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It’s Summer and You Have to Take Care of Your Tech

It’s Summer and You Have to Take Care of Your Tech

Summer is here, and sometimes, your technology pays the price. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss some ways to protect your tech as you travel and enjoy the nice weather.

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Properly Cleaning a Laptop

Properly Cleaning a Laptop

It is important to keep modern computers clean, and laptops are no exception. However, a laptop's different form factor makes cleaning it much different from cleaning a traditional desktop computer.

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Explaining Shift Shock: Why Younger Employees Leave Good Jobs

Explaining Shift Shock: Why Younger Employees Leave Good Jobs

You might have noticed that some of your younger workers are leaving your business much earlier than you might expect them to. This could be because of a phenomenon called “shift shock,” which examines employee engagement and satisfaction. Let’s consider how shift shock could potentially harm your business.

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How to Keep Your Email Safe and Secure From Threats

How to Keep Your Email Safe and Secure From Threats

There are few technology solutions that have been as transformative and important for businesses as email. Unfortunately, however, it’s remarkably easy for a hacker to gain access to an email account to cause all kinds of chaos for a business. Let’s consider ways you can protect your business’ email accounts and, by extension, the rest of your organization’s infrastructure.

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Tip of the Week: Excel’s Auto Filter Will Make You Feel Like a Spreadsheet Pro

Tip of the Week: Excel’s Auto Filter Will Make You Feel Like a Spreadsheet Pro

With the full power of Microsoft Excel at your disposal, you can accomplish a lot of great things and streamline your data management and analysis. However, it doesn’t take an Excel wizard to use today’s tip, which focuses on the Auto Filter feature built right into the program. Let’s look at how even this small feature can provide a lot of value for your business.

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Tip of the Week: 3 Technology Tips Anyone Can Use

Tip of the Week: 3 Technology Tips Anyone Can Use

We are always writing about how useful technology is, but it’s surprising how little even the most committed techie knows about the options that are available to them. In this week’s blog we decided to go through three features in the Windows OS that can be a big help. 

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Tip of the Week: 3 Steps to Avoiding a Ransomware Infection

Tip of the Week: 3 Steps to Avoiding a Ransomware Infection

We talk a lot (and we mean a lot) about cybersecurity, with ransomware getting a lot of our focus…and for very good reason. Ransomware is a huge threat that today’s businesses need to be prepared to deal with. In light of this, we wanted to share a few tips to help you avoid the negative ramifications of ransomware.

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Tip of the Week: Keeping Track of Changes Made in Excel

Let’s go over how to set up this capability. As a disclaimer, it will require you to edit some of your menu options, so reach out to your IT resource to confirm that it is okay to do so and to assist you if need be.

You should also know that Track Changes won’t work if a spreadsheet contains a table that hasn’t been converted into a range. To make this conversion, select the table, navigate to the Design tab, and click the Convert to Range option. If you want others to be able to collaborate on your workbook, it needs to be saved in a shared location.

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There’s Scheduling, and Then There’s SMART Scheduling

Understanding Smart Scheduling

These software solutions are commonly found in industries that are subject to a lot of outside influence and fluctuating demand due to a variety of factors, such as retail. Smart scheduling gives these businesses the capability to schedule their employees more effectively, using automation to simplify the process.

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Tip of the Week: How to Effectively Task Out Goals and Assignments

The Ideal Task Formula

The consensus of many productivity experts and trusted names is that the equation to build out a task essentially looks like this:

Step + Detail + Deadline + Context = Task

This works well, as it can apply to either a complete project, or each piece of a larger project. Let’s take a closer look at each part.

