February 2018: How to Start Your Database Project

How To Start Your Database Project

Planning out a database can seem like an overwhelming process.  We admit it is a BIG project but done right it can help you organize and grow your business.  At JN Software we are going to give you some of our insider secrets of what information you’ll need to consider before you build the database of your dreams that will bring your business to the next level.

When planning your database project make sure to consider these factors:

What Is Your Data?

At its core a database is multiple pieces of information related to each other.  Can you make a list of all the information you need to track?

  1. For example, let’s say you want a contact list. What information do you want for each contact?
    • Name – Just one name? Or separate fields for First and Last Name?
    • Address – Do you need their street address? Or just email address?
    • Phone Number – Do you also need their fax number? Could one contact have multiple phone numbers? Do you care to differentiate between home and cell number?  Do you need to assign one phone number as their primary phone number?
  2. While even a simple example like this can sound complex, once you start writing it down it’s a lot easier than it looks and JN Software is here to help you make the best choices and fill in the gaps with our experience.


How will information get into your database?

  1. Manual entry – users typing information directly into user friendly forms
  2. Loaded from input files from other existing databases, departments, companies, etc.
    • Excel
    • .csv file
    • Text
    • Flat files
    • Other


Where does data need to go out from your database?

  1. Automated emails
  2. CSV/flat files for upload into other systems
  3. Custom printouts/PDF files
  4. Customized Excel files for use by others


Click here for more information on our database services.

Speak to one of our Consultants at (416) 264-6247 or info@jnsoftware.ca for your free database assessment to get your database plans started, and to take your business to the next level.

Don’t Re-invent the Wheel

Importing Tasks from Excel

You can import tasks from Excel, rather than re-create entire task lists. You will need to use the Import Wizard.

Open the MS Project file you would like to import the data into, or create a blank file.

File -> Open -> Files of type -> Excel workbook – Locate the file and click on it. Click on Open, and the Import Wizard will start.

Click Next.

If you have previously created a map you can use the existing map.  If this is a new import select New Map.

Click Next.

Select if the import will be bringing the data in a new file, appending to the existing open file or merging the data with existing data.

If you select “As a New Project”, a new file will be opened using default option settings and a default blank project file.

If you select “Append the data to the active project”, the imported data will be placed at the end of the current open file.

If you select “Merge the data into the active project”, a merge key must be contained in the MS Project file, in the imported Excel data and in the import map.  The merge key is one field and must be specified at the time the import map is created.

Click Next.

Select data types:

Select if the data will be directed toward Task, Resources and/or Assignment data; one, two or all three may be selected.

Select if the imported file has column headers.

If there are column headers in the Excel file, this information will be used to match field names from the import file to field names in the MS Project file. The header row will not be considered valid content data and will not be imported.

If the imported data does not contain headers, column positioning will be matched with the fields on the import map.

Click Next.

Select the source worksheet – default is None or Sheet1 (or another available name).

If the sheet is recognized (i.e.: correct sheet name format – no spaces, no special characters), the data fields will appear with preview at the bottom of the view for the mapped fields.

The left side of the view will have the fields in the imported Excel file.  Select field values on the right side of the view to map the Excel values to the MS Project fields on the right.

Click Next to save the new map OR click Finish to start the import.

If you selected Next, click on Save Map and you will be asked to assign the new map a name.

Click Save to save the map.

Click Finish to start the import.

After the Import is completed, all tasks will be imported at Outline level 1.

Data might have been imported to columns that are not being shown on the currently viewed table.  Insert imported columns into any table to view the imported data.

Watch for error messages that occur during the import.  They might be indicating scheduling issues with some of the imported tasks, which might need attention.

Click here to learn more about all the different Excel courses you can take.

Speak to one of our Training Coordinators at (416) 264-6247 or info@jnsoftware.ca to help you get even more from your Excel training.


