Techie Tip of the Week: Non-Destructive Photo Editing Using Photoshop Adjustment Layers

May 3rd, 2013

When you edit a photo in Photoshop using one of the image adjustment tools like Hue/Saturation or Brightness/Contrast, the image’s pixels are physically altered. This means that if you change the Hue, save, and then change the Hue again, the image’s quality will suffer.

What can you do to limit the damage? Use Photoshop’s Adjustment Layers instead. Adjustment Layers provide the exact same editing abilities as the standard image adjustments, but they allow you to edit non-destructively on your images.

To use Adjustment Layers:

  1. In Photoshop, choose Layer.
  2. Select New Adjustment Layer.
  3. Select the desired adjustment layer type (e.g., Hue/Saturation).


Techie Tip of the Week: PivotTable Basics

April 26th, 2013

PivotTables are used to organize and summarize data in numeric form. If you have a large Excel spreadsheet with lots of information stored in it, a PivotTable can make the data easier to comprehend and manage.


To create a PivotTable:

  1. Select a cell in your spreadsheet.
  2. In Excel 2007, 2010, or 2013, click Insert, and then click PivotTable.
    In Excel 2008 or 2011, click Data, and then click PivotTable.
  3. Select the range of data you wish to be included in your PivotTable. Then, choose where you wish the PivotTable to be displayed (a new Worksheet or an existing Worksheet). Click OK.
  4. Select the fields you wish to be included in your Pivot by dragging them to the Row, Column, and Values sections. Be sure to put numeric data in the Values. The Report Filter can be used as a way of further filtering out the data.


For example, from this spreadsheet (fake data taken from the Sample Human Resources Report found in ReportMart1):


the following PivotTable was created by dragging the Salary to Values, the Dept Name to Column, and the Range to Row:


And this PivotTable was created by dragging the Dept Name into Column, the Employee Number into Values (changing it from Sum to Count by clicking the i button), and Range and Job Title to Row:


Techie Tip of the Week: Place and Manipulate Objects in PowerPoint

April 19th, 2013
PowerPoint allows you great flexibility in terms of manipulating where objects (e.g., text boxes, pictures, and drawings) will appear on the screen. These tips will help you use the object and drawing functions more effectively.
  1. To align multiple objects so they line up precisely using the Drawing toolbar:
    1. Make sure that the Drawing toolbar is checked. Under View, select ToolbarsDrawing should have a check to the left.
    2. Hold down the shift key while selecting the objects you wish to align.
    3. In the Drawing toolbar, under Drawchoose Align/Distribute and select the desired Alignment/Distribution.
  2. To align objects using Snap To, Grids, andGuides:
    • In the Drawing toolbar, under Draw, selectGrid and Guidelines.
    • To display the grid, check the box Display grid on screen.
    • To snap objects to the grid, check the boxSnap objects to grid. Objects will now snap to the grid when they are moved around.
  3. To move an object very precisely, by “nudging” it:
    • Select the object you wish to “nudge”.
    • On your keyboard, use the arrow keys to move the object. Hold down the control key, if you want even more control. The object will move in increments of 0.02 inches!
  4. To connect two objects with a drawn line:

