Newsletter - October 2012


And now we are five in the office!  Thuli is back from maternity leave and Zinhle is proving a excellent young programmer.  Between us, we can offer to speak to you in English, Afrikaans, French (Willy) and Zulu (Thuli and Zinhle).  We have reached the 50% target for women in the company.  I think for the first time in about ten years.

QuickBooks Update

Our first 2013 sale was to Tertia of Elite Lawns and on doing the payment she commented "How cute!"  She's so happy with her new accounting solution!

We are able to take on your Excel data into QuickBooks by using our programmers to write macro solutions.  Unfortunately this takes time but does save you manual take-on time.  Please make sure you give us all the fields that you want and are clear on how they are to be treated.  This saves us time and you expense.

For more information, phone the team on 011 802-2685 / 6440.

dotPLOT Version 7009 with HotPlot 3.9.0 Released

If you already have the 32- and 64-bit-compatible dotPLOT, then your latest version is ready for installing. Go to  You can install it directly from the Internet, or download to install on multiple PCs.  This is a free upgrade for existing dot7000-series users.  To upgrade from the older dot6000 series costs only R3000 + VAT for the first copy, half price thereafter.

For this release Winston fixed a rather obscure but long-standing bug:  After the first hole, the symbol for "FILL" was not plotted in the profile if the layer description ended with "FILL$.", but "FILL.$" worked (you will recall that the $ sign is used to start and end bold text).

The first 64-bit PAINTLIB was included in this release.  PAINTLIB is a small separate program that gives you a colour PDF showing the actual colours specified by name in your PAINTLIB.ENG definition file, which is where you can change the named colours that dotPLOT uses.

Green Tip

There is a real concern around the quality of our water as the government has announced that Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) water will only be partially treated.  This will raise salinity levels in the Vaal and the Crocodile Rivers to unusable and unacceptable levels.  It is directly endangering our water supplies and impacting on communities who use the rivers for their water needs.  Government appears unaware of the threats that this action will produce to human health, water and food security.  In fact, people are not mentioned in the current documents, only the Gold Reef City Mining Museum.

This leaves the environmental NGOs and the affected communities to protest the situation.  Add your weight to these protests by writing to the newspaper and expressing your concerns.

The Program that Sounds like a Frog

That would be Revit from Autodesk!  Despite having a name sounding like the noise a frog makes, Autodesk® Revit® is in fact software specifically built for Building Information Modelling (BIM), helping building professionals design, build, and maintain higher-quality, more energy-efficient buildings. Autodesk Revit is now available from Software Africa as an application that combines the capabilities of Autodesk® Revit® Architecture, Autodesk® Revit® MEP, and Autodesk® Revit® Structure software, when you purchase the Building Design Suite Premium.  The Revit products are not available as standalone ones.

AutoCAD 2013 and Design Suites

Autodesk products have increased in price because of the slump of the Rand against the US$.  However, this has not been as severe as we previously thought. 

Please contact Judith or 011 802 2685 for more details or to set up an appointment to discuss your drawing office requirements.

How does licensing work?

This is a question that we have been asked a lot recently.  Customers wanting 6 licences expect a far lower price and are surprised when this is not the case.  They feel that if they have already bought a copy of the software, additional users should cost less.

In fact, with all software solutions, this is not the case, as they are buying a licence to use the software, not the software itself.  With large orders, we are certainly able to offer some discount and will do so to the best of our ability, although we do not receive a further discount from the distributors.  AutoCAD LT is one exception, as the 5 user pack is discounted at source by Autodesk.

Where a number of people require to use the AutoCAD range, network licences can be purchased.  A one user network licence allows one user on the software at a time.  As you add additional users on the network, then more people can work simultaneously.  We will strive to make sure that you maximise your investment through this mechanism.

With Accounting and CRM solutions, the licences are user bound, so you are obliged to have one licence for every user who must log in.  This is also true of Microsoft Office, but not of the server products, which work more like Autodesk products.

