Don Edrington's  PC Chat   nct-3.gif
PC Chat appears twice weekly in San Diego's North County Times & in Riverside County's The Californian.

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Year 2000 aro-grn.gif Click Here for Complete Listing of 2000's PC Chats
Year 2001 aro-grn.gif Click Here for Complete Listing of 2001's PC Chats
Oct 2, 2001 How Windows XP Will Affect PC Chat
Oct 7, 2001 Sircam Virus & its "Reply Email" Trick
Oct 9, 2001 Using MSOffice to Create Mailing Labels & Envelopes
Oct 14, 2001 Doing Envelopes & Labels with MSWorks
Oct 16, 2001 Doing Envelopes & Labels with Microsoft Word Only
Oct 21, 2001 Norton SystemWorks Worth Considering
Oct 23, 2001 Norton SystemWorks Can Cause Problems - Another Point of View
Oct 28, 2001 Windows XP Is Very, Very Stable
Oct 30, 2001 Various Ways to Back Up Important Files
Oct 30
Various Ways to Back Up Important Files

     "How should I back up my important files?" is a question I hear on an ongoing basis. There can be many answers to this question, depending on what purpose a backup is to serve. Do you need temporary backups of documents as they are being created, or do you want permanent backups to be kept in a safe place in case your computer fails or is lost, stolen or, say, destroyed in a fire?

     Temporary backups are normally saved on one's hard drive, while permanent backups should be saved on other media, such as a 3.5" floppy disk, a Zip or Jaz disk, a CD, a tape or even another hard disk.

     For doing temporary saves, many applications have an option that let's you make automatic backups as you work. This option simply means that each time you save a file, its previous "Save" is set aside as a "Backup." The backed up copy will often have a special three letter extension, such as ".BAK" and/or will be renamed to something like "Backup of Whatever.wbk."

     In MSWord, for instance, this feature is activated by going to Tools, Options, Save and putting a checkmark by "Always Create Backup Copy." In Excel go to File, Save As, Options, and check this same message.

     Not all programs have this option. In earlier versions of MSWorks, a "Create Backup" option could be found when going to File, Save As. Strange as it seems, Works 2000 offers no such choice.

     However, automatic backups can be created in any program by simply doing File, Save As, and making an incremental filename change with each Save. For instance, MyStory-A.wks could be changed to MyStory-B.wks, MyStory-C.wks, etc., with each successive Save. In fact, I recommend doing incremental filename saves for all important documents in progress.

     MSWord carries automatic file-saving to yet another level. Under Tools, Options, Save, you will also find "Save AutoRecover Info Every __ Minutes." If you type in "15" a Backup will be automatically created every quarter hour (whether you do periodic Saves or not).

     As for making Backups on other media, the 3.5" disk was the standard for a long time, and can still be used very effectively. From within any document you can choose File, Save As, and click on the A: drive icon as the storage destination. You can also choose Save As, and type the following: "a: filename." However, using Windows Explorer to "drag" and "drop" a file from its C: hard drive location onto the A: drive icon is faster and easier.

     Because a 3.5" disk holds only 1.44 MB of data, disk systems that hold more data came into being about a decade ago. The original Iomega Zip Disk could hold 100 MB of data, while later versions can hold 250 MB. Iomega Jaz disks can hold even more. But now that CD burners have become so inexpensive, backing up data on discs that hold 650 to 700 MB has become practical for the average home user as well as for any business.

     Adding a second hard drive to your computer makes for a quick and easy way to backup files, but would be of no value if the computer was, say, stolen or somehow destroyed.

     A tape backup system can be built into a computer, but it usually serves an entirely different purpose. Businesses that want to have a daily backup of everything on a computer's hard drive, including all its programs, will sometimes have a tape that runs overnight and which is then set aside for this purpose. Backing up programs is not normally a concern for most users, on the theory that the original CDs would be available for reinstallation in case a computer should somehow fail.

     Another question I hear more and more often is: "How do I move all my files from my old PC to my new one?" We'll talk about that next time.

Oct 28
Windows XP Is Very, Very Stable

     Windows XP officially arrived this past week, and with it came a variety of features that will change the look and feel of Windows for a long time to come.

