PC Chats for 2001
Jan 2 Clearing Out McGee's Closet
Jan 7 Cropping & Resizing Photos
Jan 9 How to Create and Use Your Own Folders
Jan 14 Compatibility Features of Various E-mail Services
Jan 16 Taking Advantage of Your PC's Desktop
Jan 21 More About Various E-mail Services
Jan 23 No Free Lunch?
Jan 30 Some Observations on MSWorks 2000
Feb 4 Managing Email Address Books
Feb 6 Taxes, Amortization & Spreadsheets + Printing Lists of Files & Folders
Feb 11 Tips & Questions from Readers - Screen Prints - Printing Lists of Files & Folders
Feb 13 Fixing Those Long & Short Lines in Email + Getting Rid of Those >>> Symbols
Feb 18 Free Email "Clean-Up" Programs + More Info on Printing File & Folder Lists + Icons on Your Taskbar
Feb 25 Desktop Icons Can Make Your Tasks Easier + Using Notepad
Feb 27 Using Your Built-in Calculator + Some Helpful Spreadsheet Tricks
Mar 4 More Useful Information About Icons
Mar 6 More Information About Your Taskbar - "Taskbar" vs "Toolbar" - "Icons" vs "Buttons"
Mar 11 "Quick-Launch" Icons vs "Startup" Icons
Mar 13 Mail-Merge with MSWorks + Moving Data Between Spreadsheets & DB Programs
Mar 18 Information on Musical Files + Formatting Email
Mar 20 Formatting Margins in Email
Mar 25 Sending Photos with Email
Mar 27 Using "Thumbnails" + Using Different Versions of MSWorks
Apr 1 Animated Graphics
Apr 3 Filename Extensions
Apr 8 Changing a BMP graphic into an ICON
Apr 10 An Overview of Using Scanners
Apr 15 Free Word Processor + AutoCorrect Tricks + Writing in Spanish with MSWord
Apr 17 Moving Email Address Books from One Program to Another
Apr 22 More Tricks for Typing Special Symbols
Ñ, ñ, á, é, í, ó, ú, ü, ¿, ¢, ÷, ©, ¼, ½, ¾, ©, ®, , °, ², ³, , ±,
Apr 24 Using Your Word Processor's Ruler
Apr 29 Using Columns in a Word Processing Document
May 1 Saving All or Parts of a Document
May 6 Using Your Right Mouse Button
May 8 Saving Your Files to Other Disks
May 13 More "Right-Click" & "Send To" Options + "Mirrored Margins" in MsWord, WordPerfect & MSPublisher
May 15 Accessing Email from Another PC + Find/Search Options
May 20 Using Windows' *Find* Options
May 22 Transferring Files between PCs + Printing Web Pages
May 27 Using Your Find & Replace Options
May 29 More on Copying Files, Discs & Disks
June 3 Saving Email as You Create It
June 5 Sending & Receiving Faxes To & From Your Computer
June 10 Joining or Starting a Computer Club + Documenting a Medical History with your PC
June 12 More on Faxing & Saving Files
June 17 Having Fun with Instant Messages
June 19 Sometimes Size Does Matter + Tips on Using Scandisk & Defrag
June 24 Using Your Various "Appearance" Options
July 1 Saving Ink When Printing Maps & Directions
July 3 More on Faxing + Some Tips on Using WinZip
July 8 Comments and Questions from Readers
July 10 Some Paradoxes of Microsoft Products
July 17 Using Windows Explorer "View" Options
July 19 Using Simple Macros in Various Versions of MSWorks
July 22 Using Your Spreadsheet to Add It All Up
July 23 Managing your windows in Windows
July 26 Make a Folder for your "Run" Commands
July 29 Drag & Drop Pictures into Outlook Express
July 31 Microsoft Gets Tough on Software Piracy
Aug 5 Some Interesting Aspects of Email
Aug 7 Windows XP + More "Classmates" Stories
Aug 12 More on Classmates + Information on Downloading File Attachments
Aug 14 Time for a Confession (about not using an anti-virus program)
Aug 19 More Information on Protection from Viruses and Worms
Aug 21 Virus Tips from Readers + Using the Windows Phone Dialer
Aug 26 Beta-testing Windows XP + Using "Thumbnails" with Paint Shop Pro
Aug 28 More Beta-testing Windows XP + Faxing While Online with a Cable Connection
Sep 2 Blocking Unwanted Email
Sep 6 Thoughts from Readers on Blocking Unwanted Email
Sep 9 Surprised to Find Some Viruses + Plus Information on Some Free Programs
Sep 11 More Information on Free Programs
Sep 15 Another Virus Problem
Sep 16 Questions from Readers re: Email
Sep 23 Another Virus Alert
Sep 25 Using a PC to Make Patriotic Posters
Sep 30 Differences Between Freeware & Shareware
Oct 2 How Windows XP Will Affect PC Chat
Oct 7 Sircam Virus & its "Reply Email" Trick
Oct 9 Using MSOffice to Create Mailing Labels & Envelopes
Oct 14 Using MSWorks to Create Mailing Labels & Envelopes
Oct 16 Using MSWord Alone to Create Mailing Labels & Envelopes
Oct 21 Norton SystemWorks - Worth Considering
Oct 23 Norton SystemWorks Can Create Problems - Another Point of View
Oct 28 Windows XP Is Very, Very Stable
Oct 30 Various Ways to Back Up Important Files
Nov 4 Transferring Files from One Computer to Another
Nov 6 Managing Files & Folders 101
Nov 11 Managing "Shortcuts" 101
Nov 13 Questions and Help from a Reader
Nov 18 Some Windows Basics
Nov 20 "Block Sender" Options + Resizing Photos
Nov 25 Blocking Pop-Up Ads & Unwanted Email
Nov 27 Some Tips on Using PowerPoint
Dec 2 Another Virus Alert
Dec 4 Tips on Printing Multipage Documents
Dec 9 PopUp Ad Killers - Worth the Trouble? - What is "Web" Email? - Why Did My Picture Icons Change?
Dec 11 Navigating Without a Mouse
Dec 16 Getting Animated Graphics to Move + Tips on Book Formatting
Dec 18 Printing Web Pages + Working with Tables
Dec 23 Finding Things on your PC + Some Keyboard Shortcuts for the Mac
Dec 25 Cookies - ScanDisk - Internet Device - iMac
Dec 30 More on Cookies + Selecting Multiple Files

Dec 30 More on Cookies + Selecting Multiple Files for Moving, Deleting, Etc.
     When I recently suggested creating a Desktop Shortcut that leads to the "Cookies" folder I got a number of interesting responses. Some asked what Cookies are and what they do.
     Well, Cookies are small text files that Internet retailers place on our hard drives when we visit their sites. While visiting a site, activities such as which buttons we click on are recorded in order to create a profile of what we might be interested in buying. This info is then placed in our Cookies folder so that when we visit that site again the retailer might be better prepared to lead us to areas we previously expressed an interest in.
     My "Shortcut" instruction was to make it easier to access the Cookies folder, for the purpose of deleting them periodically. However, Lacey Hood told me she buys books at Amazon.com from time to time and that she feels the Cookies make her shopping there easier.
     Some folks consider Cookies to be an invasion of privacy and prefer barring them in the first place. This can be done, but doing so can make certain sites totally off-limits. However, the choice is yours.
     Internet Express users can go to Tools, Internet Options, Privacy and choose the level of "cookie avoidance" they want.
     Netscape users will find these choices at Tasks, Privacy & Security, Cookie Manager.
     In any case, it's important to understand that your Cookies folder is a "system" folder and cannot be deleted. However, the "contents" of this folder can be deleted. The same holds true for other "system" folders such as the Recycle Bin, My Documents, and Temporary Internet Files.
     The easiest way to empty one of these folders is to double-click its "yellow folder" icon to open it. Then go to Edit, Select All (or do Ctrl+A). Hit your keyboard Delete key and you'll be asked if you are sure you want to perform this action. Click Yes and the files will be gone.
     However, you may see a message saying that certain files are "system" files and that they can't be deleted. No problem. Ignore these files and continue deleting those which can be deleted.
     Selecting Multiple Files
     Tom Streeter said that when he followed this procedure, over 800 files still remained and asked if there was a quicker way than deleting them one at a time.
     Yes, there is. After you've deleted all you can with Select All, the remaining ones can be "marqueed" with the mouse and deleted all at once. To "marquee" a group of contiguous files, depress your left mouse button and "draw" a rectangle around them. They'll all turn dark. This means they are "selected" and can be removed by hitting your Delete key.
     Another way of selecting multiple contiguous files is to click on the first target file while holding down your Shift key. Click on the last file while still depressing Shift. This will cause the first, last and all files in between to be selected. Once selected, the target files can then be Deleted, Cut, Moved, Copied or "Sent To" another folder.
     To Select multiple non-contiguous files, just hold down Ctrl while you point and click each target file.
     The "Shift key trick" described above also works in word processing documents where you want to Select a large block of contiguous text. If you have trouble controlling your mouse after clicking a block's beginning and then trying to make the selection end in a precise spot, just set the mouse aside and expand the selected area by clicking your Arrow keys or your Page Down or Page Up keys. This makes text selection fast, easy and precise.
     The Difference Between "Delete" and "Cut"
     I find that some folks are confused about the difference between "Deleting" something and "Cutting" it. Well, the former means sending text, graphics, files, folders or whatever to your Recycle Bin, from whence they can later be removed permanently. The latter means removing a target item from its current location and placing it on the "Windows Clipboard" from whence it can be "Pasted" into another location, or even into multiple different locations.
Dec 25 Cookies - ScanDisk - Internet Device - iMac
     Lenora Anderson wrote to ask if there is any reason not to delete the "cookies" that various Internet sites send to her hard drive. There is no reason not to delete them, and I have a Desktop Shortcut to take me to the Cookies folder for just this purpose. This easiest way to create this Shortcut is to go to Start, Find (or Search), Files & Folders, and type in Cookies. When the Cookies folder is found, just drag its icon on to your Desktop. A message will pop up saying, oddly, that you can't do this and will ask if you want a Shortcut on your Desktop instead. Click on Yes.
     Linda Wooley wrote to ask what I thought of Incredimail. Well, I haven't used the program at length to test its reliability and stability, but I must confess to being quite impressed with what I've seen on the surface. In case you haven't heard about Incredimail, it's an e-mail client that comes with all kinds of built-in graphics features, which include animated cartoons and a variety of colorful backgrounds.
     My objection to it when first sent a beta copy about a year ago was that it had no "Blind Carbon Copy" feature, but this has been fixed. Incredimail looks and behaves very much like Outlook Express, and will automatically pick up all your existing OE folders and saved e-mail. There is no charge for the basic program, but the sender sees a small ad box, while the recipient sees a small ad for Incredimail at the bottom of each incoming e-mail. However, for $30, you'll receive a version without the advertising. Other advanced graphics features are available for additional costs. Check out http://www.incredimail.com/ for details.
     I get mail almost daily from folks who have trouble running ScanDisk and Defrag. Well, a full explanation of all the alternate ways of running these programs can always be found at http://www.pcdon.com/page82.html. At least one of them will work for you.
     Beverly Layton had resisted getting a computer for a long time, insisting that her typewriter filled all her needs for writing letters, invoices, and the like for CableTronics, the Vista firm owned by Bev and husband Bob. But when a friend gave her a vintage Macintosh, she quickly discovered the advantages of doing these things with a computer. Later, when a grandson joined the Air Force and went to Okinawa, she wanted to exchange e-mail with him, but her old Mac had no modem, nor was it really powerful enough for Internet browsing even if it had one.
     So when Bob saw an "Internet Device" at the local Radio Shack he brought it home for Bev to try out. Well, the Compag iPaq does do Internet, e-mail and even IMs (Instant Messages) and its price is very low to anyone who signs up for two years of MSN as part of the purchase. But after giving the iPaq a two-week workout, they took it back. Why?
     Well, the device has no hard disk, so one is restricted to using only what can be done online. E-mail must be created online, and it is saved on MSN's server. The only way you can save a copy for yourself is to print it out.
     Beyond all its various limitations, it meant that Bev needed deskspace for both her Mac and the iPaq. That's when she decided to get an up-to-date real computer. Naturally, I was hoping she'd get a PC, but she found a good deal on a recent-vintage iMac. However, she now had another problem.
     The iMac came with no built-in 3.5" disk drive, and all the files Bev had created with the older Mac were on these kinds of disks. So she bought an add-on drive. The bottom line is that Bev can now do e-mail, IMs and all her bookkeeping with MSOffice. Furthermore, I can help her learn how to use MSWord and Excel, because of the similarity between the Mac and PC versions, and the fact that all their files are compatible and interchangeable.Bev and I are now both happy campers.
Dec 23 Finding Things on your PC + Some Keyboard Shortcuts for the Mac
     Dan Baumbaugh wrote to say he uses Ctrl+F to Find specific text on a lengthy Web page. Yes, this is a very useful command, and it works for many other documents as well; such as spreadsheets, database pages and word processing files.
     Additionally, the command normally offers options such as narrowing the search to only words in upper or lower case or to whole words only. "Whole words" means that if you're searching for "sent" the command would ignore "consent" and "sentiment."
     When using Ctrl+F on a spreadsheet or database page, selecting a row or column's header will look for the specified text only in that row or column. With nothing selected, the whole page or document will be searched.
     High-powered word processors, such as MSWord, also include options for finding special characters (such as Enter or Tab) as well as things like Any Digit. Web page Find commands also include searching Up or Down from the cursor location. Many programs also offer Find & Replace, which can be activated with Ctrl+H in Microsoft documents.
     Beyond this, these various commands can be activated by going to the Edit menu in most programs.
     In Outlook Express, the Find command can ONLY be activated from the Edit menu, and it comes with some interesting variations. (Doing Ctrl+F brings up the "Forward" command.)
     Let's say you're looking for a recently received e-mail and that you think it's still in your Inbox. Click the Inbox button. Go to Edit, Find. You'll be presented with options for seeking a Message or a Message in this Folder, as well as options to Find Next and Find People. Find Text In This Folder will be an option when looking within any of the sub-folders or messages.
     I won't give examples for all of the above options, but Find Text In This Folder covers a lot of possibilities. If the e-mail you're seeking included a holiday greeting of some kind, you might enter "Christmas" in the search box.
     To look for data on your entire hard drive, go to Start, Find or Start, Search. There are many options here, including searching between two specific dates. If you don't find what you're looking for, make sure the Look In box indicates your C drive (or C & D if you have two hard drives). "Look In Document Folders" often pops up by default, and limits your search to just a few folders.
     More advanced options let you tell your PC to look only for specific types of files, such as WordPerfect or Lotus 1-2-3 documents. When specifying certain text to be found, placing, say, "Happy Holidays" in double-quotes will ignore all documents containing just Happy or just Holidays. Another option that can be used for finding things in Outlook Express is to sort the various columns of data. For instance, if you're looking for an e-mail that came in very recently, clicking the Received header will put all Inbox letters in order of date received. Another click will reverse the order of the dates. If you know the sender's e-mail name, clicking From will sort the letters alphabetically by name.
     Likewise, clicking Subject will sort the letters alphabetically by whatever appears in the subject line. Again, a second click reverses the order of the sort. The ways of sorting these columns to your advantage is limited only by your imagination.
     Getting back to Ctrl+F, a whole page of Keyboard Shortcuts can be found on this web site. Return to the Home Page for info.
     I get asked periodically why I don't offer Macintosh tips in this column. Well, I love the Mac, but only have so much space for each column, and feel compelled to write for the larger audience, which we all know is the PC user. However, many of the tips offered here do apply to many Mac commands. For instance, most of the Keyboard Shortcuts mentioned above work on the Mac simply by substituting the "Apple" or "Command" key for the "Ctrl" key.
Dec 18 Printing Web Pages + Working with Tables
     A number of people have asked why the animated drawings they've downloaded from the Internet (such as the waving US flags on this web site) don't move after they've been saved on their hard drive.
     I continue to get questions about doing print-outs of Web pages. The obvious answer is to click your browser's printer icon when the desired page is open. However, doing so can use up a color ink cartridge pretty quickly.
     If you have MSWord 2000 or MSWord XP, it's better to Copy and Paste the Web page into a blank Word document, where you will have all kinds of editing options available. Go to Edit on the Web page's Menu bar and choose Select All. Then do Edit, Copy. Create a blank Word document and do Edit, Paste or choose Edit, Paste Special, HTML. (Unfortunately, this doesn't work in WordPerfect or the MSWorks word processor.)
     The end result should be an exact duplication of the Web page, or something very close to it. Now you can mouse-select any text and/or graphic you want and Paste it into another blank document for printing. However, you can also select individual components from the open Web page. Do a right-click on any graphic and choose Copy or Save Image or Save As (depending on your browser). As for text, just mouse-select the part you want to print. Do Edit, Copy and then Edit, Paste it into any open word processing page.
     Text that's been copied and pasted like this can be edited in all the usual word processing ways, such as changing the text style to suit your own preferences.
     A lot of what you Copy and Paste from a Web page may be laid out in "tables." For instance, if you use MapQuest.com or Switchboard.com to get turn-by-turn driving directions from one place to another, the information will always be in a table made up of columns and rows. Some of the information may be more than you want to print out, such as accumulated mileage from one turn to the next.
     In MSWord, just click anywhere in the table and go to Table, Convert, Table To Text and choose Tabs or Commas for the separators. This will make it easier to delete the stuff you don't want, as well as to edit what remains for better legibility. When I print these instructions, I use extra large type so everything is easier to read while driving.
     Another thing that can make tables easier to read is to reduce your page margin widths, in order to get more text on a line. Go to File, Page Setup, Margins and set the Left and Right margins to .8" or so. If everything is still too crowded, click on Landscape, rather than Portrait, for a "sideways" print-out.
     Speaking of tables, they can be created and used very easily in MSWord. Go to Table, Insert, Table. Choose how many rows and columns you think you'll need and punch in the numbers. Click inside any cell and begin typing. If the line of text is too long to fit, it will "wrap" itself onto as many lines as are needed to make it fit. The row height will increase accordingly.
     The row height will also change if you make the text larger or smaller, and will always be tall enough to accommodate the cell with the most or largest text.
     To change the width of any column, just position the cursor above its top cell. When it turns into a down-pointing arrow, grab the right or left edge of any cell in the column and adjust it to suit your needs. Individual cells can also be widened or narrowed by clicking inside one to create a black bar along its top edge. Finally, grab an edge to adjust the cell's width.
     A table can also be created by going to Table, Draw Table. Your cursor will turn into a "pencil" and you can move its point to draw the table you want. A "drawing toolbar" will also appear that provides an "eraser" and other tools to simplify your table creation.
Dec 16 Getting Animated Graphics to Move - Tips on Book Formatting
     A number of people have asked why the animated drawings they've downloaded from the Internet (such as the waving US flags on this web site) don't move after they've been saved on their hard drive.
     The answer is that animated GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) files will only move when viewed within certain types of programs. The most frequently used programs are Web pages and email clients.
     WinXP comes with a built-in program called the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, which does display these drawings in full motion. Just double-click an animated GIF's icon to see the action. However, previous versions of Windows don't have this feature.
     So how can you get a graphic to move in pre-WinXP operating systems?
     If your email client is of recent vintage, you can send yourself a letter that has an animated GIF enclosed. Use the Insert or Attach command, and the drawing will move when you open the letter. Older email programs, such as AOL 5.0, will only display a still shot of the drawing.
     If you have an HTML editor, an animated GIF can be inserted in the Edit mode, and will be seen moving in the Preview mode. HTML editors are used to create Web pages, and my favorite is 1st Page 2000, which can be freely downloaded from www.evrsoft.com. A graphics program which displays animated GIFs in action can be also be freely downloaded from www.irfanview.com.
     Another recent question is: "How can I reduce the noise my modem makes when I go online?" Pre-WinXP users can go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Modems, General, Volume Control and adjust the sliding lever. WinXP users will find the lever at Start, Control Panel, Phone & Modem Options, Modems, Properties, Modem, Speaker Volume.
     A recent question about using Headers and Footers for page numbering in MSWord and MSWorks is: "How can a Header be removed from the first page of a multi-page document?" An author will often use the first page as a title page or table of contents, and will not want it numbered as Page 1. Well, the Headers & Footers feature lets you UNcheck "Show Number on First Page" and then tell the second page to be designated Page 1. Thus, a Header/Footer on the first page can be made to display nothing, but it can't be removed.
     However, pages preceding Page 1, such as a dedication or whatever, can be saved as a separate file. This is what I did with the computer book I wrote earlier this year.
     Speaking of writing a book, the mechanics of preparing a document for a publisher have changed dramatically since the pre-computer days of submitting a double-spaced, typewritten manuscript, which would then be manually copied and typeset. Nowadays a publisher expects a manuscript to be submitted as a computer file. But which program should be used?
     Since MSWord is the world's most-used word processor, I assumed it would be accepted as a document's format by any publisher. Not necessarily. If your manuscript is plain text, with no illustrations, its file format may not be an issue. However, if your document includes drawings or photos it's another matter.
     The first thing to consider is: Are you going to place the images where they are wanted in with the text, or are you going to supply the graphics separately and just indicate to the publisher or printing company where they should be placed? Well, as long as you have a computer, why not do the whole thing yourself?
     The problem is that not all publishers will accept all file formats. One may accept MSWord, while another wants QuarkXpress, and others may insist on an Adobe Acrobat PDF (Portable Document File) format. What I did with my book was write it and place the illustrations using MSWord, but then had to convert the files to PDF to meet the specs of the bookbinder my publisher had chosen.
     Finally, I must acknowledge that, as much as I love MSWord, it can be very unstable when graphics are inserted. A dedicated desktop publisher like QuarkXpress, PageMaker or even MSPublisher is much easier to manage.
Dec 11 Navigating Without a Mouse
     Marilyn Gramwall called to say her mouse had died and that when she tried to install a new one, the computer wouldn't recognize it. She asked me to come to her office to see if I could fix things. The challenge was to get the PC to recognize the new mouse as well as to install its driver software - all without having a mouse pointer to do things with.
     Believe it or not, there was a pre-mouse time when everything was done from the keyboard. And most things still can be. Let's take a look.
     Let's say you need to find a file. Well, pressing the "Windows" key is the same as clicking the Start button. The "up arrow" key can then be used to reach the Find or Search button. Pressing Enter will activate this button and bring up the next menu, where again using the "arrow" keys can take you to the next step.
     Press Enter to activate Files & Folders and then type in the name of the target file. Press Enter to begin the search.
     Back on the Desktop, the "arrow" keys will move the cursor from one icon to another. If the arrow keys don't seem to take you where you want to go, try the Tab key. Using Tab and Shift+Tab can be alternated with the "arrow" keys to take you most places your mouse would go.
     Once you've landed on a Desktop icon of your choice, pressing Enter will activate it. If you press the "Right Click" key, a menu will popup with choices like Copy, Cut, Rename, etc. The "Right Click" key is on the bottom row and has a symbol that resembles a document with an arrow pointing to it.
     When you see a list of Menu items on a Toolbar (File, Edit, View, etc.) notice that one letter in each word will be underscored. It's usually, but not always, the first letter (as in F for File). When you are mouseless, pressing your keyboard F should open the File menu, where the up/down "arrow" keys can then be used to select the File item you want. If pressing F doesn't work, then pressing F while holding down Alt will do it.
     To help Marilyn get her new mouse installed, I needed to get to Device Manager. The textbook way of getting there is to go to Start (Windows key), Settings, Control Panel, System, Device Manager. However, a quick way to get there is to press your Insert/Pause key while holding down Ctrl.
     Another keyboard shortcut is Alt+ F4 to Close any open file, folder, window, or program you happen to be in. Additional Alt+F4 actions will eventually take you to Shut Down Computer.
     When all else fails, Ctrl+Alt+Del will always give you the opportunity to End Task or Shut Down.
     Ctrl+PageUp will take you to the top of any open document or Web page, while Ctrl+PageDown will take you to its bottom. The up/down "arrow" keys can be used to scroll open pages one line at a time (once the cursor has reached the top or bottom of a document). The left/right "arrow" keys do likewise when moving from one side to the other.
     I won't itemize all the steps I used to get Marilyn's mouse operational, but suffice it to say it was all done from the keyboard. However, the most common cause of a mouse not working is that its connection to the PC has become loose. Try reconnecting it before you take any other steps.
     I recently wrote about reinstalling a previously used image-editing program to fix graphic file icons that had changed to icons used by a more recently installed program. This fix would cause the pictures to be opened in the older image-editor.