January 2018: Why Soft Skills Are So Important

Why Soft Skills Are So Important

office_meetingAn old friend of mine would often quote her mother in saying,
“Don’t sell yourself short.” Sadly, many people do just that in the workplace. They have the hard skills, or the technical skills, to do the job. However, they very often hold themselves back from reaching further goals because they fail to develop or utilize their professional skills, also called soft skills.

Your time management, your attitude, your communication skills, your leadership skills, your ability to work as part of a team, your emotional intelligence, and a whole range of other personal qualities are the professional skills that can drive you to accomplish your full potential. These professional skills will help you bring out the best in yourself, bring you success in your career, and help your employer get the best from you.

With the right professional skills, you can shine as a team player, or as a leader. Knowing how to get along with people, how to delegate, and how to motivate others are all key elements for success.

Sadly, the significance of these professional skills is often undervalued. As a result, very few companies have the foresight to provide training for them.

Qualifications and technical skills may get you a job, but they won’t always advance your career or your company.

Reach your full potential by developing your professional skills, and don’t sell yourself short!

Click here to learn more about our professional skills services.

Speak to one of our Training Coordinators at (416) 264-6247 or info@jnsoftware.ca about your professional skills training needs, and your desired training outcome; and we can help you plan the training session for you and your team.

Benefit From Outlook’s Weather Bar

If you work in the type of office where you can’t install your own favourite productivity software due to strict IT policies, then it’s likely that Microsoft Office is already installed on your system. Microsoft Office is packed with features that can help you stay on top of things and get the job done.

Here is a useful tip:

Benefit From Outlook’s Weather Bar

When you navigate to the Calendar sections of Outlook 2016 you’ll notice a small strip above the calendar view with a weather bar. This Weather Bar gives you a two-day weather forecast that can help with planning travel arrangements and events.

It’s a handy way to keep track of the weather in your area or some other location. (Perhaps you’re planning a little trip to a sunny destination down south in the near future… for a business meeting of course!).

Just click on the arrow beside the location to search for a place you’d like to keep an eye on.  Click on Add Location and then enter your search terms. The Weather Bar can save up to five different locations for you, and you can switch between those locations by selecting from the drop down menu.

If you prefer your temperatures in Celsius or Fahrenheit, you can make that choice through the calendar options.

Go to FILE > OPTIONS > CALENDAR and scroll down to the bottom to pick whichever is your preference.

Our JN Software training courses are designed to help you unleash the power of whichever applications you need to use. We can provide the training to enable you to maximize your efficiency with Excel or Word or any other parts of the Microsoft Office suite.

Click here to learn more about our Outlook training services.

Contact us at (416) 264-6247 or info@jnsoftware.ca to learn more about additional Outlook training courses.

December 2017: Your Success Through Our Expertise

Software Consulting in Addition to Training Courses


Training has many benefits for your staff as they acquire new skills and grow to appreciate how much you, as their employer, care about their happiness and job satisfaction. However, at JN Software we recognize that training isn’t always the best solution for your needs.

If your team lacks the time and/or the skill set to complete a task, look to us to complement your talents and resources. Whether your project is large or small, JN Software has the experienced and skilled consultants necessary to complete the job on budget, on time, and in style. The skill and experience of our consultants means your project will be completed quickly, efficiently, and economically. From planning and design to development and deployment, we will guide you smoothly through the whole process.

We can provide consulting services in addition to any of the training courses we offer, so that you can complete your projects no matter how great or small your resources may be.

At JN Software our process is to:

Step 1 - Identify your needsStep 2 - Develop a plan
checkmarkStep 3 - Complete your projectStep 4 – Follow-up support as needed

We have provided excellent consultation based on the courses we teach, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe products, and on our clients’ custom software.

Click here to take a look at some of the projects we have worked on.

Contact us for a free consultation to discover the best solution for your organization.

MS Project – The Critical Path

Is it really that critical?
What is it?
How do I display it?

Every task is important, but only some of them are critical. The critical path is a chain of linked tasks or deadlines that directly affects the project finish date. If any task on the critical path is late, the whole project is late.

The Gantt Chart view will likely be your most used view for showing the critical path.

Click View > Gantt Chart.

