Bag of Tricks – Files Conversion & Charts

Picture this request from a patron:

“Excuse me, I am looking for information on Excel. I have the file on my flash drive, but it was created on my nephew’s laptop and I only have a PDF. But it looks like an Excel file. I need to open it and make a chart to put in my PowerPoint for my meeting this afternoon.”

In moments like these, having resources at your fingertips—a bag of tricks, so to speak—can come in very handy. Sure, you can look up possible solutions on the spot, but a basic familiarity with even a few steps of the process can speed up the interaction and give you a bit more confidence.

While I suggest creating your own Bag of Tricks, have a look at this one –

Let’s look at a few ways we could work through the scenario above.

From my Bag of Tricks, I suggest (found in the “For That File” section). Zamzar is one of many file conversion tools available, but I like it because it is free and quick. It supports over 1200 different types of conversions, one of which is PDF to Excel. After uploading your file to Zamzar, pick the format you would like the file in, and it will email you a link where you can download the converted file. Note: Zamzar requires an email address and the ability to download a file from the website.

In our scenario, the patron also wants to create a chart from the data. Excel does make charts… but there are ways to make more visually appealing charts that import easily into PowerPoint as image files. In fact, a chart exportable as an image file would be ideal. To do this, go to the “For That Report” section and pick LiveGap Charts. You can import the data from your spreadsheet, customize it—or even animate it—and export it as an image file, a website embed, or a link that you can share out directly via email.

Having tech tools in a “ready reference” (aka Bag of Tricks) format, where you can include categories and links, makes it easier to find answers to common questions. It is also a way to share your knowledge base with other staff members and see what tools they use. In my next blog post, I’ll look at some ways you can organize your technology tools for “ready reference.”

Kieran Hixon