|Year 2000||Click Here for Complete Listing of 2000's PC Chats|
|Year 2001||Click Here for Complete Listing of 2001's PC Chats|
|Mar 4, 2001||More Useful Information About Icons|
|Mar 6, 2001||More About Your Taskbar - "Taskbar" vs "Toolbar" - "Icons" vs "Buttons"|
|Mar 11, 2001||"Quick-Launch" Icons vs "Startup" Icons|
|Mar 13, 2001||Mail-Merge with MSWorks + Moving Data Between Spreadsheets & DB Programs|
|Mar 18, 2001||Information on Musical Files + Formatting Email|
|Mar 20, 2001||Formatting Page Margins in Email|
|Mar 25, 2001||Sending Photos with Email|
|Mar 27, 2001||Using "Thumbnails" + Using Different Versions of MSWorks|
Using "Thumbnails" + Using Different Versions of MSWorks
Sending Photos with Email
Formatting Page Margins in Email
I wrote recently about requests to format this newsletter with a wide left margin, for hole-punching purposes. I replied that I knew of no email program that offers this capability.
Information on Musical Files + Formatting Email
When I wrote recently that I didn't know why MIDIs had to be burned onto a CD as "data" files rather than "musical" files I received explanations from two old friends: Dennis Smith and Carl Von Papp. They pointed out that MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) files are "binary encoded data" which are played directly into a computer from a digital keyboard, whereas MP3 and WAV files are actual musical sounds recorded with microphones onto a disc.
Mail-Merge with MSWorks +
Moving Data Between Spreadsheets & DB Programs
Bob Jacobson wrote to ask how to create form letters using the MSWorks word processor. Bob's version of Works is an older one, but the procedure is basically the same as for the latest version in Works 2000. (Works 2001 uses MSWord, which behaves somewhat differently.)
The idea behind a form letter is simple -- a letter is written which will go to multiple recipients, but which will show individual names and addresses, thus giving each letter a "personalized" appearance.
The first thing needed is a database, listing the names and addresses of the intended recipients. Other information, such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses, can be included in the database -- but may not necessarily be used in the body of the letter.
MSWorks has always had a database utility built in, and it's where older versions expect to find the data needed for the form letter. Later versions can read data from a variety of programs, including Excel, Access and Paradox. All versions of MSWorks include a Mail Merge "Wizard," which leads one through a step-by-step creation and filling-in of a form letter. However, it's not that hard to do on your own.
Create a new MSWorks word processor file and give the document a name by going to Save, As. Next click on Tools, Form Letters. A window will open displaying several tabbed dialog boxes. The one in front will be "Instructions." After reading these simple pointers, click Next. You'll be asked which database you want to use -- in case there are multiple ones from which to choose -- and you'll be asked whether ALL the records (names and addresses) will be used or just the ones you've checked off.
At some point a list of the "fields" you created (First Name, etc.) will be displayed and you'll be instructed to insert the ones you want at the points where they should appear on the letter. The most obvious is to begin with «First Name» «Last Name» in the heading -- and continue until all the fields are in place.
However, field locations are not restricted to the "heading" of a letter. For instance, you might have a sentence which reads, "Thanks for your interest, «First Name»." Then Joe, Alice or Lou would replace this field marker as the form letters are printed. Using File, Print Preview will display each letter along with its filled-in data.
But what do you do if your database was created in a program that an older version of MSWorks can't read? It's done with the old reliable Copy and Paste.
Copying and Pasting also works for getting data from one spreadsheet into another -- or for getting records from a database program into a spreadsheet -- or vice versa. It can also work for moving data between word processing documents, as well as for transferring it among word processors, spreadsheets and DB programs.
Spreadsheets and database documents, in their simplest forms, are a grid of columns and rows. The intersecting boxes are called "cells." In DB programs the columns are called "Fields" while the rows are called "Records." In spreadsheets the columns are marked alphabetically (A, B, C) while rows are numbered sequentially, starting with Row 1. The cell in the upper left corner of a spreadsheet is "A1."
DB programs use "labels" in a header row, which is above the "Record #1" row. You normally name these field headers when you begin building the database, but they can be edited at any time.
Spreadsheet programs simply use Row #1 for their column headings -- and at some point you'll be asked to check a box reading, "My Spreadsheet Has a Header Row."
The bottom line is that text data in almost any spreadsheet or database document can he highlighted and then Copied with Ctrl+C. Then place your cursor in the upper left cell of the target DB or SS document and do Ctrl+V to Paste the data into the corresponding cells.