Click Format, and then select the Critical Tasks check box. Tasks on the critical path now have red Gantt bars.

Show The Critical Path In Other Task Views

You can see the critical path in any task view by highlighting it.

Click the View tab, and then pick a view from the Task Views group.

Staying on the View tab, select Critical from the Highlight list.
The critical path shows up in yellow.

To see only the tasks on the critical path, click the Filter arrow, then pick Critical.

Tip:  In a Network Diagram, tasks on the critical path automatically show up in red. No highlighting is needed.



Click here for more information on our Microsoft Project training services.

Contact us to help you get the most out of your Microsoft Project training.

Add Favourite Buttons to your Quick Access Toolbar

If you work in the type of office where you can’t install your own favourite productivity software due to strict IT policies, then it’s likely that Microsoft Office is already installed on your system. Microsoft Office is packed with features that can help you stay on top of things and get the job done.

Here is a useful tip:

Add Items from the Ribbon to the Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar is designed to put the tools you use most often at your fingertips. You can add or remove tools from this QAT in a number of ways. In past newsletters we’ve shown one or two ways to do it. Here’s another:

This is our Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) at the start…



 Right-click on any command on the Ribbon. The top option allows you to send this item to the QAT.

In this screenshot we’ve gone to the “Insert” tab along the ribbon and then right-clicked with our mouse on the “Table” command. The menu that appears allows you to ‘Add to Quick Access Toolbar’

Once you’ve done that the command will be available to you on your QAT no matter which ribbon tab you’re currently working with.

If you’d like to remove it again simply right-click on that command in the QAT and the option to remove is available.

Our JN Software training courses are designed to help you unleash the power of whichever applications you need to use. We can provide the training to enable you to maximise your efficiency with Excel or Word or any other parts of the Microsoft Office suite.

Click here for more information on customizing your training and choosing just the right courseware for you.

Contact us for help customizing your training session.

November 2017 Newsletter: What’s the Ideal Size for a Group Software Training Session? 

When our clients book classes, we often get the question, “What is the optimal classroom size?”

The answer can depend on a number of factors, one of them being the desired outcome.

Many times our clients are so enthusiastic about the upcoming training session that they squeeze in as many participants as they can find. That kind of enthusiasm is wonderful to see, but it can come at a price. For technical training especially, you can lose a lot of time in class for each additional person.

Generally, several will ask questions, and again that is wonderful to see. It means the participants are engaged and actively thinking about what they’re learning. However, if you have a class that was designed for six to eight students, and then an extra six attend and ask additional questions, you can lose lots of training time. Each question may take 10 minutes to ask and answer; that could mean the facilitator now has 60 minutes less time to cover the material. Something will have to be sacrificed for that to happen. The cost may be less depth in the topics, less time for hands-on practice, or a generally rushed and unsatisfying feel to the class.

Additionally, with software training, it’s very common that everyone is at a different level of experience. So, a larger class means a greater disparity in skill levels, leaving some feeling that they’re lagging behind, while others feel disengaged as they wait for the less experienced to catch up. It reduces the ability to customize the course and adapt to the needs of each student. Generally, it’s better for students to have plenty of time to practice what they’re learning; this can be done more effectively with smaller groups.


We would recommend ideally around 6 students per class, but we will allow up to 10 or 12, or indeed, whatever the client desires. We’re happy to work with you to achieve the best possible outcome.


Click here to learn what makes our group training so unique & cost effective.

Contact us about your training needs and your desired training outcome, and we can help you decide the optimal class size for your particular circumstances.

The Top 5 Underused Features in Excel

1. VLookups

The VLOOKUP function performs a vertical lookup by searching for a value in the first column of a table and returning the value in the same row in the index_number position.

The VLOOKUP function is a built-in function in Excel that is categorized as a Lookup/Reference Function. It can be used as a worksheet function (WS) in Excel. As a worksheet function, the VLOOKUP function can be entered as part of a formula in a cell of a worksheet.

The VLOOKUP function is actually quite easy to use once you understand how it works! If you want to follow along with this tutorial, download the example spreadsheet.

