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Some useful smatterings of information mixed with a few more substantial ones to make your working life easier, plus some inside scoops on the development team at Software-Matters and a few bits and pieces just for fun.


Excel Tips by Video

Linking Databases to Maps

Import Raster Data into Access

Reach Your PC's Potential

Top Tip

Who is Tom?

Colourful Characters

Time-savers - MS Word

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Free Help and Tips via the Software-Matters Video Channel

We recently launched the Software-Matters video help channel, on which we are releasing videos with tips and tricks for spreadsheets and databases. The first videos are already online, so give them a watch!


Linking Databases To Maps: A Strategic Overview

A GIS system with custom features

Mapping has been on the Internet for a while now, and most of us are familiar with Google's maps. But mapping can become a really powerful business tool when linked to a database. Linking databases and mapping in this way creates a geographical information system, known as a GIS. Over the years, we have undertaken a number of projects that harness this potential. New facilities in the mapping software are enabling us to create systems with more and more integration between the map and the database. You can read more about what is now possible by taking a look at this case study.

This concept has many uses for any business where geographic information is relevant. You may be able to envisage similar features taking a starring role in your own management systems.

Importing Raster Data into Access

Tagging along with our above GIS work is a new article and free download for users who want to use data held in an ESRI format file structure in a database. For example, some freely-available government-funded research data are held in this format. The free tool we have developed allows users to convert the messy ESRI raster-format data output into a simple Access data table, ready for further use.

With the data converted, you have the analysis power of Access available to play with the numbers.

A GIS system with custom features

Reach Your PC's Potential

A GIS system with custom features

We have expanded our website with a new running feature: the Recent Projects Blog. On this page we'll be giving you a monthly collection of advice, examples and secrets that we have encountered or developed during our month of work. It's already sprouting with content, covering automating work with zip files, reporting more efficiently in Excel and the tracking of manpower and cash flow, to name just a few examples.

We'll also be highlighting on the blog particularly interesting bits of work we've done to give you ideas as to the sorts of unique features you can incorporate into a custom database system. This page will be updated with new developments each month, so check back again soon to see our latest updates!


GIS: <acronym> Geographic Information System. Any information system that integrates, stores, edits, analyzes, shares, and displays geographic information for informing decision making.



Top Tip

If your PC is slow to start up, try opening the Run menu and entering 'msconfig'. You'll reach a menu where you can configure which programs are run during the startup process (startup tab), many of which you may wish to stop.


Personal Profile - Tom (2013)

The man himself

Tom 'Devin' Devine

Tom joined Software-Matters in August. We used our office Christmas meal together as a chance to get to know Tom better and thought we would share with you some of the things we learnt about him.

NAME: Tom Devine

OK, so we know your name but have you ever had any nicknames?
Devin. I came to be known by that name when I started sixth form as I accidently signed up with my second name as Devin instead of Devine. I prefer it since it’s easier and less pretentious to say aloud!

Tea or Coffee?
Neither, but I’ll drink tea under duress since I’m quite neutral towards it. Coffee however I dislike with a burning passion.

Do you have any siblings?
I have a younger sister who lives in Wales.

Where are you from?
I am from Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire. It’s a small place, locally famous for its Saxon church and picturesque bridges.

Who do you live with?
I live with my girlfriend, Vera.                            

What book are you currently reading?
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell. It’s a tale from the beginning of last century about a man painting a house (stretched to 600 pages…) while attempting to convince his co-workers to fight for their rights and embrace socialism. Interesting for its historical aspects, but isn’t a novel in the real sense, so I don’t think it will hold my interest.

What hobbies do you have?
I enjoy getting lost by going for wanders around the local countryside. I also dabble in Creative Writing, working on projects big and small (everyone has a novel in them apparently). Other than that I am a denizen of the Internet and a cynic beyond my years.

How a true writer writes

Any interesting or strange facts about you?
I’ve cut my own hair since secondary school. Having come to find it an enjoyable exercise I continue to do so, despite living 20 yards from a hairdresser’s!

Bungee jump or Parachute jump?
Parachute I guess, but I’m not a fan of large heights so ideally neither.

How have you ended up doing what you’re now doing?
I did Physics at University, during which I studied programming. I found this to be much more interesting than Physics, so decided to look for careers in the IT world. Preferring a small-scale operation than a corporate one I ended up here at Software-Matters.

