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How to Navigate Data Restrictions on Excel RFPs

How to Navigate Data Restrictions on Excel RFPs
The most frustrating challenge in answering Excel RFPs is not knowing if or what restrictions have been placed on the RFP answer cells and having to rely on Trial-and-Error.   Is there any way to discover the criteria I have to meet BEFORE I insert the RFP answer?  Unfortunately there is no simple way to inspect an Excel RFP using Excel alone. Unless the RFP Issuer is kind enough to provide this information in the RFP question or instructions for that cell, you must discover these requirements cell-by-cell, either by reading a tip when the cell is selected or receiving an error message when the requirement is not met. However, Expedience is pleased to announce a limited preview release of a new Excel RFP tool, called the Excel RFP Inspector that will help proposal writers analyze these data restrictions BEFORE beginning the work or constructing responses.  Read on for more information on...
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Locksmithing for Excel RFPs

Locksmithing for Excel RFPs
 I respond to a fair number of RFP’s in Excel. The RFP’s are usually locked so I can only edit the answer cells, but sometimes there are other restrictions too, like not allowing images or not allowing me to even select and copy the locked cells. How can I tell what restrictions apply to a locked RFP? Unfortunately there is no simple way to inspect an Excel RFP using Excel alone. Unless the RFP Issuer is kind enough to provide this information in the RFP instructions, you must discover these restrictions by trial-and-error. However, Expedience is pleased to announce a limited preview release of a new Excel RFP tool, called the Excel RFP Inspector that will help proposal writers analyze the restrictions placed on a RFP Worksheet BEFORE beginning the work or constructing responses.  Read on for more information on Excel RFP data restrictions and how you can register for the...
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The Awesomeness of AutoCorrect

The Awesomeness of AutoCorrect
 AutoCorrect is an automatic editing feature that is often maligned for causing unwanted and sometimes embarrassing word substitutions. It is also a long standing feature of Microsoft Word that can be used in some surprisingly powerful ways. You are probably familiar with MS Office’s AutoCorrect feature.  This is the feature that automatically corrects simple typos and common misspellings.  For example, ‘teh’ changes to ‘the’ as soon as the space bar is hit.  If it does not, then you probably do not have this feature enabled.  You can find the AutoCorrect screen by going to File→Options→Proofing Menu Item→AutoCorrect Button.  Check the ‘Replace text as you type’ checkbox’   Adding AutoCorrect to Quick Access Toolbar Before going much further, one annoyance should be remedied—the convoluted steps required for accessing the AutoCorrect Screen.  To make this easier let’s add AutoCorrect to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).  Find the QAT above or below the Word...
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Back to the Desktop – Real-Time Co-Authoring in Microsoft Word 2016

Back to the Desktop – Real-Time Co-Authoring in Microsoft Word 2016
The emergence in recent years of the Web-based version of Microsoft Word has led some people to speculate that the desktop version of Word would one day soon become obsolete.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  In the 2016 release of Office, Microsoft brings the Web to the Desktop, proving once and for all that Microsoft Word (the REAL one) is here to stay.   Microsoft Word 2016 is ‘Ground Control’ for Cloud Collaboration In the previous post  we looked at the latest version of Word Online. In this post we will be looking at the latest version of the full desktop version of Microsoft Word. From right inside of Microsoft Word 2016 you can now open documents saved in the cloud on OneDrive and SharePoint, collaborate real-time with other colleagues using Microsoft Word 2016 as well as those using Microsoft Word Online and Microsoft Word Mobile.  You...
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What’s Great and Not So Great about Office 365 for Proposal Writers

What’s Great and Not So Great about Office 365 for Proposal Writers
Real-time co-authoring and online comments make the Web version of Microsoft Word a great tool for collaborating with SMEs and Reviewers.  But sparsity of features makes it untenable as a proposal writing tool.  In this post we will look at what’s great and not so great about Word Online, with proposal writers in mind. Real-Time Co-Authoring Assuming you want to grant others access to editing your proposal document, real-time co-authoring lets you share a document on the cloud (through Microsoft OneDrive, for instance) and edit simultaneously using Word Online.  Color-coded flags show you who’s editing and where.  Online Comments If you want to restrict direct editing but still need to solicit comments from SMEs and Reviewers, Word Online provides a side panel to add and display comments.  You can respond to comments too.   What’s Missing from Word Online? Although we have seen continuous improvement in the Web Version of...
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2 Great Word-to-Email Commands You Never Heard Of

