Category: Document Creation

Scanning Without a Scanner

Not everyone owns a scanner. And sometimes, the scanner you have becomes difficult or impossible to use (I’m looking at you, HP). If you’re called upon to scan an important document or photo, you do not need a working scanner. You can create a great-looking scan with your smartphone or tablet.

Free PDF Scanning Apps

There are a variety of free apps you can download, that will repurpose your mobile device’s camera as a scanning tool. Using the app, you’ll scan with your device’s camera and create a PDF of whatever you point it at. As long as you have a decent camera and good lighting, this should work really well, even for full-page documents.

Right off the bat, I can recommend these apps:

There are many more apps out there like these, too many for me to vet. Most are safe to use, but check the reviews before trying anything from a developer you’ve not heard of.

Free Photo Scanning Apps

If you’re scanning photos, you might want a photo scanning app, for higher quality scans and retouching tools. Google has you covered with their PhotoScan app, available for both iOS and Android.

Point your phone and this app at any photo, and it will take a series (5) of shots of your original. It then quickly stitches them all together, and makes a superior composite scan. The software eliminates shadows, shines and other defects along the way. I expect you’ll be impressed!

Google Drive

If you use Google Drive, you already have a scanning tool on your mobile device. Drive is ready to scan a document and immediately put it in the cloud for you.

  1. Open Google Drive on your phone/tablet.
  2. Tap the + button.
  3. Tap Scan.
  4. Take a picture of your original.
  5. Use the on-screen tools to adjust, crop and rotate your scan.
  6. Tap Save when you’re ready, and set the name and location for your newly scanned file.

Other Methods

Scanning from a smaller device may not work in all scenarios. Perhaps you have a 200-page document to process, or your flip-phone simply isn’t up to the task. Please know that in a pinch, Staples and some other office-supply stores may have a service counter, where you can walk up and pay for scanning services. It should be quick and inexpensive, if they have a professional-grade multi-function printer back there.

And if you foresee doing a lot of scanning, then you’ll want a long-term solution: Investing in a dedicated scanner. Most printers these days have an adequate scanner built-in, but for daily scanning and jobs involving dozens of pages, you’ll want something with more oomph. I can recommend Fujitsu’s ScanSnap scanners. They can often devour scan jobs at 20 pages per minute (or faster) and can be found at decent prices on Amazon.

Voice-to-Text Typing

Speak to your computer and have it type what you’re saying! Windows and MacOS have voice-to-text typing tools built-in and you just have to launch them for your speech to flow into whatever document you’re creating.

Windows Users would press Win + H to open the dictation tool.

Apple users can press the Fn button twice to launch their dictation tool.

Once started, you can have this tool enter your spoken words anywhere you see the input cursor flashing. Feel free to dictate into a Word doc or email or status field on Facebook. After you’re done dictating, feel free to go back and edit for punctuation by hand.

And if you ever have any trouble with these built-in tools, there are websites that offer similar tools. This Voice Notepad website is handy, because you can switch between dictation and typing more gracefully. When you’re done, simply copy the text and paste it elsewhere.

MS Publisher Unavailable for MacOS

If you use Microsoft Publisher, you might be interested to know that Publisher is not available for Apple users. Anyone using an iMac or MacBook is free to buy and install Microsoft 365, like anyone else. But after the install, the Apple computer will offer Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., but NO Publisher.

It’s not such a big deal, until someone sends a Publisher file to a Mac user. Then the trouble starts: the Mac will be unable to open or show the file, and it will offer no help as to what to do!

Since there is no way to get Publisher for MacOS, here are some workarounds:

Try LibreOffice

LibreOffice can open Publisher files, as well as allow for some editing. Install it for free from their website.

Convert the File to PDF

There are plenty of free websites that can convert an unopenable file to a PDF version. The converted file will then easily open in Adobe Reader or your browser. Consider uploading the .pub file to for this option.

Ask the File Creator for a Different Format

You can always let the sender know that you don’t have access to Publisher. They may be able to save their work as a PDF and send that over to you, instead!

Microsoft Editor: Spelling & Grammar Checker

This freebie does what it says on the tin: it checks your spelling and grammar for you, within your web browser. Install Microsoft Editor: Spelling & Grammar Checker and it will underline spelling errors or grammar mistakes as you type.

For the most part, this will help with typing email. But it should also red-line any writing errors on other websites, say, as you fill in a web form or write a comment on social media. Whatever errors it detects will have a zigzag underline that you can click for suggested corrections.

Grammarly does a similar job to ME: S&GC, but I find Microsoft’s extension bothers me with fewer ads. If you want to try this out, it’s available for either Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. Just make sure to click its browser icon after you install, and sign in with your Microsoft account.

Simple Keyboard Shortcuts for MS Word, A-Z

There are too many handy shortcuts within Microsoft Word, but I’m going to try to list out the easier ones for you to review. This is not to say that you should memorize all of them! Rather, check them out and see if a few would be especially useful to the way you use your computer. Practice one or two and you may discover they change your computer-life!