    • In the Drawing toolbar, underAutoShapes, select Connectors, and choose the desired connector.
    • Move the mouse to the first object until you see a blue dot. Click to create a connection point.
    • Drag the mouse to the second object to create a connecting line. Click when you see the blue dot on the second object. The two objects are now connected.
  5. To group multiple objects together:
    • Hold down the shift key while selecting the objects you wish to group.
    • In the Drawing toolbar, under Draw, choose Group. The objects are now grouped, and can be moved, resized, or otherwise manipulated together.
  6. To change the order of objects that are on top of one another:
    • Select the object whose order you want to change.
    • In the Drawing toolbar, under Draw, choose Order and then the desired order (e.g., Send Backward, or Bring to Front).
  7. To create a text box, under the Insert menu, choose Text Box.
  8. To modify an existing text box:
    1. To resize the text box, select the box and click and drag the dot in the middle of the border (sizing handles) to the desired size. Dragging the corner will resize both the height and width; holding down the Shift key while resizing will retain the ratio between the height and width.
    2. To modify the content of a text box, select the box’s border twice — the border will change from diagonal lines to dots. Once selected, you can modify the text box’s content:
      1. To change the font, under Format, choose Font. Select the desired font changes (font face, style, size, color, and/or effects) and click OK.
      2. To move a text box, click and drag the box to the desired location.
      3. To change text box’s format, double-click the border.
        • In the tab Color and Lines, you can change the text box’s Fill,Lines, and/or Arrows styles.
        • In the tab Size, you can change the text box’s size and rotation and scale (height and width).
        • In the tab Position, you can change the location of the text box in the slide.
        • In the tab Text Box, you can change the anchor point of the text (top/middle/bottom), as well as the internal margins of the text box.

Techie Tip of the Week: Watch the IT Services Tech Training Drupal Videos!

April 12th, 2013

Confused about what Drupal and other Content Management Systems are? Want clarification on how to update content on a Drupal site? Curious about how you can install a Drupal instance on the Stanford servers? IT Services Tech Training has the solution!

A few months ago, we put together a series of videos answering these questions — each is about 5 minutes long. Enjoy!


What is a CMS? –

What Is Drupal? (and why should my Stanford group use it?) –

Drupal at Stanford: Editing and Creating Content –

Drupal at Stanford – Installing –

Techie Tip of the Week: Installing Drupal or WordPress Themes on Stanford’s Web Servers

April 5th, 2013

If you’re using the Collaboration Tools Installer or manually installing a Drupal or WordPress site on Stanford’s AFS servers, you may have wondered how you can update existing or install new themes, since you can’t do so directly within the application.

Here’s how:

1) Download the theme to your Desktop.

2) Unzip the theme.

3) Open an SFTP program like SecureFX or Fetch, log in, and change the plugin directory for your Drupal or WP instance:

For Drupal:
The directory should be something like “/afs/ir/group/groupname/cgi-bin/drupaldirectory/sites/all/themes”  (substitute groupname for your real group name; drupaldirectory for your real Drupal directory name)

For WordPress:
The directory should be something like “/afs/ir/group/groupname/cgi-bin/wordpressdirectory/wp-content/themes” (substitute groupname for your real group name; wordpressdirectory for your real WP directory name)

4)  Activate/Enable the theme:

  • For Drupal:
    Launch a web browser and log into your Drupal site.
    Go to administer > site building > themes and then check the Enabled box next to the desired theme.
  • For WordPress:
    Launch a web browser and log into your WordPress site.
    Go to Appearance > Themes and then click Activate underneath to the desired theme.

Your new theme is now active on your site!

Techie Tip of the Week: Top 5 Home Wireless Networking Tips

March 29th, 2013

So, you bought a wireless router and hooked it up to your DSL or cable modem. But you’re not getting the connectivity you expected. What went wrong?

Here are the top 5 things you should check:

  1. Location of your wireless router. The higher you can place your router, the happier you’ll be. Wireless signals work best when there’s no interference with metal or other dense objects. If you place your router up high, away from the other objects in the room, the signal will go farther.
  2. Stay away from windows. Glass has a tendency to bounce wireless signals around, do placing your router near a window may cause the signal to quickly degrade and you’ll be unhappy with the result.
  3. Use repeaters or extra routers to send signals throughout the home. Wireless signals can’t travel through metal and have a hard time going through dense objects or glass. Using repeaters (which take the signal and repeat it) can help bring connectivity to locations that otherwise might be lost.
  4. Change the default channel. Your microwave oven, wireless telephone, or gaming console might be interfering with your router’s signal. Changing the frequency your router uses is a simple fix.
  5. Use security and a good password. Without using applying security to your network, you’re making your computers and other connected devices open to attack from hackers (not to mention neighbors seeking “free” Internet access). Be sure to set your router’s security and don’t just use the default passwords.