2 Great Word-to-Email Commands You Never Heard Of
Microsoft Word has commands you may never have heard of, since they don't appear on any Ribbons.  In this post we will look at two of these little known commands that make it easy to share content through email. How to find commands that DON’T appear on any Word Ribbons In Microsoft Word File/Options Customize Ribbon (and Quick Access Toolbar as well) you will find a dropdown of available Word commands you can add to your Word Ribbon of Quick Access Toolbar.  One of these options is ‘Commands Not in the Ribbon’. Under this list are many useful built-in Word functions that do not appear on any Ribbon but can be ADDED with the ‘Customize Ribbon’ feature. Finding the Word-to-Email Commands In this post we are focusing on Word-to-Email commands.  Microsoft Word offers two:  ‘Send for Review.’  Sends current document as an attachment.  ‘Send to Mail Recipient.’ Sends current document...
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Expedience Styles Survey Results

Expedience Styles Survey Results
  Expedience Styles Survey Results If you struggle with the process of formatting proposals, you are not alone.  Here are a few of the comments we received in our Styles Survey: “Your survey taps into all the concerns I have when doing manual Proposal responses.  Nice to see that everyone has the same basic concerns.” “Your survey is effective - it got me thinking about how hard my current process is.”  “Most people in my firm don't use/understand styles. It is a losing battle.” Thanks again to everyone who participated in the Survey. To see the questions you can still view the Survey at http://www.expediencesoftware.com/blog/styles-survey.html  Below are the results. Styles Survey Respondents Respondents to the survey came from a wide spectrum of industries: Construction Education Engineering Financial Services Government Contracting  Healthcare Services Technology Telecom More than a third reported that they respond to up to 4 RFPs a month.  Roughly the...
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Custom Styles 101 for Proposal Writers – 4 Reasons Why Custom Styles Fail

Custom Styles 101  for Proposal Writers – 4 Reasons Why Custom Styles Fail
  Almost half of our Styles Survey Respondents reported that ‘Direct Formatting’ was their most common method of changing formatting AFTER  inserting content into a proposal.  Direct Formatting is usually the formatting method of last resort for skilled users of Custom Styles, but even so many of them admit to needing to rely on this tactic in a pinch. Custom Style Trouble Shooting So you have named and defined your Custom Styles.   With great anticipation you select content from your Source document that has been formatted with your Custom Style, copy it, and then paste it into the Target document .  Presto - NOTHING. When Custom Styles fail  it is usually due to one of four causes: 1.        The Custom Style is defined differently in the Target Document 2.       The Custom Style is based on a Style that is defined differently in the Target 3.       The copied content has been formatted directly,...
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Custom Styles 101 for Proposal Writers – The Secret Power of Heading Styles

Custom Styles 101 for Proposal Writers – The Secret Power of Heading Styles
  Most of the respondents to our Styles Survey report using Custom Styles to format proposals. But even among avid Custom Style users,  the proper use of Custom Heading Styles is debated.  Here is a look at the issues. The Secret Powers of Built-in Heading Styles Microsoft Word uses Built-in Headings Styles to support many features important to proposal writers.  Here are a few: Outlining Navigation Pane Cross References Table of Contents Should you base your Custom Heading Styles on Built-in Styles? Basing your Custom Heading Styles on Word’s Built-in Heading Styles preserves these powerful features.  But from the previous post we know that basing your styles on built-in styles means that the target document can affect the appearance of your inserted proposal content.  To prevent that we recommended selecting ‘(no style)’ as the basis of your Custom Styles. But if we fail to base our Custom Heading Styles on Microsoft...
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Custom Styles 101 for Proposal Writers – Creating a Custom Style

