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Some useful smatterings of information, and some more substantial ones too, to help make your working life easier.


How was 2010?

Top Tip

Stock Management

Improve Your Google Searches

Did You Know…?

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Gamble-Free Guarantee

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How Was 2010?





































Happy New Year!

This is a great time of year for taking a fresh look at things, taking a step back, and thinking about how you can do things better in the coming year. Whilst you mull over those thoughts, here's an overview of how Software-Matters fared in 2010....…

We started the year with a variety of Access projects. We were kept very busy through the cold weather with a brand new client, a big re-vamp for an existing client and distributing and modifying another system amongst some client sister companies. The new company was Arjobex in Essex with a quality control system. The re-vamp was for Fairweathers' plant nursery production system and the distribution was for a patient case management system. Also, for the second year in a row, the VAT rate changed in January. Having already been through this a year earlier, our clients and their systems were well equipped to deal with the change.

We started building another new database this month, in this case to handle finances managed by a third party. A new client, Bloys Business Caterers, asked us to build a system to supplement an existing Access database that links into their Sage accounts. February also saw us tackle several jobs using Excel.

In March, alongside the on-going development projects we did a lot of work in our role of supporting systems. A couple of clients developed problems with their servers, networks or backups. At one company, one of their IT staff accidentally overwrote everybody's live files with a backup during a server move (ouch!). We helped to identify the root cause and then were able to reinstate their databases using their backups and our own file copies.

This month we were delighted to be contacted by a well-known clothing company that wishes to remain anonymous. They had a database that simply stored data. We designed and built a user-interface to make it more straightforward to enter the data – inventory tracking and insurance valuation information – and more straightforward to retrieve the relevant reports. We also started to work with RTJ Solutions, who needed an entire new Access database system to manage incoming servicing jobs and assign them to engineers. This included an auto-updating Status Screen in Excel to be displayed permanently on a large monitor at the front of the room so everyone can see the exactly what the state of play is.

May was a month of small changes. A new report here, an extra to do list there, a new piece of information to be stored somewhere else. We were contacted by several clients who hadn't commissioned any new work for a while with little tweaks and extras that they'd been saving up.

In June, James and Katherine both celebrated 3 years at Software-Matters. Appropriately, they both spent the month working in their specialist areas. James spent a lot of time working on geographical and web-based systems. One large system we have developed with Savills combines maps and a database using a specialist web-based interface. Katherine's month was largely spent automating projects in Excel. One of these was for a charity supporting church schools and their annual census. For several years we have analysed the results and produced a series of reports for them to distribute among their members.

Software-Matters collaborates with several small, local businesses, in particular Anderson Dynamics. For some of our time over the summer we provided additional support for the clients of these businesses as our associates took their summer holidays. We also had our own work to do, including a new system for DB Engineering to record, allocate and track job requests in their machine shop.

August was a big month for training. As your personnel change, it's important to make sure they're properly trained on your data systems. To this end we provide both on-site training and sessions here in our own office. Both of these options were taken up by clients in August. Philippa travelled to Salisbury and Wimborne, whilst staff from alkoomi visited us to be trained on their web-based business survey system. In addition we held a team-building session for ourselves. The 4 of us spent time discussing our personality traits and how this influences our methods of working (for a summary of our insights, see this article in Smatterings 8).

The autumn brought fresh new challenges with it. A new project for On Screen Productions involved taking data from an Access database, displaying it as graphs in Excel, and then presenting those graphs in PowerPoint. Following on from our team-building meeting, September saw the first of our monthly team meetings, introduced to formalise some of our in-house procedures and keep us all up to speed with the projects underway.

The Access and Excel combination came in handy again in October, with a new project to visually track sales data from Sage and EPOS (electronic point of sale). Earlier in the year we were really pleased that Clipper - the tea people - had found us via Google, and this is when work on their project started in earnest. An existing client approached us to design a new farm/estate management system for him, which was to include the ability to schedule tasks and produce a diary for his employees.

One of our clients has a number of particularly large database systems to cover different aspects of their work. This month we seemed to be making significant changes to all of them! We incorporated additional features, produced new reports, and in one case restructured much of the existing data.

