Given these common uses, it’s easy to identify the two skills in this MS Office product that every cubicle dweller should know, like header manipulation, page layout and formatting.

4. Format & Re-Use Headers

The reason headers are important is because once you have a good header design for something like a letter or a certain type of report that you have to fill out, you never have to design or create that header again. You can save a document with all of the header formatting you need, and save all of that effort the next time you create the same document. Headers can be formatted by clicking on the “Insert” menu and choosing the “Header” icon.

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Once you review the header editing menu, you’ll see just how versatile and useful headers can be. You can automatically have headers alternate between two designs between even and odd pages, and you can even break your document into sections and give each section its own unique header.

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This flexibility allows you to automate all of the repeat sections of documents for the various documents you have to write up for your job, saving a tremendous amount of time.

Another advantage of using headers in this way is that if you ever want to change any part of those headers in the document, all you have to do is make the change to the header style in one place, and the change will automatically replicate throughout your entire document. Without a header, you’d have to manually make that change on every page.

5. Manage Page Layout

The next Microsoft Word skill that every office worker should know is how to set up and preview the page format of any document. Understanding how to do this gives you the flexibility to make a document look however you want, rather than being stuck with the default settings for things like page margin size (which many people have no clue how to change).

A few of the tools you should learn to format page layout are on the “Insert” menu. Things like the “Page Number” tool, which will automate and manage the page numbering for you.

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The bulk of the page formatting options you need are actually on the aptly named “Page Layout” menu.  If you’re writing up a newsletter for your company, why mess around with manually trying to work out the formatting Top 5 Sites To Download Microsoft Word Templates Top 5 Sites To Download Microsoft Word Templates Read More into sections of the page when you can just use the “Columns” tool found here to do this?

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And that mysterious margin around the page that most people call their local IT technician to learn  how to modify? Don’t bother calling, just click on the “Page Borders” icon, go to the “Page Border” tab, and click on “Options.”

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You can set top, bottom, left and right page margins there. By the way, on that “Borders and Shading” menu, check out all of the other cool things you can do, like place border lines on any side of the page, apply to only sections of the document, and much more.

Learning these MS Word and Excel skills, you’ll impress everyone in your office – and most importantly, you’ll impress your boss! What other software skills have you found to be key?

  1. tahseen Sayed
    April 9, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    format painter is my best friend in excel. pivot table helps me analyse data in the most appropriate way. i hate the spreadsheets which are always filled with data. all i do is select the whole sheet and create a pivot thats how i reduce the time consumption in preparing what i am supposed to

  2. Shelley
    May 28, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Auto fill will recognize just about any pattern...type Monday and then Tuesday in an adjacent cell...select both cells and then drag the auto fill handle to give you all the days of the week. Can do the same for months, dates, series of numbers (even, odd, by 3's, etc.). Just give autofill enough of the pattern you want to replicate and autofill will most likely figure it out.

    Another great tool is Format Painter (just under Cut and Copy on the Home tab). Format something just the way you want, then click on Format Painter and "paint" whatever you want formatted the same way. If you double-click on format Painter you can keep painting multiple items, just click on Format Painter to turn it off.

  3. Mac W
    May 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Word
    use of Headlines 1, 2 and 3. Instead of changing size and using uppercase

  4. Tim G
    May 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

    A good tip about the autofill is: if you double-click on the fill handle, it will auto-fill to the last (used) row.

  5. Mihir C
    May 21, 2014 at 6:59 am

    Good tips!

  6. Rajaa Chowdhury
    May 21, 2014 at 5:26 am

    Most used Excel skill for me besides autofill and pivot table is vlookup

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