Custom Styles 101 for Proposal Writers – Creating a Custom Style
  Twice as many of our Style Survey Respondents report that they use Custom Styles for their reusable proposal content than those who do not.   If you create your styles correctly, formatting your proposals will work like magic. In this post we will look at the steps to create a new Custom Style. How to Create a New Style When defined properly and used consistently, Custom Styles provide you with control over your document’s formatting and greatly reduce the time and frustration as well. The steps to create a New Custom Style are quite simple. 1.       Format an example of content with the appearance you want to create 2.       Click on the Home Tab and open the Style Pane 3.       Select the content (include the paragraph mark if you want to define the paragraph features too) 4.       Click on the ‘New Style’ Button  (That’s the little button on the bottom of...
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Custom Styles 101 for Proposal Writers – What is a Style?

Custom Styles 101 for Proposal Writers – What is a Style?
Almost 50% of our Styles Survey respondents who report NOT using Custom Styles cite not understanding how as the primary reason.  Styles are easier than you think and well worth the time investing in learning how to apply them.   The difference between formatting and styles What is a style?   When most people describe their corporate content 'Style' they are referring to the way the content appears on the page:  colors, font types and sizes, and paragraph spacing. But that is not a 'Style' in the technical sense. When we select content in Microsoft Word and go to the Home tab and click on font and paragraph buttons, we do indeed affect the way the content appears on the page, but we are not applying a document ‘Style’.   A document ‘Style’ is an underlying formatting definition.  Even if you have never intentionally applied a style to your content,...
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Set an Expiration Date for Reusable Proposal Content

Set an Expiration Date for Reusable Proposal Content
Once you have created a Library of Reusable Proposal Content,  you should next give some consideration to how you will keep track of updates to the content.  This is especially challenging if the Content is stored in a document. Documents are often used to store Reusable Content,  because documents are portable, easy to share, and don't require a big investment or infrastructure.  But keeping track of versions can be challenging.  A very common request that we hear from clients at Expedience, is to set an expiration date on Reusable Content, to prevent it from being used by mistake when a newer version is available. In this post we will look  at how a few lines of code placed in the document's 'Open' event can accomplish this. Open the VBA Editor VBA stands for “Visual Basic for Applications.”  This is a programming language that lets you create Macros for automating documents, such as...
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Fields and Links and Controls, Oh My!

Fields and Links and Controls, Oh My!
In a previous post we looked at using Word's built-in Find and Replace functionality to customize our proposal content.  In that example, we used simple highlighted text to serve as placeholders. In this post we will look at three other types of built-in Word objects that help us automate the process of customization:  Field, Links and Content Controls.  Fields Microsoft Word Fields are one of the oldest forms of automation available in Word.  To insert a Field, go to the Insert Tab on the Word Ribbon, and click on 'Field' from the Quick Parts drop-down:   The Fields Dialog Box presents a long list of possible Fields to choose from: In this post we will look at one example:  the 'Ref' Field.   This field will 'Refer' back to a bookmarked section of the document, and display the bookmarked contents.  For example,  we select the following content:   Next we add...
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You asked for it: How can you search for text in old proposal documents without having to open each one?

You asked for it:  How can you search for text in old proposal documents without having to open each one?
Have you ever needed to find something you had written in an earlier proposal but had no idea where to find it? Being able to search across multiple proposals has been a frequently requested product feature at Expedience, as well as during my time at Pragmatech. The good news is that you don’t need special software to do this. You can use Window’s built-in search capabilities. If you have tried this in the past without luck, don’t despair. We will go step by step and show you how to do a ‘Proposal Search’ using just Windows File Explorer. The examples in this post will be using Windows 8.1, but the technique is similar in Windows 7. Step 1: Open Windows File Explorer In Windows 8.1, Right click on the Windows Start Button to display the Start Menu: (Windows 7 simply click on the Start button) and select ‘File Explorer’ OR, use...
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Navigation 3 Ways