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Tip of the Week: 5 Ways to Maximize Productivity, According to Experts

Two-Hour Solution

Roger Seip, author of Train Your Brain for Success, took a proactive and prepared look at productivity by developing his Two-Hour Solution. The idea is to take two hours to plan out a schedule to follow each week, based on how your plans and goals culminated the week before. Investing this time should allow you to make the most of your available time to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

The reason that this is different than simply going over your calendar each week is the fact that, if guided by the Two-Hour Solution, you’re figuring out how the time you’re spending contributes to your goals. “Green time” is time that helps you generate financial capital, while your “red time” is the time that you spend preparing for green time, without generating any profit. To account for the wrench in the works that would ordinarily throw off your schedule, you also include “flex time” to provide a buffer. What’s left is your “re-creation” time, where you recover from your productive endeavors by doing the things you want to do.

Prioritizing

Steven Covey is an educator and a businessman who came up with a philosophy to living a full life that can also apply to life in the office.

Consider your big priorities, your more flexible responsibilities, and your rote tasks in the workplace as large rocks, smaller stones, and sand, respectively. Your time is a bucket, ready to be filled with these items as you see fit.

Let’s say you decide to start with the “sand,” before trying to cram in the “rocks” and “stones.” Chances are pretty good that you won’t be able to accomplish very much at all, at least nothing of any circumstance. However, if you prioritize the more impactful rocks, then the stones, and fill in the rest of the space with your sand, your bucket—or workday—is then used as productively as possible, and anything you didn’t get to complete isn’t of consequence.

Two-Minute Rule

While there are countless variables that can potentially influence the amount of time a task will take to complete, you eventually get a feeling for the typical duration, right? So, some tasks can predictably take a significant amount of time, while others take almost no time at all to make it through. The idea of the Two-Minute Rule, thought up by productivity consultant David Allen, takes advantage of that difference. His strategy: if a task will take two minutes or less, do it.

If that seems too simple, it kind of is. The philosophy behind the Two-Minute Rule is to build up your motivation to tackle the larger responsibilities by successfully completing smaller tasks. Think about it—every task, regardless of how large it is, can be broken into smaller, more manageable chunks, chunks that can take mere minutes to complete. Once you’ve completed enough of these two-minute tasks, it only makes sense to see the greater responsibility through… and with the progress you’ve already made supporting you, completing it seems that much more feasable. 

The Blastoff Method

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Mel Robbins devised this practice to help overcome the mental blocks that encourage us to procrastinate rather than doing things that are good for us. Robbins posits that, by hesitating, we put the brain into “protection” mode—by thinking about everything that needs to be done between point A and point B, your brain ultimately prevents you from doing what you need to do. However, if that hesitation can be avoided, your productivity (or, by Robbins’ original theory, your well-being) will see benefits.

Her solution is to close the gap that hesitation creates between your capability to do a task and your perception of that task. Her recommendation is to, quite literally, treat yourself like a rocket and count down to your action. Focus on counting down…5,4,3,2,1… and act immediately, before your thoughts get in the way.

Scientifically, by doing so, you are bypassing a behavioral process and resetting an established habit loop… allowing better, more productive habits to be created instead. Give it a try next time you encounter a task you want to avoid starting.

Create a Time Crunch

We’ll wrap up with another method that Roger Seip came up with. If you really feel you work better on a deadline, add a bit of a hurdle as you are scheduling your “green time” … give yourself less time than you think you’ll need. The pressure can help you to focus. Naturally, you need to avoid any flex time you have assigned for this to work.

What methods do you use to keep yourself focused and productive? Do any of these approaches sound like something you want to try? Let us know in the comments!

For the technology solutions that can also help you improve your practical productivity, talk to us! Give us a call at (604) 513-9428 to discuss your options.

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Tip of the Week: Working with PDF Files

Rotate the Document

It is very easy to accidentally scan a document into your computer so that it doesn’t appear upright on your display. A program like Adobe Acrobat Pro offers an in-menu option that allows you to do just that - in Document, find Rotate Pages. This option will allow you to select the pages that need to be rotated, and how to rotate them. Other programs may feature a toolbar button that allows you to rotate each page.

Fixing your pages, despite taking a few moments of time, is certainly a worthwhile thing to do, as it makes the document easier to read, promoting accuracy and convenience.