Keep in mind, however, that if you're copying formulas from one spreadsheet to another the resulting answers may be wrong unless all cell references to the formula are copied as well. Or -- you can convert the answers to "values" by using the "Paste Special, Values Only" option.
"Quick-Launch" Icons vs "Startup" Icons
Some of this week's mail questioned my suggestions for putting icons on the Win98+ Taskbar, asking if doing so doesn't put too many items in the Windows "Startup" folder, thus slowing down the computer's startup.
No - the Startup items are clustered near the Taskbar's digital clock, and often include the "horn" icon and an anti-virus icon. This area is called the "System Tray" and, yes, these items start up when your PC is booted and continue to run in the background, which slows down the bootup and uses system resources. However, owners of newer computers with high-speed processors and lots of RAM will probably never notice these effects. In any case, the "shortcut" icons you put in the "Quick Launch" area of your Taskbar have nothing to do with the Startup icons in the "System Tray."
Speaking of Startup items, many of them really don't need to be launched on bootup, nor do they have to constantly run in the background. One's volume control, virus-scanner and maintenance task scheduler are usually enough - and even the latter two can be left off, only to be activated when needed. Besides the icons seen near the digital clock, other "Startup" programs may be in action, as well.
To check them out, Win98+ users will go to Start, Run and type in MSCONFIG. Click on the Startup tab and take a look at the checked-off items. I limit mine to ScanRegistry, SystemTray, LoadPowerProfile, and Cal Reminder Shortcut. I also click on the General tab, then click on Advanced and UNcheck Enable Startup Menu. Keep in mind that all these items are actually "shortcuts" to different functions, and that disabling them does not harm the underlying programs. If in doubt, try disabling one Startup item at a time, and reboot to see if you notice any undesirable change in performance. If so, simply recheck the item.
Win95 users don't have MSCONFIG, and will find their Startup Shortcuts in the C:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup folder. Remove any unwanted Shortcuts from this folder by dragging them onto your Desktop, from where they can be replaced if you're not happy with the results. The first thing I always remove from this folder is the MSOffice Shortcut Bar. It always stays on top of whatever you're doing and often hides things you need to see in your work area.
One of the exciting things about writing a computer column is that technology never stops. In fact, it moves along so fast that no one can keep up with it all. For instance, I've gotten questions about "burning" CDs and about using Windows ME, but haven't had the hardware and software available for doing the research. I now have CD burning capabilities, and will have Windows Me soon.
A reader wrote to ask why he couldn't burn the "MIDI" musical files he copied from my web site onto a CD, using Adaptec Easy CD Creator. Here's what I discovered: when the program is launched it displays some startup buttons, which include "Audio" and "Data." "Audio" would appear to be the logical button to click - and it is - for burning "MP3" and "WAV" files. However, "Data" is the button to use for burning "MIDIs." Don't ask me why - but I tried it - and the songs I copied onto the CD play just fine.
Speaking of burning CDs, as a Windows/ Mac user I've become accustomed to copying files from one disk to another by dragging and dropping them. To do this with a CD, it first has to be formatted. Do this by going to Data, Direct CD using the Adaptec program, and follow the prompts. I'm told this program is the most popular CD management software in use today. In any case, this procedure applies only to CD/RW "rewritable" CD systems.
More About Your Taskbar
"Taskbar" vs "Toolbar" - "Icons" vs "Buttons"
I wrote recently about putting icons to important files on your Taskbar, in order to make them more easily accessible. Bob Crabtree and Jerry Whitmore wrote to point out that these icons are actually on a section of the Taskbar called the "Quick Launch Toolbar." This area can be made available by right-clicking the Taskbar and choosing Toolbars, Quick Launch.
Other choices of Taskbar Toolbars are Address, Links and Desktop, which will allow quick access to one's Address Book, Links to Internet sites, and all the icons on one's Desktop. "New Toolbar" will allow you to create even others. What will also always be visible on one's Taskbar are "buttons" to any files that are open.
So, what's the difference between a Toolbar and a Taskbar?
Well, in Windows 95/98+, the gray bar at the bottom of the screen is the "Taskbar." The collection of icons that normally appear at the top of a page in an open document is called a "Toolbar." However, it must be pointed out that the information here regarding "Toolbars on the Taskbar" applies only to Win98 and later.
Then what's the difference between an "icon" and a "button?"
Well, an icon is normally small and square, and contains a drawing suggestive of the file which will be brought up if it's clicked. Buttons normally contain a word or a phrase which is indicative of what will happen when it's "pushed." Also, buttons are normally shown in an "in" or "out" condition, which will be reversed when clicked.