To become a superstar celebrity author (whilst somehow also remaining Indy and cool). In secondary school I wanted to be the voice that announces things in train stations. Perhaps that dream lives on.

I’m a bit of a hipster when it comes to music (if everyone else likes something, I grow suspicious). My current favourite genre is Electronic (EDM). Some more well-known electronic artists I like include Nero, Deadmau5 and Pendulum.

It's a Fourier Transform of the music... thanks Physics!

Dream pet?
Ideally some kind of big cat, along the lines of a sabre tooth tiger, would be good. I guess on the real side of things a dog would be my choice actually, since I always disliked the hateful glares of cats.

Colourful Characters

Recently Keith and Tom took the Personality test that Philippa, James and Robin had done previously in an earlier Smatterings. After completing the test you are assigned a colour from a circular spectrum that represents your personality type.

Tom came out as a strong blue. Blue is an Observer. Individuals in this group tend to have technically orientated traits. Examples are that they will be precise, formal, analytical, deliberate, questioning and cautious. If you look back to Smatterings 9 (linked above) you’ll see that Tom has effectively replaced former staff member Katherine in the mix of personalities.

Keith was evenly split between blue and green which is a Coordinator. Coordinators mix the technical traits of blue with the supportive traits of green. A person with green traits is patient, encouraging, relaxed, sharing and amiable. Taking some of this and some of the blue traits above, a Coordinator would be described as reliable, attentive to the needs of others, thorough and organised. Keith shares this colour with Robin.

Happily, we have ended up with a balanced team covering all the colours (with admittedly above-average blue tinges, as would be expected from a group of computer programmers). Perhaps more importantly, the exercise has given us an understanding of our traits that enables us to approach each other appropriately and thus avoid friction and misunderstandings. Perhaps it will also help you understand where we are coming from when you deal directly with any of us.

The personality colour wheel


Always watching...



Pulling the strings


Time-savers - Microsoft Word Shortcut Keys

There is always time to save!

Note that many of these shortcuts also work in other programs. The basic shortcuts for copy, paste, save, undo and redo are very much worth knowing and using constantly, as they are much easier and faster than the menu-based equivalents. You’ll never go back!

In Word there are many keyboard shortcuts. The obvious advantage of these is that they allows you to keep your hands on the keyboard instead of moving to use the mouse to make selections. It also allows you to make changes to selected text without having to move the mouse from the selected text to the menu.

You would be surprised how much quicker and more fluid your work will be with these seemingly small advantages. Here we will cover the basic ones that most people could use plus some of the more obscure but still useful shortcuts.

Alt: Pressing alt will overlay the ribbon with numbers and letter which you can use to navigate the different tabs and sub menus.
Ctrl + S: Save
Ctrl + C: Copy
Ctrl + X: Cut
Ctrl + V: Paste
Ctrl + Z: Undo
Ctrl + Y: Repeat last action / redo. If you have just undone something it will replace it otherwise it will repeat the last action you did. 
Ctrl + B: Bold Text
Ctrl + I: Italic text
Ctrl + U: Underline text
Ctrl + F: Find
Ctrl + H: Replace
Ctrl + A: Select All
Ctrl + =: Subscript
Ctrl + +: Superscript
Ctrl + Alt + H: Highlight selected text
Ctrl + Shift + C: Copy formatting.
Ctrl + Shift + V: Paste formatting only. This will past the formatting of the last thing you copied.
Ctrl + Shift + Space: Non breaking space, keeps the words together on one line
Ctrl + Shift + Hyphen: Non Breaking hyphen, will keep any words or numbers you have hyphenated together
Ctrl + F1: Expand or minimize the ribbon
F10: Select the active ribbon. You can then use the arrow keys to navigate through the ribbons.
Alt Gr: this stands for Alternative Graphic and most keyboards have an Alt Gr button that can used to give access to a series of symbols and accented letters without having to go through a menu to get them
Alt Gr + C: copyright symbol
Alt Gr + R: Registered trademark symbol
Alt GR + T: Trademark symbol
Alt GR + $: €

PS: Don't forget our Gamble-Free Guarantee. We guarantee to save you money overall – if we don't then we'll 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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