Password Protecting the Document

As long as the person or people who need to see a particular PDF have the proper password, protecting the document in question with a password is a generally good idea - especially if it contains “for your eyes only” information. To make these files as secure as possible, make sure that the passwords are distributed through secure means.

In Word, you can save your files as a PDF using the “Save as” function, simply selecting the PDF option as you do so. You will also see a button offering More options, which brings up a second dialogue box where you can find “encrypt document with a password” in that box’s Options button. By selecting encrypt document with a password, you will have the option to provide a password (and confirm it). At that point, anyone opening the PDF will need to enter that password to view it.

Merging PDF Files

It isn’t uncommon for different parts of the same document to be saved as different PDF files, or for multiple copies to be saved with different information filled in. It is usually better to have all of this information consolidated, to make reviewing it much easier. While many free and paid software titles can allow you to do this, you should reach out to us before you select one, as we can help you make the right choice for your needs - you probably don’t want the program’s watermark on your finished document, or find yourself needing to merge more documents than a free program will allow.

If you’ve already acquired Adobe Acrobat, merging your files is fairly simple. After opening the program, access the Tools menu and select Combine files. Doing so will give you the ability to Add Files… and once you have selected all of the files that should create your new PDF, click Combine. Once they are combined, clicking Save as will allow you to store it where it belongs.

Signing a PDF

Many times, a contract that needs to be signed will arrive as a PDF. While many resort to printing these documents out to sign them, there is an easier way - signing them electronically.

This time, the free Adobe Reader software can get the job done, but you should still check with your IT resource before using it.

If Adobe Reader is approved and installed by IT, you can easily sign PDFs electronically. By opening the PDF file with Reader, you have access to a Fill & Sign button. Click it, then Sign and Add signature. You’ll then have access to three options:

  • Type - you simply type your name into the field, and an electronic signature is rendered (which will not look like yours).
  • Draw - you use your mouse to draw out your signature.
  • Image - you use a scanned image of your actual signature that is then saved for future use.

Once you’ve positioned your signature where it should be, click apply and make sure you save your revised PDF.

Always remember to check with your IT team before you download any software! For more IT tips and other useful pieces, make sure you subscribe to our blog!

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Tip of the Week: How to Utilize Your Business’ Email

Properly Managing Your Email Like a Professional

Let’s not split hairs here: checking your email throughout the day can be a major waste of time. In order to avoid sinking time you could otherwise spend productively on reading (and re-reading) emails, there are a few habits you could develop.

Impose Rules on Your Email Habits

As we’ve said, repeatedly checking your email throughout the day can very quickly become a waste of your time. To avoid this, schedule times throughout your day to commit to checking your email. Once your time is up, stop until your next scheduled time.

We’ve all also accumulated emails that we simply don’t need to read. As harsh as it may seem, archive these emails, or unsubscribe as they come in to keep your inbox clean based on the subject line or the sender.

Managing Important Emails

Admittedly, not every email that comes in will be a waste of time. However, an overstuffed inbox can make it easy to miss something important. To avoid this issue, utilize folders to file your emails so that your inbox doesn’t become overfilled.

If Time is Left, Return to Your Inbox

If you finish your other tasks, return to your inbox and review your messages in order of importance. If you happen to run out of time, stop your review until your next opportunity. As you review your emails, don’t be afraid to unsubscribe to emails that aren’t important to your tasks.

Don’t Be Afraid to Leverage Filters and Labels

Filters and labels can help you to keep your emails more automatically organized. Your filters/labels should be relevant to their content. One can contain messages from a certain sender or pertain to a certain topic. As a result, you will be able to more easily keep your emails organized.

Rules like these can also keep you from having to deal with automatic replies, like out-of-office autoresponders and similar replies that you don’t need to receive.

What other emails have gotten in the way of your productivity? Let us know… we might cover them in a future blog! For more information, subscribe to our blog!

