Software Africa Newsletter – August 2020

Autodesk Tip ~ QuickBooks Tip ~ Online Business Tip ~ Excel Tip


Our co-director, Judith Taylor, returned home on Monday 17 August after six weeks in hospital and 10 days in rehab.  She tested positive for Covid-19 once.  It seems to have been a false positive, as all other tests before and since were negative.  She never had symptoms.  She was on a ventilator for a lung infection much of the time, and is still hoarse.  We expect that it will be weeks before she returns to work.  A big "Thank You" to all the friends and customers who have wished her well.  Thanks, WorldsView, for the lovely flowers.

Catherine Hall is still helping in Judith's absence, on weekdays 09:00 to 12:00.  She responds to your emails and - super-competently - does your quotes for Autodesk products and QuickBooks.  We are very fortunate to have her briefly while she is between jobs.  She managed project teams at RMB for 15 years before a shift in the corporate culture caused many people to leave, and is looking for the well-paying job she deserves.  If your company can afford a dedicated overachiever, grab her while she is available.

The Failure of Success

Who remembers the "Y2K Hoax"?  But was Y2K a "hoax"? Yes, it did turn out to be a minor problem, a damp squib, perhaps.  But was that a sign of failure, or actually success?  If one looks behind the scenes, we find that it was a major problem.  Because of memory limitations in early computers, years were coded as the last two digits only.  Which was fine until the year 2000 loomed.  Then the world was faced with legacy software that was likely to see 2000 as 1900. A massive worldwide effort ensued to check all software that used dates, and change to a four-digit year.

This was so successful that midnight going into 1 January 2000 passed with only isolated problems. According to The Guardian, many credit-card systems and cash points failed. Some customers received bills for 100 years’ interest while others were briefly rich for the same reason. Internationally, 15 nuclear reactors shut down; the oil pumping station in Yumurtalik failed, cutting off supplies to Istanbul; there were power cuts in Hawaii and government computers failed in China and Hong Kong. An unusually high number of babies were born with Down’s syndrome in nine UK hospitals because women in a high-risk category were not identified for testing.

What does this mean for us in 2020?  Governments, including ours, are being lambasted for overreacting to Covid-19 and harming the economy. Yet examples like Russia, Brazil and, worst in the world, the USA, show us the alternative.  We should not, as with Y2K, allow the very success of taking action to let us believe that inaction would have been a better choice.

Train Your People at Home During Lockdown

Many of your staff are working from home at present.  Could your company make this an opportunity instead of a drawback?

Employees are more valuable when they know Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access (the database), and Visual Basic automation.  We can train them online in person via the internet at times that suit your schedule.

At Software Africa we have a wealth of training material, tested and honed in in-person classes. Levels range from beginners through to programming. Now we train online, live via Zoom at times to suit you. It is actually better that way! The trainee can see the trainer's screen up close, instead of peering from the back of a room. The trainee can share their screen instead of the trainer having to wander around to look.

Join the new wave of online upskilling: email Rick.

On-Line Business Tip #41 – Put Your Knowledge on the Web

Are you a trainer or educator?  With lockdown, in-person classes are less than a good idea.

What else could you do?

How about putting your expertise on the internet?

Video conferencing is rapidly coming into the mainstream to allow work-from-home during the pandemic. You could schedule a live webinar and then use the recording as a course, or part of a course, to sell long thereafter. You need a camera, a microphone, and preferably loudspeakers. Most modern laptops have all three. Otherwise, buy a webcam and a good USB headset. As a third alternative, modern smartphones record excellent video: You just need a tripod and a bracket to hold the phone. This short (7:25) video by Rick will get you started on equipment and basic tools.

Once you have got your course together, you'll need to publish it.  Next issue we will start looking at alternatives for on-line schools.

As we mentioned above, on-line classes have some advantages over in-person training.  Particularly with Covid-19. You can run a live online webinar and record it.  Then you can resell the recording as a self-paced course.

The Return of ZWCAD?

The prices of products from Autodesk are tied to the US dollar.  With the rand at 17.35 to the dollar, you may be finding AutoCAD unaffordable. What about a cheaper alternative that is claimed to do everything that AutoCAD does, matches the menus, and reads and writes AutoCAD files?  Two-dimensional drawings, like AutoCAD How about a month's free trial to make sure it suits you?

email Rick for more information on ZWCAD.