     To those who buy new computers with WinXP already installed, and who, perhaps, have never used previous versions, XP should be easy enough to learn and become comfortable with. To those of us who've been weaned on Win95 through WinME, the changes take some real getting used to.

     With previous versions of Windows we've always had the comfort of knowing we could easily return to our Desktop, in case we got somehow lost in Windows Explorer. WinXP comes with three Desktops, and will add more if you choose to divide the computer's hard drive among two or more users. This is because XP has been patterned after WinNT and Win2000, which were designed for network integration among multiple users.

     One thing that's been touted about WinXP is its stability. Well, after using a beta version for three months and having had the full "Home" version for several weeks, I can attest to the veracity of this claim. I have yet to see XP hang up and display the infamous "This program has performed and illegal operation and will shut down" message, not to mention the fearsome "blue screen of death" which means all you can do is turn the computer off and back on again.

     I also like the way the XP Taskbar displays information. The "system tray," which is where you see your digital clock, along with various icons such as your volume control and anti-virus program, only displays the most frequently used icons, while the others are hidden by a "sliding door." Slide it open anytime you want to access the other icons. In the meantime, more space is available on the Taskbar for displaying the buttons of currently open programs.

     If you still have more programs open than can be comfortably displayed on the Taskbar, the filenames of multiple documents within a given program may be hidden behind the "front" document's button. For instance, I often have several MSWord documents open at once. However, the only button showing on the Taskbar will be for the document currently in front. One click on it will display the names of the others, any of which can be clicked to bring it to the front.

     Beyond all this, I normally have about two dozen icons in the "Quick Launch" area of the Taskbar. These are shortcuts to my most frequently accessed files, folders and programs. With XP, when I click the double "right pointing" symbol these icons will be displayed in a vertical column with each one's label displayed in full. I find this to be a very useful feature.

     In any case, having lots of files open at once requires lots of RAM. Computers running XP with less than 128 megs can be very sluggish, with 256 or more being recommended.

     If you decide to upgrade to XP, you'll find that the CD is designed to install just once on only one computer. If the system crashes and you need to reinstall it, you'll have to call Microsoft to get a lengthy code to type in. If you want to install the program on additional computers, Microsoft may say you can repurchase the program at a discount (about 10%) and then use the same CD with a new set of code numbers.

     Some of the changes in XP I find rather puzzling. For instance, if you use the Start, Search command and want to indicate how recently the target file was last modified, the minimum time you can click on is one week. In previous versions you could narrow the search to any number of days, including just one. Furthermore you could choose from among "modified," "created," and "last accessed." In any case, XP uses the word "Search" here, as does WinME. Why the didn't leave it at "Find" as in previous versions of Windows is a mystery to me; especially when you still use Ctrl+F to activate the Find command within various applications as well as in Windows Explorer and in Web pages.

Oct 23
Norton SystemWorks Can Cause Problems - Another Point of View

     One of the built-in difficulties in writing a computer column is that there is no way to personally test all the various programs that are available nowadays. Therefore, I sometimes describe a product based on a number of reviews I've read and/or e-mail from readers who have used the applications.

     In my recent description of the latest version of Norton SystemWorks I pointed out that my previous experiences with "add-on utility programs" had been that they can be very useful in the hands of experienced technicians, but that they can often create more problems for the average computer user than they solve. In reply to my "Norton" article, Bob Currie wrote the following:

     "As an experienced computer user, builder, up-grader, and repairer I can tell you that I don't recommend its use. It is very invasive, takes over the operation of your computer and is almost impossible to get rid of. When you uninstall Norton it leaves files deep within the system initialization folders. Then when you restart your PC those files cause Windows to look for Norton and you have to constantly tell it that the program is no longer on the computer.

     Yes, you can delete these commands, but you have to be quite expert in the inner workings of a computer to get rid of them; almost like the viruses Norton is supposed to protect us from. Its advantages are far outweighed by its disadvantages, as far as I am concerned."

     So what other options do we have?