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Tip of the Week: Enabling Smart Compose on Gmail for Android

Those familiar with the online version of Gmail will find all of this quite familiar, as Smart Compose has been predicting their next words for some time now. It will seem newer to those more familiar with the Gmail application in macOS and Windows, as it hasn’t been available there until now. 

Using Smart Compose on Android Devices

The first thing you’ll have to have in order to use Smart Compose is an active Google account, with the latest version of the Gmail application installed on your chosen device. As you type, Smart Compose will present its predictive text suggestions that a user can either accept, or just keep typing to ignore. While this form of machine learning is pretty basic, it does demonstrate how a device can “learn” how a user is most likely to use it - in this case, what word is likely to come next in the user’s sentence.

Turning Smart Compose Off (and On Again)

Of course, some users may find these suggestions inconvenient or distracting. That’s totally fair, and means that these users should deactivate the Smart Compose feature. Access the Gmail app’s menu by pressing the hamburger icon at the top left. You should see your Settings from there. You will be asked to choose from the accounts that have access to your device. Once you’ve selected the appropriate account, look under General settings to find Smart Compose. Use the toggle switch to activate it or deactivate it as you please.

While Smart Compose may not be quite as impressive as the artificial intelligence that appears in feature films, it has one major advantage over them: it can actually be used to benefit your business. For other ways that you can give your business operations a boost through technology solutions and tips, subscribe to our blog! You can also reach out to us directly by calling (604) 513-9428.

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How to Use YouTube’s Full Capabilities for Your Business

Sure - if you want to limit how you can leverage it to your business’ advantage. Here, we’ve assembled a few features that you can use to make YouTube a better resource for your business.

First Up: YouTube’s Keyboard Shortcuts

Whether you’re using YouTube as a research tool or presenting your findings in a meeting, effectively using its built-in shortcuts can make your use of the website much more productive (and, let’s face it, more impressive).

If you’re doing research, jumping back to the beginning of a video will be super handy - and is possible, by pressing the 0 (zero) key. You can also use your arrow keys to fast forward or rewind the video in five-second increments (or ten-second increments, if you hold the Ctrl key at the same time).

If you’re using YouTube as a part of a presentation, you can quickly pause and resume the video by pressing either the spacebar, or the K key. If your audience can’t quite hear what you’re presenting, you can adjust the volume using the up and down arrow keys. The M key will mute the video, and unmute it when you’re ready to hear the video again.

Starting From a Specific Point in the Video

Speaking of using YouTube as a part of your presentation, you may not always want a video to start from the very beginning. YouTube gives you a few options to do so - the easiest being grabbing the altered link to your desired time directly from YouTube.

Let’s look at this video about phishing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfnA7UmlZkE

There’s a lot of information in this video. What if you want to focus on one specific aspect, like how phishing can be spotted? This video doesn’t dive into this aspect until just about the one-minute mark. YouTube offers a function that eliminates the need of fast-forwarding to this point. Under the Share option, the menu that appears offers a Start at option. You can select the precise time that you want your video to start. The link that appears will begin your video at the moment you have selected (unless a pesky ad gets in the way):

https://youtu.be/jfnA7UmlZkE?t=63

Search Filters to Improve Your Results

If you’re having trouble finding the right content on YouTube, there are filters that you can whittle down your results by - making it more likely that you will find more videos that fit what you are looking for. You can seek out videos that were uploaded during a specific time frame, that fall within a certain duration, and seek out specific channels, playlists, and other media types - among other filters.

YouTube can be one of the greatest resources available today... as long as you can find and share the information you need. For more ways that technology can improve your business and its processes, subscribe to our blog!

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Tip of the Week: 4 Tech Questions, Answered

What Does Restarting the Computer Do?
You might think of restarting the computer as something that cuts down on productivity, but this is far from the truth. While it stops you from working in the interim, it’s beneficial in the long run to routinely restart your computer for periodic updates and general upkeep. Have you ever tried to run a machine all the time without giving it a break every now and then? When you do this, it’s more likely that the device will be run into the ground. Your devices will run much better if you restart them every now and then to ensure that they aren’t being overworked.

