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Is it possible to learn Excel in just 30 minutes? What readers say about our newest guide

By Blog, Featured, News

Today I am pleased to announce the second edition of Excel Basics In 30 Minutes. Yes, it’s possible to quickly pick up the basics, and to that end the new guide concentrates on the features and skills which I believe will most benefit new users. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, and I am not making any guarantees that readers will be able to take over their companies’ accounting departments, but 30 minutes after starting, readers will hopefully have learned some core spreadsheet skills … and even a trick or two!

Don’t believe me? Then listen to what real readers have to say. There is already one review of the second edition from a Goodreads member. She said:

Nice guide to learning how to use Excel for most basic functions. As someone who only uses Excel occasionally, I found the tutorials to be easy to follow. Additionally the visual aids (images of what your screen should look like) were beneficial. It is an easy book to reference if you are having an issue with a particular Excel task.

This is a major update, not only because it covers the most recent versions of Excel (e.g., Excel 2013, Excel for Office 365, Excel Online, and Excel for Mac) but also because In 30 Minutes guides has commissioned a new interior design template. I think you’ll agree Rick Soldin has done a fantastic job. Starting with this guide, all In 30 Minutes books and ebooks will feature sharper images and a high-quality layout that’s easier to read, for the print version as well as the ebook:

Excel Basics in 30 Minutes iPad sample

In addition, for those users who don’t want to invest in an Office 365 subscription or a $100+ Office 2013 software package to learn how to use Excel, Excel Basics In 30 Minutes (2nd Edition) includes instructions for Google Sheets, Google’s free online spreadsheet program. Readers of the first edition who only wanted to dip their fingers into spreadsheets appreciated these extra sections, which make it possible to learn the basics of Excel without having to own a copy of Excel.

What else did readers like about the first edition? Here are some review excerpts gathered from Amazon and Goodreads:


It’s like a “Cliffnotes” book for Excel 101. It actually did take me 30 minutes to get through this – I may have had an edge because I use Excel at work so a complete newbie may need more time. But still, after 30 minutes you’ll know a good amount. To be efficient like that is a big plus to the author.


I have been out of the office environment for several years and now starting to use Excel again. This has been a great refresher course.

Another Thomas:

An excellent little guide. For those that already know their way around Excel, it’ll be a good refresher course. For those that don’t, it’s a clear, easy-to-follow handbook of time-saving and stress-avoiding skills in Excel. Definitely plan on passing it around the office. Best of all, it covers both Excel and Google Drive’s spreadsheet system. Given how many workplaces, groups, and individuals are migrating to Google’s cloud-based system, it was a welcome addition.


One thing I particularly liked about “Excel Basics in 30 minutes” is that it covers BOTH the MS Excel basics and the Google version basics. Explaining anything this intricate in 30 minutes is a challenge. (Can it be read in 30 minutes? Yes, I could do it, but I am not a typical user, I did not need to stop and practice the examples.) I was impressed that the book does go into some of the “meat” of Excel while still being a book that someone with NO previous exposure to a spreadsheet can grasp.

The chapters cover the following topics:

  • The basics: cells, functions, and formulas
  • Excel Ninja Skill #1: AutoFill
  • More basic Excel skills: percentages, pasting, and rows
  • Excel Ninja Skill #2: Charts
  • Sorting and filtering
  • Printing, PDFs, and import/export features

Excel Basics In 30 Minutes, 2nd EditionThe ebook version of Excel Basics In 30 Minutes (2nd edition) is available for the Kindle, iPad, Android devices, and the Nook. The black-and-white paperback edition can be ordered via Amazon or requested at libraries and bookstores — the ISBN is 978–1–939924–30–8. There is also a full-color PDF, which can be printed out or read on a screen.

How to remove a book from Google Play Books Partner Center

By Blog

If you publish ebooks for sale on Android, and decide to withdraw the title, here are instructions how to remove a book from Google Play Books Partner Center.

  1. Log into the Google Play Books Partner Center.
  2. Click on the link on the left side of the page that says Book Catalog
  3. You will be presented with a list of titles in your catalog. Click the title, or the cover of the book which you want to remove from sale.
  4. Choose the Summary tab
  5. Click the button at the bottom of the page that says Remove From Sale (see screenshot)
  6. You’ll see a message that says Book Processing, but the book will be removed from sale … unless you reactivate it (see below)
Remove a book from Google Play Books Partner Center

Google Play Books Partner Center interface

On the Summary tab, There is another button that says Deactivate Completely, which I believe that removes the record entirely — the book can’t be re-listed in the future unless you want to create a new record from scratch. If you think the book may be returning to sale in the future, stick with Remove From Sale. If you want to reactivate the title in the future, click the button on this page that says Enable for Google Play

Country preferences for Google Play Books Partner Center

In addition, if you only want to remove the title from sale in certain countries, but keep it “Live” in other countries, go to the Pricing tab and remove the countries in question.