For instance, when you're working on a document a button to the file will always be visible on your Taskbar, displayed as being "in." Hit the "minimize" icon on the document -- the "dash" in its upper right corner -- and the file will disappear from the screen. However, its button on the Taskbar will then be in the "out" position, indicating that the document is still open and able to be quickly restored by "pressing the button in."
The button on the Taskbar will always have the file's name on it - yet only a few letters of the name may be visible. However, letting your pointer rest on the button for a couple of seconds will display the full name, along with the name of the program in which the file was created. Speaking of which, have you noticed that pointing to the Taskbar's digital clock for a couple of seconds will display the current day and date?
Getting back to your Taskbar's Toolbars, you can create your own by choosing New Toolbar, as mentioned above. Here's where the definitions may seem a little muddled again, because your choice of "New Toolbars" is actually a choice of existing "Folders." Speaking for myself, the only Toolbar I have on my Taskbar other than Quick Launch is Desktop. This is because I always have lots of "currently in use" files on my Desktop - and being able to click this Toolbar gives me an instant alphabetical display of them all.
Yes, there is a "Desktop" icon always in view on your Taskbar, which looks like a pencil pointing to a piece of paper on a rounded surface. Clicking this icon will take you instantly to your Desktop, while hiding everything else that may be open on your screen.
There are other things that can be done with your Taskbar, but at some point it may seem like we're trying to crowd too many different functions onto a thin strip at the bottom of the screen. Well, you can widen your Taskbar by grabbing its top edge and pulling upward. Obviously, this will cut down on the available viewing area on your screen. However, you can choose to have the Taskbar completely out of view by going to Start, Settings, Taskbar, and clicking Auto Hide. This will keep the Taskbar out of view until you point to the bottom of your screen, which will bring it back into view until you point away from it.
More Useful Information About Icons
We've talked recently about using Desktop icons to launch programs and/or to quickly bring up frequently used files. Some readers have said that when they try to move their icons, they snap back to where they were. This can be fixed by right-clicking the Desktop and choosing Arrange Icons. Uncheck AutoArrange, and the icons will be movable. Right-clicking the Desktop and choosing Line Up Icons will fine-tune their row and column alignment.
Any icon can be safely deleted if it has an arrow in it's lower left corner. The arrow means the icon is a "shortcut" to a file or folder, and deleting it will not affect the item that it "points to." To create a shortcut icon that points to a particular file, right-click the Desktop and choose New, Shortcut. You can then type in the "path" to the target file or click Browse to locate it.
If you change the name or location of a file that a shortcut icon points to, you can edit the icon by right-clicking it and choosing Properties, Shortcut.
If you don't care for the appearance of an icon and want to change it, you can right-click it and choose Properties, Change Icon. This will often display an array of other icons from which to choose. If it doesn't, or if you don't like what you see, type C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\SHELL32.DLL into the "Filename" box to see a whole other collection of icons.
You can find even more icons by "browsing" your way to a program's folder and clicking its main ".exe" file. For instance, if you browse your way to "winword.exe" you'll find several variations of the familiar MSWord icon. If you're not sure how to find "winword.exe" go to Start, Find, Files & Folders and type it in. You'll be shown the exact path to the file.
In order to change certain "system" icons, such as My Computer, My Documents or Recycle Bin, right-click your Desktop and choose Properties, Effects.
If you'd like to make your own icons, I've placed a program called "Icon Studio" on my homepage. Download "ICS.ZIP" to set up and use the program.
Any icon can be renamed by right-clicking its "label" and choosing Rename. You can rename a "shortcut" icon to anything you want -- but if you want to change the name of an actual "file" icon, you have to retain its filename extension. For instance, it's okay to change an Excel file named "expenses.xls" to "charges.xls" but changing or omitting ".xls" could make the file unreadable.
You can, however, temporarily change any extension to ".txt" if you can find no other way to open the file. This will display the file as a "text" document which my have portions of it you can read, to help determine what kind of a file it is.
For instance, if you have a file that ends in ".wpd" that won't open when double-clicked, changing "wpd" to "txt" will show you that it's a WordPerfect file. If you have MSWord or MSWorks, and want to open a WordPerfect file, go to File, Open, and look for WP options in the "Files of Type" box. Be sure you've changed "txt" back to "wpd" for this to work.
Speaking of "icons," you may see a row of "buttons" next to your digital clock on your Taskbar. You'll undoubtedly recognize your "speaker volume control" button and your "anti-virus" button. Another may be your "scheduled tasks" button. These buttons, when left-clicked or right-clicked, will display options for using them - such as changing the times that Scandisk and Defrag are set to run under "Scheduled Tasks" or temporarily disabling your "Anti-Virus Program." We'll talk more about their "startup" options next time.