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Save Strokes – Use Your Voice to Type

We heard through Northwest District Director Mike Hanson that a few of his agents are using voice-to-type when creating Microsoft Word docs and that it has been a time saver for them.

“It is really simple to set up, to get it right, you need to do some voice training with it. Without that you end up with some funny words popping up. Once you set it up, you can activate the talk to text. You can even have it start on start-up. Then, just open Word (or any other program) turn it on and away it will type.”

- Amelia Doll, 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent - Burleigh County

Amelia wearing a headset
Amelia in action
Amelia said she got started with the Text-to-Speech Recognition tutorial from Microsoft. I tested it out and the tutorial was hands-on and took about 30 minutes to complete. A microphone is necessary but I was able to successfully compose, edit and delete text in a Word document. The tutorial also includes instruction on how to controls Windows, such as starting programs, switching between windows, clicking on buttons and more.

This option is also available in Google Docs, but you must use the Chrome browser.

Text-to speech could be helpful if you’re a slow typist or “write” better by speaking than actual writing. It could also save hundreds of movements in your arms, wrist and fingers.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-6403

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Write the Right Word: Numbers or Words?

Do you know when to use a numeral and when to use words to indicate a number?

The rule of thumb is that you spell out whole numbers below 10. So you would say, “The veterinarian treated 15 dogs, 10 cats, three hamsters and two parakeets.”

Here are some other general rules:

  • Use figures for measurements: “The recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, ½ cup of flour and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon.” Or this: “Plant the seeds 3 inches deep and keep the rows 2 feet apart.” “He weighed 10 pounds, 3 ounces.”
  • Always use figures for ages: “The car is 3 years old.” “The girl is 5 years old.” “The boy has a 10-year-old sister and a 4-year-old brother.” Note the hyphens in the third sentence. The 10-year-old and 4-year-old are hyphenated because each three-word grouping forms a compound modifier.
  • Spell out numerals at the beginning of sentences: “Twenty-five students were signed up for the class.” Better yet, rewrite the sentence so the number isn’t at the start of the sentence. “This spring, 25 students signed up for the class.” The exception to this rule is years. “2016 started slowly for the construction industry.”
  • Use figures for percents: “Raises ranged from 2 to 5 percent.” “Only 1.5 percent of the crop was harvested.”
  • Miles can be tricky. Use figures for amounts under 10 in dimensions and speeds: “The farm measures 5 miles by 4 miles.” “The driver kept his speed at 55 mph the entire trip.” Spell out numbers below 10 in distances. “She walked four miles a day.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Collaborative Calendars

An agent called to ask if there is an online calendar that people from several agencies in her county could add events to and would be posted on a city website. The website doesn’t have a built-in calendar and the administrator is only part-time.

Google Apps

Google Calendar
When Bob and I get requests for online tools to help people in their work, we always start with the resources we already have. I tried testing out Google calendar, but NDSU doesn’t allow the calendar functionality in our accounts so you would have to use a personal Google (Gmail) account to manage this. Not everyone has a personal Google account, so you would need to sign up for one.

In the example below, you can see that options like Calendar and Google+ are available in my personal Google account, but not through my NDSU Google account.
NDSU Google vs. personal Google accounts

(If you want to check out all the options available to you in any Google account, just to to the upper right on your screen and click on the 9 boxes, which means “Menu”).
Google menu

Google Docs or Sheets (Documents or Spreadsheets)
A county administrative assistant said she uses Google Docs as a collaborative calendar. There’s a Template Gallery with many styles and formats to choose from that gets you started quickly. I mocked up what she did using a Doc for a calendar. Test adding an event on a Google Doc here
While this option works well for that county, at the end of the day it is just a Doc and is missing some functions of a calendar. You only have one small line in a Doc to get all your information in. There’s no option to add repeat events and you can’t insert any images or files that might go along with the event.

Microsoft Office Calendar

One agent suggested using Microsoft Outlook calendar. I tested this out by going to Office 365, creating a new calendar and sharing. The problem is, you must have a Microsoft login to edit the calendar. Not everyone has one of these accounts: (formerly Hotmail), Skype, Xbox or OneDrive, so you would be required to sign up for one.


I reviewed and tested several online collaborative calendars. I like TeamUp because there’s no login required, it’s free and easy to use. It’s also available in the App Store. I did a test calendar on the Ag CMS site. Go there to enter a test event.

It’s easy to add an event and there are templates available that make it easy to get started. You can have repeat events and add images or files or a map to the location.

TeamUp add event screenshot


When you're done creating the event, you can share via email, social media or link. People can add events to their personal calendars.

TeamUp Share options

Next Steps

If the agent finds this solution will work, she can create the calendar and share with all those in her county who will be contributing to it. She can ask the city’s webmaster to embed it on the website like I did with my test calendar on the Ag CMS site. Hopefully this will make it easier on the part-time webmaster who has been managing getting events online and easier for people to quickly and easily add an event, and keep their community informed with this easy to use and access collaborative calendar.

If you need help with collaborative calendar options, please contact me.

, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-6403

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New Accessories for the Camera You Carry Everywhere

Smartphone Tripod AdaptorSmartLav MicAg Communication has new smartphone accessories available for checkout that will help you record professional-looking videos with that powerful video camera you sometimes use to make phone calls.