     Well, all the features included in these Norton products can be acquired separately, with some of them being totally free. Norton is probably best-known as an anti-virus tool, and the e-mails I've received from many readers say that it is easier to use and more reliable than its main competitor, McAfee Anti-virus. I've had other readers tell me that free anti-virus programs, such as AVG, from, do the job very nicely. Yet a couple of other readers told me they had nothing but trouble with AVG. Still others have said that installing multiple anti-virus programs on their computers has caused problems that were fixed by using just one program and uninstalling the others.

     In any case, one of the easiest ways to avoid viruses is to just plain refuse to open any e-mail or attachments that you have any doubts about. Be especially alert for any e-mails that say, "Take a look at the attachment," or words to that effect.

     Furthermore, if you get a booby-trapped e-mail from a friend who has no knowledge of sending it, ask him/her to ask other correspondents if they received the same or similar e-mail. Much of this deadly e-mail comes from the address books of Outlook or Outlook Express users, while others may arrive as a presumed "reply" to an e-mail you've sent.

     Nowadays, however, viruses aren't the only things trying to get into our computers. If you're on a "network" hackers can easily get into your PC and do all kinds of unpleasant things. Using a cable or DSL connection automatically puts your computer on a network. This is where a "firewall" is needed.

     What is a "firewall?"

     You can probably guess what a firewall is just from its name. It protects your computer from the Internet by using a "wall of code" that inspects each individual "packet" of data that arrives. The same firewall also checks outgoing data to determine whether it should be allowed to pass or be blocked.

     ZoneAlarm is a firewall that can be freely downloaded from It is totally free to home computer users as well to non-profit organizations. However, its "pro" version needs to be purchased for use by businesses. I've been using the "home" version and find that it works very efficiently.

     If you'd like to check the performance of your firewall, go to where the Gibson Research Corporation will give you a free "leak test." GRC is also loaded with all kinds of helpful information about firewalls and other PC protection products.

Oct 21
Norton SystemWorks Worth Considering

     Computer maintenance and security used to be fairly simple; you'd run Scandisk and Defrag periodically to keep your PC operating smoothly, and you'd install an anti-virus program, which you'd update periodically to keep your machine from getting infected. Add-on programs such as Norton Utilities were helpful when used by an experienced technician, but would often create more problems for the average home PC user than they solved.

     Things have changed.

     With viruses becoming more prolific, as well as more sinister in the ways in which they can enter our computers, we can all use better and easier methods of protecting ourselves. Symantec has now made this easier with Norton SystemWorks.

     Why would I now recommend a utility suite when in the past I've said they weren't really necessary for most of us? Because they've gotten easier to use and more efficient all the way around.

     Norton SystemWorks 2002 is stronger, smoother, and more versatile than its predecessors. Its companion program, Norton Internet Security 2002 also has new and improved features, which can help keep a PC safe and secure, while existing features have been fine-tuned for better performance.

     SystemWorks 2002 ($70 for the Standard version and $100 for the Professional, before a $30 rebate on each) have beefed-up anti-virus features that automatically check for virus updates every four hours. For easier access and faster file checking, AntiVirus 2002 now puts an icon on your Desktop, in addition to the one normally found in your System Tray (near the digital clock in the lower right of your screen).

     Also new: AntiVirus 2002 checks outgoing email attachments, as well as incoming email, for viruses. In the background, AntiVirus uses a new script-blocking technology that, Symentac claims, will protect against fast-spreading viruses. Furthermore, scanning speed appears to have been improved by at least 30 percent.

     SystemWorks 2002 also includes two new utilities that you can choose to install or not. Roxio GoBack Personal Edition sets aside part of your hard drive to periodically save crucial system settings. It can then restore them when you experience problems, which can be handy if a newly installed program somehow messes up your computer. (However, it should be noted that WinXP has GoBack built in.)

     The most obvious changes in SystemWorks 2002 are a cleaner overall interface that makes using individual components easier, and a streamlined installation process that sets commonly used defaults, which can be easily changed if desired.

     As in previous versions, the main menu of System Works offers a fast One-Button Checkup for assessing overall system health. Norton Utilities and CleanSweep,which are also accessible on the main menu, remain basically unchanged. The $100 Professional edition adds the personal version of Norton Ghost (for making backup images of your hard drive) and WinFax 10, the latest version of this ever-popular faxing program.