What Use Is There for Your Task Manager?
You can imagine the look on someone’s face when their computer freezes up and it can’t run properly. Well, once upon a time, someone had the brilliant idea to include a task manager in a computer’ operating system to ensure that you can identify the problematic application (if there is one) and end its tasks without having to restart the computer. Overall, it’s a way to see how your computer’s resources are being allocated, as well as how to end troublesome tasks without restarting the computer.

Why Must Passwords Be Changed?
While some might argue that passwords should only be reset when they are discovered, this in-turn highlights why passwords should be reset frequently. Sometimes passwords will be stolen without the user knowing about it until they are being used against them, but other times, they will be stolen and sold on the black market to the highest bidder. It’s up to the user to make sure any passwords potentially stolen are changed before they can be used against your organization. The best way to protect against this from happening is to assume they will be stolen and change them periodically.

How Do Drivers Affect Your Work?
Drivers can be considered pieces of software that make your device compatible with a variety of external devices. You might have noticed that drivers must be installed on your device in order to use that USB mouse or wireless keyboard. These drivers must be kept up to date so that compatibility with devices doesn’t interfere with your work, and that security vulnerabilities are not presented to nefarious folks who want access to your systems and data.

Do you have any tips that you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.

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How to Get the Right Cloud Solution for Your Business

There are a few kinds of vendors, offering various things to businesses like assorted supplies, equipment, and services. One kind of vendor that has grown increasingly crucial in particular, is that which delivers cloud services to businesses. Due to the expansion of the cloud’s utility in all kinds of business purposes, the choice of a vendor has also expanded in importance.

How to Select the Right Vendor, for Cloud Services and Otherwise
This is going to require some preemptive research and consideration of your own goals. Once you’ve determined your priorities in both the short and long-term, you and your IT resources should examine your available options to see which vendor is most compatible - and that’s in more ways than one.

Not only should your vendor offer what you need at a reasonable rate, there should be some consistency in the goals that your organization and theirs have. You also need to be able to trust your vendor to attend to the services agreed upon, whether that’s a managed agreement or a simple equipment procurement.

How Cloud Services are Different
However, your vendors for your cloud services should be held to a somewhat higher standard - after all, your data is going to be at stake. Therefore, it is important that they be graded differently than your other vendors would be.

Before committing to a cloud service provider; or a cloud strategy in earnest, there are two considerations that must be examined. First, what data is your vendor going to be able to access, and second, what applications can your vendor access as well?

After this initial consideration, you need to also take other factors into account, like how business-critical a said process is, how compliant they are to certain policies, and how much risk is involved in a given action. From there, you can establish if a particular cloud vendor is a good fit or not.

At Coleman Technologies, we can technically be considered a vendor ourselves, as we provide our managed services to other businesses. As such, we’d like you to consider us a candidate for your IT needs. Give us a call at (604) 513-9428 for more information.

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Tip of the Week: How to Replicate and Relocate Text Easily

Once you have your content selected, whether it’s text or an image, all you have to do is press two keys.

To cut a word or phrase from one place in your content, press Ctrl + X. To copy this content instead, keeping the original and duplicating it elsewhere, press Ctrl + C. Pasting your content is just as simple - with the place you want the content added selected, press Ctrl + V. This will insert your content where you want.

If you happen to be copy-pasting from a website to another document, it may not be a bad idea to paste it without bringing any formatting from the website over. Otherwise, it is apt to look funny on your documents. Pasting without formatting is almost as simple as regular pasting, you just add another keystroke in the middle: Ctrl + Shift + V.

Of course, any of the tasks can be accomplished with the mouse alone. Right clicking on a word, an image, or a group of selected text will bring up a menu that includes all of the above options. However, your cursor is generally more accurate than the mouse, so you may have to undo your efforts (Ctrl + Z) a few times before it’s right.