     Jim Fix wrote to say that right-clicking any file will display the "Open With" option and let you choose the preferred program from a menu. Well, this works with WinXP, but will work with Win98 only if the target filename has no "three-letter extension." Of course, the extension can be removed from any filename by right-clicking it and choosing "Rename."
Dec 9 PopUp Ad Killers - Worth the Trouble? - What is "Web" Email? - Why Did My Picture Icons Change?
     Terry L. Newman wrote to say he downloaded "PopUp Stopper" and that the program not only works well, it works too well.
     For example, Terry pointed out, TV Guide allows you to click on a program to get details, but PopUp Stopper blocks the descriptive popup from appearing. The program does let you bypass this by hitting a combination of keyboard keys; but that's more trouble than it is worth. The bottom line; Terry uninstalled PopUp Stopper.
     This is why popups don't usually bother me; it only takes a second to click them off. However, if you get one of those devious popups that generates endless additional popups, just log offline to make them stop.
     What is "Web" Email?
     I continue to get questions about the differences between "web" email and "regular" email, such as Outlook Express. Well, the former means that the email program, such as Hotmail, is somewhere on the Internet, rather than on your computer. Beyond that, email that you save for future reference is likewise on someone else's computer and you have to go online to retrieve it. However, you can copy and paste it into a folder on your own hard drive.
     Conversely, Outlook Express and other "regular" email programs exist on your hard drive, along with any mail you choose to save. Netscape offers both platforms, using "regular" email that comes with the Netscape browser, while anyone can sign up for Netscape's "web" email service.
     Some of us use both types of email. Why? Well, I use OE for most correspondence, but I like being able to access my Hotmail messages when I'm away from home and using a friend's ISP to get online.
     "!000" Phony Email Address - Worth the Trouble?
     Speaking of OE, the ever vigilant Tom Inglesby sent me some information regarding the pros and cons of using the "!000" trick to keep the program from sending viruses to your Address Book contacts. Click this link for details: http://www.snopes2.com/inboxer/virus/quickfix.htm
     Why Did My Picture Icons Change?
     Another question I often hear goes something like this: "When I used to click on my JPG photo files they would come up in Windows Paintbrush. Suddenly they all have a new icon, and clicking one makes the photo come up in a program I've never seen before, and whose editing tools I don't understand. How can I get back to my previous way of editing pictures?"
     Well, Paintbrush always comes with Windows and will be the default image-editor if you don't have another graphics program on your hard drive. However, if you install a new "painting" program it will change the settings in your Windows "INI" (initialization) files to make the newest program the default image-editor. What? You don't remember installing a new image-editor? Keep reading.
     If you buy a new printer or a scanner or a digital camera the device will come with a CD containing its driver program. However, these CDs normally have an image-editing program onboard as well. Click on a few "install" prompts and, before you know it, you'll have a brand new image-editor whose icons will replace the ones you're used to seeing.
     How can you avoid this? Well, installing the CD's painting program is normally optional, and you can uninstall it at any time. Or, you can leave the program in place and reinstall your other image-editor to make it the default program again. But before you do, try out the newer program. It may have some features you prefer over the older software.
     I happen to do a lot of graphics work, so I have several painting programs onboard, and alternate among them, depending on whose features are most helpful on a particular job. Since I use Corel PhotoPaint most often, I make sure it's the most recently installed software.
     Yes, you can go in and manually edit the INI instructions, but it's much easier to reinstall your preferred image-editor.
Dec 4 Tips on Printing Multipage Documents
     Jody Ann Mealer called to say she had prepared a multi-page document in MSWord and wanted to know how she could print out just the last page, after having done some last-minute edits. Well, when you click the printer icon on your toolbar, most programs will automatically print the whole document. The trick is to go to File, Print, where you'll find a number of useful printing options. Here are just a few:
     To print just one page out of many, there will be a box that invites you to type in whichever page number you want. Or you can simply click on any page and choose Print Current Page.
     Typing the page numbers of multiple pages, when separated by commas, will print just those pages. Here's an example: 2, 7, 9, 10. To print a group of sequential pages, just type in their range: 2-13, for instance.
     To print out just a paragraph (or any array of sequential text) highlight it with your mouse and choose Print Selection. This also works if you highlight a graphic, or a graphic with adjacent text.
     Other options are printing your document in reverse order, thus eliminating the need to manually collate the pages to make them go from the first to the last.
     Some programs give you the choice of printing only odd-numbered or even-numbered pages. This is helpful if your document displays page numbers with, say, all the odd-numbered pages having their numerals in the lower right corner, and vice versa for the even-numbered ones; and if you plan to take the finished printouts to a copy center for front and back printing.
     Beverly Layton called to ask if there is a shortcut for switching from single to double line spacing in MSWord. Yes; Ctrl+1 will cause selected text to be single-spaced while Ctrl+2 will switch to double-spacing. Ctrl+5 will cause the selection to have spacing of one and half lines. This trick also works in Wordpad and the MSWorks word processor.
     Doris Sherk wrote to ask why she can't delete her "Cookies" folder. Well, one can delete the contents of this folder, but the folder itself is part of Windows and can't be deleted. If you'd like to clear out your Cookies folder, double-click it to open it. Inside the folder do Ctrl+A (Select All) and then hit your Delete key.
     You may encounter a few .DAT files that can't be deleted, so just ignore them. They are harmless. If you aren't sure how to get into your Cookies folder, just go to Start, Find/Replace, Files & Folders and type in "cookies."
     A question I get periodically goes something like this: "How come I'm getting a 'Low on Memory' message when I have 70% of my hard drive free?" This is a classic example of comparing "apples to oranges" in this case, comparing the amount of free space on a disk to the amount of electronic RAM (random access memory) available to work with while the computer is turned on.
     A "Low on Memory" message indicates that the computer has more programs running than there is RAM available to keep track of them all. The short term fix is to close some of the open programs. The long term fix is to add more RAM to the computer.
     Most of today's computers need at least 64 MGs of RAM (a.k.a. DRAM and SDRAM) with newer ones needing 128 or 256 MGs. Since many of us don't feel comfortable opening a PC to add components, most computer stores have technicians who will suggest how much additional memory is needed, and who will install it for you. RAM has become very cheap, and adding some to your PC can be one of the best investments you'll ever make.
Dec 2 Another Virus Alert
     There is a new variation of the Sircam virus that's been spreading very rapidly this past week. As usual, it arrives as an attachment to an e-mail. The return address will be that of someone to whom you've recently sent an e-mail, thus making it appear to be a reply to something you've written.
     Well, it's a reply all right, but not one sent by a friend or relative. The "reply" is generated by one's Outlook Express Address Book and is sent out with a virus attached to it. However, the virus is very easy to spot and should be deleted immediately.
     The clue that the attachment is infected is its "double extension." For instance, here are just a few of the attachments I've recently received: ME_NUDE.MP3.SCR, YOU_ARE_FAT!.MP3.SCR, FUN.MP3.PIF, and IMAGES.DOC.PIF.
     However, there is a catch to spotting these double extensions; if you haven't changed Windows' built-in "Hide extensions." feature, then IMAGES.DOC.PIF will be displayed as IMAGES.DOC, thus appearing to have only one extension.
     Here's how to keep this from happening; get into Windows Explorer (right-click Start, Explore) and do the following: Win98 users go to View, Folder Options, View, and UNcheck the box in front of "Hide Extensions for Know File Types."
     WinME and WinXP users will find this option by going to Tools, Folder Options, View. Win95 users go to View, Options, View.
     Why Microsoft has always burdened us with having to make this fix is a mystery to me. If you don't make the fix, most of your filenames will be displayed with no extension, thus making it harder to figure out what kinds of a files they are.
     Beyond making this one-time fix, the best advice I can offer to avoid opening an infected file is to simply not open any e-mail attachment unless you are absolutely sure it's something you're expecting.
     This current strain of the Sircam virus is said to be able to infect a recipient's computer even without the intended victim opening it. Well, I've received many of these attachments this past week, and deleted each of them without any problem. Also, in each case, I wrote to the person whose Outlook Express sent the attachment, advising him or her of what happened.
     So how can OE users avoid sending out these infected files? Well, I avoid it by not using my OE Address Book at all. I put all my addressees' names in a Word file and then simply copy and paste them into outgoing e-mails.
     Another way that is said to prevent OE from sending out these potentially deadly emails is to put a "phony" address in the Address Book. Numerous people have sent me this tip, which says to create a name called !000 (an exclamation point followed by three zeros) and then to leave the Address line empty. The theory is that this name will be the first in your OE Address Book, by virtue of the fact that it begins with a symbol which, alphabetically, always precedes the letter A.
     Since the rogue program can't send an infected file to this non-existent address in the Address Book, it can't go any further. Also, I've been told, you will receive an error message advising you of this fact, which alerts you to the fact that you have a virus in your computer. You can then take steps to remove it.
     The first thing I'd suggest is to go to www.housecall.antivirus.com where you can have a free online scan of your system. This Web site will also "clean" certain infected files and give you information on deleting others.
     You can get more information at the following web sites:
     Symantec/Norton Anti-Virus Information
     Trend Micro Anti-Virus Information
     PC-Cillin Anti-Virus Information
     Don't forget to keep your anti-virus program updated regularly.
Nov 27 Some Tips on Using PowerPoint
     I mentioned recently that PowerPoint is a program that many people have, but which is used by relatively few. The program was designed primarily for business use, in that its main purpose is to create "slide shows" of the type a salesperson would show to a prospective customer. Now, instead of carrying a projector and a roll-up screen into a prospect's office, a colorful sales proposal can be shown right on his or her computer. These presentations can be as simple as some plain photos or drawings, or they can be jazzed up with lively animations and sound that can rival colorful commercials seen on TV. They can also be designed to be animated holiday greeting cards.
     Creating PowerPoint presentations can be fun, easy and very rewarding. I've helped a number of business people create them to demonstrate various products and services. I've also taught the program in high school ROP classes, and been amazed at how creative the students can be. I've learned some of my fanciest PowerPoint tricks from watching the kids at work.
     As for sending your creative efforts out as greeting cards - it's important to understand that the person on the receiving end must also have PowerPoint, which comes with most versions of MS-Office. It can also be purchased as a stand-alone program. For those who don't have the program, a free PowerPoint "player" can be downloaded from "microsoft.com." This free program can be used to play PowerPoint presentations, but not to create them.
     Presentations are made up of a series of "slides." In its simplest form, a presentation is a series of stationary images and text. But the beauty of the program is that all kinds of animation effects can be added to each slide.
     A line of text, for instance, can be made to appear on the screen one word or one letter at a time. The words or letters can be made to slide in from one edge of the screen, or the whole phrase can be made to appear in a "venetian blind" effect. These are just a couple of the many, many ways in which text and graphics can be made to materialize on the screen.
     There's not room here to give a tutorial on how to create a presentation, but here are some tips to get you started. After launching the program you can click on "AutoContent Wizard" and be led through a series of prompts that will have you up and running in no time.
     What I do, however, is go directly to "Blank Presentation" and build one from the ground up. This will display a window which shows a collection of suggested layouts. Dark bars represent "text boxes" where you'd type in a message. Cartoon faces represent "picture boxes" where graphics can be inserted. Other rectangles represent various kinds of "bulleted lists" and "charts," where you would substitute your own elements for the "dummy" items.
     All of these objects can be moved to any location on the slide you prefer. You are never limited to the suggested layout in the template. I prefer the "totally blank template" because all the things you see in any of the "suggested layout" choices can be created by the user in any way he or she prefers.
     Programs similar to PowerPoint are Lotus Freelance Graphics and Corel Presentations. Of course, using these programs means the prospective viewer of a presentation has to have compatible software.
Nov 25 Blocking Pop-Up Ads & Unwanted Email
     "How can I block unwanted e-mail?" and "How can I avoid pop-up ads?" are two of the most often asked questions I receive.
     Regarding unwanted e-mail, Outlook Express users can highlight any letter in their "In" box and go to Message, Block Sender. They can also go to Tools, Message Rules and edit their list of Blocked Senders.
     Yahoo e-mail users can go to Options, Block Addresses. Hotmail users can select any letter in their "In" box and click on Block Sender. Netscape users can go to Edit, Message Filters. AOL users can go to Mail, More, Mail Controls.
     As for avoiding pop-up ads, the November issue of the Fallbrook PC Users Group newsletter lists half a dozen Web sites that claim to have software that helps you do this. Their URLs are too long to list here, but I've put links to these sites on www.pcdon.com. I confess to not having tested any of this software personally, since pop-up ads don't particularly bother me. I just X them out as soon as they pop up.
     In any case, I feel compelled to repeat that I think the FPCUG newsletter is the absolute best PC club newsletter I've ever seen; and I see lots of them. In my opinion, it's worth joining the club just to receive the letter in your mailbox each month. Information on how to contact the FPCUG can be found at www.pcdon.com.
     Another frequent question: "Some incoming e-mail generates 'Java Script Error' messages; how can I stop this?" There are a number of things that can cause this, but the following suggestions should solve the problem for most people.
     Internet Explorer 5.0/6.0 users: Go to Tools, Internet Options. Click the Security tab and choose Internet Zone, Custom Level. Scroll down to Settings and change Java Script options to Disable or Prompt.
     Netscape users: Go to Edit, Preferences and click on the Advanced tab. UNcheck the three items regarding "Enable Java Script."
     AOL 6.0/7.0 users: Go to Settings, Preferences, (Internet Properties) WWW. Click the Security tab. The rest of the instructions are the same as for Internet Explorer.
     Dee Schmiderer called recently to ask why she can't open an e-mail attachment she received via Outlook Express. I asked Dee to forward the letter to me so I could take a look.
     Well, attachments received via OE are normally downloaded as another OE e-mail with the .EML extension. The attachment Dee received was a blank OE e-mail that contained yet another .EML attachment. Opening this attachment displayed an inspirational message with some graphics.
     So why was the document attached to a second letter when it could have been attached to the original? Well, this appears to be a case of hitting the "Forward" button rather than copying and pasting the document into a new e-mail. Personally, I never use the Forward option and tend to immediately delete incoming e-mail that has "Fwd" in the subject line.
     Gail Covell wrote to say she'd received an attachment with a .PPT extension and wondered why she couldn't open it. This is an extension for PowerPoint presentations, and can be opened with PowerPoint or with a PowerPoint Viewer, which can be freely downloaded from Microsoft.
     PowerPoint comes with most versions of MSOffice; but I've discovered that very few people who have the program realize they have it, or how to use it even when they do know. In brief, PowerPoint is used to create "presentations" which are a series of "slides" that can contain both animated and static graphics and text, as well as sound.
     Anyway, .PPT means the presentation is in its "editing" mode and it needs to be saved with a .PPS extension in order to have it run automatically.
     PowerPoint presentations are often used by salespersons to demonstrate products and services to a prospective customer, but the program can also be used by individuals to create things like a "Holiday Greetings Slide Show." More information on the program can be found at www.pcdon.com.
Nov 20 "Block Sender" Options + Resizing Photos
     Wilson Bogan wrote to say he appreciates receiving my free newsletter, but wonders why it goes directly into his Deleted Items box when he tries to open it. Well, this is one of the many options Outlook Express has available to help you filter incoming messages. By going to Message, Block Sender when an incoming message's "From" line is highlighted, future mail from that sender will be blocked. I can only assume Wilson did this unknowingly when my name was highlighted.
     The fix for this is to go to Tools, Message Rules, Blocked Senders List and select the name you want unblocked. Click Remove and OK.
     Other "filter" options can be found by going to Message, Create Rule From Message.
     Bing Forbing wrote to ask how to reduce the size of a photo attachment that's too large to be printed on a sheet of paper. Well, all image-editing programs have a "Resize" tool available for doing this. In some programs it's called "Resample," while in Windows PaintBrush (Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint) the "Stretch & Skew" commands are used.
     Beyond this, an image can Copied and Pasted into a blank word processing document, where it can be resized by moving any of its corner "handles." If the image is bigger than the word processor's page there will usually be at least one of its corners showing. When a corner handle is moved towards the center of a graphic, the image shrinks in size and tends to move toward the center of page.
     In MSWord an image can be located anywhere on a page if it's enclosed in a "text box." Create this box first by going to Insert, Text Box. Your cursor will change to a small cross which will let you draw a rectangle of the approximate size and shape you want. Right-click inside the box and choose Paste. The box and image can both be resized if necessary. Double-clicking the image and/or frame will bring up a menu with all kinds of editing options, including various "border" schemes that might enhance the picture.
     If you're using text along with the picture, double-clicking the text box will also offer options regarding whether the text should go in front of the graphic or behind it or around it.
     Speaking of graphics, I've placed links to more Holiday and Patriotic Clipart on www.pcdon.com. All the artwork is freely downloadable.
     Have you ever had your mouse suddenly stop functioning, thus making it impossible to continue working or even to shut down your PC properly? Well, a variety of keyboard options are available to get you going again. Alt+F4 will normally close any file you have open. Subsequent pressing of Alt+F4 will close remaining files and take you to Shut Down the Computer.
     Usually, a dead mouse can be resurrected by making sure it has a snug connection to the computer. If, however, buying a new mouse is in order, I'd recommend getting the optical kind, which has no moving parts that can pick up dust, lint and cat hairs. I've been using a Microsoft optical mouse for many months and couldn't be more pleased with it.
     Speaking of mice, if you've ever thought you'd like yours to display a larger pointer or to have faster or slower responses or to reverse the left and right button functions, double-click My Computer and choose Control Panel, Mouse. Experiment with the different options available to get the "look and feel" you're most comfortable with.
     However, back to keyboard substitutes for mouse-clicks; pressing Alt with a single letter will activate the Menu lists shown at the top of an open document. For instance, Alt+F, Alt+E or Alt+V will activate File, Edit or View, respectively. Your Arrow keys will then take you to your desired command, which can be activated by pressing Enter. Buttons in a dialog box can normally be reached with a combination of Arrow and Tab key moves.
Nov 18 Some Windows Basics
     Something I'm frequently asked is why email sent to www.pcdon.com generates an error message that keeps the letter from being sent. Well, those who have been using a computer any length of time know that addresses beginning with "www" or "http" are the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of an Internet site, and that email addresses will always have the "@" sign in them. For instance, MaryPCChat@aol.com is the email address of my assistant Mary Hanson.
     How, then, can some email addresses simply be a person's name or nickname? Well, if you right-click one of these names and choose Properties, the underlying email address will be displayed.
     In fact, this might be a good time to review some of the questions most frequently asked by newer computer users.
     Why does Microsoft have three programs called "Explorer" i.e., Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer and MSN Explorer and what are their differences?
     Well, this is a tricky one that's best answered by first looking at the programs' differences. Windows Explorer is the built-in "file management" program that has come with all Windows operating systems since W95.
     Internet Explorer is one of the two most-used World Wide Web "browsers," with Netscape being its major competitor.
     MSN Explorer is a special browser created rather recently by Microsoft that lets users access areas if its MSN ISP (Microsoft Network Internet Service Provider) without actually signing up for the service.
     As for "why" there are different products named "Explorer," Microsoft critics will tell you that Mr. Gates had hoped to integrate Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer into a combination program that would be required to make future Windows operating systems work properly. Such a built-in feature could have very likely put competitors such as Netscape out of business, so its implementation was scuttled by the courts.
     It's also worth noting that in the early days of the WWW a browser had to be purchased, for $60 to $100, and that Netscape at one time had about 75% of the market. Later, Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer and gave it away free(also in an attempt to eliminate competitors, critics charge). Netscape had no choice but to make its browser free, and to pay for this by selling ad space on it. Now, of course, all browsers are loaded with ads.
     Another frequent question: Is Yahoo a "search engine" or an ISP? Well, it began as a search engine, with its ISP service being added later. Search engines, such as Yahoo, Google, Excite, and Ask Jeeves, are huge databases that can be freely used in conjunction with browsers to find things on the WWW. As with browsers, advertising pays for these services.
     Another question: When is a forward slash "/" or the back slash "\" supposed to be used? Answer: URLs can only contain forward slashes (http://) and paths leading to files and folders on a disk can only contain back slashes (c:\windows\system).
     The question I hear most often, however, is: How do I open an email attachment?
     Well, assuming the attachment is legitimate and not a virus, you need to look at the file's three-letter extension. Photo filenames usually have JPG, BMP or TIF appendages, while TXT and DOC indicate text documents. EML means Outlook Express email, which may contain text and/or graphics, as can PDF files. HTM and HTML files are Web pages and can be viewed with your browser. ZIP or MIM extensions indicate compressed files which, when decompressed and extracted with WinZip, will display one or more photo and/or text files.
     In Outlook Express, attachments are downloaded by double-clicking their filenames in the "Attach" box, while most other email clients have a "Download" button that needs to be clicked.
Nov 13 Questions & Help from a Reader
     Ralph "Pete" Peters had an interesting problem recently. He said he had a multi-page MSWord document which, when printed out, displayed a date in its lower right corner. He went on to say that there was no sign of this item in the document's screen view, but that it showed up in the Print Preview mode.
     This could only mean one thing: Pete had unknowingly created a "Footer" into which the mysterious date had somehow been entered. I told him to go to View, Header & Footer, where he would be able to see the entry and delete it.
     In case you're not familiar with Headers and Footers, they are items that normally appear at the top and/or bottom of a document and which are carried forward from one page to the next. A story's title, for instance, is often shown in a Header, while Page Numbers are usually shown in a Footer.
     In Microsoft documents, going to Insert, Page Numbers will get you into this mode, as will going to View, Header & Footer. Setting up incremental page numbering varies in different types of documents, but there are prompts to help you through it.
     While editing a Header or a Footer, its text will be in a solid color, whereas the main body of the document will be displayed in light gray. Clicking back in the body text causes the Header and Footer to disappear, thus creating additional space on the screen for editing the main document. In Print Preview, however, everything shows just as it will print out.
     But Pete had yet another problem. He wanted to create mailing labels using MSWorks 2001, in which MSWord has replaced the old Works word processing program. He had created his database with Works, but could not find the file from within Word. I told him that Word, by default, looks for Word documents with a .DOC extension and that he needed to click on Files of Type and choose Works Database files with a .WDB extension.
     He said that no way could he find any files ending in .WDB. Well, it occurred to me that perhaps NONE of his files showed a three-letter extension, because Microsoft mysteriously has these extensions hidden whenever Windows is first installed.
     Since Pete has WinME, I suggested he get into Windows Explorer and go to Tools, Folder Options, View and UNcheck the box in front of "Hide Extensions for Known File Types." (To find this message in Win98, go to View, Folder Options, View.)
     This worked just fine for Pete and he happily told me he could now find his LABELS.WDB file. However, there was still one more problem. In three recent PC Chats I explained how to do mailing labels with different programs, including older versions of MSWorks; but none of these instructions covered merging Works DB files into Word, using MSWorks 2001. So Pete figured it all out, and sent me a set of instructions that he hoped could help other MSWorks 2001 users.
     After creating an MSWorks database with First Name, Last Name, Address, City, State and Zip fields, get into MSWord and do the following: Go to Tools, Mail Merge, Document Type, Mailing Labels. In the Open Data Source window, click Merge Info From Other File. Browse your way to the Works DB file and click Open. Cick OK to Choose Setup Button.
     In Mail Merge Helper click Setup. Choose Avery No. 5160/8160 labels (or whatever type your prefer).
     Click OK to bring up Create Labels and click on Sample Label. Click Insert Merge Field.
     In the Sample Label template, click the various fields into place, beginning with First Name. Press Space Bar to insert blank spaces where needed. Click OK to return to the Mail Merge Helper window. Click Merge in #3, which brings up the Merge window. Finally, click Merge, and the names and addresses should appear correctly in the Word label display. Click File, Print Preview to see what the actual print-out will look like.
     You should now be ready to insert blank label sheets into your printer. However, it always pays to do a print-out on a blank sheet of paper, just to make sure.
Nov 11 Managing "Shortcuts" 101
     We've talked recently about creating our own special folders and putting them where we want them; but how can they be quickly and easily accessed when we need them? The answer: Create a "Shortcut" and put it on your Desktop.
     First let's consider what a Windows "Shortcut" is by looking at the icons on your Desktop. Any icon with a small bent arrow in its lower left corner is a Shortcut. Double-clicking it takes you directly to the file or folder that its name represents. If you right-click a Shortcut and choose Properties/Shortcut you will find the "path" leading to the target folder or file.
     A Shortcut can be made to any file or folder by finding the target item in Windows Explorer and right-clicking it. Let's use the "fonts" folder, which is inside the "Windows" folder, as an example. Right-click the fonts icon and choose "Create Shortcut." A new icon named "Shortcut To fonts" will appear at the end of the list of files in "Windows." Drag this icon onto your "Desktop" icon in the left Windows Explorer pane. Exit Windows Explorer and return to your Desktop, where you'll find the Shortcut, ready to use.