     Norton Internet Security 2002 ($70 before a $30 rebate), which can run alone or be integrated with SystemWorks, includes new multi-user parental controls. You can set various levels of Internet access for different users.

     For instance, you can prevent sensitive data, such as certain phone numbers, addresses, and names, from being entered into Microsoft MSN Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger. Improved previous utilities include an updated version of Norton AntiVirus, an ad-blocking tool, Web filtering features, and a firewall.

     Symantec has made the firewall setup process much easier. A wizard provides extensive explanations as it guides you through crucial steps. Many of the configuration of Internet-accessing applications are now automatic. And the new Home Networking Wizard automatically detects computers on a local network and configures them for access through the firewall.

     Overall, Symantec appears to have done an excellent job of improving two already robust products. Both suites run on Win98, WinME, WinNT, and Win2000, and Symantec says that both also are compatible with Windows XP Home and XP Professional.

     If you don't have a utility suite yet, these two programs are definitely worth considering.

Oct 16
Doing Envelopes & Labels with MSWord Alone

     We’ve talked recently about creating mailing labels and envelopes with a combination of MSWord and Excel, as well as with MSWorks. However, the whole job can be done with MSWord by using the program’s "Table" utility as a database for storing the names and addresses. This means that two Word files will be needed; one for the database and one for formatting the printing of the labels or envelopes.

     Let’s begin by creating the database. Start with a new, blank page and go to Table, Insert Table. Choose 6 Columns and however many rows you think you'll need. (The number of rows can be adjusted later.)

     Type First Name, Last Name, Street Address, City, State and Zip into the top six cells. Then fill in the name and address data accordingly. When it comes time to alphabetize your data, go to Table, Sort. Choose Column 2, Text, Ascending.

     This will sort everything by Last Name. Be sure to choose "My List Has a Header Row."

     Column widths can be adjusted by highlighting the whole table and going to Table, Cell Height & Width and choosing Column, AutoFit. To make the columns wider you can opt for a "sideways" layout by going to File, Page Setup, Paper Size, Landscape. While in Page Setup you can also choose narrower margins, thus allowing the table to be wider.

     However, all this really isn't necessary. Any data that doesn't fit into a table cell on one line "word-wraps" itself to as many lines as are needed. Sorting these records will still be done by the first character(s) in the top line of any cell.

     In any case, you'll need to Save the table as a Word file, such as "Address List.doc." The file will be saved in the "My Documents" folder, unless you choose another location.

     To format the printing of the of the labels and/or envelopes, go to File, New. Name the file something like "Envelope Layout.doc" and file it in "My Documents" or the folder of your choice.

     Next go to Tools, Mail Merge. Click on Main Document, Create. Now choose "Mailing Labels" or "Envelopes." If you’ve chosen Envelopes click on Get Data, Open Data Source. By default, you’ll be sent to "My Documents." Assuming this is the correct folder, look for your database Word file and double-click it. Now click "Set Up Main Document."

     This will take you to a list of envelope sizes, beginning with No. 10 Standard Business and ending with "Custom" where you can type in the dimensions of a non-standard size, such as a greeting card envelope.

     Here you’ll be asked to insert the data "Fields" such as «First Name», «Last Name», etc. When you click on "Merge" the information in your database file will replace these "Field" markers.

     You’ll also be given the opportunity to type in an optional Return Address, which will be repeated on all envelopes if you choose. Other options will be offered, including one for printing a Zip Bar Code to match whatever zip codes it finds. The post office always appreciates this one, since it means the envelopes will not have to be hand-sorted to get to the correct zip code.

     If you choose Labels, rather than envelopes, the above steps will take you to a choice of standard Avery label sizes, along with setting up your printing to match however many labels there will be to a sheet. This even includes doing one label at a time with a dot matrix printer.

Oct 14
Doing Envelopes & Labels with MSWorks

     As the holiday season approaches, many PC users will want to take the labor out of hand-addressing greeting card envelopes. Those who have MSWorks will find this to be an easy task.