Let’s explore how to use VLOOKUP as a worksheet function in Microsoft Excel.

Based on the Excel spreadsheet above, the following VLOOKUP examples would return:

2. Pivot Tables

  1. Open the worksheet that contains the table you want summarized by pivot table and select any cell in the table.Ensure that the table has no blank rows or columns and that each column has a header.
  2. Click the PivotTable button in the Tables group on the Insert tab.Click the top portion of the button; if you click the arrow, click PivotTable in the drop-down menu. Excel opens the Create PivotTable dialog box and selects all the table data, as indicated by a marquee around the cell range.
  3. If necessary, adjust the range in the Table/Range text box under the Select a Table or Range option button.If the data source for your pivot table is an external database table created with a separate program, such as Access, click the Use an External Data Source option button, click the Choose Connection button, and then click the name of the connection in the Existing Connections dialog box.
  4. Select the location for the pivot table.By default, Excel builds the pivot table on a new worksheet it adds to the workbook. If you want the pivot table to appear on the same worksheet, click the Existing Worksheet option button and then indicate the location of the first cell of the new table in the Location text box.
    Indicate the data source and pivot table location in the Create PivotTable dialog box.
  5. Click OK.Excel adds a blank grid for the new pivot table and displays a PivotTable Field List task pane on the right side of the worksheet area. The PivotTable Field List task pane is divided into two areas: the Choose Fields to Add to Report list box, with the names of all the fields in the source data for the pivot table and an area divided into four drop zones (Report Filter, Column Labels, Row Labels, and Values) at the bottom.

    New pivot table displaying the blank table grid and the PivotTable Field List task pane.
  6. To complete the pivot table, assign the fields in the PivotTable Field List task pane to the various parts of the table. You do this by dragging a field name from the Choose Fields to Add to Report list box and dropping it in one of the 4 areas of the Layout section using the mouse. Alternatively, click and hold the field name in the Field section, and then drag it to an area in the Layout section – this will remove the field from the current area in the Layout section and place it in the new area.

3. Conditional Formatting

To truly leverage the capabilities of conditional format in Excel, you have to learn how to create various rule types. This will help you make sense of whatever project you are currently working on.

Conditional formatting rules in Excel define 2 key things:

  • What cells the conditional formatting should be applied to, and
  • Which conditions should be met?

We are showing you how to apply conditional formatting in Excel 2010 because this seems to be the most popular version these days. However, the options are essentially the same in Excel 2007 and 2013, so you won’t have any problems with following these instructions, no matter which version is installed on your computer.

  1. In your Excel spreadsheet, select the cells you want to format.For this example, we’ve created a small table listing the monthly crude oil prices. What we want is to highlight every drop in price, i.e. all cells with negative numbers in the Change column, so we select the cells C2:C9.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Styles group and click Conditional Formatting. You will see a number of different formatting rules, including data bars, color scales and icon sets.
  3. Since we need to apply conditional formatting only to the numbers less than 0, we choose Highlight Cells Rules > Less Than…
  4. Of course, you can go ahead with any other rule type that is more appropriate for your data, such as:
    • Format values greater than, less than or equal to
    • Highlight text containing specified words or characters
    • Highlight duplicates
    • Format specific dates
  5. Enter the value in the box on the right-hand part of the window under “Format cells that are LESS THAN“; in our case we type 0. As soon as you have entered the value, Microsoft Excel will highlight the cells in the selected range that meet your condition.Select the format you want from the drop-down list. You can choose one of the pre-defined formats or click Custom Format… to set up your own formatting.
  6. In the Format Cells window, switch between the Font, Border and Fill tabs to choose the font style, border style and background color, respectively. On the Font and Fill tabs, you will immediately see a preview of your custom format.
  7. When done, click the OK button at the bottom of the window.


4. Data Validation – Drop-down Boxes

Creating drop-down lists with comma-separated values

This is the fastest 3-step way to create a drop-down box in all versions of Excel 2013, 2010, 2007 and 2003.