     Double-clicking it will take you directly to the "fonts" folder. You can also right-click the Shortcut's label and choose Rename to change "Shortcut To fonts" to simply "fonts."
     An alternative method of creating this Shortcut is to right-click your Desktop and choose New/Shortcut. A "browse" window will let you find the target icon. Click OK to create the Shortcut.
     If you'd like to make a Shortcut to an ".EXE" file (such as EXCEL. EXE) simply locate its icon and drag it onto your Desktop, where it will be named "Shortcut To Excel." Although most files and folders can be physically dragged and dropped from one location to another on a hard disk, .EXE files cannot. The dragging will simply create a Shortcut to the file.
     Should you want to actually move an .EXE file, you can right-click it and choose the "Send To" option. As an alternative you can right-click the .EXE icon and choose Copy. Right-click the Desktop (or any folder into which you wish to place the file) and choose Paste. Then go back and Delete the file from its original location. However, moving .EXE files is generally not recommended, since other files may not work if they're dependent on the .EXE file being in the place where it was originally installed.
     In any case, Shortcuts are not limited to being located on your Desktop. An example: any Microsoft Office file you create and save, by default, goes into the "My Documents" folder. If, however, you'd like your MSWord documents to go into special folders named, say, "Mom," "Dad," or "Johnny," you could create these folders and put Shortcuts to them inside the "My Documents" folder.
     Another thing you can do with Shortcuts is change their icons to ones you like better. Right-click any Shortcut icon and choose Properties/Change Icon. Doing so will display alternative icons associated with the program to which the Shortcut pertains. If you don't find anything you like, try browsing to C:\Windows\System32\Shell32. dll, where all kinds of icons can be found.
     If you'd like to make your own icons, you can download Icon Studio from www. pcdon. com.
     Speaking of my Web site, I've made a bunch of free holiday clipart available for downloading, including a number of animated drawings. Just right-click any graphic. Internet Explorer users choose Save Picture As, while Netscape users can choose Save Image. Also to be found the site: illustrated instructions for printing address labels and envelopes.
     One final word about Shortcuts. Deleting one does NOT delete the underlying file or folder. Think of a Shortcut as being a "directional road sign" pointing to a city. If the sign is destroyed, the city is still there. Having said this, however, it's helpful to know that files dragged on to a folder's Shortcut will actually go into that folder.
Nov 6 Managing Files & Folders 101
     I continue to get lots of questions about managing files and folders. Let's take a look at the basics. If you think of your computer's hard drive as being a huge filing cabinet, it's easy to visualize the yellow "folder" icons as being the places we store all our files.
     As for files, they are represented by a variety of icons, many of which suggest what kind of file they stand for. Because today's hard drives can hold so much data, it's essential to have an organized structure of file and folder locations to keep track of where everything is.
     Think of your hard disk, the C: Drive, as being your master filing cabinet. Inside this cabinet you can store hundreds of folders, which can contain still other folders, as well as endless numbers of files. These files and folders can be named anything you want, and can be located anywhere you want. Certain "system" files and folders can't be renamed or relocated, but you have control over all the ones you create.
     This means you can create a folder named, say, Correspondence, into which you could place two folders named In and Out. Inside each of these folders you could place other folders named, say, Clients or New Prospects or Personal or whatever. Folders inside of these folders might be listed as 2001, 2000, 1999, etc. with each of these folders containing twelve others. Inside each of these folders, others could be arranged in alphabetical order. The combinations of folder arrangements are limited only by your own imagination.
     To get an overview of how your files and folders are arranged you need to get into Windows Explorer. Right-click Start or My Computer and choose Explore. A window will appear which is divided into two panes; a narrow one on the left and a wide one on the right. In the left pane you'll see a vertical listing of folders along with icons for your other "filing cabinets" i.e. A: and D: or whatever. What you won't see in the left pane is a "file" icon of any kind.
     File icons will be displayed in the right pane when a folder in the left pane is double-clicked. Also shown to the right are folders nested inside other folders, which, when double-clicked, display their contents. Double-clicking a file icon can launch a program, depending on what kind of icon it is.
     Notice that some of the folder icons in the left pane have a plus sign (+) in front of them. This symbol tells us that the folder contains one or more folders of its own. Each click will convert a plus sign to a minus sign (-) and will display another level of nested folders, some of which may also have plus signs. Clicking a minus sign will restore a folder to its "unopened" appearance.
     If you look carefully at these nested folders, you'll notice that your "Desktop" is actually a folder inside the "Windows" folder.
     Click the Windows Explorer's X to return to the Desktop, where we'll create a new folder. Do this by right-clicking the Desktop and choosing New, Folder. Its label reads "New Folder" and invites you to overtype it with a name of your choosing. Let's call it "Correspondence." Now we'll move it to another location. Double-click My Computer so that your C: Drive icon is in view. Drag and drop the newly created folder onto this icon.
     The next time you get into Windows Explorer you'll see "Correspondence" listed alphabetically along with its brethren folders. Open this folder with a double-click and go to File, New, Folder to create one which you'll name "In." To create an "Out" folder you can, as an alternative, right-click inside it and choose New, Folder. Double-click either of these two icons to gain entrance and to continue creating any nested folders you might need.
     Next time we'll talk about creating shortcuts to these and other folders which don't appear on your Desktop. We'll also learn how to change the icons that identify these folders to make them easier to find.
Nov 4 Transferring Files from One Computer to Another
     One of the significant differences between WinXP and its various Windows predecessors is that ScanDisk has been replaced by CHKDSK. Most Windows users have become familiar with the fact that running ScanDisk and Defrag periodically helps keep their computers running more efficiently. ScanDisk comes in two versions: Standard and Thorough, with the latter taking longer to run, but capable of finding and repairing errors on a PC's hard drive. Defrag defragments the hard disk by realigning files that may have gotten out of sequence due to the normal ongoing creation and deletion of files.
     For optimum PC performance, these two utilities should be run monthly by the average user, and more frequently by heavy-duty users. However, many have found that both ScanDisk and Defrag may get bogged down and quit prematurely. There are a variety of ways to overcome these hangups, but rather than use up the rest of this column with the specifics, I've made them all available at www.pcdon.com.
     As for CHKDSK, pre-Windows users may remember this command as being the DOS predecessor of ScanDisk. In WinXP it can be run from DOS by going to Start, Run, and typing in COMMAND, followed by typing in CHKDSK and pressing Enter. However, just going to Start, Run and typing CHKDSK will get you to the same DOS prompt.
     CHKDSK has only one version, however it scans and repairs a hard disk much faster than ScanDisk's "Thorough" version; and I have yet to see it quit prematurely. WinXP's Defrag can be found by going to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. WinXP's Defrag also runs faster than its Win9x/ME predecessors and, again, does not quit prematurely.
     Speaking of hard drive maintenance, let's not overlook Disk Cleanup. Double-click My Computer and then right-click the C: drive icon. Choose Properties and you'll see a pie chart showing the used and free space ratio on this disk. Clicking Disk Cleanup will display a window which asks if you want to delete files in certain folders, such as Windows\Temp and Temporary Internet Files, as well as those in your Recycle Bin. Clicking OK will free up some hard disk space. However, Temporary Internet Files will normally fill up again, since it's a "first-in first-out" cache which makes recently accessed Web items more quickly reaccessible.
     I should point out that some folks delete these files regularly so that others can't easily see where they've been on the 'net. Clearing out all "History" folders also helps cover one's track. Another folder that some clean out regularly is "Cookies." If you don't know where these folders are, go to Start, Find or Search, Files & Folders, and type in the target folder's name.
     Another neat feature of WinXP is its built-in software which lets you transfer files from one computer to another. Its file transfer "wizard" will guide you, step-by-step, through moving files via a network or by using a "null modem" serial cable. The former requires each PC to have a network port, while the latter uses the 9-pin serial ports that come with most new computers. Network transfers are faster than serial transfers, but going serial means you don't have to install network cards in your PCs.
     Speaking of moving files from one PC to another, it can be done without Windows XP. SkyDesk, a San Diego firm, sells a product called "SmartClone" which will not only move files, it will accurately reproduce all your personal settings, such as your Address Books, Web Favorites and Bookmarks. Information on SmartClone can be found at www.smartclone.com.
     Another company that has been developing this kind of software for many years is LapLink (formerly known as Traveling Software) and they can be found at www.laplink.com. By the way, there's a special term for this kind of file transferring: "data migration." The first time I heard it I had a vision of thousands of scraps of paper moving from one room to another by sliding themselves under a door.
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 http://www.grifsoft.com/, 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 http://www.zonelabs.com/. 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 http://www.grc.com/ 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 7 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 "cutepics.zip.pif"). 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 www.pcdon.com.
     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 www.pandamail.net. 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 www.pcdon.com 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.
Sep 30 Differences Between Freeware & Shareware
     Gail Redd recently wrote to ask about the difference between shareware and freeware. The difference is that freeware can be downloaded and used without any payment required, whereas shareware is software that can be downloaded and tested before one is expected to buy it. Many shareware programs have an evaluation period of 30 days, after which the application stops working. In order to reactivate it on a permanent basis, it's necessary to contact the vendor and arrange for payment.
     Other evaluation schemes allow one to download and keep a "no frills" version of a program, with the complete package being available only if purchased. Still other programs are available as shareware for a price, but also available as freeware if you agree to accept the advertising that comes with them. An example is the Eudora e-mail client, which comes in three versions; (1) totally free as a "light" version with minimum capabilities, (2) totally free in the full-featured version that contains built-in ads, and (3) the full-featured paid version for about $50.
     Probably the most-used shareware product of all is WinZip, a program which handles .ZIP and .MIM files for us, among many other useful things. Bill Smith of San Marcos rebuked me when I recently included WinZip in with a list of free programs (even though I mentioned that it is, in fact, shareware). However, to my knowledge, WinZip is the only shareware that allows an unlimited "evaluation" period as long as you continue to "agree" to the fact that it is shareware and that they'd like you to pay for it. Let your conscience be your guide.
     Where does one go to find freeware and shareware? I've found a great source to be www.download.com, where you can find all kinds of programs, including many popular "for sale" products. The site also gives reviews of its various applications and invites those who have used them to send in reviews of their own.
     My most recent free download was a program called KaZaA. This is a "peer-to-peer" utility that lets you exchange files with other PC users on a person-to-person basis. If, for instance, you'd like to find songs by a certain performer, you can type his or her name into a "Seeking Artist" box and then wait to see what happens. Likewise, you can type in a list of songs you might want to share. The program will make the list available to other users on the Web.
     My first test of the program was to type in "Tricia Yearwood." Within a couple of minutes about a dozen of her songs appeared on my monitor. I chose one for downloading and was playing it a few moments later.
     So, is this legal? Well, I'm not a lawyer, but file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.download.com assures us these programs (of which there are several) can be downloaded legally and that how they are used has nothing to do with the famous "Napster" controversy. You be the judge.
     Speaking of free downloads, I continue to get a lot of questions about copying items from my Web site at file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.pcdon.com. For instance, the US flag I designed for making into a window poster will not be centered on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, if printed directly from the site. I recommend right-clicking the flag and choosing COPY from the popup menu. Next create a New, blank page in your favorite word processor. Then go to Edit, Paste to put the graphic in place. The design will then fit without lapping over onto a second page, and it can even be resized by mouse-grabbing one of its corners and adjusting it to your preference.
     In fact, any graphic found on my site can be copied this way, or can be saved as a file by right-clicking it and choosing "Save Picture As." The same holds true for all the songs on my music page where a title can be right-clicked. Choose "Save Target As" to put the song on your hard drive. Or, you can just click any song to hear it played. Enjoy!
Sep 25 Using Your PC to Make Patriotic Posters
     I received an email from Mary Wilder over the weekend asking if she could print out an emblem she spotted on my Web site. The picture is an impressive rendition of an eagle with an American flag. Mary wanted to make a patriotic poster to place in her window, but was worried about infringing on copyrighted material. I told her it was all right to copy patriotic symbols, as long as they're not corporate logos of some kind. This one is not.
     Mary's idea gave me another idea. Since so many folks are wanting to display the American flag as a symbol of unity in these critical times, I've put a reproduction of one on my Web page (file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.pcdon.com) that's the size of an 8 ½" x 11" sheet of paper. Everyone is welcome to copy it to make his or her own window display.
     Speaking of things freely downloadable, I've been very impressed with Zone Alarm, a "firewall" that I've been using since recently getting hooked up to cable. Firewalls are designed for people whose computers are connected to cable or DSL systems, which are, by their very nature, large networks where others can tap into your computer files if you don't have a way of limiting access to only those you want to have entry capabilities.
     Zone Alarm is free to individual users, but has a $19.95 one-time license fee to business users. The program has selectable security settings, which can be set to notify you when others are trying to access your computer, as well as ask you if you're sure you want to access certain Internet addresses. When you're not at the computer, it can deny access to anyone to whom you've not given special permission.
     Zone Alarm is available at file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.download.com which is a service of file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.cnet.com, my favorite site for getting reviews and price comparisons of software and hardware.
     Cnet.com also gives a very a favorable review to a shareware program called WinRam Booster Pro. I get calls all the time from folks asking how they can speed up their computers. There are various ways of adding some zest to a PC, including doing ScanDisk and Defrag on a regular basis (to which step-by-step instructions can be found here on this web site.
     Installing additional RAM in your PC will almost always improve speed and performance. 64 megabytes of RAM used to be considered adequate, but nowadays 128 or 256 megs are recommended for most computers.
     According to Cnet, WinRAM Booster Pro allows you to increase your available RAM for any application with one mouse click or automatically whenever you start an application. It works by defragmenting your system memory and the swap file, allowing you to recover RAM from the operating system and applications. The program can be obtained from file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.download.comfor a free 14-day trial, with $19.95 being asked if you decide to continue using it.
     Another program I've been asked about is Evidence Eliminator. I hadn't heard of the program, so I went to its site at file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.evidence-eliminator.com to take a look at its advertising. They charge $149 for this product and I have no doubt that there are some who would consider this a reasonable price if the program does what it claims to do, which is to totally eradicate information about what Web sites one has been to, as well as destroying any traces of old email that one might consider incriminating. They claim that much of the data we think we've deleted from our hard drives can still be recovered by skilled technicians.
     Speaking of "recovery" one of the best features of WinME and the soon-to-be-released WinXP is the ability to "restore" your computer to the condition it was in on a previous date. If things have gotten badly messed up, or if you've lost important data, this utility will let you return to an earlier date where, hopefully, you'll be able to get things back in order.
     However, don't let this "recovery" tool become confused with a "recovery disc" which may have come with your new computer. These discs normally wipe out all your personal data and "restore" your hard drive to the way it was when you bought the computer. However, some recovery discs have options for just replacing certain programs or drivers or other special items, as well as having an option to completely reformat the disc and return it to its original condition.
Sep 23 Another Virus Alert
     If you follow computer news at all, you know that another new virus was discovered this past week. W32.Nimda.A@mm is a mass-mailing worm that utilizes a variety of methods to spread itself. Be on the lookout for email with an attachment named “readme.exe.” Delete it as soon as you see it. To learn more about this new worm, log onto any of the anti-virus sites, such as www.symantec.com or file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.mcafee.com.
     In general, be suspicious of any attachment that has an .EXE extension, unless it’s something you specifically requested. Filenames ending in .EXE are “executable” files which cause something to happen when double-clicked.
     Other extensions whose filenames have been known to carry viruses are .DOC and .XLS. MS Word documents normally end with .DOC, while Excel files use .XLS. These programs may contain specially written “macros” which can generate viruses. If you use these programs you can take the precaution of going to Tools, Options, Security and clicking the “Macro Security” button. You can choose from High, Medium or Low, with High being recommended nowadays.
     Filenames with the extension .VBS have been proven to be virus carriers and should be deleted unless you’re a trained programmer who knows how to use these files. The Sircam virus that’s currently traveling around has always come with a “double extension” such as .DOC.PIF or .XLS.INI. Now it also arrives with an “underscore” replacing the first “dot” (as in _DOC.PIF).
     The other trademark of the Sircam germ is that the email to which it’s attached always has a line inviting you to look at the attachment. Don’t look at it. Just delete it and notify the sender (who normally has no idea he or she sent it) that you received it. The “sender” will almost always be an Outlook Express user, since this is the program which is used by many of these viruses to propagate themselves to names found in the Address Book.
     I recently became an Outlook Express user when I switched to a cable connection. However, I simply refuse to use the program’s Address Book. I keep my contacts (many hundreds of them, by the way) in an MS Word file, where I put each email address on a separate line. When ready to mail, I mouse-select a bunch of names and COPY them with Ctrl+C. I then click in the Outlook Express' BCC (blind carbon copy) box and do Ctrl+V to PASTE them in.
     When placing email addresses in the Copy or BCC boxes, you’ll be advised that each name should be separated by a comma or a semicolon, followed by a blank space. However, if you paste in names which have been separated in a word processing document by pressing Enter after each entry (as I described above) a semicolon and space will be automatically inserted between each one.
     The first time you go to place email addresses in a new Outlook Express letter as Blind Carbon Copies, you may wonder where the BCC box is. You can display it by going to View, All Headers. After you’ve used it once the BCC box will usually be displayed automatically.
     Speaking of sending out email, I get requests nearly every day to include inspirational messages and/or photos of all kinds with my mailings. Although I have no doubt these requests are well-intentioned and for legitimate causes, I’ve always declined and restricted my newsletter to passing on (hopefully) useful computer information.
     Last week, however, I made an exception when I sent links to a couple of Web pages regarding the tragedies in New York and Washington DC. A number of people wrote back to say they couldn’t access one or the other of the links, and that several got “Java script” errors.
     There can be many reasons for these errors, but most have to do with the user not having an up-to-date browser. I suggested they download the latest version of their favorite browser and click NO if asked about disabling Java scripts.
     Having said that, I must acknowledge that some Java scripts are now said to be capable of propogating viruses. All the more reason to check as many anti-virus sites as you can to learn more about these things. Try file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.grisoft.comand file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Don%20Edrington/My%20Documents/www.housecall.antivirus.com as well.
     Users of older computers with little RAM may also have trouble accessing Web pages containing lots of pictures and/or sophisticated graphics. As we’ve all come to learn, new computer technology continues to leap ahead faster than many of us can afford to keep up with.
Sep 16 Questions from Readers
     John J. Guzzetta asked how to stop Outlook Express from automatically adding names to his address book.
     By default, OE adds the email address of each person to whom you respond, if you do so by clicking Reply. To defeat this, go to Tools, Options and click on the Send tab. Finally, UNcheck the “Automatically put people I reply to in my Address Book” box.
     Steve Manor asked how he could back up the various folders he’s created in Outlook Express by placing them on a CD.
     Well, the folders one creates within Outook Express (by going to File, New, Folder) become an integral part of the program and can’t be copied directly onto another disk. However, the emails saved inside the folders can be copied.
     Double-click a folder to see its contents. Now you can drag and drop any file shown into another folder. The destination folder can be on your Desktop or on another disk, including a CD if you have a CD-burner configured for dragging and dropping. Any file that is dragged from an OE folder into another folder is automatically “copied” rather than “moved.” The copied file will have an .EML extension and can later be opened within OE whenever it’s double-clicked.
     If you’d prefer to “move” rather than “copy” an email, right-click its icon and make your choice from the popup menu.
     Another way to save an OE email is to have the file open and then click on File, Save As. From there you can choose a destination folder, as well as choose a format for the email; EML, TXT or HTM. EML maintains the message as an OE file, TXT converts the message to a plain text document, and HTM converts the file to a Web page format.
     AOL users can also save an open email by going to File, Save As. Give the file a name and choose a destination folder. AOL 5.0 users’ files will have a .TXT extension, while AOL 6.0 users’ files will have an .RTX extension. However, if you open these files outside of AOL they will be filled with HTML coding that makes them difficult to read.
     To make them legible outside of AOL, change the extension from .TXT or .RTX to .HTM. A filename can be changed by right-clicking it and choosing Rename. However, you’ll get a message saying that changing a filename’s extension might make it unuseable, and asking if you want to continue. In this case, click Yes.
     Another reader said she’d installed and used an email program called IncrediMail, but later decided to delete it. Her question: why does she continue to get a message saying, “IncrediMail.exe is required...” when trying to use her current email program.
     Well, programs which are no longer wanted need to be “uninstalled.” Just deleting a program’s main folder does NOT get rid of all its files, which may be scattered throughout one’s hard drive. Inside a program’s folder you can usually find a file named uninstall.exe or unwise.exe, either of which will uninstall the target program when double-clicked. (Calling the file unwise is just a cute way of trying to discourage you from uninstalling.)
     If you can’t find the uninstall/unwise file for a particular program, double-click My Computer and choose Control Panel. Double-click Add/Remove Programs and look for the target program in the list which will appear. Double-click it, choose Add/Remove and then follow the prompts.
     If, after going through all these steps, you still get a message saying the program is needed, there’s a good chance it’s listed in your “System Tray Startup” menu. Go to Start, Run, and type msconfig. Click the Startup tab and UNcheck any references to the target program.
     You can also go to Start, Find, Files & Folders and look for any occurrence of "IncrediMail." Delete each one you find.
     If all else fails, you can delete references to IncrediMail in the Windows Registry. However, I'm always reluctant to suggest editing the Registry, since this is an area best left to advanced users. In any case, if you simply install (or reinstall) the email program you prefer, it should override any references to previous email clients which may have been installed.
Sep 15 Another Virus Problem
     By now we've all heard about the "SirCam" virus which has a way of attaching itself to names found in an Outlook Express address book and sending an email to these names with an a virus-laden attachment. The email's message says "I send you this file for your advice..." along with an invitation to download and open the file.
     Well, the cyber-terrorists have found a new way of sending you this virus. An email you've received can be "replied to" with part of the original message intact. This will be followed by a line reading, "Take a look at the attachment." The presumed "reply" will be forwarded to the original sender with the deadly file attached.
     The devious procedure even has a way of making the subject line of the "reply" correlate to something in the original letter, thus making it appear that someone you know has, in all good faith, replied to your letter and sent you a file that is relative to something you had written.
     I got a "reply" from one of my readers with a file named "news_doc.scr" attached. The subject line referred to something I had said in my last newsletter, so the email appeared to be legitimate. However, I was puzzled by the three-letter extension of the file's name, since "scr" normally stands for "screen saver."
     So I decided to ignore the attachment, with the intention of writing the sender to ask why he would send me a screen saver. To make a long story short, I couldn't find time to write, so I decided to take a look at the attachment since I'd never heard of a file with an "scr" extemsion being dangerous. However, when I clicked on the file I got a message saying "Invalid file format." So I just deleted it and thought nothing more of it.
     That's when strange things began to happen. I suddenly got a message saying, "You have two emails that have not been sent. Would you like to send them now?" At first I clicked NO, since I had no knowledge of any unsent email. However, Outlook Express is somewhat new to me, so when I was asked a second time I clicked YES. That's when I decided to check my "Sent Mail" folder to see if I could figure out what was going on.
     To my surprise, I saw two letters that had a brief excerpt from my last newsletter, followed by, "Take a look at the attachment." To my horror, I could see that the files attached to the two letters had the typical SirCam "double extensions" (such as filename.doc.pif). Well, one of the letters was a reply to me (which was not surprising, since I send myself a copy of each newsletter) but the other was sent to a reader in Japan.
     I immediately emailed him, warning him about the phony "reply" and its vicious attachment. I'm glad to say he wrote back to say he deleted the file.
     By now you might be wondering about the attachment I received named "news_doc.scr" since it didn't have the infamous "double extension." Well, the cyber-vandals have apparently found a way to substitute an underscore for one of the periods (dots). In any case, be very suspicious of any "replies" you receive that invite you to "Take a look at the attachment." Delete the letter and the attachment and advise the "sender" that he or she appears to be a target of the SirCam plague.
     In summary I’ll just say that I used the free service at www.housecall.antivirus.com and took care of the problem. Also, this Free SirCam Worm Removal Tool from Norton/Symantec works very well at cleaning out SirCam. If any viruses are found that can't be "cleaned," however, be careful not to delete any “system” files without making provisions for replacing them.
     Another thing you can do to help protect yourself is to download attachments only onto a 3.5" floppy disk. This should keep the attachment off your hard drive.