     Addressing envelopes is basically a function of two different applications: a database and a word processing program. The database is where you list all the names and addresses, while the word processor is what's used to format the actual printing of the envelopes. MSWorks has always come with these two utilities built in.

     We'll start by creating the name and address database. With older versions you'll go to Works Tools, Database, while newer versions will let you click on Database as soon as Works has been launched.

     In database terminology columns are called Fields, while rows are called Records. We'll start by naming six fields: FirstName, LastName, StreetAddr, City, State, and Zip.

     At the Field 1 prompt, type FirstName and click Add. Repeat this process for each subsequent Field and then click Done. Now go to File, Save As, and name the database, say, Address List.wdb. By default, it will normally be saved in the MSWorks\Documents folder, but you can designate any folder you want. Works will add the extension .wdb automatically if you don't type it in.

     After naming the Field headers, the individual Records will need to be typed in. At some point you'll probably want to Sort (alphabetize) your data by LastName. Here's how; go to Record, Sort Records, and choose LastName, Ascending.

     Now let's format the printing of the envelopes. Go to File, New, Word Processor. This will be a separate document and will be named by going to File, Save As and giving it a name such as Label Layout. Works will add the extension .wps to the filename.

     Now go to Tools, Envelopes. Click Mail Merge Envelopes or whatever prompt indicates you are NOT doing multiple copies of the same address. (These prompts vary among different versions of Works.) Choose the size of the envelope you're planning to print, or click on Custom and type in the appropriate measurements.

     A window will open displaying a blank envelope the size you've indicated. Click on Insert, Database Fields (or whatever your version of Works suggests). Now a window will open and display all your Works databases, or any other Address Book you may have created. In this example we'll click on Address List.wdb.

     Now you'll be asked to insert the Fields that correspond to your database. Here you'll click Add Field and New Line until you get the sample envelope filled in to your specifications. There will also be an area for typing in a Return Address, if you want one.

     Additional formatting options, such as different font styles and colors, will also be available. Other prompts will take you to the Printing dialogue box. Use File, Print Preview to see what your finished envelopes will look like. If everything looks okay, go ahead and print them, following your printer's instructions on how to load and feed envelopes of different sizes.

     It should be pointed out that envelopes are somewhat prone to getting jammed in printers and that you should have extras on hand in case this happens. This is also why some folks prefer to print on self-adhesive labels rather than directly on the envelopes.

     Under Tools, you'll find Labels as an option. The Avery 5160 and 8160 (for laser and inkjet printers, respectively) with 30 labels to a sheet are the most popular. The instructions for printing labels will be similar to the above. Just follow the prompts and be sure to do a File, Print Preview to see how they'll look. Better yet, print out a page of labels on plain paper to make sure all the name and address data fits properly.

Oct 9
Using MSOffice to Create Mailing Labels & Envelopes

     Well, it's that time of year again. What time? Time to give an overview of how to print mailing labels and/or envelopes from a database list. There are many programs that can be used to accomplish this task, but we'll start with MSWord and Excel since these programs are used in most businesses.

     Excel will be used to create the "database" of names and addresses, while Word will be used to format the printing of the labels or envelopes. We'll start by using Excel as the database.

     Excel, technically, is a spreadsheet program, but it also works fine as a simple database if you use the top row as a "header row." For this example we'll type First Name, Last Name, Street Address, City, State and Zip into the top row's first six cells.

     Now go to File, Save As, and name your database something like ADDRESS LIST.XLS. By default, it will normally be saved in the My Documents folder, but you can designate any folder you want.

     You can alphabetize your records by clicking on Data, Sort, Last Name, Ascending. To make Excel's columns wide enough to contain the typed-in data, do Ctrl+A (select ALL) and go to Format, Column, AutoFit Selection.

     If you want to print out your database, it's best to do it "sideways" by going to File, Page Setup, Page, and choosing Landscape. This can make all columns fit on a page without having to lap over onto a second page. Choosing a smaller and/or narrower font also helps.

     I find 8 pt. Arial Narrow to be about the right size and width for this purpose. While in this Page Setup area you can also adjust your page margins to make them narrower, meaning you'll have more of the page useable for your text. Keep in mind that any font selected here has nothing to do with the one that will be used later on the finished labels or envelopes. Formatting the finished job is where Word comes in. Let's do that now.