Compliancy and your product licences

Not only Autodesk, but every software supplier, is working with the Business Software Association to ensure compliancy.  In terms of all software products, they may not be sold by the company that bought them to anyone else.  The right of use is for the original purchaser only.  With operating systems, the product lives and dies with the PC or laptop on which it is loaded.  We can help all our customers with ensuring that they are compliant with their product licences.

Excel Tip #105 - The Formulas menu (II): Defined Names

Last time we started looking at Excel 2010's Ribbon, on the Formulas tab, in which we will study the Defined Names Group today.  This group is in the middle of the Formulas tab between the Function Library group and the Formula Auditing group.

Range names are not that well-known, but extremely useful in making formulas more obvious. Which is easier to understand to calculate your mortgage repayments, =PMT(B2/12,12*B3,B1,,1) or =PMT(Rate/12,12*Term,Principal,,1) ?

Here's how we achieve the latter: First, type in a series of headings. They may be column headings, or, as in the illustration below, row headings to the side of the cells that we want to name. Now select the headings, and the cells that you want to name. On the Formulas tab, in the Defined Names group, click Create from Selection. In the dialogue box that pops up, "Left column" will be selected. Click OK. You are now able to use the named cells in your formula.

In the example above, cell B1 will be named "Principal", B2 will be "Rate", and B3 "Term".  To demonstrate this, click on cell B1 and you will see the name "Principal" appear in the "Name Box" located above column A (containing "A1" in the picture).  You can also create names for individual cells by clicking on the cell and then typing the name the Name Box, then pressing Enter, though the above method is quicker and saves retyping.

On the right of the Name Box is a drop-down list Arrow. Click this to drop down a list of all the range names in the spreadsheet: Pick a name to go to that cell. This is very useful for navigating a large spreadsheet.

To use the named cells in a formula, it is easiest to name the cells first, as shown above, and then, while creating the formula, click on the cells as they are required. The names of the cells will then be used in the formula instead of the row and column references (B1, B2, etc.).

If you happen to enter a formula before the range names, you can get Excel to insert the names into the formula after-the-fact. Microsoft has hidden this option well, but here is what you do: First select the cells containing the formulas. Then, on the ribbon, in the Defined Names group, click the drop-down arrow next to Define Name, and from the drop-down list, select Apply Names. Click OK.

The Define Name option in the picture is another way to define individual range names.  The Name Manager button is useful to see (and, if you wish, change or add to) all the range names in the worksheet.  In the Name Manager and in Define Name you will notice that range names have a "scope", which is either the Workbook, or a specific sheet.  This allows you to have the same name on different sheets (best used with care).

Another interesting thing about range names in formulas is that the range names do not have to name individual cells. You can name a whole column or row, and use one cell in a formula.  Consider our free Fuel Consumption calculation spreadsheet (available by e-mailing with the subject "Please Send me the Excel Fuel Consumption Spreadsheet"). We have two columns headed "litres" and "Cost".  We named a block of several hundred cells underneath those headings with those names (using  Create from Selection as above). The "Rand/litre" column then contains, on every row, the formula =Cost/litres. Excel automatically uses cells on the same row in that formula.

Range names must start with a letter or underscore, and can contain letters, numbers, and underscores, but no spaces.  If you use Create from Selection, Excel will use underscores where you have spaces.  You can not use names that look like cell addresses, e.g. KEY1 (use Key_1 instead).  Excel respects the case (upper or lower) that you use, but ignores it in use (thus KEY_1, Key_1, and key_1 are the same cell).

Next time we will look at the "Formula Auditing" group, which merits a tip all of its own.

Computius Say:

Windows 8 is out!  So what?  You can be 87 versions ahead by running Windows 95.

Remember:  We can make your business run better by:

All the Best from the team!
Judith and Rick

Members, Communication in Action cc trading as Software Africa
"Empowering African Business with custom PC programs, databases, and templates using Microsoft technologies"
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