Sep 11 Information on More Free Programs
     Well, they talked me into it. When I recently mentioned Nathan Kelly recommending www.mailstart.com as a Web site for accessing email from anywhere, I replied that I'd be reluctant to give them my password, as is required to use the service. However, Jill Scott wrote to say she's used the service to access her email from places around the world, including China and Turkey. Jill also mentioned that attachments can be included with email, and that she is very pleased with the service.
     So I decided to give it a try, and quickly learned that AOL and CompuServe are not supported, because of their non-standard ways of handling email. As it happens, I'm no longer using AOL, since I recently switched to a cable service. My new email address is MrPCChat@mediaone.net.
     In any case, if you type mailstart.com into your browser's URL box, be warned that accidentally typing "startmail.com" will bring up a porn site.
     When I recently mentioned free anti-virus services, several folks wrote to say they've found AVG to be very reliable and easy to use. The service can be found at www.grisoft.com. Several others wrote about being pleased with the "Panda Anti-Virus" which can be freely downloaded at www.pandasoftware.com.
     Another very useful free program is EmailStripper. It can be freely downloaded from www.download.com. This handy utility will fix all that malformatted email which arrives with those >>>> symbols and/or those alternating "long and short" lines of text. Some folks have written to say they were unsure how to use the program. Actually, it couldn't be simpler.
     After downloading and installing the program, its icon will appear on your Desktop (an envelope bearing an S). Double-clicking the icon will open a large box, into which you're invited to place the malformatted text. You get the text by using your mouse to highlight it within an open email. Do Ctrl+X to CUT the selected text. Place your cursor in the open box and do Ctrl+V to PASTE in the text. Next, click Strip It. The text will be instantly reformatted into a clean, neat and pleasingly legible document.
     Next do Ctrl+A to SELECT ALL the reformatted text. Then do Ctrl+C to COPY it. Finally, click back inside the original email message and do Ctrl+V to PASTE it in. Alternatively, you can opt to PASTE the freshly formatted text into a blank word processing page or an outgoing email.
     Regarding another free program, John Reekie wrote to say StarOffice actually costs $39.95. Yes, the program can be bought on a CD for that price, but it's totally free if you download it from www.download.com. Admittedly, one must click on several links to get to the actual download site, as is the case with many programs. You'll be asked which operating system you use and which country you are in, among other things. However, I feel that getting a free office suite is worth the extra clicking.
     I've also been told that WinZip is not really free. Well, that's more a matter of personal philosophy than actual fact. WinZip is a program that "unzips" multiple email attachments, among other things. It's a program that will decode email attachments that arrive with a .ZIP or .MIM extension, and is one we can all use. A free "evaluation" version can be download from www.winzip.com. However, the program is actually "shareware" and you have to click on "I Agree" each time you use it without offering to buy it outright. All you are agreeing to, however, is that you understand it is shareware and that they would like you to pay for it.
Sep 9 Surprised to Find Some Viruses + Plus Information on Some Free Programs
     When Jim Berger recently told me about a free anti-virus service available at www.antivirus.com/pc-cillin, I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. A program on the site called HouseCall.AntiVirus offers you a free online scan of all your files, along with comments on what it finds.      To my surprise I found three infected files on my main computer, and one on my laptop. This prompted me to run a check on the 7-year-old PC I keep on hand as a backup. 115 infected files were found on this machine. The thing that surprised me is that none of these computers have ever given any indication of being contaminated and all have been running normally with no visible problems.
     In any case, HouseCall said most of the infected files were "cleanable" and offered to disinfect them. Naturally, I accepted the offer. As for the "uncleanable" files, most could be safely deleted, while others could be replaced with files from another computer.
     The first thing I did, however, was rename each of the "uncleanable" files by removing the last character from the file's three-letter extension, thus making the file unusable. After doing a restart and running a few programs to see if any problems developed (none did) I deleted or replaced the target files. I definitely recommend this site, which can also be accessed at www.housecall.antivirus.com.
     For those who want even more protection from receiving viruses, Nathan Kelly wrote to tell me about www.mailstart.com, a Web site which offers to have all your incoming email go through its filtering service. They offer a free demo, but subscribing to the service costs $10 per year. I haven't tried this service, nor do I expect to, because you have to give them your email address and password. Personally, I don't give my password to anyone I don't know, but nonetheless feel obligated to mention all the anti-virus tips that readers send me. I appreciate their good intentions and hope the tips will all be valid and useful.
     A suggestion for keeping Outlook Express from sending unwanted emails to names on your contact list was sent to me by a number of readers. Since OE has a reputation for being an email program which viruses can infiltrate and then reproduce themselves to be sent to names they find in the address book, this seems like a plausible idea.
     This tip won't prevent you from getting viruses (your anti-virus program should keep this from happening) but it will stop viruses from latching onto your address book and sending themselves to others as email attachments.
     To keep this from happening, create a contact in your OE address book with the name :!0000 with no email address in the details. This "contact" will then show up as the first on your list. If a virus attempts to do a "send all" from your contact list, you'll see an error message that says: "The Message could not be sent. One or more recipients do not have an email address. Please check your Address Book and make sure all the recipients have a valid email address."
     Click on OK and the suspect message will not be sent to anyone, and no changes will have been made to your original contacts list. The offending message may then be automatically stored in your "Drafts" or "Outbox" folder, from whence it can be deleted.
     I continue to hear with increasing frequency that we should all be on guard about free programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. RealPlayer, for instance, has acknowledged that their free media player has come with built-in "spy" software that looks at your PC and sends certain information back to the parent company, which can aid them in deciding what advertising to send you. Other free programs that people have complained about are Bonzai Buddy, Weather Bug, and Gator, although I don't have any specifics on what the complaints are. One critic says that free services should be avoided altogether, because "you get what you pay for."
     However, I've used a number of free programs that have served me very well, and about which I have nothing but good things to say. The virus checker I mentioned at the beginning of this column is an example, as is 1stPage 2000, the program I use for creating pages on this Web site. StarOffice from Sun Microsystems is a full-blown "office suite" that is totally free with no strings attached.
     Another useful freebie is EmailStripper, a handy utility that cleans up malformated email by getting rid of all those >>>>>> symbols and realigns all those "long & short" lines that often appear in an email letter.
     The newsletter I send out is also free, and the number of subscribers continues to grow each week.
     Anyway, I'm always glad to hear readers' opinions on free programs and/or services they've tried. If you'd like to send me yours and/or receive my free newsletter, email me at MrPCChat@mediaone.net.
Sep 6 Thoughts from Readers on Blocking Unwanted Email
     When I began using email in 1978, it was a fascinating new concept; faster than US Mail, and cheaper than long-distance phone calls. The excitement of receiving an occasional email in those days was something akin to finding a surprise package on your doorstep each morning.
     Nowadays, however, many PC users approach their in-boxes with trepidation, wondering how many pieces of junk mail they'll have waiting and if some of them have a virus-laden file attached. I mentioned recently that Outlook Express and Hotmail have "block sender" options, but not all email services do. AOL and CompuServe users can use their main screen name to go to Mail, Mail Controls to list senders whose mail they don't want.
    John Raymond Jr. wrote to say he was not satisfied with the answer Hotmail gave him when he asked about canceling his account altogether. The Hotmail people told John he could cancel his account only by not accessing it for a certain period of time. John went on to say that he has about 160 messages backed up there, but opening only one would keep the account active, which he does not want to do.
     Well, since web-based mail services like Hotmail are free, my solution would be to simply open another account under a different user name, and advise all my correspondents of the new name. Even the email services one pays for, like AOL, allow multiple screen names. Carroll J. Jones, Sr. wrote to say his solution to receiving unwanted email was to change ISPs altogether.
    Speaking of changing ISPs, a lot of folks have asked how they can quit AOL but still retain their "Favorites" along with the information in their address books, as well as mail saved in their Filing Cabinets. Sherry Halsey sent me a link to a Web site that claims to show how this can be done. I checked out the site, www.aoleave.com, but found its instructions to be rather complicated, with no guarantee that they will work.
    Here's my solution; I've left AOL in the past (well, the truth is: they kicked me off -- and you can read about that here: "A Funny Thing Happened...") but I still have access to all the above-mentioned information, some of it dating back more than three years. I simply kept the old version of AOL on my hard drive, even though my account was closed. Using the retained AOL program, I couldn't get online, but all my data was accessible just as it had been when the account was active. It still is.
    If you are, or intend to be, an AOL user, here are some things you need to understand. Most ISPs mainly give you access to the Internet and then let you use the browser and email client of your choice. If you've chosen, say, Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, any saved mail or "Favorites" will still be still be accessible if you switch to another ISP. You simply continue to use IE and OE with the new service.
    AOL, however, has its own hybrid browser and email system, as well as a "Filing Cabinet" for retaining old mail. All the data that one saves in these areas goes into a folder named Organize, where it is kept in cryptic files that have no easy way of being accessed. However, if you keep AOL on your hard drive after canceling your service, you can still access all the data just as you had done before. (All this also applies to AOL's clone, CompuServe.)
    How does one cancel an AOL account? Click on "Keyword" and type in "Cancel" or call 888-265-8008. As for canceling CompuServe, the service has been so flaky lately I really have no idea, other than to stop paying for it.
    I want to thank Mas Kamaya and the Tri-City Computer Club for having me as a guest speaker earlier this week. It was a lot of fun and, as usual, I learned several things from the attendees. Jim Berger told me about an inexpensive anti-virus program that's available with a free trial at www.antivirus.com/pc-cillin/. Jim says he's very pleased with the way it works for him. I tried it and agree wholeheartdedly with Jim. The program is also availabe at http://www.housecall.antivirus.com/.
If clicking either of the above links doesn't work, just copy and paste the web address into the URL line of your browser:
www.antivirus.com/pc-cillin or www.housecall.antivirus.com 
Sep 2 Blocking Unwanted Email
     A number of people have written to ask if there is any way avoid unsolicited "spam" email. Many have discovered that clicking on a "no more mail" link just seems to generate more of the stuff. Well, I've heard that clicking "unsubscribe" or "remove my name" just tells the spammers that you've actually opened the mail and read far enough to reach the "no more mail" line, and that this just encourages them to keep you on their list as well as passing your name on to others.
     Outlook Express and Hotmail each have a "Block Sender" option, which lets you choose to block incoming mail from a given emailer, but they point out that choosing this option in no way keeps you from receiving junk mail from other spammers, not to mention from the same sender who may simply change his email address or screen name.
     Personally, I don't have a problem with spam mail. I can usually spot it from its subject line and use my delete key accordingly. As an example, a lot of spam has arrived lately with email addresses that begin with "an1" such as "an1acehrdwre@mail.com." I have no idea why so many of them use these three characters at the beginning of their screen names, since it's a dead giveaway.
     Also, if I happen to open a letter that begins with "The following is a result of your feedback form..." it gets instantly deleted. "Your feedback" is merely a phrase that hopes to trick you into thinking it's something you've requested.
     Anyway, one of my long-time readers sent me a referral to a Web site called "http://www.removeyou.com/" which purports to remove your name from lists you don't want to be on. I haven't tried it, and have no idea if it really works. If I wanted to try it, however, I would create a new screen name on one of the free webmail services like Hotmail or Yahoo and send that name to "http://www.removeyou.com/." Then I'd check periodically to see if that name was receiving spam.
     Personally, with all due respect to my reader who is trying to be helpful, I tend to be very suspicious of Web sites that offer to "help" you for free. Yes, there are many Web sites that do let you download legitimately helpful programs, but there are also some very devious scams out there. I recently warned all my AOL newsletter subscribers about receiving email from names such as "yourAOLaccount@..." or "AOLpaymentproblem@..." These letters appear to be from AOL and tell you your credit card somehow failed and that you need to log onto an AOL site where you can update your billing information. The site appears to be a genuine AOL page, complete with admonitions about not giving your password or credit card information to anyone but authorized AOL personnel. It then goes on to ask you to type in this very same information.
     Many people wrote to say thanks for the warning, but others wrote to say they'd been previously taken in by this scam, and told me of some very devastating results. This scam is actually very easy to perpetrate, as the crooks simply get another email account under a different name and put up another phony Web page as soon as the current ones get shut down. Be very careful.
     Speaking of Web sites, I'd like to answer some questions I've received about mine, http://www.pcdon.com/. A number of people have asked if mine is one of the "free" home pages that various Web services and ISPs offer to give you. Well, if you've ever signed on for one of these free services you'll quickly notice that your page or pages contain a lot of colorful ad banners, including animated ones, that advertise things you may or may not approve of. If you've been to my site, however, you've seen that no such advertising appears. Yes, I do mention a computer book I've written, but that's it. No other ads of any kind appear anywhere on the sixty-some pages of the site.
     No, mine is not one of the free sites; it's one I pay for every month, and which I maintain primarily to offer people helpful tips on using their computers. As such, I occasionally receive complaints that the site is not organized as a comprehensive instructional manual, complete with a table of contents and index that would let readers find an immediate answer to any computer-related question they might have.
     If I were independently wealthy and had nothing else to do, I would be delighted to create and maintain such a site. However, this one is maintained at my own expense in what little free time I can find to work on it. In any case, a lot of people write to tell me how much they enjoy it, and that's the real payoff for me.
     By the way, I finally got my free downloadable music page up and running again. It had to be completely reconstructed after I recently changed Web host services. Thanks for your patience as it was being reassembled.
August 28 More Beta-testing Windows XP + Faxing While Online with a Cable Connection
     In response to a recent column saying that cable and DSL connections are not capable of sending and receiving faxes, Marla Vance wrote to say that she uses her cable modem to connect to the Internet and uses her dial-up modem to send and receive faxes all the time. Well, I had a cable modem installed over the weekend and found I can do the same. With a dial-up connection, you can be online with your ISP or you can do faxing; but not both at the same time. With a cable connection you can.
     By the way, I'm still using 32Bit Fax, which can be freely downloaded from www.electasoft.com. I've been using the program for over a year and a half and have been very satisfied with the way it works. However, when I recently installed the beta version of Windows XP, the faxing software was trashed, as were several other of my most-used programs. (I assume Microsoft will have this fixed before the finished version of XP goes on sale in October.)
     Anyway, upon reinstalling 32Bit Fax, I discovered that it can be set up as a single-user program, or as a multi-user "network" application. Since Windows XP has been designed to be used in a network environment, I chose that option for the faxing program and am very pleased with the way it works.
     Things to Expect in Windows XP
     Speaking of WinXP, here are a few more things its users can expect to find. With previous versions of Windows, we've all learned that the opening screen is called the "desktop" and have always been able to return to it quickly and easily from wherever we might be on our hard drive. With WinXP you will have two or more "desktops" depending on how many users you tell it will be using the system. The same goes for frequently used folders such as My Documents and My Download Files. Other features that you've become accustomed to finding in just one place will also be divided up among multiple locations. It does take some getting used to.
     WinX Has Built-In CD Burning
     One of the programs that WinXP killed was Adaptec Creator, used for burning CDs. However, I discovered that WinXP has its own built-in CD burning software, which works just fine. WinXP also has built-in "zipping" software, which means you don't need to have WinZip in your system.
     I've heard that other software providers are complaining that WinXP will be cutting into their sales by providing similar built-in programs; most notably Eastman Kodak, who cites WinXP's digital camera software as a clone of theirs.
     Voice Recognition Built-In to MS Word XP Speaking of XP products, I've been using MS Office XP for a while and will soon be reporting on some of its advanced features, as I learn more about them. I'm particularly curious as to how well its MS Word voice recognition software works. I've used Dragon Naturally Speaking in the past and want to see how they compare. I'll let you know.
     Tricks for using Rulers in MSWord
     Regarding Word, here's a handy trick for getting quickly into the Page Setup area. If you have a ruler showing, either horizontal or vertical, simply double-click anywhere on it to bring up the dialog box that allows you change margin settings, switch from "portrait" to "landscape" view or change paper size. Keep in mind, however, that doing a single-click on the horizontal ruler will place a tab stop at that point.
     If placing a tab stop is your intent, click on the little "L" at the far left of the ruler to choose from among Left, Right, Center, Decimal, and Line tabs. If you want to change the location of any tab thus set, simply drag it left or right with your mouse. To remove a tab setting, just drag it off the ruler.
     Speaking of rulers, I've yet to find any practical use for the vertical ruler in Word, although it comes up by default in the Print/Layout view. To keep this ruler from appearing altogether, go to Tools, Options, View and UNcheck Vertical Ruler.
August 26 Beta-testing Windows XP + Using "Thumbnails" with Paint Shop Pro
     Viruses have been spreading at an alarming rate lately. However, some valuable information regarding these threats can be found on the PC World website at the following links: The Sircam Worm - More about Sircam - New Trojan Horse Worm - Code Red Information
     In October new PCs will begin arriving with Windows XP, while users of previous Windows versions will be able to upgrade to XP. After beta-testing XP for the past few weeks, I've learned some pros and cons.
     Con: Users of previous Windows versions will find that XP is a whole different world with numerous changes in the way one navigates the system and uses the new features. If upgrading were free, I'd say go ahead and try it. However, I'd be inclined to stick with Win98 or ME before spending about $100 for the upgrade. XP was designed to work best in a networking environment.
     Pro: Windows XP comes with easy to use built-in CD-burning software. It also has the ability to view certain graphic files in Windows Explorer as "Thumbnails" by clicking on View, Thumbnails. In current versions, one has to first click on the folder containing the graphics and choose Enable Thumbnails.
     In addition to being able to view thumbnails more easily, WinXP will even display thumbnails of two or three of the graphics inside a particular folder by superimposing them over the folder icon. This helps you decide if the folder is the one you want to open.
     REASONABLY PRICED GRAPHICS PROGRAM
     Speaking of seeing thumbnail views of images, Paint Shop Pro is a program that will display thumbnails of many more types of graphic files, including vector drawings, such as those created with Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Windows thumbnails are limited to bitmap images such as BMPs, GIFs and JPGs.
     If you're not familiar with PSP, it's one of the most popular graphic programs used by those who create images for Internet Web pages, as well as by those who do professional editing of photographs. PSP has features comparable to those found in Adobe Photoshop and Corel PhotoPaint, but is available for about $100 while the others sell in the $300 to $600 range. You can download a free 30-day evaluation copy of the program at www.jasc.com.
     PSP can be found in any computer store, or can be downloaded from www.jasc.com. Jasc also makes other popular software, including QuickView. QuickView used to come built-in with earlier versions of Windows, but, sadly, not anymore. The program lets you click on most any kind of a document and then displays a preview of the enclosed text. Very handy if you have, say, a collection of MSWord files that you want to take a quick look at without having to open each one.
     Speaking of viewing thumbnails of JPGs, the most popular file format for editing photographs, if you find that your current version of Windows won't display them, try changing the filename extension from JPG to JPEG.
     When I wrote recently about using the Windows Dialer, as well as earlier versions of MSWorks, to dial phone numbers, Tom Inglesby pointed out that this only works on computers using modems for their ISP connections. The feature is not available to those using cable or DSL connections. This is also true regarding the sending of faxes from your PC; you can do it with a modem, but not with cable or DSL.
     Speaking of image-editing programs, all Windows users have a "no-frills" one built-in: PaintBrush. This utility can be accessed by clicking on Start, Run and typing in PBRUSH. I've written in the past about how PBrush can be used for simple editing of photos, as well as for resizing them. It can also be used to display a view of how it will fit on a sheet of 8-1/2 x 11 paper. Go to File, Print Preview. If the picture is too large for the paper, go to Image, Stretch/Skew to resize it.
     When I wrote recently about finding old friends on Classmates.com, several folks wrote to say that PlanetAlumni.com is another good web site for finding old school chums. When I mentioned looking people up on Switchboard.com, others wrote to say that ICQ.com (I Seek You) is another good tool for conducting personal searches.
August 21 Virus Tips from Readers + Using the Windows Phone Dialer
     One of the things I find most useful about my PC is being able to use it as a speed-dialer for my phone. You didn't know your PC could do this? Well, click on Start, Run and type in DIALER. You'll be presented with a 10-key telephone pad and a place to store eight numbers.
     You say your phones already have speed-dialing; and they can hold way more than eight numbers? Keep reading.
     Although the Windows Dialer has a limited number of slots for favorite phone numbers, all calls made using the keypad are saved in a log, and can be recalled later when needed. Here's how this works.
     To keep the Dialer on your desktop, right-click Start, Explore and double-click the Windows folder. Find the Dialer phone icon and right-click it. Choose Create Shortcut and drag the shortcut icon onto your desktop. Now, assuming you have a phone connected to the same line as your computer's modem, just punch your number in and be prepared to pick up your handset and talk. The call will be automatically entered into the Dialer's log. To access the log, click on Tools, Show Log.
     To place names and numbers in the speed-dial slots, click on Edit, Speed Dial, and type in the data. Finally, click Save.
     I like Dialer, but I've always liked the dialing capabilities of MSWorks even better. If you have a Works version previous to 6.0 or 2000, get into the Spreadsheet application, and type a phone number into any cell. With this cell selected, go to Tools, Dial This Number. This function actually works through the Windows Dialer, but the advantage is that you can list hundreds of names and phone numbers. Simply put your names in one column and the corresponding phone numbers in another. Of course, addresses and other information can go into additional columns, and everything can be sorted, as in any spreadsheet. As always, save the file with a name of your choice.
     To make the dialing even easier, put a phone icon on the Works toolbar by going to Tools, Customize Toolbar, Tools, and drag the icon into place. To dial, select a phone number and click on the icon. You can also use the Database and Word Processing functions of Works to do all this. Pick the utility you prefer, and follow the above steps to put the phone icon on its toolbar.
     If you like using Works as your phone list program, put an icon to your saved file on the desktop so you can quickly get into it. On most computers, Works files are saved in a folder named Documents, which is inside the MSWorks folder, which is usually inside the Program Files folder. When you've located the file, right-click it, choose Create Shortcut and drag the shortcut onto the desktop. Finally, right-click the shortcut's label and use Rename to call the file anything you want.
     You still don't see any advantage to using your computer over the speed dial system built into your phone? Well, when I have to make several calls in a row, I sometimes forget which person or business I've dialed by the time someone's answered the phone. A quick glance at the monitor tells me whom I've dialed. Also, adding, removing and/or editing phone contacts is much easier here than with many phone systems.
     Regrettably, Microsoft omitted this feature from MSWorks 6.0 and later. I have no idea why, but I keep Works 4.0 and 6.0 on my computer and find them both useful in different ways.
     In any case, Works is not the only program that has (or had) a phone dialing feature. Microsoft Outlook also has this capability.
August 19 More Information on Protection from Viruses and Worms
    When I wrote recently that you can't get a computer virus by simply reading an e-mail, I got feedback from some technically-savvy readers saying that it's possible to get a "worm" under certain circumstances; particularly if one's computer is connected to a network, DSL or cable system.
     The readers' letters contained links to a number of Internet sites that had numerous pages of documentation, along with advice about installing a variety of antivirus programs along with "firewalls" such as those used in network environments.  
     Rather than try to list all these links here, I'll just mention here parts of a letter from Tom Inglesby, a professional writer and editor on Internet issues:
     Tom points out that many users of Outlook and Outlook Express configure their screen with the "preview" pane open. This opens the e-mail as you scroll the list of incoming messages, but does NOT open any attachments. However, one type of virus/worm propagation is via HTML documents which connect to their Internet source for any graphics that are displayed. This is also passive, assuming the reader is connected at the time of the message coming into the preview or read window.
     Those with cable or DSL connections are most vulnerable in this case. While this is, literally, a variation of "a file attached to the letter" it doesn't require the reader to do anything to open the file. The HTML coding opens the carrier (the connection to the Internet source) automatically. In other words, if you see the graphics, they were not "attached" to the e-mail but came from somewhere over which the reader has no control.
     One solution is to set your e-mail client to "text only" so there is no HTML connecting going on behind the scenes.
     Personally, says Tom, I run a firewall, two antivirus programs in resident mode, to scan all incoming everything, plus two "worm hunter-killer" programs that also scan all incoming mail. I update everything at first boot in the morning.
     I recently got hit with Win32.Champ.5495.int, a virus that is a mutation of one that's been around since 1999. My antivirus program, Computer Associates' eTrust, said it had infected seven files in three programs. Why didn't the antivirus stop it? I found out later, after deleting the three programs, that it was "a false alarm that will be corrected in the next database." That hurts!
     In any case, defenses are made to be overcome. That's the virus-builders' mantra. Updates for antivirus programs are after-the-fact, by nature. Patches for vulnerabilities come after those vulnerabilities are publicized, and after a lot of damage may have already been done.
     Tom has much more to say about this, and the above is just part of his e-mail. The whole letter can be found at www.pcdon.com.