     Launch Word to get a new, blank page. Use File, Save As to name the file (perhaps MAILING LIST.DOC). Click on Tools and you'll see a menu item called Envelopes & Labels. Don't go there; it's for creating INDIVIDUAL labels and envelopes. Instead, click on Mail Merge, Create. Choose Envelopes & Labels this time.

     We'll start with labels. Click on Active Window and then click Get Data, Open Data Source. This will normally take you to the My Documents folder, but you probably won't see your Excel database file there.

     This is because Word looks for files with a .DOC extension. Click on Files of Type and Choose MSExcel Worksheet *.XLS (or just choose All Files). Double-click your address list file. You'll get some prompts about "using the entire spreadsheet" and "setting up your main document."

     By following the "label" prompts you'll arrive at a list of standard Avery labels. The 5160/laser or 8160/inkjet (30 labels to a sheet) are the most popular. By following the "envelope" prompts, you'll find a list of many different sizes, along with a "custom" choice for designating your own dimensions.

     If you've chosen labels, you'll now see an enlarged, blank label, where you'll be asked to insert the Merge Fields. Click First Name, press the spacebar once and click Last Name. This will put the first and last name from each record in your database on the top row.

     Press Enter to move to the next line and fill in the other fields accordingly.

     Merge the data with the document by clicking Merge to New Document, All Records. Next click Merge. Finally, go to Edit, Select All and choose the font, style, and color you want. There will be other "fine-tuning" options along the way, but these are main ones.

     Going to File, Print Preview will show how the first page of completed labels will look. Pressing your PageDown key will show subsequent pages.

     Formatting envelopes is similar to the above, but you'll also be given the opportunity to type in a return address if you want one.

Oct 9
Sircam Virus & its "Reply Email" Trick

     I'm getting a lot of email "replies" lately that come with the Sircam virus attached to them. This particular strain of the virus lies in wait for an incoming email and then generates a "reply" which will quote the first few lines of the original message, and then end with, "Take a look at the attachment." This "reply" will then be sent to the original writer, complete with the virus attached.

     The person whose return address appears on the "reply" will be totally unaware of having sent the booby-trapped email. Therefore, I make it a point to write each person and explain what happened. I then suggest that he or she contact anyone from whom they've recently received mail to ask if they've received this kind of a "reply."

     The Sircam virus can usually be identified by its filename with a "double extension" (such as ""). However, many PC users may only see one of the extensions and may therefore be less suspicious of the attachment. Why would some folks see one extension while others see both?

     Well, Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, has always assumed that we don't need to see these filename extensions and therefore keeps them hidden. However, you can and should make them visible ASAP, since they give us valuable information about the filenames to which they're appended.

     So how do you make them visible?

     Win95 users: get into Windows Explorer and click on View, Options, View. Win98 users go to View, Folder Options, View. WinME and WinXP go to Tools, Folder Options, View.

     Here you'll find a line that reads, "Hide extension for known file types." Well, we don't want these extensions hidden, so Uncheck the box.

     These extensions tell us what kind of files they're attached to. For instance, .BMP means bitmap picture, while .DOC means MSWord document and .EXE means it's an executable file. (A comprehensive list of these extensions and their meanings can be found on my Web site.)

     Getting back to Sircam, anyone who has these extensions hidden may still see one of its "double" extensions, thus making the file appear more innocent. Beyond all this, Norton has a free Web site for finding and killing Sircam. It's URL is way too long to print here, but you can find it on my Home Page at

     My cable Internet service was down for a while recently and they don't have a an alternative website where you can go to look for your email. So I was three days without being able to see my new mail, which for me is something akin to being wrapped in a straight jacket and thrown into a rubber room. However, someone told me about a free Web site called Panda Mail, which can be found at So I went there and signed in. Voila! There was all my missing email. Try it; you might like it.

Undoing Things with Ctrl+Z

     Ctrl+Z is a handy keyboard command that I find relatively few people using.

     It's an "UNDO" command that's the same as going Edit and choosing Undo.