  • Control + A: Highlights & Selects all text in a document.
  • Control + B: Emboldens selected text.
  • Control + C: Copies selected text to clipboard.
  • Control + D: Opens the Font Formatting window.
  • Control + E: Toggles text between Align-Left and Centered.
  • Control + F: Opens a Find field.
  • Control + G: Moves to the next result after using the Find tool.
  • Control + H: Opens the Find & Replace tool.
  • Control + I: Italicizes selected text.
  • Control + J: Toggles text between Align-Left and Justified.
  • Control + K: Inserts a hyperlink into your document.
  • Control + L: Toggles text between Align-Left and Justified.
  • Control + M: Indent entire paragraph.
  • Control + N: Opens a new document.
  • Control + O: Opens the Open File window.
  • Control + P: Opens the Print options window.
  • Control + Q: Removes paragraph formatting (indentation/spacing).
  • Control + R: Toggles text between Align-Left and Align-Right.
  • Control + S: Opens the Save window.
  • Control + T: Creates a hanging indent.
  • Control + U: Underlines selected text.
  • Control + V: Pastes text from clipboard into the document.
  • Control + W: Closes the open document
  • Control + X: Cuts selected text, saving it to the clipboard.
  • Control + Y: Redo the action that was just Undone (see next shortcut).
  • Control + Z: Undo the last action taken.

Many of these shortcuts should carry over to Chromebooks and Linux computers. On Apple computers, most of these shortcuts will also work, if you use the Command key instead of Control.

Most of these shortcuts will also work in OpenOffice, LibreOffice and other non-Microsoft word processing apps.

LibreOffice: Setting Default File Types

LibreOffice is a lovely option for document creation, if you don’t want to drop money on Microsoft’s software. While Microsoft costs $70/yr or $150 for its basic office suites, LibreOffice is free, free, free.

But if you try LibreOffice, you should immediately adjust its default file types. Right out of the box, LibreOffice will save new files in the OpenDocument Format (ODF). And those aren’t as compatible or friendly with Microsoft Office software. If you share an ODF file with someone running Microsoft Office, they may not appreciate it.

But LibreOffice is made to be compatible with Microsoft Office. You can change LibreOffice to always save your files in the Microsoft file type. And as you create .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx files with Libre, you’ll be able to email them to Microsoft Office users with little to no fuss.

Adjusting LibreOffice’s Defaults

Open LibreOffice, click the Tools menu, then click Options.
(Mac users should click the LibreOffice menu, then click Preferences.)

On the left, click the Plus Sign next to Load/Save, then click General.

On the right, change ‘Document Type’ to Text Document.
Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft Word 2007-365 (*.docx).

Next, change ‘Document Type’ to Spreadsheet.
Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft Excel 2007-365 (*.xlsx).

Lastly, change ‘Document Type’ to Presentation.
Then set the ‘Always Save As’ field to Microsoft PowerPoint 2007-365 (*.pptx).

Click OK at the bottom.

Microsoft Office: Buy, Rent or Pass

When it comes to office software, most people think of Microsoft Office, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But Microsoft gives you a lot to think about before you spend money on their Office suite, so here’s some details that may help you understand what you’re getting into.

This site breaks out your basic options for buying or renting MS Office.

Buy: Microsoft Office

When you want to pay a one-time fee and “own” your Office programs, focus on Office 2021. Note that Office 2021 Home & Student version only contains Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For those needing Outlook, look at Office 2021 Home & Business. And if you must have Publisher or Access, you’ll have to shell out even more money to buy for Office 2021 Professional.

Rent: Microsoft 365

If you’re open to paying a recurring fee to use Office software, then Microsoft 365 is what to consider. When you agree to an annual fee for Microsoft 365, you get access to all Microsoft Office apps, plus you get 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. And you can install your software on up to 6 devices. Microsoft 365 Personal is intended for one person to use on all his/her devices, whereas Microsoft 365 Family is used when you want to “send” an Office license to other people (family or friends).

A further benefit to Microsoft 365 is that it automatically upgrades to the new version of Office as it comes available. Later this year, for example, Office 2021 will be released. Microsoft 365 users will wake up one morning to see this magically appear on their systems. But those who bought Office 2019… will see no change. That’s not a big deal, because Office 2019 will be usable for many more years. But no one can see the future of this software, so it is hard to tell: Will Office 2019 users ever be pushed to upgrade (repurchase) their software? Will it happen in 2025? 2030?

Pass: LibreOffice/OpenOffice

For many of you, though, this is all moot. Because for us frugal types, there is still LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Instead of shelling out $150 or $70/yr., these open source programs are available for $0. So if you want to take a pass on paying Microsoft, give LibreOffice a try!

Repairing Microsoft Office

If your Microsoft Office has started misbehaving, or if it won’t even open, it’s time to Repair it. Microsoft offers a built-in repair-feature for Office Apps, but you may need help finding it.

These steps should cover Office 365 and 2016, all the way back to Office 2010. Use these repair options before uninstalling/reinstalling, as they’ll probably save you a lot of time!

If you’re on an Apple, sorry — Microsoft didn’t allow for this on macOS. To fix Office, you may have to completely uninstall and then reinstall your Office software.

Editing and Converting PDF Files

If you need to edit a PDF, the best way is to contact the creator of the file, and ask if they can provide you with the original, editable file that the PDF was based off of. But that’s not always possible. Other solutions are out there!

The most obvious may be to go to Adobe and get their Adobe Acrobat program. But that comes with a cost. It looks like Adobe Acrobat DC Pro currently has a pricetag of $15/mo.! Other FREE solutions are out there!

There are many websites that offer a bevy of PDF editing tools. And they are largely free. Simply upload your PDF to their site and they’ll allow you to edit, convert to a different file type, delete pages and more! You can Google for “online PDF tools” or consider these sites that I have used and appreciate:



PDF Candy

PDF24 Tools

And if you have any concerns about uploading your data to some unproven website, that’s perfectly understandable! You don’t have to, because some of these websites also offer a free software download. You can install their tools as a program on your computer, and make your edits while offline and solely on your hard drive.

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