     Several readers wrote to say that they found Norton's antivirus much easier to install and to keep updated than that of McAffee, whom they say is much less responsive to requests for support. Several others wrote to say that an antivirus program called Panda seems to be giving them very good service. Panda can be freely downloaded from http://www.pandasecurity.com/ or a CD can be purchased for about $30 at any computer store.
     For those needing network firewall protection, ZoneAlarm is a popular program that can be freely downloaded from http://www.cnet.com.com/.
     Regarding a recent Chat telling how to change text sizes on Web sites, Jonathan in Encinitas wrote to say that using the Ctrl key with the left & right bracket keys will do the same thing with highlighted text. Ctrl+] makes type bigger, Cntrl+[ makes it smaller. This not only works with Web pages, it works with e-mail text, as well as with MSWord.
     Speaking of Word, Ron Jordan wrote to ask if names and address in the Windows Address Book can be copied and pasted into a Word document. Actually they can be copied and pasted into any Windows document. If you don't have a Windows Address Book, it can be created by highlighting your contact list in Outlook Express and going to File, Export. Give it a name and the extension .WAB will be attached to it, making its data available for copying and pasting into all Windows applications.
August 14 Time for a Confession
     I frequently get asked which virus protection software I’d recommend, McAffee or Norton. Well, I have a confession. I haven't had any virus-protection on my computer in a long time. Why? I always seem to be too busy to stop and do it. However, I did buy a McAffee CD last week and expect to get it installed soon.
     In any case, don't let my tardiness in getting this done dissuade you from installing anti-virus software and from keeping it updated. I just happen to be very careful about what I download and open.
     Here are some facts about the danger of getting a virus into your system: You CANNOT get a virus just by opening or reading your email. An e-mail letter itself CANNOT be infected. However, a file attached to the letter CAN be a virus-carrier.
     It’s safe to open and read the message of any e-mail, even if the letter has an attached virus. Here's an analogy: If someone mails you a loaded gun you can't get hurt just by looking at your mailbox. You can't get hurt just by taking the package out of the mailbox. You CAN get hurt if you take the gun out of the package, aim it at yourself, and pull the trigger.
     The lesson here is to not download any attachment you're unsure of. If you do download it, it still can't hurt you if you delete it without opening it (double-clicking it). Be alert, however. Even an attachment sent by a friend can bear a virus, since some of these time-bombs are designed to send themselves to names found in the address book of someone who may have downloaded one unintentionally. Just be careful.
     Changing the Size of Text on Web Pages
     Here's a trick that can make Web pages easier to read in both Internet Explorer and Netscape. Click on View, Text Size and you'll be offered several options for making the text larger or smaller. The size of the graphics won't change, but the text will. If you have a mouse with a wheel between its buttons you can also change the size of an IE Web page’s text by pressing Ctrl while you roll the wheel forward and backward.
     Some Formatting Principles of Spreadsheets
     A reader asked why numbers such as 15.00 lose their decimal point and zeros when entered into a spreadsheet. Well, spreadsheet cells need to be formatted in order to have digits appear with the number of decimal places desired. In Excel, go to Format, Cell, Number. In MSWorks go to Format, Number. Here you can also choose to make negative numbers appear in red or in parentheses, as well as setting the number of decimal places and whether or not to use commas as "thousands" separators.
     If you preformat a block of cells to have two decimal places, then 15 will automatically become 15.00 when it's entered. Entries such as 2500 will become $2,500.00 with the proper formatting. Experiment. It's fun and not hard to do.
     Speaking of spreadsheets, have you ever sorted a list of names and have them all come out alphabetically correct, except that Wagner somehow came out on top, ahead of Able, Baker and Carson? The reason is very likely a blank space in front of the W in Wagner. Blank spaces and symbols always precede alpha/numeric characters in a sorted list. With modern, proportionately spaced fonts, a blank space tends to be very narrow and can be easily overlooked.
     This can happen in other situations, as well. I recently found I couldn't log onto my web site after inserting a password. I knew the password was correct, but each time I pasted it in I got an error message. Finally I noticed the intrusive blank space and everything worked fine when I deleted it.
August 12 Communicating with Computers + Downloading "ZIP" Files
    When I first got into desktop computers in the late 1970s, they were regarded primarily as "business" machines that could solve mathematical problems, keep track of items in a database and do some bare-bones word-processing. Little did we dream that they would become the powerful "communication" devices that we know and love (and sometimes hate) today.
    In any case, email and IMs (instant messages) handle the vast majority of my communications, while things like hand-written letters fade further and further into obscurity.
    When I wrote recently about being surprised at receiving an email from someone I hadn't seen in over half a century, my mailbox began filling with similar stories from others who'd also made contact with friends and family from their distant past.  Most of these contacts were a result of signing up with Classmates.com, however some were achieved by using a variety of "white pages" services, such as Switchboard.com.
    Using the latter, locating men is relatively easy because their last names seldom change.  One of the advantages of Classmates, however, is that they encourage you to sign up with the name you were known by in high school, thus letting women be sought by their maiden names.  But this can also work for the guys.  At Hollywood High I was known as Don Hall, using the last name of one of my stepdads.  I put my graduation year down as 1950, even though I'd actually dropped out two years earlier.
    The friend who found me had moved away after we graduated from junior high together.  However, since most of her friends went on to Hollywood High, she looked up the class of 1950 to see whom she might find.  She not only found me, she put in me in contact with another friend I hadn't seen since the mid 50s.  It's been a very rewarding experience, all the way around.
    Classmates.com is really very versatile and gives one lots of latitude in looking up old friends. They've also recently begun an "I'd Like to Meet Someone..." service, which I rather imagine will be equally successful.

Downloading Email Attachments
    One of the things about which I continue to get lots of questions is "downloading" files attached to email.  As we know, photos are popular items to send and receive via email.  Your service has Help files that tell you how to attach one or more photos to an outgoing letter, but people often get confused by what they download on the receiving end.  The sent photos usually have filename extensions like .JPG, .GIF or .BMP.  But the received attachment may have a .ZIP or .MIM extension.
    Here's what happens.  When multiple items are attached to a single email, they get bundled together and compressed into a single file which can be uploaded and downloaded more quickly.  For instance, if you attach three photos to an email, they might be named "Mom.JPG," "Dad.JPG," and "Baby.JPG" but will very likely arrive as a single file named "Mom.ZIP."  When downloading "Mom.ZIP," make a note of the folder into which it will be stored.  Go to that folder and double-click the "Mom.ZIP" icon.
    Doing so will activate WinZip* and cause the program to display the three original filenames, where double-clicking any of them will cause the photo to appear in a temporary folder.  However, in order to save the photos as actual files you need to click on "Extract."  This will extract the three photos and place them in a folder on your hard drive.  By looking carefully, you'll see which is to be the target folder. However, you can type in the name of any folder you prefer.
    Users of AOL and CompuServe normally have all this done for them automatically when logging offline.  The pictures typically end up in the AOL or CS "Download" folder.
    After the photos are extracted, "Mom.ZIP" will normally remain on your hard drive and can be used as a "backup" to the photos, since it still contains the compressed ("zipped") files and can be decompressed ("unzipped") again at any time.  If you're sure you'll never need to do this, delete the file and free up some hard drive space.
    I've used "photos' here as an example of files that are often attached.  However, the same "zipping" and "unzipping" applies to any kind of an attachment, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, PDF files and even executable programs.
    The latter will have an .EXE extension and should be accepted only if you are positive they are something you asked for.  Most of the viruses with which we've been plagued arrive as .EXE files.  However, viruses can also be embedded in Word documents (.DOC) and Excel files (.XLS).  The deadly SirCam virus that's been going around (I send you this file for your advice...) always has a "double" extension such as DOC.LNK or XLS.PIF.  Do NOT open any attachments with this kind of an extension!
    *If you don't have WinZip, a free evaluation copy can be downloaded from http://www.winzip.com/.
August 7 Windows XP + More "Classmates" Stories
     I received my beta test copy of Windows XP over the weekend and have been putting it through its paces.  It's a whole other world from its predecessors, Win95/98/Me, and was designed for a multiple-user environment, where different users have their own Desktops, Taskbars, and My Documents folders.

I installed the program as a two-person system where my assistant Mary Hanson has all her features separate from mine.  Having previously worked with networks, Mary is picking it up rather easily, but I seem to spend half my time using the Search command to find out where everything is.
     An immediate downside to installing Windows XP was the fact that it corrupted some other programs, most notably WordPerfect Office, Microsoft's major competitor in the office suite market.  But I'm sure this was just a coincidence.  Well--wasn't it?
     In October new computers will begin arriving with this operating system installed, but my advice to those who are comfortable with their current versions of Windows is not to spend the money to upgrade to XP unless you have some very compelling reason to do so.
     When I mentioned recently that I needed a procedure for weeding out duplicate entries in a list of e-mail addresses, one reader wrote and suggested putting the list into an Excel spreadsheet.  After alphabetizing the list with Data, Sort, one can then go to Data, Filter, Auto Filter, Advanced Filter, and click on Unique Records Only. This procedure eliminates duplicates, and I appreciate receiving the very helpful tip.
     A reader of my newsletter in India wrote to tell me of a free download from WebAttack.com called WorldCast, which is an email add-on which will also eliminate duplications.  Dr.Suresh Bhimsingh is a physician who's created a website, http://www.seniorindian.com/, dedicated to helping senior citizens in his country learn more about computers.  The doctor maintains the site at his own expense, with no commercial advertising, as I do with http://www.pcdon.com/, which was also created with the idea of helping mature PC users.
     When I recently mentioned being contacted by a friend I hadn't seen in half a century, as a result of being listed with Classmates.com, Fran Winkle wrote to tell me of finding classmates from the Class of 1946 in a Texas orphanage where she'd been raised.  They even got together for a 55-year class reunion.  Another reader told about looking up someone to whom she had once been engaged, and finding out some things that made her even more glad she didn't marry him.
     Gerald Goldstein wrote to tell of finding two school chums he hadn't heard from in 60 years and a military buddy he hadn't seen in 47 years.
These are just a few examples of how email and the Internet can be used in some truly remarkable ways.  Here's another:
     A personal friend of mine was tracked down through an online "white pages" service and told that he had inherited a considerable sum of money from a benefactress who had once been befriended by his mother. Space here doesn't allow for the whole story, but if you suspect anyone might be trying to find you to give you an inheritance, try listing yourself with Switchboard.com or one of the other "people databases."
     Speaking of e-mail, Steven Barisof asked how to get the phrase "undisclosed recipients" to show up on mail that has been sent to multiple recipients.  It gets put there, by some email services, when addressees are entered as BCCs (blind carbon copies).  Other email clients just show the name of each individual recipient.
     A lady named Patty wrote to say that names will be treated as BCCs in Juno if you place them in the "Carbon Copy" box with the complete list enclosed in a set of parentheses.  However, Patty went on to ask how this is done with web-based services such as Hotmail. Well, they generally have a separate BCC box where the names should be entered.
     I continue to get questions about how to make MSWord stop doing "helpful" things that some folks don't want done, such as capitalizing the first word in a sentence even if the word is iMac or eBay.  Just go to Tools, AutoCorrect and UNcheck all the things you don't want to happen automatically.
August 5 Some Interesting Aspects of Email
     Have you signed up for Classmates.com? You see their ads all over the Internet. Listing your name, your high school, and your year of graduation, plus a little information about yourself is all free. Searching the service's files for names of old school chums is also free. However, if you see the name of someone you'd like to contact, you're required to sign up for Classmate's "Gold Service" for a $29.95 annual subscription.
     Well, I've had no luck finding the names of anyone I knew back then--but that's not surprising since my mom and I moved around a lot and I didn't make many close friends in those days. However, I was shocked last week when I received an email from a woman who said, "Hi, Don. Are you still doing magic?"
     The letter was from someone who'd lived across the street from me in the mid-1940s and who remembered my doing magic tricks for the kids in the neighborhood. Furthermore, she was my best neighborhood friend, but we lost contact when she moved to another city after we'd graduated from junior high school together. Hearing from her again after 55 years really made my day, and we've been getting reacquainted via email and phone calls. Isn't email wonderful?
     Speaking of which, I've opined in the past that those who send out multiple copies of a letter should always use BCCs (blind carbon copies) so that each recipient sees only his or her name on the incoming message. This is a matter of common courtesy, to protect recipients from having their email addresses displayed multiple times for others to see and, possibly, to misuse.
     As an example, I send this newsletter to over 1800 people. If the letter contained sales pitches or ads of any kind (which it does not) I could easily double the number of names on my list just by copying all the ones I see daily on incoming mail, where BCCs were not used. However, I choose not to do this.
     Well, one of my readers sent me his solution to this problem. After repeatedly asking an acquaintance who routinely sent out jokes with all his addressees' names showing, my reader did the following: he wrote a letter containing links to a couple of sleazy "adult" websites and sent it to all these names, and made it appear that the email came from the non-BCC-user. Not surprisingly, subsequent emails from the joke-teller have NOT shown the names of all his addressees.
     Speaking of e-mail, a reader asked if it's possible to have more than one ISP on her computer, and to send and receive mail via the different services. Yes, it is, and I've been doing it for years. My reason for using multiple e-mail services is to learn more about them so I can answer questions from readers. Others have told me they like to have a second ISP as a "back-up" in case the first one fails for some reason.
     In case you wonder how I keep track of the 1800+ addresses on my list, I put them into an MSWord document, with one name per line. To keep them in alphabetical order, I click on Table, Sort. On my email service (AOL) having names listed one per line is acceptable. Other services require each name to be followed by a comma and a blank space. If I want to make my list conform to that format, I do the following:
     With my cursor at the beginning of the list, I click on Edit, Replace and type ^p into the Find box. The "caret" sign, followed by a lower case "p" is Microsoft's code for a "carriage return" (i.e., pressing Enter). In the Replace With box I type a comma followed by a blank space. When I click on Replace All, the transformation is completed, with only the first and last entries needing a slight bit of editing.
July 26 Make a Folder for your "Run" Commands
     In the past I've described some handy utilities that can be accessed by using the Start, Run command. Typing in commands such as CALC, PBRUSH, or CHARMAP will launch Calculator, PaintBrush, and Character Map.
     Yes, these programs can be accessed by going to Start, Run, Programs, Accessories, etc.; but typing their names into the RUN box is easier. How about making it easier yet?
     Right-click your Desktop and choose New, Folder. In the "New Folder" label that appears type "Run Commands." We'll place shortcuts to your favorite "Run" utilities in this folder, which will make them accessible with just a few mouse clicks.
     Here's are some of the shortcuts I have in my folder: Calculator, PaintBrush, Character Map, Notepad, WordPad, ScanDisk, Defrag, and Dialer.
     These utilities are a Calculator (Regular or Scientific), the PaintBrush image-editing program, the Character Map for accessing symbols not found on your keyboard, Notepad, for plain text editing, WordPad for simple word processing, the ScanDisk and Defrag disk maintenance utilities, and Dialer, a speed phone-dialing program.
     These programs are all located in your C:\Windows folder, which can be accessed through Windows Explorer by right-clicking Start and choosing Explore. Game fans will also find Solitaire, FreeCell, and MSHearts in this folder. These are great, by the way, for helping new computer users get the feel of handling the mouse.
     To get these items into your "Run Commands" folder, just drag the desired icons into it. They will turn into "Shortcut " files as they are put in your new folder, leaving the actual programs in place.
     Their labels can be edited to remove the "Shortcut To" phrase by right-clicking the label and choosing Rename. For instance, "Shortcut To Sol.exe" can be changed to "Solitaire." Use upper or lower case to suit yourself. The case doesn't matter.
     Now when you want to launch one of these programs, double-click the "Run Commands" folder and then double-click the desired program. Win98+ users can drag the folder onto the Quick Launch area of the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen. If the folder doesn't want to stay there, right-click the Taskbar and choose Toolbars. Make sure that "Quick Launch" is checked.
     Some readers say they have trouble generating special symbols with CHARMAP. The first thing to do is make sure the font in CHARMAP matches the font you're currently using in your document. "Symbol" often comes up as the default. This is full of Greek symbols, and probably not the list of characters you want.
     Once you have the correct font window in view, let's say you want to use the "cents" symbol after typing a numeric amount, say, 25. Click on the "cents" sign and then click Select. Click on Copy and return to your document. Place your cursor after 25 and click. Finally, do Ctrl+V (or go to Edit, Paste). The cents symbol will appear in its proper place.
     Now let's suppose you have several other places in your document where a cents sign could be used. Do you have to repeat this CHARMAP ritual each time? No, you don't.
     Finish your document, placing the numeric "cents" amounts where needed. Then mouse-select the "cents" sign you created earlier. Copy the symbol with Ctrl+C and click where the next symbol should appear. Do Ctrl+V. Repeat Ctrl-V wherever you need the symbol to appear.
     If you happen to be using MSWord or MSWorks 6.0/2000 you can do all this by going to Insert, Symbol or Special Character. Just go to Insert, Symbol.
July 24 Manipulating your windows in Windows
     One of the things that sets Windows off from earlier DOS systems is the use of floating frames. This is where we do most of our work; and here are some tips to help you manage these movable windows.
     All these windows have a bar across the top that's normally blue when the window is "active" and grayish when it's not. If there are multiple overlapping windows, the one in front is always the active one. Any other window can be brought to the front with a single click on it.
     Any window can be relocated by left-clicking its top blue bar and dragging it. Also, most windows can be resized by clicking an edge or corner and using the double-pointed arrows to reshape them.
     As for the three buttons in a window's upper right corner, we've all learned that the X will close the window, while the "dash" will reduce it to a button on the Taskbar; and that a single click on the button will restore the window to its previous condition.
     If a middle button contains a square, clicking this "maximize" symbol will cause the window to fill the screen. Clicking the "overlapping" squares in the middle button will return the window to its most recent "floating" condition. Double-clicking anywhere on the blue bar will cause the window to alternate between these two conditions.
     If you have multiple windows open that you'd like to arrange in an easy-to-access manner, right-click your Taskbar and choose "Cascade Windows." Right-clicking the Taskbar also lets you choose between "tiling" the windows vertically or horizontally.
     Manipulating windows within a given program can offer other possibilities. If you have multiple windows open in MSWord you can click on Window and choose Arrange All. If you're using MSWorks in versions earlier than 6.0, clicking on Window will let you choose between Cascade and Tile. Sadly, these options were omitted from Works 6.0/2000.
     Another window option found in some programs is "Split." This allows you to split the active window into two sections, each of which has its own set of scroll bars. This is particularly useful in spreadsheets or database programs, where you want to keep, say, your Header Row in view while you scroll down to other entries. A vertical split can keep one or more columns in view, while you scroll to other entries far out to the right.
     A horizontal split is also available in MSWord, as well as in the MSWorks word processors prior to 6.0. This is another feature which was mysteriously omitted from Works 6.0/2000.
     If you're not familiar with splitting a page, click on Split under View or Windows. The next click anywhere on your word processing page will insert a horizontal bar which will follow your mouse. Another click will anchor the bar so that each section of your divided page will have its own scroll bars. If you want to change the position of the bar, grab it and drag it with a left mouse-click. If you no longer want the page split, simply drag the bar out of view to the top or bottom of your page.
     On spreadsheet and database pages, the Split command will place a cross-shaped bar in the middle of the page, dividing it into four sections. Move either the vertical or horizontal bar to where you want it, and then drag the other to one of the page's edges, taking it out of view.
     Speaking of databases and spreadsheets, if you have any entries that are wider than the cells they're in, you can go to Format, Column Width and make the correction. What's easier, however, is to double-click the corresponding cell in the Header Row. This will cause the column's width to increase to accommodate its longest entry.
July 23 Using Your Spreadsheet to Add It All Up
     One of the things that sets Windows off from earlier DOS systems is the use of floating frames. This is where we do most of our work; and here are some tips to help you manage these movable windows.
     All these windows have a bar across the top that's normally blue when the window is "active" and grayish when it's not. If there are multiple overlapping windows, the one in front is always the active one. Any other window can be brought to the front with a single click on it.
     Any window can be relocated by left-clicking its top blue bar and dragging it. Also, most windows can be resized by clicking an edge or corner and using the double-pointed arrows to reshape them.
     As for the three buttons in a window's upper right corner, we've all learned that the X will close the window, while the "dash" will reduce it to a button on the Taskbar; and that a single click on the button will restore the window to its previous condition.
     If a middle button contains a square, clicking this "maximize" symbol will cause the window to fill the screen. Clicking the "overlapping" squares in the middle button will return the window to its most recent "floating" condition. Double-clicking anywhere on the blue bar will cause the window to alternate between these two conditions.
     If you have multiple windows open that you'd like to arrange in an easy-to-access manner, right-click your Taskbar and choose "Cascade Windows." Right-clicking the Taskbar also lets you choose between "tiling" the windows vertically or horizontally.
     Manipulating windows within a given program can offer other possibilities. If you have multiple windows open in MSWord you can click on Window and choose Arrange All. If you're using MSWorks in versions earlier than 6.0, clicking on Window will let you choose between Cascade and Tile. Sadly, these options were omitted from Works 6.0/2000.
     Another window option found in some programs is "Split." This allows you to split the active window into two sections, each of which has its own set of scroll bars. This is particularly useful in spreadsheets or database programs, where you want to keep, say, your Header Row in view while you scroll down to other entries. A vertical split can keep one or more columns in view, while you scroll to other entries far out to the right.
     A horizontal split is also available in MSWord, as well as in the MSWorks word processors prior to 6.0. This is another feature which was mysteriously omitted from Works 6.0/2000.
     If you're not familiar with splitting a page, click on Split under View or Windows. The next click anywhere on your word processing page will insert a horizontal bar which will follow your mouse. Another click will anchor the bar so that each section of your divided page will have its own scroll bars. If you want to change the position of the bar, grab it and drag it with a left mouse-click. If you no longer want the page split, simply drag the bar out of view to the top or bottom of your page.
     On spreadsheet and database pages, the Split command will place a cross-shaped bar in the middle of the page, dividing it into four sections. Move either the vertical or horizontal bar to where you want it, and then drag the other to one of the page's edges, taking it out of view.
     Speaking of databases and spreadsheets, if you have any entries that are wider than the cells they're in, you can go to Format, Column Width and make the correction. What's easier, however, is to double-click the corresponding cell in the Header Row. This will cause the column's width to increase to accommodate its longest entry.
July 22 Using Your Spreadsheet to Add It All Up
     When I first got into desktop computers in the late 1970s we had to write our own programs, because none had yet been created for these new, mysterious devices. The first commercial program to become available in those days was something called VisiCalc. It was a spreadsheet application and I remember being fascinated with all the wonderful things I could do with it; mainly, calculating things like costs, prices and profit ratios for my business.
     VisiCalc eventually lost out to more full-featured applications such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro, which were themselves eventually eclipsed by Microsoft's Excel, along with their spreadsheet utility in MSWorks.
     If you've not yet discovered the power and versatility of your spreadsheet program, start by trying one of its most basic functions: adding up a column of figures. Open a blank spreadsheet page and type some random numbers into cells A1 through A6. Click on cell A7. This is where we want the total will appear.
     In order to display a total, a formula needs to be entered into this cell.
     Type in the following and press Enter: =F1+F2+F3+F4+F5+F6. Spreadsheet formulas always begin with an "equals" sign and this formula tells the program to add the contents of the indicated cells and to put the total in the currently selected cell.
     But this is a lot of typing just to do something you could have done faster with a pocket calculator. Lets make it easier. Delete the contents of the "answer" cell by hitting your spacebar key. Now type the following: =SUM(A1:A6) and press Enter. You got the same answer, but with less typing.
     Let's do it with even less typing. Again, delete the contents of the "answer" cell, and mouse-select it once more. Type in the "equals" sign (=) and then click on cell A1. Type in the plus sign (+) and click on cell A2. Repeat this for the remaining cells and then press Enter. In this example you were able to "click" the cells to be added instead of typing their contents. But this was still too much typing. Let's do it the really easy way.
     Delete your answer, and give this cell one final click. Now click on the "sigma" character in your toolbar ( å ) and press Enter. The correct total will appear in the cell, and the formula =SUM(A1:A6) will appear above in the "editing box."
     The sigma symbol is the "autosum" icon, and it assumes you want to add all the contiguous numbers above whatever "answer cell" you've selected. Pressing Enter makes it take affect. However, you can edit the formula in case you only want to add the contents of certain cells.
     Let's say in the above example you only wanted to add the numbers in A4, A5 and A6. Click on A6 and hold down the left mouse button as you move your cursor up to include the two cells above. Press Enter to finish the action.
