Insert Special Characters into Google Sheets Using Google Docs

In the days of yore, one was able to insert special characters into a Google Spreadsheet.  However, after the 2014 refresh, this handy feature was taken away from us.  For whatever reason, Google decided that people using spreadsheets would not need the ability to insert special characters.  How dare they!

It seems to me this was not the best decision.  If Google wants to make inroads into the business spreadsheet market, where Excel is the unquestioned champion, it should be catering to the professions that use spreadsheets the most.  Accountants, yes you know one or two of them, are very heavy spreadsheet users.  Any decent size company employs at least one of them and they use spreadsheet day in and day out.  

Many of these accountants have a pedigree of Public Accounting where they are taught to use “tickmarks” to their workpapers.  These tickmarks are essentially symbols and they can’t be easily replaced with regular characters.  Thus, Google has made their product markedly less useful to accountants in public practice which is where millions of accountants work after college graduation, for at least a while, and thus start to develop their business software preferences and prejudices.

However, if you want special characters and you don’t want to stop using Google Sheets, I have finally found a work around, albeit one of limited usefulness.  After searching Google for the umpteenth time for this, I finally found an answer buried in a reply to a Google+ post.  It is basically this:

  • Open your spreadsheet
  • Open a Google Document (Google’s word processor)
    • Select Insert -> Special Characters
        • Yes, low and behold, this menu item does still exist.  It is just in Docs and not in Sheets.

      Video explanation

      docs insert special characters menu

    • Copy the special characters that you inserted in Docs
    • Paste them into Sheets
    • Viola!

Acrobat – How to use letterhead on different pages

I was recently creating a pdf document that required electronic letterhead to be applied to multiple pages.  Acrobat Pro has this ability, but in a limited implementation.  As the watermark (aka letterhead in this case) function stands in Acrobat Pro 11, it can be only applied to one page or a range of pages at a time.  

This work well in most cases.  However, I needed it to be applied to multiple pages that were not in a range.  This cannot be done in a clean and easy manner.   However, there are several workarounds that can help you to solve this problem.

  • Use the insert background image function.  Next to the insert watermark function is the ability to insert a background image.  As far as I can tell, this is the same process as the watermark with the same options.  Therefore, if you need a watermark on page 2 and 10, you can create page 2 as a watermark and page 10 as a background image.
  • Put the pages in a row that need watermarks.  Go to the page thumbnail view, drag and drop them in the order that you need, apply the watermark, then put the pages back into the original order.
  • Use the watermark function multiple times.  This may be the easiest option.  The only downside may be that you feel less victorious and creative for coming up with a crafty work around.  All you do is insert a water mark on the first page or range where you need it.  Then, repeat on the next page or range.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Runkeeper – 4 things to improve with the mobile Android app

Oh Runkeeper , I love you so, but I need you to change your habits

Runkeeper has proved to be one of the most helpful pieces of software that I have ever used.  At its heart, it does what anyone interested in fitness wants – it motivates you to workout on a regular basis.  The ingenious way in which it is designed allows you to keep tabs on your friends which  keeps it interesting and helps to give it users a sense of accountability knowing that others are watching how often and how much they workout.

Runkeeper, for all of its strengths, still has some eccentricities that probably should be fixed by now.  For what it’s worth, I use if on a Galaxy S4 Active running a release of Android 4.  Here is a short list.

  • Manually entering an activity.
    • On some days, I just can’t get outside to workout.  As depressing as this it, Runkeeper adds a little injury to insult by not being smart about the equipment that it thinks I used.  If I got on a stationary bike on Tuesday, when I finish using an elliptical on Thursday, Runkeeper assumes that I used the elliptical while also somehow doing it on a stationary bike.  I think it would be safe for Runkeeper to assume that, while using the elliptical, I was not also using a stationary bike.  Runkeeper should be smart enough to not require me to select the piece of equipment that I used if it is obvious by which activity I choose.
  • Too easy to delete an activity
    • On more than one occasion, I have accidentally torched an activity before I saved it.  Imagine this scene, you complete a  wonderful run while you are on vacation.  The setting is idyllic – running through a seaside village, uphill the whole way,  people cheering you one, sea spray in your nostrils.  You can’t wait to look at the run on your PC when you get back on to receive some adoring comments from all of your friends that are vicariously exercising through you.  When you finish, you take your sweaty hand and fat finger the screen.  You scream in horror as you realize that you accidentally pressed yes when it is asking you if you are sure you want to delete.  “Noooooo!  How could this happen to me?!?  Life is not fair!!!  Wa ha ha.”  Runkeeper should offer an undelete function to help prevent this type of travesty.  Life, at least for this fictional character, would be a much better.
  • Elevation change exaggerated
    •  If you are a hill runner, one of your favorite stats is the coveted elevation change.  It is fun to use the “Graph” function on your phone to look back and see how many feet you climbed.  However, after completing a run with my Android phone, the elevation change will often be much great than the “actual” elevation change.  My guess is that this is from the GPS elevation readings varying slightly each time they are taken.  This could lead to changes adding up where there really aren’t any.  After posting these runs online, the elevation seems to get “smoothed” out, with a much smaller number.  Why can’t this processing be done on board the my mobile phone?  With the power of the mobile processors, it seems like this should be able to be bone.
  • Trail run setting
    • If you have ever been on a trail run in the hills, you know that it is significantly harder than running the same distance on the road.  The same is true for mountain biking vs. road cycling, although probably more pronounced on bike.  RunKeeper has the option to specify whether or not you went mountain biking or cycling, but you can’t do the same for running vs. trail running.  It would be nice to have a trail running option.  This would allow you to track speeds and frequencies for this variety of running as it is quite different than the road.