Real World Example:
Let’s say you want to send a webpage link to someone in an email or instant message. In your web browser, click the address bar (that’s the part with the ‘http://… “). That will highlight the URL. Hold down Ctrl and press C. Then go into your email or instant messenger, click where you want to paste the URL, and hold down Ctrl and press V.

Whichever you use, it’s bound to be more time-efficient than rewriting anything that needs to go in a different spot. Make sure you subscribe to our blog, so you can be alerted whenever we upload more content!

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Tip of the Week: 4 Really Simple Tips for the Computer Novice

Tip #1: No Fear
Sometimes technology can be a tad bit intimidating, especially when people are expecting you to quickly grasp a concept with little-to-no experience. The best thing you can do is not be afraid of screwing up. After all, there aren’t many actions you can take with a computer that will break the machine, the applications you are using, or the file you are working on. If you don’t have much experience with the computer and you want to learn anything from this blog today, learn that Ctrl+Z will undo. Having a good understanding that Ctrl+Z will undo your last action in almost every application you are going to use should give you the confidence you need to stop worrying about possible failure.

Tip #2: Liberally Use Search Engines
For the computer novice, it can sometimes be intimidating to try to find applications and files within an operating system. No matter what problems you come across, keep in mind that the Internet is the world’s greatest troubleshooting guide, and you only need to know how to open your browser to get at it (on modern machines, you may not need even that). Once you have your browser open, simply type your search query in the address bar. It will return results. You may have to dig through the results, or alter your search perimeters slightly, but you will be able to find the answers to the problems you are having with the help of a search engine.

Tip #3: Learn Keyboard Shortcuts
This is typically for speed. If you can quickly learn a few basic shortcuts, you will enhance your ability to control your computer tenfold. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Ctrl+A - Select all
  • Ctrl+C - Copy selected content
  • Ctrl+X - Cut selected content`
  • Ctrl+Z - Undo (Seriously, this one is crucial.)
  • Ctrl+Y - Redo

There are many more depending on the application you are working in. Most applications will provide their shortcuts under their Help menu. Learning these will quickly make you a much more proficient user.

Tip #4: Find Your Comfort Zone
When Michael Jordan first picked up a basketball, he wasn’t a natural, so how can anyone expect to use something as complex as a computer proficiently right off the bat? If you are a new user, or just someone that isn’t proficient with a computer yet, stick to what you know. If you have a series of applications you feel some level of skillfulness with, stick to them. While our first tip suggests that you shouldn’t have fear, that mainly pertains to navigating your way around a computer, not the frustration a user can build when they continuously make mistakes. If you want to enjoy your time on the computer, stick to the applications you know, and you will have a good time.

We want everyone to remember that there was a time when we were all new to the computer; and, since computer skills are now an expectation of almost any career path (not to mention a major form of communication), learning your way around a computer will improve your standard of living. Do you have any other tips you could suggest to new users to keep them engaged and improving? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Tip of the Week: Using Templates in Evernote

What Are Templates?
Evernote’s templates are handy, pre-built structures for notes that provide users with a simpler means of organizing specific types of information. Instead of taking time struggling with your formatting each time you start a new note, you can apply one of the templates that Evernote offers on their website. Those with a subscription to Evernote Plus, Premium, or Business can even use formatting they’ve created in past notes to generate their own templates for repeated use.

Applying Templates in Evernote
Once you’ve acquired a few templates, either from the Evernote website’s collection or from a past note, applying one of your choosing is relatively simple.

  • In Evernote, start a new note.
  • In the body of the note, click Templates to view the ones you have saved.
  • From there, you can search for any templates you have, delete ones you no longer want or need, edit their names, and of course, apply them to notes.
  • If you want to edit a template, follow the same process, and once you’ve made the changes that you want, save it as a new template. Note: only those with Plus, Premium, or Business accounts are able to do this.
  • Plus, Premium, and Business users are also able to create their own templates this way.

So, what do you think? Is this a welcome change to Evernote? What other improvements would you like to see them make down the line? Let us know in the comments!

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