     The å will add rows of figures, as well as columns of figures. Type some numbers into cells A10 through F10. Click F11, click å and press Enter. If the program doesn't find numbers above the "answer cell" it looks to the left for some figures. If your answer cell happens to be below a column of numbers, as well as to the right of a row of numbers, sigma will add up the column. However, if you want the row numbers to be totaled, just click the first number to the left of the answer cell and select the others as described above.
     What if you want to add numbers in non-contiguous cells, say, those in A1, A3 and A5? Well, Excel is the only program I've found that lets you pick and choose non-attached cells for doing this. If you have Excel, type numbers into random cells and choose another for the "answer cell." Click the answer cell, and with your Ctrl key held down, click on any of the other numbers. Clicking sigma will add up only the ones you've selected.
July 19 Using Macros in Various Versions of MSWorks
     For someone who does a lot of typing, using macros can be a great time-saver. There are different types of macros, but the most common is a phrase, say, a company name, which can generated with two or three keystrokes. If you're typing a letter that needs to have "North County Times" repeated several times, for instance, you can make this happen by just typing NCT.
     Here's how it's done in MSWorks versions preceding 6.0 and 2000:
     In a word processing document type your special text, say, your full name. Now highlight it with your mouse. Go to Edit, EasyText and click on New. Two boxes will appear. Your typed-out name will appear in the bottom box. Type your initials, or any "code" you choose, into the top box. Click Done.
     Type your initials in the future, followed by pressing your F3 key, and your full name will replace the "code." It will be in whatever size and style of font you're currently using. As for the "code" you choose, the letters can be in upper or lower case, and can be any combination of characters you like.
     If you prefer special formatting for your text, follow the above instructions and click Format. In addition to letting you choose a particular size and font style, you can also center the text or do other paragraph formatting. This means you can create a letterhead, complete with name, address, phone, or whatever, and insert it with just a few keystrokes.
     If you forget your chosen code, go to Edit, EasyText. A list of codes will be displayed. When clicked, a code will display its macro. Clicking on Insert in this view would be the same as hitting your F3 key. This is also where you'd go to change or delete an existing phrase.
     In Versions 6.0 and 2000 of MSWorks, EasyText was replaced with AutoCorrect. As before, type your special text, and mouse-select it. Now go to Tools, AutoCorrect and type your code. Be sure "Turn AutoCorrect on to replace text as you type" is checked. Click Add, OK. Now you won't have to use the F3 key. Any time you type the code, followed by a blank space, your special text will replace it.
     AutoCorrect was actually designed to correct common misspellings and to convert certain characters into special ones not available on your keyboard. For instance, if you type "cna" it will immediately change to "can" and typing ":)" will generate a round "Wingdings" smiley face.
     However, you need to be careful to choose a code that is not already a word or acronym of some kind. For instance, choosing "usa" as your code for "United States of America" would keep you from being able to type "USA." Likewise, "cna" means "Certified Nursing Assistant" in California, so you may want to edit some of the default corrections.
     In any case, you can insert your own spelling corrections. For instance, I've always had trouble spelling Wednesday, so I've set AutoCorrect to turn "wds" into "Wednesday." I've also set it to turn "manana" into "mañana" and "el nino" into "el niño."
     If you're wondering where I got the "ñ" just go to Insert, Special Character, and choose the font that matches the one you're using. Here you'll find the "cents," "degrees," "trademark" and other commonly used symbols, along with most of the special characters used in various European languages.
     As mentioned, AutoCorrect is not available in pre-6.0/2000 versions of MSWorks, nor is EasyText available in 6.0/2000. Omitting EasyText from the latter was a disappointment to me, since you could pre-format your special phrases to suit yourself. AutoCorrect changes words only in the same font and formatting one is currently using.
     However, in Version 2001, the MSWorks word processing application was replaced with MSWord, which has both features available.
July 17 Windows Explorer "View" Options
     One of the things that can be most useful when working your way around Windows Explorer is to take advantage of its various "View" options.  The default view is "Large Icons," which means your listings are arranged like "postage stamps" with folders listed alphabetically from left to right across the top, followed by files listed alphabetically below.
     If you go to View, Small Icons, the layout remains the same, but you'll be able to see a lot more files and folders at one time.  By choosing View, List, these small icons will be arranged alphabetically from top to bottom, beginning with folders and followed by file names.
     By choosing View, Details, you'll be able to see the date and time each folder or file was last modified, as well as the size of each file in kilobytes.  This will show, for instance, if a file can fit on a 3.5" floppy disk, which is limited to 1440 kilobytes.  This is also handy for comparing sizes of, say, photo files, which can be saved in different formats such as BMP, TIF, or variations of JPG.  If the photo looks the same in all these formats, choose the smallest to use as an e-mail attachment.
     This "Details" view can also illustrate interesting comparisons in text document sizes.  A PC Chat article, for instance, when composed in MSWord and saved with a .DOC extension, is about 27 kilobytes in size.  By saving it as a plain text file, with a .TXT extension, the size is only 4 kilobytes.  Saving documents as plain text files means you can get lots more data on a disk.  However, you do this at the cost of giving up special formatting, such as using different sizes and styles of fonts.
     Another useful feature of the Windows Explorer "View" menu is "Arrange Icons," which lets you choose "Name," "Size," "Type" or "Date."  The default is "Name," which lists the file names alphabetically.  Choosing "Date" will list the files by their most recent creation or modification date and time.  This can be helpful if you've lost track of a certain file, but know you worked on it within, say, the last day or two.
     Arranging icons by "Size" can be helpful if you're getting low on disk space and looking for large files that can be deleted or moved to another disk.  Be careful, however, that you don't delete any file that's an integral part of your operating system or your application software.
     Files which can be safely deleted are ones you've created, such as word processing documents, etc.  Downloaded "setup" files can also be deleted, once their programs have been installed.  Files with ZIP or MIM extensions can be deleted, once their contents have been extracted and put where you want them.  Backup files can always be eliminated if you're sure they're no longer needed.
     Choosing "Type" can be helpful if you're looking for, say a certain JPG file which is located in a folder with perhaps dozens of other types of files.  "Type" arranges all the BMP, DOC, JPG, and WPS files, for instance, alphabetically in their own groups.
     By the way, if you're not seeing these three-letter extensions appended to your files' names, Win98+ users should go to View, Folder Options, View and UNcheck "Hide File Extensions for Known File Types."  Win95 users will find this under View, Options, View.  These extensions tell us what kinds of files we're seeing, and why Microsoft has them hidden by default has always been a mystery to me.
     If you go to View, Folder Options, File Types you'll find illustrations of the various icons used in Windows, along with a description of what each one might mean.  I say "might" because many of the icons have multiple meanings listed.  In any case, it's important to become familiar with what the various three-letter extensions mean.  You can find a list of them on this page.
July 10 Some Paradoxes in Microsoft Products
     As a long-time user of Microsoft products, I continue to be perplexed by some of the paradoxes they offer us.  As an example, Windows95+ has always come with a few icons on the opening "Desktop" screen, which are intended to make certain tasks easier to perform. For instance, the "Recycle Bin" is always there so that unwanted files can be dragged into it. This is nice, but the same result can be achieved by clicking the target file and pressing one's "Delete" key - or - you can right-click the file and choose "Delete" from the popup menu.
     In any case, where is one likely to find the unwanted files that are destined for the recycle bin?  Usually they're out of view, and need to be located using the "Windows Explorer."  However, Microsoft doesn't put a "Windows Explorer" icon on our Desktops.  Yes, they've put the "Internet Explorer" icon there, but this doesn't get us into the "file management" area of our hard drives.  What we're expected to do is right-click "Start" or "My Computer" and choose "Explore" - or - if we have a "Windows" keyboard, we can click "E" while holding down the "Windows key."  Having a ready-to-use "Windows Explorer" icon on our Desktop makes a lot more sense.
     You put one there by getting into Windows Explorer, using one of the above methods, and then double-clicking the yellow "Windows" folder.  Inside it you'll normally find two files named "Explorer."  One has a little "computer" icon, while the other has a "magnifying glass" icon.  Drag either of these onto the "Desktop" icon, displayed at the very top of the list of icons in the left window pane.  In the future, double-clicking the icon you chose will get you immediately into "Windows Explorer."
     Another paradox: after you've found the file you want deleted, using Windows Explorer, the Desktop's "Recycle Bin" may be out of view.  Well, it can also be seen near the bottom of the list in the left window pane; but hitting your "Delete" key is still easier.
     Back on the Desktop you'll usually find a few icons with a little bent arrow in their lower left corners.  You may think that dragging them into the Recycle Bin will get rid of them.  Yes, they'll be gone; but you will have only deleted a "shortcut" to each file.  The underlying files will still be inside "Windows Explorer" and need to be deleted.
     A parodox of MSWord, is that the program comes with lots of icons at the top of a document page, most of which you'll never use.  However, one of the icons you would use frequently has been left off: the "Ruler" icon.  Yes, you can go to View, Ruler to make the ruler appear or disappear, but a Ruler icon does the job faster.  
     Fix this by going to Tools, Customize, View, and dragging the Ruler icon onto your toolbar.  While you're there, drag all the toolbar icons you never use into this dialog box.  This will make the remaining ones easier to fine, and will give you more "white space" for your document. Eliminated icons can always be returned to the toolbar by reversing the above procedure.
     Another paradox is that in Word's "Print/Layout" view, a vertical ruler always appears along with the horizontal ruler.  I use the latter for setting tab stops and adjusting margins, but I've yet to find a use for the former, which just takes up valuable "white space."  To fix this, go to Tools, Options, View, and UNcheck "vertical Ruler."
     The MSWorks word processor has a horizontal ruler only.  Yet, like MSWord, it never comes with a Ruler icon on its toolbar.  This can be fixed in earlier versions, such as 4.0, by going to Tools, Customize Toolbar, View and dragging the Ruler icon onto your toolbar.  The paradox here is that newer versions of Works, such as 6.0 and 2000, have no "Customize Toolbar" command, nor a Ruler icon.  You're back to using View, Ruler.
July 8 Comments & Questions from Readers
     When I wrote recently about using MapQuest and Switchboard to prepare maps and driving instructions, Les Hotchkiss wrote to say he prefers Mapblast.com because it has "LineDrive," a feature which just shows the main roads to get from one place to another. John Nigro wrote to say he uses Mappy.com for generating maps and routes in foreign countries.
     When I suggested right-clicking and copying a map and then pasting it into a word processing document, in order to avoid printing all the surrounding advertising, Billy Dean pointed out that most printer software offers a "Selection" option. Right; click on the graphic to "select" it and choose Selection when you go to File, Print. This is also very useful when you want to print, say, a single sentence or paragraph in a lengthy text document.
     Bing Forbing wrote that right-clicking a map did NOT display a menu which included "Copy." My error; this works fine with Internet Explorer, but Netscape requires us to use "Save Image As," whereby we name the graphic and store it in a folder, from whence it can be copied and pasted into the target document.
     When I suggested saving colored ink by converting a multi-color map to black and white, Ken Druhot wrote to say that he uses his printer options to switch to black ink only. This works, but the resulting shades of gray can use up the black ink pretty fast. Image-editing software, such as Windows PaintBrush, lets you convert to pure black and white. However, this means that streets drawn in a light color may drop out altogether. It pays to experiment.
     Gregg Wright wrote to say he conserves colored ink by copying and pasting my multi-colored newsletters into MSWord, where he "selects all" (Ctrl+A) and tells Word to print everything in black.
     Hank Mason said when he followed my guide to select, copy and paste turn-by-turn driving instructions into a blank MSWorks word processor document, only the top line of text appeared. I tried this in Works 4.0 and got the same results. However, in Works 6.0 and 2000, the data appeared in an easy-to-read table, just as it had been shown on the Switchboard Web page.
     In any case, I was able to make everything appear in Works 4.0 by going to Edit, Paste Special, Unformatted Text. "Unformatted" meant that the text wasn't plotted in a table, but it was still easy to read.
     Regarding my pointers on "zipping" and "unzipping" e-mail attachments, Art Rideout suggested I advise readers to avoid attachments altogether, since they are the most-used method for spreading viruses. This is true, and is also why we should all keep our anti-virus software updated as often as possible.
     Personally, I never open attachments that arrive with an .EXE or .VBS extension and I only open a .DOC file if I asked for it, since MSWord is capable of carrying viruses embedded in their macros.
     Art also mentioned the incompatibility of many files transferred between PC and Mac users, and said he normally restricts his sending of attachments to JPG photos, which most PC users can open without problems.
     My favorite method of sending photos is to paste them right inside an e-mail letter. Well, AOL and CompuServe users can see each others' pasted-in images; but not all e-mail systems are yet intercompatible in this regard. However, photos pasted into an Outlook Express e-mail can be seen by other users of Outlook Express, as well by Hotmail users.
     As for Mac and PC incompatibility, places such as Kinkos can often make the conversion; and you don't need to drive to their stores; the graphics can be sent and received as e-mail attachments.
     Art Rideout summarized by saying his favorite way to share multiple photos is to upload them to a Web site where others can go to see them and/or download them. Frank Russell wrote to say that his favorite web site for doing this is ClubPhoto.com.
     Regarding e-mail attachments, in my silk screen printing business (Banner Sign Co.) they have become the main method of exchanging photos, sketches and other kinds of artwork with customers. We also depend on receiving spreadsheet and database documents from our corporate clients to keep us updated on new openings of their far-flung offices. In other words, email attachments have become an essential tool in many businesses, and we couldn't do without them.
July 3 More on Faxing + Using WinZip
     I continue to get questions about faxing from one's computer.  After installing a fax program such as WinFax, an additional "printer" will be displayed when you use the File, Print command of whatever application you're in.  By clicking the fax icon, the "printer" then becomes the fax machine connected to whichever fax number you've chosen.
    Incoming faxes can be received on your computer and printed out on your inkjet or laser printer. You can choose to have incoming faxes received automatically or when you say it's okay.  The various fax programs' instructions will explain all this.
    I recently tried another shareware fax program which I found quite impressive.  VentaFax is a program from Russia, which only costs $20 to register, after a 30-day free trial, and whose URL is www.ventafax.ru/.  However, this link might be all in Russian.  Use Google or Ask Jeeves to find the page in English.
    If you want to use your computer for sending and/or receiving faxes, without installing fax software, there are web services available such as "eFax.com" or "J2.com."  These web sites have a variety of different plans available, including receiving faxes and voicemail which you can access at your convenience.
    Receiving messages is normally free, but there are various charges for sending faxes or voice mail.  They also offer fax "broadcasting" services, if you want to send a fax to multiple phone numbers.
    Although I do 95% of my correspondence via email, I've used my PC for fax transmittals for years and can't imagine being without it.  What are some of the pros and cons?
    Well, I work at home and send faxes to my business when I want the office staff to notice the message the moment it arrives.  However, this is a toll call, and I can bypass this expense by sending email - but email is not necessarily accessed right after I send it.
    I generally use faxes for sending and receiving sketches of artwork I prepare at home, and send finished, full-color artwork as email attachments.  Fax resolution is limited to 200 DPI (dots per inch) in plain black and white, whereas artwork sent as an email attachment is ready for high-resolution quality printing.
    Speaking of email attachments, I get lots of mail from folks who've received them, but who say they can't open them.  I've explained in prior articles that one needs the same software in which the attachment was created (or a program with which the attachment is compatible) and have given lots of examples. .
    However, most questions continue to be about attachments with a .ZIP or .MIM extension.  These extensions tell us that the attachment contains one or more files which have been "compressed" for faster phone line transmission and that they need to be "decompressed" with a program like WinZip.  
    If you have WinZip installed, double-clicking the downloaded attachment will execute the program and decompress the files, as well as suggest a destination folder for them.  Some ISPs, including AOL and CompuServe, automatically decompress "zip" files for you when you log off.
    If you wish to attach multiple files to an outgoing email, they will be automatically compressed into one "zip" file as they're being transmitted.  However, if you find that attaching files one by one can be time-consuming and sometimes confusing, you can "zip" them all in advance, thus creating a single file to attach.
    If you have WinZip, there are various ways to do this, but here's the easiest:  Right-click one of the files you wish to attach and choose "Add to Zip."  If the file you chose was, say, a photo named "NewCar.jpg" a file named "NewCar.zip" will be created when you click the "Add" button on the dialog box which opens.
    Right-click the other files you want to send, choosing "Add to Zip" for each one.  You'll be asked if you want to add them to "NewCar.zip."  Say yes by clicking "Add."  After adding your final file, exit the dialog box and you'll find a "NewCar.zip" icon in whichever folder "NewCar.jpg" is located, ready to be attached to your outgoing email.  I usually have all the target files on the Desktop to make them easier to find.
    If you need WinZip, it's a shareware program that can be downloaded from winzip.com.  Ask for the "evaluation version" and there will be no charge to download it.  However, you'll be reminded that it's "shareware" each time you use it.  The "I Agree" button simply means you understand they'd like you to offer to pay for the program; but you can continue to freely use it as long as you keep clicking the button.
July 1 Free Maps & Directions + Saving Ink
     Have you used any of the Internet's free "Maps, Streets & Directions" services? I find them indispensable when traveling outside my local area. After entering your home address and destination address, you can choose a turn-by-turn set of driving instructions, or a map of the driving route, or both.
     You can ask for directions to an address anywhere in the country, or you can name nearby landmarks such as airports, schools, hospitals, or street intersections, in lieu of an exact address.
     I'd used MapQuest for a long time, but switched to Switchboard after discovering that the latter draws larger, easier-to-read maps. Switchboard is also one of the oldest, most well-established "Yellow Pages" and "White Pages" services on the 'net for finding people and businesses. Go to www.switchboard.com.
     However, all this free service comes at a price; everything is surrounded by advertising. Nonetheless, I find this a small price to pay for being able to use these services. Furthermore, you can print out all the data you want without printing the ads.
     A friend recently showed me some cross-country maps he'd printed, along with their turn-by-turn directions. He said the maps were great, but complained that his colored ink cartridges were being used up very rapidly.
     What he had done was simply hit the "Print" button on his browser, which caused everything on the web page to be printed, including all the ads. Here's how you can print the data you want while using a minimum of ink:
     Use your mouse to highlight the driving directions from top to bottom. Do Ctrl+C to Copy the text. Open a blank word processing page and do Ctrl+V to Paste in the data. Do Ctrl+S to Save the document, giving it a filename.
     If you have trouble getting your mouse to stop right where you want it while highlighting the text, do this: click at the beginning of the text and then put your mouse away. Hold down the Shift key and use your Down Arrow to begin highlighting. If necessary, use the other arrow keys to fine-tune where the selection ends. For large blocks of text, the Page Down and Page Up keys can also be used.
     Now you can edit the actual driving instructions to save more ink. Delete any steps you're already familiar with, such as the first several "turns" to get you from your home to the freeway. If any of the instructions are printed with "bold" type, changing them to "normal" will save ink.
     Okay, now let's do the map. Right-click it and choose "Copy." Back on your word-processing page, do Ctrl+V to Paste the map into place. Now you have your map and text together with no web page advertising to use up your colored ink. But wait; the map itself is in color. Do we need all these colors, or would a black and white map work just as well?
     If your word processor is MSWord, you can change the map to black and white by clicking on View, Toolbars, Picture. Click the map and then click the "Color" icon in the Picture toolbar, which will display a menu that includes "Black & White."
     If you don't have MSWord you can use the Windows PaintBrush program to convert the map from colors to monochrome. Right-click the web page map and choose Copy. Go to Start, Run and type PBrush to open PaintBrush. Do Ctrl+V to Paste the map onto a blank "canvas."
     Then click Image, Attributes, Black & White. Finally, do Ctrl+A (to select All the picture) followed by doing Ctrl+C to Copy the picture. Back in your word processor do Ctrl+V to Paste the picture onto the page.
     While in PaintBrush, or any other image-editing program you might prefer, you can crop and delete any parts of the map that you find superfluous, thus saving even more ink.
June 26 More on Computer Maintenance
     When I described recently how running "ScanDisk" and "Defrag" can help maintain a PC's peak performance, I mentioned that the programs may shut down prematurely if they haven't been run in a long time.  This can be avoided by first terminating various programs which may be running in the background.  Pressing Ctrl, Alt, and Delete simultaneously will bring up a menu which lists these programs.  Click on each individually, except "Explorer," followed by clicking "End Task."  "Explorer" should be the only name left when you exit the menu.
     Temporarily disabling your screen saver and anti-virus program will also help.  The latter normally has an icon near the Taskbar clock.  Right-click it and choose whatever "turn-off" option is offered.  Screen savers can be turned off by right-clicking the Desktop and choosing Properties, Screen Saver, None.
     To initiate ScanDisk or Defrag, the manual says to go to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and choose Disk Defragmenter or ScanDisk.  Alternatively, you can double-click My Computer, right-click the "C" drive icon, and choose Properties, Tools.
     However, I find it easier to go to Start, Run and type in SCANDISK or DEFRAG.  You only need to type the names once. Subsequent uses of Start/Run allow you to click a "down arrow" which displays all previous commands that have been entered.  Choose the one you want and click OK.
     ScanDisk and Defrag can also be scheduled to run automatically.  Double-clicking the "Task Scheduler" icon, which normally appears near your Taskbar clock, will bring up these options.  If you don't find this icon, double-click "My Computer" and choose "Scheduled Tasks."  I have mine set to run weekly at 4:00 AM.
     Under "Scheduled Tasks" you'll also find "Maintenance Disk Cleanup" which suggests various types of files you might want removed.  By choosing "Temporary Files," "Temporary Internet Files" or "Recycle Bin," you'll delete the files in those folders.  However, I always leave "Recycle Bin" off this list.
     I prefer being able to enter the bin and check out all the files to see if any should be returned to where they were before.  You can do this by double-clicking the Recycle Bin, clicking on a file and going to File, Restore.
     As for those "temporary" files, "Temporary Internet Files" are copies of items recently accessed from the 'net and placed on your hard drive.  The theory is that you may want to re-access them, which can be done more quickly from your hard drive.  These files are in a limited-number "cache," which continually dumps older files as new ones are added.  Thus, deleting them does little to free up hard drive space, since the cache will fill up again anyway.
     "Temporary Files" can be found in a folder named "Temp" which is inside your "Windows" folder.  These are files which are created in the background when using certain heavy-duty programs such as MSWord.  Their names normally have a .TMP extension, and often begin with a tilde (~).  Moreover, they don't always get placed in the Windows\Temp folder.
     To find these misplaced files, go to Start, Find and type in *.TMP.  The asterisk is a "wild card" which, in this case, will find all files with a .TMP extension.  By typing ~* into the Find box, all files beginning with a tilde will be displayed.  These files can all be deleted, since they are no longer needed and just take up hard drive space.
     "Downloaded Program Files" is another option for removal.  These are normally "setup" files which were downloaded and used to create certain programs, such as "WinZip" or "Acrobat Reader" or "Netscape Navigator."
     Once a particular program has been created, its "setup" file is no longer needed.  However, if you have enough hard drive space you might want to consider keeping these setup files on hand, just in case any of their programs get damaged and need to be reinstalled.  "Disk Cleanup" can also be accessed by double-clicking My Computer, right-clicking the "C" drive icon and choosing Properties.
June 24 Using Your Various "Appearance" Options
         I get asked periodically if it's better to leave one's computer on all the time or to turn it on and off with each use.  Well, I only turn mine off if I expect to be gone all day, although I have the monitor set to go off after so many minutes of non-use.  Win98+ lets you set the number of minutes, along with setting a time for the hard drive to shut down after a period of non-use.
         Right-click a vacant spot on your Desktop and choose Properties.  Click the Screen Saver tab.  You'll see two buttons labeled "Settings."  The top one offers various options for adjusting whichever screen saver you choose.  The bottom one lets you set the time lapse before your monitor and your hard drive shut down after a period of non-use.  The "Standby" option is intended to conserve batteries for portable computers when they're not in use.  
         For a more comprehensive explanation of how these features work, go to Start, Help and type in "standby" under the Index tab.
         When you've right-clicked the Desktop and gotten into Properties, you'll find several other tabs, each with its own collection of sometimes bewildering options.  "Background," for instance lets you change the appearance of your Desktop, while "Appearance" lets you choose all kinds of different color combinations for your Desktop and other areas.  
         It's fun to experiment with the different choices under "Appearance" - but if you end up with colors you don't like, click on "Scheme" and scroll down to "Windows Standard" to get back to your original settings.  You'll also find "Windows Large" and "Windows Extra Large" for those who might benefit from larger images on their screens.