Luckily undaunted by the snow, we worked with a new addition to the team – a snowman made by Philippa's children stood outside the window. Inside it was business as usual however. The paperless office is becoming more and more possible as technology improves, and in December JB Marine wanted to update their database system to help them achieve this. The most crucial aspect of this is file and folder management – it's no use having everything on your computer if you then can't find the files you need. The changes to the database will create and move folders as necessary, file documents in them automatically, and provide a quick and easy way to find the right folder for a customer.

And that, in a nutshell, was 2010 at Software-Matters! It was our busiest year to date – here's hoping that continues into 2011.

So, how will 2011 be for you? Do you have some new ideas you want to implement? Are you planning to do things better? If you are, we'd be delighted to help. To kick start your year, check out this issue's offer for a great deal!

Top Tip

Defragment your hard drive regularly to help keep your computer running quickly and efficiently.
In Windows go to Start Menu, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. If it's not there, search for the file dfrg.msc.

Do you want greater control of your stock? Do you want more information about what you have where to streamline your purchasing procedures? Check out our article on Stock Management Systems to get the full picture.
And don't forget about our Gamble-Free Guarantee – we guarantee that we will save you money overall, or we will refund the difference. We'll only recommend a system if it's genuinely the best option for you.

Improve Your Google Searches

Fed up of spending too long searching for suitable websites? Here are some tips to help make your searches quicker and more efficient. Try out the examples by going to Google, entering the search terms in the search box and clicking "Google Search".
Scenario 1: You're searching using words that can have multiple meanings, or for something that comes in multiple versions, and the sites coming up are all for the wrong meanings or versions.
Solution 1: Add some words to exclude from the search as well, by putting a minus sign in front of each word to exclude.
Example 1: You search for 'access error message' because you're looking for help on an error message about your computer's access to a program or website. This gives you a lot of results for error messages that come up when using Microsoft Access databases. Change the search to 'access error message -database' to exclude all results with the word 'database' in them, and all the Microsoft Access results disappear. Be careful though – if you exclude 'Microsoft' instead then you'll also be excluding sites that mention Microsoft Windows, or any site that mentions a Microsoft product.
Scenario 2: Your search for a business or product is throwing up a lot of American websites, but you specifically want one based in the UK.
Solution 2: Firstly, make sure you're using the UK version of Google ( Then perform the search. In most cases you'll have a section down the left hand side of the results. Part way down this will be the option "Pages from the UK". Click this to only show UK sites in your search results.
Example 2: Type 'CRT monitor' into the search box and click "Google Search". This will give you results from both the UK and the US. Click "Pages from the UK" on the left hand side. Your search now shows only UK web pages, so you know that anything you buy from them will be suitable for our 240V electricity supply, priced in pounds and shipped from within the country.
Scenario 3: You've searched on all relevant words you can think of, you've tried excluding words and looking only at UK sites, and you're still not finding what you're after.
Solution 3: Use the Advanced Search options provided by Google. Next to the search box is a small link to Advanced Search. Click this, then follow the instructions on screen to improve your search. Google also provides a link at the top right to Advanced Search Tips if you need more help.
Example 3: Click on "Advanced Search". Fill in the Advanced Search form as shown below and click the "Advanced Search" button. This will show you sites for sets of drinking glasses that include tumblers and champagne flutes along with either glasses or goblets (e.g. a wine glass is often called a goblet). Crystal or plastic sets will not be included, leaving you with sites for plain glass sets.
Advanced Search

Did you know...

… we can store backups of the data in your database – please ask for details.



The new year is often a time for looking ahead and sorting things out. Let us help you get organised this year.

Do you have a project in mind?  Call us on 01747 822616 before Easter 2011 to discuss the best way to proceed and we will give you 10% off when the project goes ahead. Just quote Smatterings10 during the call to be eligible.

(Reasonable terms and conditions apply. Just ask us for details.)

If you know someone else who might benefit from this offer or anything else in Smatterings, please feel free to pass on the information to them. Or give us the necessary details here and we'll send them a link for you.

PS: Don't forget about our Gamble-Free Guarantee. We guarantee to save you money overall – if we don't then we will refund the difference. We won't take something on unless it's worth your while, which means you really can't lose!

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