If you want to see how to remove a title from iTunes, please read How to remove a book from sale in iTunes Connect

How to renew a Blogger custom domain through Google Apps

By Blog

Blogger, the blogging service offered by Google, used to have a really neat feature: The ability to reserve and pay for a custom domain through the Blogger interface to replace the default blogspot.com domain that Google provides. For reasons that are not clear, Google removed this feature in 2013. It’s still possible to get a custom domain, but users have to do it on their own through registrars such as GoDaddy or eNom and then point the domain to Google’s Blogger servers (if anyone is interested in setting up a simple business website using this method, consider Google Blogger For Small Businesses In 30 Minutes).

When Google turned off custom domains registration in Blogger, however, they didn’t think through an important process: How existing customers could renew their custom domains. Because customers never dealt directly with the registrars when they set up the domains, the renewal process is supposed to take place through Google Apps. This is a big problem, because many users never registered their Google Apps account or were never assigned an email address associated with their accounts. So, when the renewal email is sent to the backup email address, it’s not clear how to get into the Google Apps account to update billing information or perform other important functions. Fortunately, I found a partial solution for some users, which I will share below.

First, here’s what the renewal email looks like:

How to renew a Blogger custom domain through Google Apps

While my Dropbox guide is currently associated with a new URL, the old Blogger-based book website still gets a fair amount of traffic so I definitely wanted to renew the domain to prevent it from expiring. I clicked the button in the email, but was brought through a hellish runaround. I knew the default email address for the Blogger domains is bloggeradmin@domain.com, but no password combination worked to access it, and the only account recovery method the help screens said I could use involved changing the c name record at the registrar (eNom) so Google could verify that I owned the domain. But this was impossible, because I never dealt directly with eNom — all of the administration took place through the Blogger interface, and Google Wallet/Google Checkout.

Eventually, by following another set of help links, I was able to fill out a Google Apps help form that let me tell Google Apps what the problem was. Here’s what I wrote:

Subject: Unable to get into my Google Apps account which I registered as a Blogger custom domain

I received a warning via email (via my backup email address) that my domain will not be renewed. It is impossible using normal methods for me to get into the Google Apps domain management panel for the Dropbox In 30 Minutes domain. I used my backup email address, the bloggeradmin@ email address, and every password I could remember but nothing works. I am also unable to use the c name method because Google/Blogger custom domains do not allow me to log into the registrar’s management panel (enom).

Please help.

The help form said I would need to wait for up to 7 days, but I received a reply in about 1 hour. Here’s what it said:

Thank you for your message. I understand you have no access to your account Admin interface to renew your domain registration. I will be more than happy to help you with that.

Please note that at this time, all Google customers for any product are being moved to a new Billing system. In order to comply with its requirements, they need to manage their account through a Google Apps Admin console. You must have received an email message with this information. However, if you haven’t or didn’t go through the information to get access to it, you can use the following link to reset the password and gain access https://admin.google.com/xxxxxx/ForgotAdminAccountInfo (where xxxxxx is the name of the domain in question).

The reset link should be coming to this Gmail. Once you login, it will take you through setting up Billing to enable the auto renew option for your domain registration.

Sure enough, I was able to send a new password to my backup gmail account (thank goodness I had set that up) and get into the domain control panel to update the billing information. Mission accomplished!

Now, I know there are lots of other people with similar problems, but I don’t want to guarantee this method. For instance, if you never set up a backup email recovery account or waited too long to take care of the problem, you may be out of luck. But if any other readers try this method and it works, please share your story (and tips) below!

Apple deserves some blame for the Amazon monopoly

By Blog, Industry

For 15 years, people inside and outside the publishing industry have been warning of an Amazon monopoly. I won’t get into the ancient history here, but lately the buzz has returned with evidence of Amazon screwing one of the larger publishers, Hachette. As I’ve followed the latest news, I’ve been surprised that no one has mentioned how the platform competition — Apple, B&N, and more recently, Google — has contributed to Amazon’s monopoly position. All of these companies could have been strong contenders, which would make Amazon tread far more carefully to avoid pissing off publishers (and some readers). And one of them in particular had a lot of momentum going for it.

