CIS 314: Advanced Software Solutions

Lesson 1: Integrating Information


This course begins by reviewing the common features in Microsoft Office applications that promote sharing data from one application to another. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Sharing data between programs
  2. Advantages of a common user interface
  3. Common editing functions
  4. Common text formatting tools

One purpose of this course is to get some practice with sharing data from one Microsoft application to another. Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint are commonly found in Professional versions of Microsoft Office. When we have data in a file created with one of these applications and we share it to a file created with another, we are using data integration, the ability to share data this way.

Sharing data can be done several ways. Before we discuss them, some basic terminology will help. Consider two document files. If the data we need is in the first file, and we want it in the second file as well, we can call the first file the source file, and call the second file the destination file. This terminology should be familiar to you from copying exercises.

  • Copy and paste - A procedure that makes a copy of source material, and places that copy in a destination. The original material continues to exist in the source. This can be done several ways, using the keyboard, menus, and/or the mouse.
  • Drag and drop - A Graphic User Interface (GUI) procedure that can work like a copy and paste, or like a cut and paste, depending on how it is done. The difference is that a cut and paste procedure does not leave the source material in the source location. A drag and drop procedure is always done with a mouse, or other pointing device, and may involve a key press as well.
  • Linked and embedded objects - Think of objects as being data structures, like tables or charts.
    • A linked object exists in two places, a source and a destination. The trick is that if the source is changed, the destination copy of it will be updated as well. Maybe. The problem is that the source and destination need to be able to talk to each other. This is easy if both files are on the same hard drive. It is more difficult, but possible, if they are in a shared space on a network. It is impossible if they are on two different computers that are not connected.
    • An embedded object is not linked to the source file it was copied from. Updates to the source object do not affect the embedded object. However, the embedded object can be edited with a copy of the application that made the source object.

Microsoft Office applications all allow you to copy and paste, drag and drop, and link and embed objects. They use common commands for these procedures, such as CTRL-C to copy, CTRL-X to cut, and CTRL-V to paste. They also use common procedures to import and insert information from other files (text or graphic), and to create hypertext links to other files on your network or the Internet. Having a common interface from one application to another allows the user to learn one set of skills that can be used in all the applications.

Microsoft applications also use a common set of keyboard-based formatting commands. For example, highlighted text can be made bold by pressing CTRL-B, italic by pressing CTRL-I, or underlined by pressing CTRL-U. Text can be aligned by clicking the desired alignment icon in any of the applications. Again, it is only necessary to learn the set of command or icons in one application in order to know how to use them in another application. The menu commands for formatting vary a bit.

Note the minor differences between the Word format menu and the PowerPoint format menu below.

The Excel format menu shows very different choices, relating to formatting the the spreadsheet as opposed to formatting the text in it.

When you make use of shared data, you will want to start by opening your source and destination documents in their respective applications. For instance, you might open a document in Word and a spreadsheet in Excel. Windows beginners sometimes forget that they can multitask this way, running two applications at once. Other users forget that there is a limit to multitasking on any computer, which you will find if you open too many applications (or files) and cannot get the computer to do anything with any of them.

It is helpful to be able to switch quickly and smoothly from one window to the other. Be aware that you can press ALT-TAB to move from one open window to the next. Continuing to press this key combination continues to move to the next open window. (As a matter of practical usage, hold the ALT key down with your left thumb, and tap the TAB key as many times as you need to move to the window you want to work in. Release the ALT key and you are done. It is also possible to move from one window to another by clicking the desired window's associated program button on the status bar. Some people are clickers, and others are typers. Both methods work fine.

With both files open, use the processes described above to copy and paste or drag and drop from one to the other.