     For instance, if you accidentally delete a paragraph of text, you can retrieve it by doing Ctrl+Z. The feature basically undoes your most recent editing command.

     In most programs you can only execute Undo once. A second Ctrl+Z will simply reverse what the previous Ctrl-Z did and put you back to where you were.

     A notable exception to this rule is MSWord, where you can undo the last dozen or so edits if you want to. To reverse the process in Word you do Ctrl+Y, or you can go to Edit, Redo. There are also toolbar icons for activating "do" and "undo" in many programs. Look for a curved arrow pointing left and another pointing right.

     In Windows Explorer you can use Ctrl+Z to undo moving a file. Let's say you moved a file, but it landed in the wrong folder. An immediate Ctrl+Z will return the file to where it was. This even works if you "deleted" a file by sending it to the Recycle Bin. I've found that in writing, Ctrl+Z is a tool I use often. You might find it useful, too.

Oct 2
How Windows XP Will Affect PC Chat

     Windows XP will make its debut this month and with it will come a number of advanced features that will necessarily affect the way this column is written. PC Chat has always been written with the beginning and intermediate PC user in mind, and has generally avoided getting into “high tech” areas.

     Since the introduction of Windows 95, most of its basic features have remained fairly consistent through Win98 and WinME, meaning that the tips and tricks described here work in most cases on most PCs. The new, advanced features of WinXP will be introduced slowly, as more users upgrade to the operating system and/or buy new PCs with WinXP preinstalled.

     For now, let’s review some of the fundamentals that will continue to be part of all Windows systems. The basics of “Cut, Copy and Paste” are a case in point.

     Let’s say you’re writing a letter with your word processor, telling a tenant that he’s five months in arrears at $980 a month, and you’ve typed, “Please remit…” Okay, you probably have a pocket calculator handy with which you’d multiply 5 times 980, and then type the answer into your letter. But let’s do it the computer way.

     Go to Start, Run and type in Calc. Click OK and a calculator will appear on your screen with which you can do the math, either by entering numbers from the keyboard or by clicking them with your mouse pointer. After clicking the equals sign (=), 4900 will appear as your answer. Now let’s COPY that figure by going to Edit, Copy (or by doing Ctrl+C).

     Back in your word processor, go to Edit, Paste (or do Ctrl+V) to PASTE the figure into the “Please remit” sentence. If you prefer, “4900” can then be edited to read “$4,900.” If you now wanted to create a Notepad message, reading “J. Jones owes me…” you could do another Ctrl+V to PASTE “4900” into the sentence.

     Likewise, you can open a spreadsheet page and “PASTE” the number into it, where it might be used for further calculations.

     The lesson here is: once an item is “copied,” the data remains on the Windows “invisible Clipboard” waiting to be “pasted” anywhere you choose to put it. The data will remain on the Chipboard until such time as you “COPY” or “CUT” some other data, which will then replace the current Clipboard contents. Yes, like any rule, this one has its occasional exceptions; but generally speaking it holds true for most any Windows application.

     In some cases, however, we need to use “Paste Special” instead of “Paste.” Here are some examples: if you Copy, say, a paragraph of text from an MS Word document, and then go to Paste it into another word processor, it may get pasted in as an “object” i.e., a “picture” of the paragraph. Well, an “object” can be moved around and even resized, but its text can’t be edited in any way. The trick here is to use “Paste Special” and then choose between Formatted and Unformatted Text.

     In addition to text and numbers, graphics can be Copied and Pasted. I mentioned recently that the US Flag emblem shown on my web page at can be Copied by right-clicking it and choosing Copy from the popup menu. Well, a number of Netscape users wrote to say “Copy” did not appear on the menu.

     Alas, they were correct. I sometimes tend to forget the many ways in which Netscape is less user-friendly than Internet Explorer. Netscape users need to do a double-click with the left mouse button, before being able to do a right-click, which brings up the Copy option. Beyond that, users of either browser can right-click and choose “Save Picture As” or “Save Image As” and then choose a location for the graphic. Double-clicking the saved graphic will then bring up an image-editing program, where the image CAN be Copied and Pasted into a word processing page for printing on a sheet of 8.5”x11” paper.

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