The iBooks experience on the iPadWhen I first began testing different ebook formats in 2012 for the first In 30 Minutes guide to Dropbox, not only was the iPad hardware superior to the Kindles and Nook, the ePub reading experience in iBooks was vastly better than the same ePub on the Nook or the .mobi equivalent in the Kindles. The ebooks opened quickly and transitioned smoothly from page to page, images were properly rendered, and the ereader toolset was solid.

Where Apple failed was in the purchasing experience (the iBookstore/iTunes mess) and some of the back-end tools for publishing. Fast forward two years, and I have only seen two semi-major improvements to the Apple ereader platform:

  1. An update to the iTunes Producer interface for submitting new titles.
  2. An update to iBooks Author (see my iBooks Author 3.0 review)

These improvements are helpful for authors and publishers. For readers, iBooks/iBookstore/iTunes is still largely unchanged except for some cosmetic changes (e.g., for iOS 7) as well as the release of the iPad mini. Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire has brought Amazon customers a slick alternative to the iPad at a much lower price point. And the Nook platform looks to be fading.

I don’t like having an Amazon monopoly, but some of the blame should be assigned to the erstwhile competitors who can’t seem to get it together. Apple, which has a great hardware platform (iPad/iPad mini), buckets of cash, and huge marketing muscle, doesn’t seem to be forging ahead in the ebooks space. It’s almost as if Cook et al don’t know what to do.

It’s too bad, because this industry clearly needs competitors who can give alternatives to readers, authors, publishers, and other players in the ecosystem. I’d like to think that Google could be up for the task, but it has its own issues to work through.

The new Gmail for Android interface sucks, and I blame Google+

By Blog

(Update: There is a way to get rid of the letters – see note at bottom of post) Yesterday, Gmail for Android automatically updated on my LG Optimus. When I opened up the Gmail app later in the day, this is what I saw:

New Gmail app for Android interface

What’s up with the alphabet soup? These giant letters mean nothing — they are simply the first letter in the “from” field, like “B” for Bowker or “M” for “McCarter”.

If they deliver no value, then why are the giant letters hogging up so much screen space? I believe it’s because of Google’s zeal to force its lagging social network Google+ on everyone — and its doesn’t have a good way to handle people or entities that don’t belong to the network.

It’s not necessary to explain what Google+ is, or how it works. Just know these two things:

  1. Outside of a few niche audiences (such as tech pundits and photo buffs) Google Plus has failed to achieve mainstream adoption (Danny Sullivan, May 17: “Nearly two years after its launch, Google is still dealing with people who question why they should bother with Google+”). Google has been doing everything it can to change that, by forcing Google Plus features and identities into its more popular products, such as search, Gmail, YouTube, and Blogger.
  2. Important elements of Google Plus are the accounts associated with people who use the service. Two pieces of information that are a key part of each Google+ account are the email address and user-selected profile photo.

You’ll notice that a few of the emails in my inbox have photos or icons instead of letters. What apparently is going on is Gmail looks at the email addresses of messages, and if a certain address is associated with a Google+ account, it will display the photo or icon associated with that account.

What if the email address is not associated with a Google+ account? I can imagine the brilliant Google designers and engineers in their air conditioned offices in Silicon Valley looking uncomfortably around the table (or in their standup meeting) pondering that question. Because there is no good answer, and backing away from Google+ is not an option, they threw up their hands and decided to go with gigantic letters.

I have a few problems with this approach, besides the fact that the letters contain no useful information:

  1. They are distracting.
  2. They take up too much screen real estate on an already small screen
  3. I am not sure of this, but I believe I am seeing fewer emails in the inbox because the letters are so big and the space between the messages seems to be larger. This forces scrolling, which takes up more time and more battery life.
  4. Because most people and organizations don’t have Google+ accounts, the letters will continue to dominate my inbox.

I’m not the only one who has problems. Via Twitter, a small sampling of the negative comments about the new Gmail interface on Android:




Besides the giant letters, there are also complaints about the easy batch delete option disappearing (swiping individual messages to the right will archive them, but it looks like deletions require opening the message). I also wonder what it’s like for people who aren’t heavily into tech or social apps. What do they think when giant letters clutter up their inbox, with a few random faces here and there?

What do you think of the new Gmail for Android update?

Update: There is a way to get rid of the letters and faces. Go to Settings>General Settings and uncheck “Sender Image”. Unfortunately, other elements of the new Gmail for Android UI — such as the two-step delete process — do not have a fix.