Autodesk Developments

Auto-renew Subscriptions Retired on 7 August 2020

What’s changed:

  • On 7 August 2020, Autodesk stopped selling monthly and annual auto-renew subscriptions through resellers.
  • All previous auto-renew subscriptions are now annual renewable. The subscription end date remains the same.

How it impacts you, our customers:

  • If you were a monthly auto-renew customer, you should have got a renewal reminder for an annual term. If you cannot manage this, please email us for alternatives.

QuickBooks in the Cloud

With QuickBooks Online, your data is stored safely in the cloud and accessible from all your devices and anywhere with an internet connection.  You can allow your Accountant direct access –no more transferring of files.  Please email us for the current discount special offer, expiring soon.

Integrity Payroll Solutions

For us, this works better than Quick Payroll. Simple to set up and run, it starts from 5 employees and expands as your company grows. There is also an EPOS solution available. Please email us for more information.

Excel Tip #189 – Basic Coding 2: Excel Didn’t Record What I Did!

Say we have a long list of Telephone Numbers in various formats and punctuations, which we want to turn into a uniform format.

  A B C
1 First Name Last Name Phone
2 Moerhammer Ali 2771 8347583
3 Kerry Archer 2783 4162981
4 Nicole Barrett 27828948060
5 Barry Blignaut 082 3897823
6 Gary Boston 2783 6291249

Let’s record a macro in the file, to reformat one phone number and move one cell down.  We should then be able to run it repeatedly.

Do we record relative or absolute?



Correct: Relative. The macro will always run on the current cell and then move one cell down, not to a specific cell.

  1. To start click on the first data cell, C2.
  2. Save the file.
  3. Click on the tab "Developer" to display that ribbon, and make sure that the button Use Relative References is ON ("lit up").
  4. On the Developer ribbon, click the button Record Macro.
  5. The Record Macro dialog box will pop up.  Fill it in as follows:
    Macro Name: FixTel
    Shortcut key: Ctrl+Shift+P (press only Shift+P  – "Ctrl" is already there)
    Store macro in: This Workbook
    Description: Convert one telephone number to format NNN NNN NNNN. Move one cell down.
  6. Edit the current cell and change the phone number to read 071 834 7583 (replace the country code with "0", and add spaces where required). Enter it.
  7. Pressing Enter has put the cell selector on the next cell below, so we are already in the cell we want.
  8. Stop recording.
  9. Save the file – as a macro-enabled workbook (.xlsm).
  10. Having saved the file (and that is important!) let us now test our macro:
  11. We are in the correct cell already, so just press Ctrl+Shift+P:
  12. Oops!
      A B C
    1 First Name Last Name Phone
    2 Moerhammer Ali 071 834 7583
    3 Kerry Archer 071 834 7583
    4 Nicole Barrett 27828948060
    5 Barry Blignaut 082 3897823
    6 Gary Boston 2783 6291249
  13. Time for a little debugging!  But first, so that we don’t lose the second phone number, close the file without saving (important!) and open it again.

In the next edition, we will look at the macro you recorded and see why it does not work.

Finish Covid-19 Lockdown with a New Skill!

You can use this time to learn simple Excel macros. Do repetitive work in a flash, instead of repeating the same boring stuff manually. Save hours not working late, and spend more time with your family... Our Quick 'n Easy Turbo-Start Excel Macros course is now online.  To help you during lockdown, for a limited time you can get it at a 75%+discount!

Computius Say:

One benefit of Covid-19:  Parking at Sunninghill Hospital not only free, but plentiful.

Remember:  We can make your business run better by:

All the Best from the team!
Judith, Catherine, and Rick

Communication in Action cc trading as Software Africa
"Empowering African Business with standard and custom PC programs, databases, and templates using Microsoft technologies"
Reg. 2009/007863/23 ~ VAT No 4500104387 ~ 126 Kelvin Drive, Morningside Manor, Sandton, 2191 South Africa.
Tel: 011 802-6440 ~ Cell: 082 389-3482 ~ e-mail:

This entire newsletter is Copyright © 2020 Communication in Action cc t/a Software Africa. All rights reserved. Information may be reproduced in full context as long as credit is given.
Newsletter Index | < January 2015 | < January 2016 | < January 2017 | < January 2018 | < January 2019 | < February | < March | < April | < May | < June | < July | < August | < September | < October | < November | < December 20190 | < January 2020 | < February | < March | < April | < May | < June | < July |
Back to top | Updated 16 September 2020 | e-mail Webmaster.