The new SmartLav microphones with extension cables can provide broadcast-quality audio to your smartphone or tablet.

Ag Comm also has two new wireless microphone systems available for checkout. Although these don’t work with your smartphone, they will work with camcorders and provide excellent sound quality while giving you and/or your subject the freedom to move around during the recording. The two options are the AZDEN system and Sennheiser system.

Lastly, there are smartphone holders and adapters to connect your phone to a tripod to eliminate shaky video and give your video that higher quality look.

Contact Scott with questions about any of this equipment or Elizabeth to reserve it.

, Electronic Media Specialist, 701-231-7086; , Administrative Assistant, 701-231-7881

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Using a Projector with Windows 7

Especially around conference time we often get asked how to use Windows with a projector. Most often, this question arises when someone is attempting to give a presentation but cannot get it to display from the projector. The reason is that Windows does not realize you want to use an additional display device other than your notebook screen.

To fix this, first make sure the video cable from your computer to the projector is inserted firmly on both ends and that the projector is turned on.

Next, bring up Windows’ display options by pressing the Windows key (located between the left Ctrl and Alt keys) and the P key at the same time. In the screen that appears, you will have four options: Computer Only, Duplicate, Extend and Projector only.

display optionsIn most cases, we recommend you select Duplicate. This will show the same presentation on both the notebook computer and the projector. However, if you wish to use PowerPoint to display on the projector while utilizing its presenter tools on the computer, you’d want to select Extend instead.

Once you’ve decided on the option you need, left click to select it. Give the computer a few seconds to make the adjustments; you may see your screen flash or flicker. Now you should see your image start to appear from the projector. If the projector has been on but not displaying an image previously, it could take a few moments for the bulb to warm up and the image to become bright.

For additional information, Microsoft has an instructional page that provides a brief tutorial video on this process. Due to their use of Silverlight (the Microsoft alternative to Adobe Flash), the page may be best viewed using Internet Explorer.

Jerry Ranum, Jon Fry and Blair Johnson, Desktop Support Specialists; ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685

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Ag Communication Infographics Webinar Available

Infographics were the focus of the monthly Agriculture Communication webinar on March 16, 2016. Dave Haasser and Kelli Armbruster teamed up to share information about how using infographics can help your target audience notice and better understand your information.

Dave taught participants graphic design concepts to remember when creating infographics, and Kelli demonstrated three online programs (Canva, Piktochart and to make infographic creation simple and professional.  

Want to know more about using and creating infographics but didn’t get a chance to watch? The infographics webinar is available to watch online.

, Graphic Designer, 701-231-8620; , Information Specialist, 701-231-6136

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Link to Another Website in Ag CMS

During the Ag CMS preconference training for Support Staff Conference, someone asked how to add a link to the Spring Fever webinars on their website.

Rather than making your own Spring Fever page with a link to the state site, you can link directly to the site by using the Add New>Link item type in Ag CMS. There's no need to re-create information that already exists. In fact, it can reduce your online searchability if you duplicate content that's already out there. Plus, why do all that work when it's already been done? If it's already online, link to it unless there's a compelling reason you need to localize it. 

There may be some instances where you want to make your own page to personalize and then link out to the main site. For instance, counties that do Nourishing Boomers programming add specific information about their meetings and contacts but link out to the main site for educational content. The Barnes County Boomers page is an example.

Other examples include:
Morton County website links directly to the Farm Management website
Extension website links directly to the Extension YouTube channel (“videos”)
Plant Sciences links directly to the Foundation Seed Stocks website

Linking to another website is more direct for the audience to reach and many times there’s no need to create your own page when you can link directly to information that’s already online.

If you have questions about how to add a direct link to your website, please contact me.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-6403

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New Portable Wireless PA System Available

Ag Communication recently acquired a new smaller and more portableWireless PA System
wireless PA system. The rechargeable PA speaker is less than 12 inches
tall and comes in a small carrying bag that includes two wireless lapel
mics, two wireless headset mics, a wall charger and a car cigarette lighter cable for charging on the go. 

For more information see the Equipment Checkout page.

, Administrative Assistant / Conference Coordinator, 701-231-7881

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Write the Right Word: Accept or Except

“Accept” and “except” are another case of two words that sound the same but don’t mean the same thing and can’t be used interchangeably.

Accept means to receive. For example, “I accept the nomination to run for treasurer.” It also can mean to understand or believe, and agree or consent to something. “I accept that I am not able to run as fast as I once did.” “I accept this agreement because it will settle our dispute.”

Except means to exclude or not count. For example, “I picked up everything from my desk except the vase of flowers.” It also can mean otherwise or but. “The dike is solid except for a 5-foot section near the left side of the house.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Associated Press -- and Ag Comm -- Update Some Styles

Ag Communication in general follows the "Associated Press Stylebook" for news releases and publications. Since the general mass media want articles written in AP style, Ag Comm provides our news releases to them in that format. That's why we use sugar beet as two words, no Ph.D. or Dr., email without the hyphen and no comma before the conjunction (usually "and") in a simple series.

AP continually is updating its style, and here are a few we'll all have to remember:AP logo

internet -- no longer capitalized

oil field -- two words

voicemail -- one word

telephone numbers -- with hyphens rather than parentheses: 701-231-7875

web -- no longer capitalized

, Ag Communication Director, 701-231-7875

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