Navigation 3 Ways
  We now have a beautifully written and formatted master library document perfectly organized with the following distinctive labels: If you formatted these labels using Word’s Heading Styles (either the built-in styles or even just based on them), you will have several methods of navigation that will work automatically for you.    METHOD 1:  Custom TOC The first, tried-and-true method is to generate a Table-of-Contents with hyperlinks. Go to the ‘References’ tab and click on the Table of Contents drop-down. Select one one of the ‘Automatic Table’ selections.  We will customize the appearance shortly. The first thing I want to do is format the labels so I can identify them more easily.  I think I will match the color of the TOC entries to match the labels in the document. To do this simply directly format one of the TOC labels, find its TOC level style name in the style pane,...
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Sample Library Structures

Sample Library Structures
In the previous post we used distinctively formatted labels to organize the content in a master ‘Content Library’ document.   In this post we will look at some sample Main Category and Subcategory structures for a cross section of industries.  These samples are for illustration only.  You understand your own content and needs much better than we could.  But if you notice any obvious mistakes or omissions or have a sample library structure that you would like to share,  by all means send it our way and we will include it in a future post.  In this post we look at samples from the following industries:  Asset Management Money Management Retirement Services Health Care Technology (Software and Hardware) Employment Law    Asset Management Firm Information Assets Under Management Background Business Policies and Philosophies Expertise Financials and Insurance Legal and Compliance Professional Staff Systems Client Servicing Administration Communication and Reviews Education Reporting Training...
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Four Steps to Perfectly Organized Content

Four Steps to Perfectly Organized Content
  In an earlier series of posts we looked at how to make reusable content 'Copy-Paste ready' Now we can focus on organizing it in a way that will help us find the content we need easily, and make it easy for the other users of the content as well. As mentioned in an earlier post, our goal is to use nothing beyond Microsoft Word—no additional software. We will be storing our reusable content in a single Word document.  You may want to split your content into separate documents depending on the amount of content you have.  Everything we discuss in this post can be easily applied to additional ‘master’ documents. We will be using 4 basic elements to organize our content:   Main Categories Subcategories Names Descriptions   Every block of reusable content will be assigned each of these 4 elements. The first thing to sort out is the overall...
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The Reasons Why You Need a Content Library

The Reasons Why You Need a Content Library
    In the olden days (say 20 years ago) there were very few software solutions for storing reusable proposal content. Ours --the RFP Machine-- was one of the first.  Now there are many, many solutions to choose from, ours--Expedience Software--being one of the newest. But in these series of posts we will look at how to create a reusable content library without ANY software, other than just Microsoft Word.   What do we typically do when we need to create a business document or add content into a document or email or proposal?   We look around for a document that is similar, make some changes. Fix the formatting. Look around in other documents for content, copy and paste the content in.  Fix the formatting again. Check all the names, in case we copied something in that shouldn’t be there.  Fix the formatting again.      Even when we already have...
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Generic-ize or Customize: The Secret to Foolproof Placeholders

Generic-ize or Customize: The Secret to Foolproof Placeholders
  Almost everyone has their own embarrassing story to tell about copying content from an old proposal or sales letter and inadvertently leaving in the old customer name. Needless to say we want to take steps to safeguard against this when preparing content for reuse. But first another choice needs to be made.  Do you replace old customer names with generic terms, like ‘your company’ or with placeholders to be updated with the current customer information? It certainly makes for less work and worry to genericize the reusable content.  But if you elect to customize the final documents with the current customer information, here are tips to make the process of customization easier and more reliable. There are a number of documentation automation products on the market that can help you automate the process of document customization (including us at Expedience), but in this post we'll look at some simple tricks...
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Quick Tips for Spotting Formatting Booby Traps

Quick Tips for Spotting Formatting Booby Traps
  In the previous post we compared the advantages of using Normal style to those of using custom, user-defined styles. With either strategy it is important that styles be applied consistently throughout the content you intend to reuse.  If this is not done you run the risk of creating formatting problems that can pop up unexpectedly in your documents consuming valuable time and energy. When you paste content into a document and the formatting goes haywire, it is probably due to one of these two common formatting booby traps:  Mixed Styles Direct Formatting Mixed styles occur when you have reusable content formatted with multiple styles.  Though different styles have different names, appearances may be deceiving.  If these different styles are defined in the same way the content will look the same and you may not even be aware of the problem.   However, when you copy and paste that content into...
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