  1. Select a cell or range for your drop-down list.
    You start by selecting a cell or cells where you want a drop-down box to appear. This can be a single cell, a range of cells or the entire column. If you select the whole column, a drop-down menu will be created in each cell of that column, which is a real time-saver, for example, when you are creating a questionnaire.
    You can even select non-contiguous cells by pressing and holding the Ctrl key while selecting the cells with the mouse.
  2. Use Excel Data Validation to create a drop-down list.On the Excel ribbon, go to the Data tab > Data Tools group and click Data Validation.
  3. Enter the list items and choose the options.In the Data Validation window, on the Settings tab, do the following:
    • In the Allow box, select List.
    • In the Source box, type the items you want to appear in your drop-down menu separated by a comma (with or without spaces).
    • Make sure the In-cell drop-down box is checked.
    • Optionally, select Ignore blanks if you want to allow your users to leave the cell empty.
    • Click OK and you are done!

Now, Excel users simply click an arrow next to a cell containing a drop-down box, and then select the entry they want from the drop-down menu.

Your drop-down box is ready in under a minute. However, this is not the best way to create an Excel drop-down list, especially if you want the same list to appear in multiple cells, and here’s why…

If you want to edit your Excel drop-down list at some point in the future, you would have to change every cell that references the Data Validation list. This may not be a big deal if you have just a few such cells residing on the same sheet, but if you have dozens or hundreds scattered across different worksheets, it may take quite a while to locate and edit them all. Anyway, if you decide to stick with this easiest approach, see the detailed guidance on how to edit a comma-separated drop-down list.


5. Using the Fx button to determine which formula to use in Excel

It’s not always easy to figure out which formula to use in Excel; however, there is a feature that will help you determine the right formula. The FX button in Excel 2007/2010 is a very easy to use, effective search tool to find functions in Excel.

There may be situations where you don’t know the exact function to use, but if you know some keywords associated with the task you are trying to perform, then follow the below steps to find out if a relevant Function exists.

  1. Go to the Formulas ribbon and click on the Fx insert function button.
  2. The Insert Function wizard will open.
  3. Under the Search for a function text box, type the keyword you want to search.
  4. If you know the category, select it from the drop-down, or else select All in that.
  5. Press on Go, which will result in a list of functions under Select a function.

Tip: This is also a very handy tool if you come across a function in a spreadsheet which you are unsure of. Simply click the Fx button and it will tell you what the function does, and even break up the individual arguments it is taking in its present usage.

Click here for more information on customizing your training and choosing just the right courseware for you.

Contact us to help you organize and customize your training to get the most from Excel’s most underused features.

October 2017 Newsletter: The Benefits of Customizing your Courseware with JN Software


We all work differently, and sometimes the courseware that is perfect for someone else just doesn’t seem to work so well for us.
We here at JN Software are big proponents of all types of training and aim to be as flexible as possible in providing just what’s needed for everybody to benefit.



Consider just some of the ways you can tailor or customize your course:

Share details about your training needs so we can tailor your class

Discuss your needs with one of our training coordinators


Select the objectives you would like to focus on

Select objectives from any of our courses to create a custom outline

Submit files you would like to learn how to use during the class

Order custom manuals

Here are some of our Courseware Materials you can choose from:

PDF. Take the manual anywhere and save the environment with an electronic copy of your training manual for use on any of your computers or devices

Printed Manual. Purchase a printed paper manual for use during your class and for future reference

Quick Reference Cards. Add reference cards to your session and receive durable, full-color reference cards with helpful hints and tips for use after your course is completed

Standard Manuals. Your manual will follow a standard course outline, but your class can still be tailored to focus on the subjects most important to you

Custom Manual. Purchase the customization option and receive a custom manual with objectives you’ve selected from our different courses

Video Library. Sign up to our video library subscription and review an extensive selection of training videos to refresh your memory

Customizing your courseware is just one way you can tailor your software training to suit just what you need.

Click here for more information on customizing your training and choosing just the right courseware for you.

Contact us for help customizing your training session.