         Speaking of image sizes, if you click on the "Settings" tab you'll find "Screen Area" with a sliding button that goes from small numbers on the left to large numbers on the right.  The lowest setting of 640x480 is recommended for older, low-resolution monitors as well as for those who want everything larger on their screen.  800x600 has long been the recommended setting for modern 15" monitors.  However, with 17" and larger monitors now having dropped to reasonable prices, settings like 1024x768 and higher are becoming quite common.  The higher numbers make images smaller, but you get more information on the screen.  Experiment to see what suits you best.
         While in "Settings" choosing "High Color 16-bit" gives most of us all the colors we'll ever need, while "True Color 32-bit" is used by professional photographers to get super high quality resolution for glossy magazines, etc.
         Under the "Effects" tab you can choose animated icons and other special features.  However, these cute goodies use system resources and can slow down your computer's performance.  Screen savers, likewise, can be entertaining, but I always choose "None" for the same reason.
         I find the "Background" tab to be of interest to most home computerists.  This is where you choose a background for your Desktop, which can be a photograph or some other graphic you happen to like.  Let's say you've scanned a favorite photo or taken a picture with your digital camera.  When the photo appears on your screen, click on "File" and choose "Save As."  Name the photo and choose a graphic format for it, such as .JPG or .BMP.  Make sure that the photo is saved in your C:\Windows folder.
         If you've chosen .BMP, the photo's name will automatically appear when you scroll down the list of "Wallpaper" files.  For .JPG and other graphic formats, click on "Browse" to find your image.
         Under "Display" you'll find "Center," "Tile" and "Stretch."  The latter will expand your graphic to fill the screen, whereas "Center" will place it in the middle.  "Tile" is used for filling the screen with smaller images in a "postage stamp" pattern.
         All the above tips work with Win98+, however Win95 users are limited to using .BMP files for "Wallpaper" and "stretching" an image is not an option unless you also happen to have Windows Plus on your computer.
June 19 Sometimes Size Does Matter + Scandisk & Defrag Tips
     A reader wrote to say that when she tried to download a photo attached to an email, she got a "not enough memory" message. She went on to say she deleted several large files to make room, but still had the problem. It's not uncommon for newer PC users to confuse "memory" with "available disk space."
    Most new computers have at least 20 gigabytes of hard drive space, which is generally adequate for average PC usage. "Memory," however, refers to RAM (random access memory, also known as DRAM or SDRAM) and the minimum found in most PCs is 64 megabytes, with 128+ recommended for superior performance. Computers with 32 MBs or less can have trouble handling large graphic files and with running multiple applications simultaneously.
    Additional memory can be added at most computer stores, or you can do it yourself by ordering upgrades from http://www.crucial.com/, the leading supplier of RAM chips.
     Another thing that can slow down performance is having lots of "startup" applications running in the background. Win98+ users can go to Start, Run, type MSCONFIG, and click OK. Click the Startup tab to see the list. UNchecking an item does NOT delete the application; it merely removes a shortcut that tells it to begin running at startup.
    System Tray, Task Monitor, Scan Registry, and PowerReg Scheduler are the only items many of us need at startup. If you have doubts about the others, remove them individually and reboot to see if they seem to be missed. They can be restored by re-checking their boxes.
    Another way to improve performance is to adjust the memory cache used for tracking of files and folders. Right- click My Computer and choose Properties. Click the Performance tab. Under Advanced Settings click File System. Click the "Typical Use For This Computer" down arrow.
    The default is Desktop Computer. Change this to Network Server.  Make sure that the Read-Ahead optimization pointer is set all the way to the right on "Full." Click OK.
    While in System Properties, click Virtual Memory. Windows uses something called a "Swap File" to exchange information between RAM and your hard drive. Windows continually changes the size of this file as you work. These changes take time and use system resources. Click "Let me specify my own virtual memory settings" and set both the Minimum and Maximum size of the Swap File to about 3 times the amount of your PC's RAM. For a PC with 64 MB, set the Minimum and Maximum sizes to 200 MB. Click OK.
    You'll be warned that your system may not work properly - but it will work fine. Two other essentials for maintaining top performance are running ScanDisk and Defrag periodically. Go to Start, Run and type SCANDISK, where you'll find Standard and Thorough. Choose the latter and be sure "Automatically Fix Errors" is checked. When finished, go to Start, Run and type DEFRAG.
    Scandisk can repair all kinds of errors you don't even know exist and Defrag will "defragment" your hard drive. Over time, as data is added to and removed from the hard drive, gaps are left in places where items have been deleted.
    "Defragmenting" realigns all the files and eliminates the gaps, making the hard drive more quickly and efficiently accessible. If these programs haven't been run in a long time (or never run at all) they may very likely stop running and display error messages.
    There are several ways to circumvent these hangups, but I've found the easiest method is to run ScanDisk in the DOS mode. After doing this, running Defrag as described above should be no problem. Go to Start, Shutdown, Re-start in MS-DOS mode. Press Enter.
    At the "C:\Windows" prompt, type SCANDISK and press Enter. Scandisk will check out the first five items displayed, and ask you if you want the sixth item scanned. Choose Yes.
    This scan could take an hour or so. When completed, exit ScanDisk, type Exit and press Enter to return to Windows, where you will be able to run Defrag with no problems. By the way, I've shown SCANDISK and DEFRAG in caps for emphasis only. Typing scandisk or defrag works just fine.
June 17 Having Fun with Instant Messages
    If you're not using IMs (instant messages) you're missing half the fun of owning a computer.  In case you're unfamiliar with the concept, you and your friends simply sign up with one of the free IM services and then type your messages back and forth whenever you're both online.
   AOL and CompuServe have this feature built-in, while anyone can sign up for services like Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger Service, ICQ or AIM.   Once you've got a system in place, a "Buddy List" window will appear on your screen whenever you're online - and, if one of your IM buddies also happens to be online, his or her name will appear in the window.  Double-click the name and start chatting.
    What you have, in effect, is a long-distance visit where you use typing instead of talking.  It's fun, easy and it's totally free.  It's basically a two-person "chat room," but you can also invite other buddies to join in, making it a multiple-person private chat room.
    Microsoft's version of this feature is called MSN Messenger Service.   Yahoo's is called Yahoo MessengerICQ is yet another service, and AOL has an advanced IM service called AIM for IMing with buddies on other ISPs.  But I must warn you - once you get started IMing, it can be very addictive.
     Something I often get asked is why I don't mention "virus warnings" in this newsletter.  Well, I receive warnings of the "latest viruses" and of "congress's attempt to tax e-mail" in my mailbox every day, along with appeals to help all kinds of "charitable causes."  Each email also admonishes me to forward the message to everyone in my address book.
    Since many of these emails are based on "urban legends" while others are just plain fraudulent, I choose not to forward them.  Warnings about real virus threats can be found in all the news media nowadays, and the word spreads very quickly.
    A recent hoax that duped many people was a warning that a file named "sulfnbk.exe" had been sent to them via email and placed in their C:\Windows\Command folder.  They were told that this was a vicious virus that would wipe out their hard drives on June 1st unless it was deleted.  The truth is that the file is part of Windows and should not be deleted.  However, it's a file that's not accessed often by Windows and its being deleted may never be noticed.
     If you did delete the file, it can be restored by reinstalling your Windows operating system from its CD.  If you don't have the CD, you can email me for a copy of the deleted file.  I guess we should thank this particular demented hoaxter for not suckering us into deleting a really critical file.
June 12 More on Faxing and Saving Files
     My recent columns on faxing from one's PC and on saving e-mail as it's created generated lots of responses.  When I said my pre-Win95 version of WinFax died with Y2K, one reader thought I'd meant that the program no longer existed.  To the contrary, WinFax Pro is alive and well and owned by Symantec, the people who produce Norton anti-virus software and other well-known utilities.
     However, 32Bit-Fax, the shareware program I've been using, works beautifully and does everything I need faxing software to do.
     Some folks asked whatever happened to Microsoft Fax, which came with Win95.  The program, in my opinion, was very complicated and cumbersome and I was not surprised when it was omitted from Win98+.  One thing it did was offer a variety of cleverly-designed cover pages.  However, I find that a cover page generally just wastes time, ink, and paper, unless there is some very compelling reason for using it.
     With e-mail having become so ubiquitous in recent years, many businesses find it more practical to attach a document to an outgoing letter, rather than faxing it.  What are the advantages?  Well, an e-mail attachment can be  printed by the recipient in its original, high DPI (dots per inch) resolution, rather than in the 200 DPI to which faxes are limited.  It can also be printed in color.  If the document is to be sent a long way off, there is no extra charge for e-mailing it, whereas long-distance charges apply to faxing.  A received e-mail attachment can often be computer-edited, whereas a fax can only be marked up with white-out and writing tools.
     The disadvantage of an e-mailed attachment is that the recipient often doesn't know when it arrives, whereas a fax can normally be spotted the moment it comes out of the office fax machine.  Speaking of which, faxes can also be received directly on one's PC, with the right software.  I prefer this method because my inkjet printer produces a sharper printout than does my antique fax machine which uses the old, curly, heat-sensitive paper.
     As for a recipient being able to open, read, and possibly edit a document attached to an e-mail, it's helpful to have the same software in which the file was created.  In recent years, this has become MSWord, since most offices have it and use it.  Furthermore, Word can open most documents created with other programs, such as Lotus WordPro and WordPerfect, including those created with DOS versions such as WP 5.1.  Beyond that, exchanging MSWord files between PCs and Macs is usually not a problem.
     Another advantage of Word can be its ability to display graphics, which an e-mail recipient might otherwise not be able to open.  For instance, I create illustrated price sheets for my business, using Corel Draw.  However, very few of my clients have this program, nor do many have Adobe Illustrator, which can also open Corel Draw files.  So I simply copy and paste the desired sheet onto a blank Word page.  Admittedly, doing so causes the Word file to be quite large; but it does the job and reproduces my drawings just as I created them.
     When I offered suggestions recently for saving e-mail as it was being created, several readers wrote to say that their e-mail programs did not lose a letter in the works when the phone connection was suddenly dropped.  Very true; many services have designed their programs to stay intact whenever a phone connection is lost, and allow the user to continue composing offline.  Outlook Express, AOL and CompuServe are especially good about this.
     However, making it a habit to name a file when you first begin it, and to continue saving it frequently, is the cheapest and most reliable insurance you can buy to keep the document from getting lost.  Using the "Automatic Backup" feature, which comes with most programs, can make your document even more secure.  Finally, the best insurance of all is to periodically rename your document incrementally, as in "my-story-1.doc," "my-story-2.doc," and "my-story-3.doc."  Keep all previous files on hand until you're positive the last one is the way you want it.  I can't tell you how many times this system as saved my writing from unforeseen disasters of one kind or another.
June 10 Joining or Starting a Computer Club + Documenting a Medical History with your PC
     Have you ever thought about using your computer to prepare a list of medications you might be taking? I've been doing this for years, along with listing a history of my lifetime surgical procedures. Also included, in large bold print, are the drugs to which I'm allergic.
     After moving to a different city last year, I had to find a new ophthalmologist, dentist and GP. They were all pleasantly surprised when I handed them an up-to-date printout of these items. This list also came in handy recently when I had a severe reaction to a new antibiotic and had to call 911. It made the ER staff's job a lot easier, since I wasn't in condition to be filling out forms or even answering questions all that coherently.
     When I got home I quickly added that antibiotic to my "not to be taken" list and made a new printout. In fact, I keep a few printouts hanging on fridge, just to be sure I have one handy at all times.
     Preparing a personal medical information sheet can easily be done with any word processor, spreadsheet or database program. I use MSWord and set tab stops for the names of my prescribed meds, their quantities and schedules for being taken. As for the medical procedure history, I include the dates along with the names of the surgeons. Well, not all of them. I don't remember who took out my tonsils when I was nine.
     Speaking of printouts, I find my printer is being used less and less. For instance, 90% of my correspondence is done via e-mail, faxes being sent directly from my PC or with IMs (instant messages). When I prepare artwork for flyers to be handed out at a computer club meeting, I make a disk copy of the file to take to Kinkos, or, I'll send the artwork to them in advance as an e-mail attachment. If I need new business cards or stationery, it's done the same way.
     Speaking of computer clubs, joining one is a great way to meet other PC users from whom you can learn more about using your hardware and software. Let me tell you a little about one such club.
     Back in 1989 I placed a small ad in the then Fallbrook Enterprise which read, "Fallbrook needs a computer club. Anyone interested in helping me form one can call Don at 728-4606." Well, I got about a dozen calls and we got together and talked about how and where club meetings might be held. The first were held in the homes of some volunteers, with the times and locations being displayed in the Enterprise's "Town Crier" section.
     I began to distribute a one-page newsletter, along with arranging for speakers to give presentations at the meetings. Over time, we found various "conference room" locations in which to hold the meetings, as the attendance grew to several dozen and the newsletter grew to four pages. The whole thing became way too big for me to handle since I still had a business to run in Orange County, so a number of dedicated people set up a more formal organization and elected board members to handle different responsibilities (all on a volunteer basis).
     I'd love to credit all the hard-working people who've made the Fallbrook PC Users Group what it is today, but you can learn more about them by asking for one of their newsletters, which has grown to 32 pages. The newsletter's editor, Guenter Schott, has turned it into a veritable gold mine of useful information, which I can hardly wait to read each month.
     A relatively new phenomenon is computer clubs being formed in mobile home communities, with meetings being held in the parks' recreation halls. I've been giving no-charge presentations at many of them recently, and have enjoyed meeting a lot of wonderful people who are doing a great job helping themselves and others learn more about the exciting world of computing.
June 5 Sending Faxes from Your Computer
     When modems first appeared in the late 1970s, they were add-on peripherals that had no faxing capabilities.  When fax modems appeared shortly thereafter, they were a boon to those of us who create a lot of computer documents that need to be faxed.  With fax machines costing $800 and up in those days, being able to fax directly from one's computer was a very attractive option.
     Now, however, with relatively inexpensive desktop devices that can scan, copy, print and even send e-mail, the faxing of documents directly from the applications in which they were created seems to be on the decline.  In fact, many PC users I talk to are surprised to hear their modems even have faxing capabilities.
     If you create documents with a word processor or a spreadsheet utility or a drawing program, for instance, you probably output the finished product with a laser or inkjet printer, and then fax the page(s) with your desktop fax machine (which could be part of the printer if you use one of the multipurpose devices).  I find it more practical to type a letter with my word processor and then fax it directly to the intended recipient without making a printout (unless I need a hard copy as a backup).
     Yes, I do have a fax machine; one of the $800 relics that uses the old-style curly, heat sensitive paper.  I use it mainly for incoming faxes, or for outgoing faxes of items that weren't created on my computer.  However, I accept incoming faxes on this machine or on my PC, depending on which is most practical in a particular situation.
     If the idea of sending and receiving faxes with your computer appeals to you, how does one go about doing it?  Well, modems normally come with faxing software, which may have been installed when the modem's drivers were installed.  Check your modem's manual.  It should tell you how to setup and use the fax software.
     You can also buy separate faxing software.  WinFax appears to be the most popular and has been around for a long time.  I bought WinFax back in the Windows 3.0 days and was pleased to see that it continued to work with Win95 and Win98.  However, the program fell victim to Y2K and died on January 1 of last year.
     However, one of my readers sent me a URL for downloading a shareware fax program that works beautifully and which I have been using ever since.  It's called 32bitFax and can be downloaded from http://www.electrasoft.com/32bf.htm.
     However, as a matter of curiosity, I went to CNet's web site this morning to see if they had any freeware of shareware fax programs and was pleasantly surprised to see that several were listed.  The URL for this page is pretty long, but here it is.  You should be able to click the blue link to bring up the web page. http://aolsvccomp.cnet.com/downloads/1,10150,0-10000-103-0-1-7,00.html?tag=srch&qt=fax+software&cn=&ca=10000
or...you can log on to http://www.cnet.com/ and type "fax software" into the Search box.
     I'll be downloading and testing at least one of the free programs listed on this site and will report on it/them in a future column.  In the meantime, if anyone has questions on using fax software, I'll be glad to offer any help I can via phone or e-mail.  Be aware, however, that the various programs have many different features and tend to work quite a bit differently from one to another, and I don't pretend to know all of their ins and outs.
     Here's another example of how I fax directly from my home computer.  I design advertising flyers, price brochures, and other artwork for my business using Corel Draw and other graphic programs.  As the art is prepared on my PC, I fax proofs to my Art Director at my screen printing business in another city.  
     Doing it this way has yet another advantage.  Since my PC and fax machine are on two separate phone lines, the latter's line is free to accept incoming faxes while I'm sending others out on my computer's line.
June 3 Saving Email as You Create It
     A complaint I hear frequently is that of having an online connection dropped while one is composing an email and that there seems to be no way to retrieve what has been written. The solution to this problem reminds me of the old election-day admonition to "vote early and vote often." The trick here is to "save early and save often." Unfortunately, the means of saving e-mail that's being written online varies dramatically from one email service to another.
     Let's begin with Outlook Express. The first point to be made is that OE can be launched, and email can be composed without going online. In other words, don't log on to your ISP until the letter is complete and ready to send. This precludes losing the letter as a result of being bounced offline in the middle of writing it.
     Unfortunately, it's still possible to be kicked offline even as you are sending the email, which can also result in its being terminally lost. However, if you have taken the precaution of saving the email with a filename, it can always be recovered. Do this: launch Outlook Express, and choose New Message. When the blank email form is displayed, fill in the To: and Subject: lines, along with CC: and/or BCC: if wanted. Then type the first few words of your message.
     Now click on File, Save As: and type in a filename for the letter. Choose .EML as the file type. The letter will now be saved in the My Documents folder. Continue typing, and periodically do another File, Save As:, making sure the same filename is used. When told the file already exists and asked if you want to replace it, click Yes.
     Doing a final File, Save As: just before sending the email will assure you of having a backup copy. If, for any reason, the letter is lost in transmission, simply double-click My Documents and then double-click the letter's ".EML" icon. This will launch OE and put your letter in place, waiting for the command to send it.
     Doing the above in AOL or CompuServe is somewhat different. Begin a new e-mail in the usual way, and then do File, Save As:. You can create the letter either offline or online. Give the letter a filename and choose a place to save it. I prefer the Desktop because it's easy to find things there. The e-mail will be saved with a .TXT or .RTX extension, depending on which version of AOL/CS you're using.
     If your email somehow gets lost, launch AOL or CompuServe and go to File, Open:. Browse your way to the saved file and double-click it. This will open the file as a text document, which you'll then need to Copy and Paste into a new, blank, outgoing e-mail box before being able to send it.
     To save an outgoing e-mail in Netscape, do this: Launch Netscape and start a new, blank message, using Ctrl+M. Begin creating your letter (online or offline) and then go to File, Save As, File. Give it a filename and choose HTM for the extension. Again, I recommend saving it on the Desktop.      Continue composing your letter, pausing periodically to do File, Save, or Ctrl+S. If your Netscape letter gets lost in transmission, simply locate it on your Desktop and double-click it. Having been saved with an .HTM extension means a double-click will launch Netscape (assuming it's your default browser, which it normally would be if you are using it to send email). The file would then appear as a text document, which would need to be copied and pasted into a new Netscape email.
     Saving Hotmail, Yahoo, Eudora and Juno letters offer still other adventures. But we're out of space. However, the way to always be sure of having a backup copy of your email is to compose it in your favorite word processor, and then copy and paste it into an outgoing email.
May 29 More on Copying Files, Discs & Disks
     We've talked recently about different methods of copying files from one computer to another. Ken Ray wrote to describe his favorite method. Windows 95+ systems have always come with built-in software called Network Neighborhood. By installing an Ethernet card in each computer and using an RJ-45 crossover cable (available at any computer store) Ken says that file transfers are fast and easy, with the equipment cost being less than one would spend on a portable disk or CD drive.
     Speaking of file transfers, I've had several calls recently asking how to copy files from a 3.5" floppy disk to an Iomega Zip or Jaz disk. The answer is the old, reliable "drag and drop." From within Windows Explorer any file can normally be dragged from any location to any other location.
     Assuming the Iomega Drive is labeled E:, you'll normally find it near the bottom of the listings in the left Explorer window pane. The 3.5" A: Drive will be near the top of the list. Double-clicking the A: Drive icon will cause all its filenames to be displayed in the right window pane. Use the left pane's vertical scroll bar (sometimes called the "elevator") to bring the E: Drive into view. Any or all of the files on the A: disk can be dragged and dropped onto the E: Drive icon.
     To drag multiple files all at once, hold down Ctrl as you click each target file. If all the disk's files are to be transferred they can be enclosed in a "marquee" made by holding down the left mouse button while drawing a rectangle around the filenames. A handy trick for selecting multiple contiguous files is to click the first icon of the target group, hold down the Shift key, and click the last icon of the group.
     Keep in mind that files dragged from one disk drive to another are "copied" rather than "moved," whereas files dragged between folders on the same disk are physically relocated.
     Another frequent question has been: "Does this work the same way when copying files onto a rewritable CD?" Yes, it can be, once you've "formatted" the CD to work this way. Using Adaptec Creator, choose "Data" on the opening menu. Choose "Direct CD" on the next menu. Click "Next" and "Finish" on the subsequent dialogue boxes. Your CD can then be used like any other disk, in terms of copying data to and from it.
     However, you won't be able to eject the disc by pressing the CD tray's open and close button. You'll need to launch Creator again and click on "Data" followed by "Direct CD." You'll work your way through to the "Eject Disc" dialogue box, where you'll be asked if you want to leave the disc in its readable and writable configuration, or if you want it formatted as a "read only memory" (ROM) disc. After making your choice it may take several minutes before the disc ejects itself.
     If you need to copy an entire disc onto another disc, begin by placing the original in the CD drive. Launch Adaptec and choose "CD Copier." The contents of the original disc will be copied into memory, after which you'll be prompted to remove the disc and insert the blank target disc.
     Duplicating disks has always been available for 3.5" floppies, using a similar procedure. Insert the original in the A: Drive and double-click My Computer. Single-click the A: Drive icon, choose Copy Disk from the dropdown menu, and follow the prompts.
     Speaking of rewritable CD drives, my guess is that they will soon become the default "second drive" in new computers and that 3.5" floppy disks and their drives will eventually join their 5.25" predecessors in the annals of computer history.
May 27 Using Your Find & Replace Options
     We talked recently about locating things on your PC by right-clicking Start or My Computer and choosing Find, Files & Folders.  Another way to refine your search is by using an asterisk (*) and/or a question mark (?) as a "wild card."  A question mark acts a wild card for an individual character, while the asterisk represents any string of characters.
     For instance, typing *.TXT into the "Named" box would find every Notepad Text file on your computer.  However, typing ?A?.TXT would only find Notepad files with names like CAT.TXT or MAN.TXT or CAR.TXT.  If you were to type in *O?.BMP the search would produce answers such as BLOB.BMP, GROW.BMP and CAMELOT.BMP.  A search for ?O*.JPG would display results such as TOYSHOP.JPG and SOFT. JPG.  Looking for *O*.DOC would generate every .DOC file containing the letter O, whereas *OA*.GIF would display answers like GROAN.GIF and BROADWAY.GIF.
     Capital letters have been used here for emphasis only, and all of the above examples assume you've chosen the C: Drive in the "Look In:" box.  The "Look In:" target, however, can be changed to your A: Drive, or the letter designating you CD Drive or any folder of your choosing.  Beyond that, omitting the three-letter extension in any of the above examples would broaden the search to include all filename types.
     Once the filename you've been seeking turns up in the Answer Box, there are various things you can do with it.  If it's an .EXE file, it can be double-clicked to execute the application with which it's associated.  Double-clicking other filenames should launch their parent programs and open the found file.
     If it's a file you wish to work on, you can drag it onto your Desktop to make it more easily accessible.  Alternatively, you can right-click it, choose Copy, then right-click your Desktop and choose Paste.  This will put a duplicate of any target file on your Desktop.  If you try to drag an .EXE file onto the Desktop, however, you'll just be creating a "Shortcut" to the executable filename, while leaving the actual file in place.
     Other things that can be done with a found file is to Rename it or Delete it, by
ing its name and choosing the desired action from the popup menu.  If the located filename has a .ZIP or .MIM extension, double-clicking it will activate WinZip, which will lead you through the "decoding" steps needed to make the file usable.  This assumes you have WinZip installed on your hard drive, which nowadays everyone should have.  You should also have Acrobat Reader installed, to handle any .PDF files you find.  WinZip and Reader can both be freely downloaded from http://www.download.com/.
     To Find things in most any kind of a text file, use Ctrl+F and type in a target string of characters.  This will also work on most web pages you find on the Internet.  If you're looking at a web page and see a word that Ctrl+F doesn't find, it's most likely because the word is part of a graphic, rather than a "typed-in" string of characters.