Techie Tip of the Week: 5 Alternatives to Google Reader

March 22nd, 2013

Recently, Google announced that they are discontinuing their free online RSS reader, Google Reader.

What to do? Here are 5 alternatives to meet your RSS needs:

  1. Did you like the version of Google Reader that existed when they launched the product back in 2005? If so, you’ll love The Old Reader. As they say on their website, “it’s just like the old Google Reader, only better”!
  2. Want a simple, clean interface displaying your favorite news articles in a simple, easy-to-view and easy-to-update reader? Skimr may be just what you need and want.
  3. Feedly is a great alternative to Google Reader that works on all platforms — Desktop, Tablet, and Phone. Try it out at: 
  4. Another great alternative that works on all platforms is Pulse. Try it out at:
  5. Most modern email programs also allow you to view and subscribe to RSS feeds:


Techie Tip of the Week: Installing WordPress Plugins on Stanford’s Web Servers

March 15th, 2013

Because the Stanford web servers require encryption using SFTP, and WordPress’s built-in method of installing and implementing a plug-in uses FTPS, you cannot install plugins from directly within WordPress.

Instead, you need to manually install the plugin.

Here’s what you need to do:

1) Download the plugin to your Desktop.

2) Unzip the plugin.

3) Open an SFTP program like SecureFX or Fetch, log in, and change the plugin directory for your WP instance:

The directory should be something like “/afs/ir/group/groupname/cgi-bin/wordpressdirectory/wp-content/plugins” (substitute groupname for your real group name; wordpressdirectory for your real WP directory name)

4) Drag the plugin folder from your Desktop to the Remote Site side of SecureFX/Fetch.

5) In WordPress, go to your Dashboard (

6) Click Plugins.

7) Locate the installed plugin and click Activate.

Your plugin is now activated!

Techie Tip of the Week: Creating Email Aliases Using the + Key

March 8th, 2013

Many email providers, including Stanford, Gmail, and Hotmail, allow you to use an email address by simply adding a + sign at the end of your username and then adding text before the @ symbol.

For example, if your email address is, you could use the alias

Regardless of the letters or numbers you put at the end of the + sign, the email will be sent to your Stanford email address (or Gmail or Hotmail, if you use those email providers).

So why would you use this?

Suppose you’re a professor in the Psychology department. You teach classes in psych1, psych2, and psych3. You could tell your students that your email address is:

  • for the students in Psych1
  • for the students in Psych2
  • for the students in Psych3

Then, using email filters (rules), you could divert email sent to to a folder or tag named psych1.

Or, you could use the email address when you sign up at banking sites, when you sign up for social media sites, etc.

Best part? You don’t need to sign up for anything to use this service — you can just go ahead and use it!

Techie Tip of the Week: Updating a WordPress Site via a Mobile Device

March 1st, 2013

Need to update your WordPress site but only have access to your phone or tablet? No problem! (Assuming you’ve configured your WordPress site to allow you to update via a mobile device, that is.)

Option A: Use the web browser

  • One option is to use the device’s browser and point it to your wp-admin login.
  • Note: this is the same method you’d use to update your site using a desktop/laptop computer. (e.g.,

Option B: Use the WordPress app

  1. Download and install the WordPress app. (Available in the App Store and Google Play).
  2. Configure your WordPress site to allow remote publishing via the XML-RPC method:
    1. Using a web browser, log into your WordPress site as an administrator.
    2. In the Dashboard, click Settings.
    3. In Settings, click Writing.

    4. In Writing, in Remote Publishing, check the XML-RPC box.

  3. In the WordPress app, log into your site. You can now update your posts, pages, and other content using the app!