     In many programs Ctrl+F will bring up both a Find: box and a Replace With: box.  If, for instance, you're editing a document which refers several times to the "Green Valley Company" and whose name has been changed to the "Green Mountain Company" you could use Find & Replace to change every occurrence of "Valley" to "Mountain."  However, this could generate errors if the document contained other references to valleys and mountains.  Replacing "Green Valley" with "Green Mountain" would be the prudent thing to do.
     Other Find & Replace options let you choose between making the replacements all at once or being asked at each occurrence of the target word or phrase.  Other options let you specify whether upper or lower case needs to be considered, as well as how to identify special symbols and codes.  More on these items next time.
May 22 Transferring Files between PCs + Printing Web Pages
     Something I'm hearing with increasing frequency is, "I bought a new computer and need to know how to transfer the files from my old computer onto it."  Well, the old "tried and true" method was to copy files individually onto 3.5" floppies and then copy them from there onto the new PC's hard drive.  Nowadays, however, this has become generally impractical because of the huge numbers of files that many users need to transfer.
     This can be done more easily if you have access to a portable Iomega Zip or Jaz Drive or a portable Rewritable CD drive.  Hundreds of files can be copied to each disk/CD and the drives can be switched from one computer to another.
     You can also send files to the new computer as email attachments.  Beyond that, there are several "storage space" web sites that let you upload and download files at no charge.  However, if you've ever downloaded files from the Internet or as an e-mail attachment, you know how time-consuming this can be.
     If you do decide to use one of the many "free storage space" web sites, it pays to check them out first.  You can do this by logging on to http://www.ask.com/ and typing "Free File Storage" into the search box.  Click on "Web-Based File Storage Services" to get a very comprehensive review of these facilities.  In any case, if you plan on using one of these services, it's prudent to put your files on more than one of them. 
     The most efficient method of transferring files, however, is to do it by connecting the two computers with a cable and using special software designed for this purpose.  I'd recommend checking out http://www.laplink.com/, a company who's been specializing in this kind of technology for over 18 years.
     Another thing I get asked about concerns printing web pages.  Folks often want to print a whole page, but are reluctant to do so because so many of the pages have elaborate, multi-colored backgrounds which, if printed, could use up their ink cartridges pretty rapidly.  However, both Internet Explorer and Netscape let you go to File, Print Preview, to see what your printout would actually look like.
     Using Internet Explorer 6.0 and Netscape 4.76, here's what I discovered:
     Internet Explorer changes all colored backgrounds to white and adjusts the text colors, if needed, to be legible against the white.  Netscape, on the other hand, prints those ink-devouring colored backgrounds, unless they had been placed there as "image" files (as opposed to being assigned a "browser-safe" color with HTML coding).
     Furthermore, Internet Explorer printed all the graphics that were displayed on a given page while Netscape printed some images and printed empty boxes for others.  Perhaps the new Netscape 6.01 will do the same as Internet Explorer, but after trying Netscape 6.0 I quickly deleted it, as did all the critics whose reviews I read.
     Getting back to those colored backgrounds; if you do want to print them, simply copy and paste the web page into a blank MS Word 2000 document and the colors will be there in all their glory.
     I also get lots of questions about what a keyboard's "F-keys" are good for.  These keys appeared back in the "pre-mouse" days of PCs and were meant to be shortcuts to commands that otherwise might require a lot of typing.  Nowadays they mostly duplicate various mouse and/or keyboard functions.  Many F-key actions are peculiar to one program or another, while a few tend to be more or less "universal."  F1, for instance, brings up a Help Menu in most programs, while F7 activates the Spell Checker in most Microsoft programs, with Shift+F7 bringing up a ThesaurusAlt+F4 will close most programs.
         F3 is an interesting key.  On a PC's Desktop and in Windows Explorer it activates the Find Files & Folders command.  In WordPerfect it brings up the Save As command.  In Corel Draw and PhotoPaint it shrinks whatever is on the screen by 50%.  In MSWord, Shift+F3 will change the "case" of any selected text, going from All Capitals to All Lower Case to All Lower Case with the first word Capitalized.  This can come in handy at times.
May 20 Using Windows' *Find* Options
     As hard drives have gotten larger and larger, it's become easier and easier to lose things on them.  However, Windows 95+ comes with a "Find" command that works very well at tracking things down.  The textbook way of activating this feature is to go to Start, Find, Files & Folders.  However, you can also right-click Start (or My Computer) and choose Find.
     Steven Barisof wrote to say that pressing F3 will also bring up this feature.  This works if you're in Windows Explorer or at your Desktop.  Getting quickly to the Desktop can be accomplished by simply clicking the Desktop icon on your Win98+ Taskbar.  It's the one that shows a pencil and paper on a roundish background object.
     Once you've brought up the Find dialogue window, you'll see many options to help with your search.  There are three boxes for typing in search criteria: Named, Containing Text, and Look In.  If you know the exact name of the file or folder you're seeking, typing it into the Named box will bring the quickest results.  However, if the typed-in name is off by even one character, the search will likely fail.  This is why the feature often works better when only a partial name typed in. 
     For instance, if you're searching for a folder named TOOL-SHOP, it won't be found if you type in TOOLSHOP.  However, it will be found if you type in TOOL or SHOP or TOOL SHOP.  The latter will also find all files and folders whose names contain the words TOOL or SHOP, including, for instance, TOOL & DIE, STOOLS, SHOPPING or BARBER SHOP.  Typing in TOO SHO would find all the aforementioned items plus others, such as TOOTHACHE or SHOWER.
     On a hard drive with multitudinous files, some Find entries can generate dozens, or even hundreds, of possible results.  If you're positive that the target file or folder is named TOOL SHOP, enclosing the phrase in double-quotes, i.e., "TOOL SHOP" will cause all the other TOOL and/or SHOP names to be ignored.
     I've used capital letters on these samples for emphasis only.  Capital and lower-case letters are treated equally unless you click on Options, Case Sensitive.
     Using Date can narrow your search down considerably.  If you're looking for a file that was created in, say, the last 60 days you can choose During The Previous __ Days or During The Previous 2 MonthsDate also gives you the options of Modified, Created, or Last Accessed, with Modified being the default.  If you're looking for a file you downloaded in, say, the previous seven days, but which you did NOT modify in any way, your search could fail if you've selected Modified rather than Created.
     Another thing that can cause a search to fail is what's shown in the Look In box.  "Document Folders" will often be the default selection.  Having "C:" selected, however, will search your entire hard drive.
     So far we've discussed looking for files and folders by their actual names.  Sometimes, however, if we don't remember a document's name we may remember some of the text it contains.  If you use the Containing Text box, it's helpful if you can type in something that's not too ordinary.  If, for instance, you're looking for a document that contains a list of last names, using BROWN or MAY would list every file that contains those words.  However, if the name SCHILDKRAUT was in the document, using it as the target word would obviously narrow down your search.
     Finally, the Advanced tab lets you specify what kind of a file you're looking for.  If the target file was created with say, MSWord, choosing "Microsoft Word Document" would ignore all other text files.  However, if you accidentally click on "Microsoft Word Template" or "Microsoft Word HTML Document" your search would either fail altogether or, possibly, find the wrong file that just happened to contain your target word or phrase.
May 15 Accessing Email from Another PC + Find/Search Options
     Many online services now let you read your email by simply logging onto their web site from wherever you happen to be.  Here's an example:
     Let's say the North County Times is your ISP (Internet Service Provider) but that you're in someone's office who's signed up with AOL.  Your friend could get you online with AOL, at which point you would type "nctimes.com" into the URL line near the top of the page.  When the NCTimes web page appears, click on "Web Services."  This will take you to a page titled "Online Services" where one of the options is "Check Your Email."  After clicking this link, a page will appear which invites you to type in your email address and password.  This will take you directly to your mailbox.
     This feature can also be used in other helpful ways.  Let's say I'm at home and want to access my business's mailbox, which uses CompuServe.  I also have CS on my home computer, but when I try to log on with my company's name I get an error message, reading, "The service is in use and cannot be accessed by more than one person at a time."
     No problem.  I also have AOL on my home PC, so I log on and type "compuserve.com" into my browser.  On the CS home page one of the options is, guess what, "Check Your Email."  This means I can access my business email even if someone at the office is online doing the same.  I can't tell you how many times I've used this handy feature, but I do it every day.
     All of this is even easier with HotMail or Yahoo Email or Netscape Web Mail, where logging on via another ISP is the normal way to access these services.  Juno also allows access to your mailbox from another IRS.
     We've talked recently about "right-clicking" options.  Here's another one: to open your CD drive without using the button on your PC, double-click My Computer, right-click your CD drive icon and choose "Eject."
     What's that?  You say this is more work than just reaching over and pushing the button?  Well, if your console is on your desk next to your monitor, this is undoubtedly true.  However, many PC users have their consoles on the floor, where finding the CD button can sometimes be harder to do.
     Here's another handy "
" trick
.  You're undoubtedly familiar with the fact that you can search for files or folders on your hard drive by going to Start, Find, Files & Folders and typing in some "search" criteria.  Well, you can open this "search" window even faster by right-clicking Start, and choosing Find.
     If  you want to limit your search to a particular folder, get into Windows Explorer (right-click Start, Explore) and then right-click the target folder and choose Find.  Yes, you could have identified this folder by typing its name into the "Look In" box or by using the "Browse" button, but I find
ing the target folder faster and easier.
     Speaking of the "Find" command, let's review some of its features.  If you want to do a global search of your hard drive, use the Start, Find method described above, or strike F while holding down your Windows key (the one with Windows logo).  A window will open displaying three boxes into which you can type information: Named, Containing Text, and Look In.  Let's say you're looking for a lost file which you think is named, "Mother's Day Letter.doc."
     You could type the whole filename into the "Named" box and then click Find Now.  However, if you leave the apostrophe out of "Mother's" the search would fail, although it would find other files which have the word "mothers" in their names.  You'd be better off just to type "mother" into the "Named" box, which would bring up all filenames containing the words "mother" or "smother" or "mothering" or "mother's."  One of them would most likely be your missing file.
May 13 More "Right-Click" & "Send To" Options + "Mirrored Margins" in MsWord, WordPerfect & MSPublisher
     I wrote recently about backing up files to a disk in the A: Drive and also wrote about various "Right-Mouse-Button" options. Scott Chester wrote to point out that from within Windows Explorer a file can be sent to the A: Drive by
ing it and choosing Send To, 3½" Floppy (A).
     Other "Send To" choices include "Mail Recipient," which means you can attach the file to an outgoing e-mail before writing it. It also means you can add the file without having to figure out your e-mail program's "Attach" or "Insert" procedures, which vary considerably from one e-mail program to another.
     Another "Send To" option is "Desktop" which creates a "Shortcut" to the file and places it on your Desktop.
     Right-clicking a file a file can also bring up a variety of other interesting choices, depending on the software you have installed. Choosing "Quick View" or "Print" means you can see what the file looks like and/or print the file without having to launch the application in which the file was created.
     One of my favorite
choices is "Add To Zip." This will launch WinZip and create a ".ZIP" version (i.e., "compressed" version) of the file, which could make a file fit on a 3 1/2" floppy, that might have otherwise been too large. "Zipped" (i.e., "compressed") files also upload and download faster. If you're unfamiliar with using WinZip to compress and decompress files with, you can find an explanation in the Jan. 23, 2000 PC Chat at www.pcdon.com, where all of this year's and last year's chats are archived.
     A reader wrote to say he'd used the "Web Site" feature of MSPublisher to create a home page; but complained that all the JPG photos he'd inserted had been changed to GIF images by the program. I checked this out with some JPGs of my own, and found he was absolutely correct.
     JPG photos can display millions of colors, but GIFs are restricted to 256, which can make a photo look very splotchy. I have no idea why Publisher does this, and would appreciate hearing from someone who does. In any case, I find Publisher to be a very versatile and useful Desktop Publishing program, but very inadequate at creating web pages.
     Speaking of Publisher, a lady wrote recently to complain that whenever she started a New, Blank Page, the page displayed a wide left margin and a narrow right margin, when she expected to see even margins all around. I suggested she go to Arrange, Layout Guides and see if the "Create Two Backgrounds With Mirrored Guides" box was checked. It was.
     Someone had previously set the "Inside" margin to be wider than the "Outside" margin, which established a "bookbinder's gutter" for pages to be printed on both sides and which would be bound along one edge. After UNchecking the "Mirrored Guides" box, the "Inside" and "Outside" margin designations returned to "Left" and "Right" margins, which could be set the way the lady wanted them.
     Speaking of "gutters," if you're using MSWord or WordPerfect to write a manuscript whose pages will be "book-bound," you'll find the "Mirrored Margins" settings under File, Page Setup, where options for "Gutter" settings can also be found. As for just how much space to allow for the gutter, you'd need to ask a bookbinder. I recently completed a computer manual which needed a wider than average gutter, because the book was designed to be "spiral-bound." This means the pages can be turned all the way to the back, for ease in leaning the book against a monitor while using it.
     If you're writing a novel, of course, you needn't worry about formatting the pages for bookbinding. Your publisher can handle that. However, the beauty of writing a book with a computer is that you can format it in any way you want. In fact, writing one's biography, complete with photos and drawings, has never been easier.
May 8 Saving Your Files to Other Disks
     Norrine Keesee wrote and asked how to save her Juno e-mail to a floppy disk.  This can best be answered by reviewing the basic concept of saving one's files on media other than a computer's built-in hard drive.
     In these days of hard drives which tend to be very large and very reliable, it's easy to overlook the concept of saving copies of your files to another disk.  However, backing up one's files onto another disk has always been a means of saving important data in the event of a hard drive failure.  Let's look at some of the other reasons.
     There was a time when files would be copied to a floppy disk for the purpose of giving the data to another person.  Nowadays, this is usually done by sending the person the data as an e-mail file attachment.
     In any case, many of today's files, such as large photographs, are too big to fit on a 3.5" floppy.  However, other methods of making back-ups can be used.  The Iomega Zip and Jaz Disks have long been popular with their ability to hold the contents of a minimum of 77 3.5" floppies and the ease with which a they can be moved from one computer to another.
     However, with CD-burners having come down so low in price, this definitely seems to be the trend of the future.  CDs hold much more data than Zip and Jaz disks, and the CDs themselves are much, much cheaper than the other disks.
     Now let's look at the mechanics of making backup files onto a standard 3.5" floppy.  If you've just completed a file and have saved it on your hard drive by going to File, Save As, and naming the document, you can do another File, Save As, and "browse" your way to the "A:" drive.  However, a better method is to close your finished document, get into Windows Explorer and simply "drag" the finished document's icon from its place on your hard drive onto your "A:" drive icon.
     Why is this better?  Well, if you normally save files to your "C:" drive and then decide to save a copy of one to your "A:" drive, the program will stay in the "Save to Drive A:" mode after the saving is completed.  If you then create another document and go to File, Save As, the file will be saved to the "A:" disk unless you tell it to go back to the "C:" drive.  I've seen people do this and then wonder why they can't find a document on their hard drive that they know they created.
     Another reason for using Windows Explorer to drag and drop files onto your "A:" drive is that the file transfer rate is much faster.  Furthermore, if you've completed, say, five documents that you want copied onto a floppy, you can drag and drop them all at once.  Within Windows Explorer, simply point and click on each of the target files while holding down your Ctrl key.  Then drag the whole selection onto the "A:" drive icon.
     But getting back to Norrine's question of saving her Juno e-mails onto a floppy disk; the easiest way is to Copy and Paste the e-mail into a word processing document and then Save the file to the "A:" drive using one of the methods described above.  This procedure works no matter what e-mail program you're using.  Simply mouse-select the part of the e-mail you want to keep.  Do Ctrl+C, or right-click the selection and choose Copy from the pop-up menu.  Create a new word processing document and do Ctrl+V, or anywhere on the page and choose Paste.
May 6 Using Your Right Mouse Button
    Nowadays it's hard to imagine there was a time when we used a computer without a mouse.  Yes, the Mac had the mouse long before the PC - but having a second button on your mouse gives you lots of advantages you may not be aware of.  Let's take a look at what can be done with the little rodent's "right" button.
    We'll begin by right-clicking Start on your Taskbar.  Next, click "Explore" with either button to get into Windows Explorer, the "file management" area of Windows where you go to move, copy, rename or delete files and folders.  To delete a file or a folder, you can right-click it and choose Delete from the popup menu.  To copy a file, you can right-click it and choose Copy from the menu.
    If you want to place the copied file into another folder, simply right-click the folder and choose Paste.  What, you didn't see anything happen?  Well, double-click the folder and you'll find the file therein.  If you have trouble doing a double-click, simply right-click the target item and choose Open from the popup menu.
    If you find a file or folder to which you'd like to place a "Shortcut" on your Desktop, right-click it and choose Create Shortcut.  Drag the Shortcut onto your Desktop.  Finally, right-click it and choose Rename to change the Shortcut's label from, say, "Shortcut to mystory.doc" to just "My Story."  If you then want to change the Shortcut's icon, right-click it and choose Properties, Change Icon.
    If you have a Desktop Shortcut whose path to its underlying file or folder needs editing, right-click it and choose Properties, Shortcut.  Right-clicking the Desktop itself brings up a number of different options for arranging its icons.  Another Desktop
option is Properties, which gets you into an area where you can change your Desktop's background design, your screen saver and a number of other settings, including your screen resolution and colors.
    If you have open documents showing on your Taskbar, the easiest way to close them is to right-click them and choose Close from the popup menu.  
ing the Taskbar itself brings up a variety of options, including the ability to create other toolbars.
    If your word processor has automatic spell-checking, you can right-click a flagged word to bring up a list of possible corrections.  In MSWord, right-clicking a word will bring up a synonym list.  
s in different areas of different word processors will bring up all kinds of helpful options.  It pays to experiment and learn what they are.
    Now I'd like to describe one of my favorite "right-click combinations."  After reading an email, I'll do a right-click and choose Select All.  Another right-click will let me Copy all that has just been selected.  Then I launch my word processor, right-click on a blank page and choose Paste.  Voila -
the email has now been copied and pasted into my word processor, where I can adjust the margins and edit the document in any way I want.
    Why do I mention this?  Well, I've received numerous requests from folks to format this newsletter with a wide left margin, so they could file their printouts in 3-ring binders.  Okay, I did this for a while.  But then I got complaints from others who said the newsletter used to fit comfortably onto a standard "typewriter" sheet, but that the wide left margin pushed part of the text onto a second page.
    Well, copying and pasting the newsletter into a word processing document not only lets one set margins to suit himself or herself, it allows all kinds of editing, including the deletion of the extraneous headers and footers that often accompany email.  Try it.  You'll like it.
May 1 Saving All or Parts of a File
     If you're reading an MSWord or a WordPerfect document on your computer and you'd like to make a quick copy of a paragraph or two, where do you put the copied text?
      The prescribed method is to begin a new, blank document in whichever program you're using and paste the copied text into it.  Finally, you would use File, Save As to give the new document a name.
      Here's an easier way:   Right-click anywhere on your Desktop and click Paste on the menu that pops up.  An icon resembling a torn page will appear, entitled "Document Scrap."  If you double-click the icon, the saved text will appear in a new Word or WordPerfect document.  If you'd prefer to save this "scrap" in your My Documents folder (or any other folder) right click its icon and do your Paste there.
      It would be nice if this trick worked when reading email, but it doesn't.  So how does one easily save a section of email?  I do it by clicking a "Notepad" icon on my Taskbar, which opens a blank "text only" document in which I store quick notes.  If I want to maintain any special formatting in the copied paragraph, I go to File, New in my e-mail program and Paste the text there.  Special formatting will also be maintained if you Paste the copied text into a regular word processor, such as Word, WordPerfect or Works.
      Speaking of saving email, I get lots of questions regarding how to do it most efficiently.  All email programs have methods of saving incoming and outgoing letters online - but what about saving them on your own hard drive?  Well, Eudora, Netscape Messenger and Outlook Express do this using "Inboxes" and "Outboxes," where OE also saves copies of Hotmail e-mail.  AOL and CompuServe e-mail can be saved in one's hard drive "Filing Cabinets," if it's requested under Mail Preferences.
      Email can be saved one letter at a time, or multiple letters can be saved in a single document.  For instance, if I get a lot of questions on a particular subject, I Copy and Paste all the letters in a single Word document, which I name accordingly.  I then use Ctrl+F if I need to "Find" a particular word or phrase.
      As for using Notepad to save accumulated text, it has its pros and cons.  On the plus side, Notepad is a "light-duty" text editor which can be opened and closed very quickly.  Since all of a file's contents are in "plain, unformatted text" it can also be easily opened by any word processor or email program.  All the text is in a single size and font style, which can be Win98+ users can choose by going to Edit, Set font.  The Notepad icon on my Taskbar gets used constantly for saving quick notes of various kinds, such as taking down a name or address when talking on the phone.
      How does one get a Notepad icon onto the Taskbar?  I did it by going to Start, Run and typing in NOTEPAD.  After clicking OK and the blank document appeared, I went to File, Save As, where I named it NOTES.TXT and told it to be Saved in the My Documents folder.  Since the My Documents icon is visible on the Desktop, I double-clicked it and then right-clicked the NOTES icon, from where I chose Create Shortcut.  I dragged the "Shortcut to NOTES.TXT" icon onto my Desktop, from where I dragged it onto my Taskbar.  This left a copy of the NOTES Shortcut on the Desktop, which I dragged into my Recycle Bin.  The end result is a NOTES icon which is always in view on my Taskbar, and which gets used many times every day.
Apr 29 Using Columns in a Word Processing Document
     Betty King wrote to ask how convert a word processing document to two columns while keeping a heading that spreads across both columns. Well, it depends on which word processor you're using. MSWorks lets you create columns by going to Format, Columns. From here you can choose how many columns you want. However, you are restricted to having the whole document appear in the number of columns you choose. Furthermore, all columns must be the same width.
     MSWord, however, lets you use multiple column formats within a document. For instance, you can have a single-column heading across the top of the page, and then do the rest of page in multiple columns, which can vary in width, as well as in the spacing between the columns. Putting a vertical line between columns is an additional option.
     Beyond that, you can have part of a page in, say, two columns while another part is in four, while yet another part is a single column which goes from border to border.
     This is all done by going to Format, Columns, where you'll find options for applying the formatting to "Selected Sections," or "From This Point Forward." However, I have found these options to be somewhat unstable, and have had to tweak my column settings by hitting Enter between differently formatted sections. But it's well worth the effort when the end result is a document whose overall appearance is not the usual, boring look of a collection of words which go endlessly across the page in a single column.
     Getting back to MSWorks, one can have a "Header" across the top of a page and still have multiple columns on the rest of the page. "Headers" and "Footers" are areas at the top and bottom of a page which continue from one page to the next in multiple-page documents. For instance, the name of a story and its author could appear in the Header, while incremental page numbering might be in the Footer.
     In Works 6.0 this is done by clicking on View, Header & Footer. In earlier versions, an "H/F" or "Header/Footer" on a blank page would indicate where Header and Footer information could be typed in. If none is typed in, the "H/F" areas are used as additional white space for the document's body text.
     Headers and Footers in MSWord can be initiated by going to View, Headers & Footers. However, if you only want Page Numbering, you can go to Insert, Page Numbers, and then choose whether you want them in a Header or a Footer. Works users, however, need to establish Headers and Footers before going to Insert, Page Numbers. Having done so, the Page Numbers of Works 6.0 users will appear as 1, 2, 3, etc., just as they do in MSWord.
     Earlier versions of Works, however, display page numbering as *page* on each page. Nonetheless, when printed out, *page* is replaced by the appropriate Page Number. To see which page you're on while working in the document you need to look in its lower left corner, where you'll see something like "2/8," which means you are on Page 2 of an eight-page document. Going to File, Print Preview will also display pages with their actual numbers.
     It's also helpful to know that in MSWord and MSWorks 6.0, Header and Footer information appears in a light gray while you are working in the body text. However, double-clicking a Header or Footer causes its text to be in its normal color, while the body text turns light.
     Another helpful formatting trick is being able to change a paragraph's line spacing from the keyboard. Ctrl+2 will make a selected paragraph go to double line spacing, while Ctrl+5 will give it one and a half line spacing. Ctrl+1 will get you back to single line spacing. By first doing Ctrl+A, the whole document will be selected, causing the desired line spacing to go all the way through it. This applies to all versions of Word or Works.
Apr 24 Using Your Word Processor's Ruler
     Since MSWord has become the world's best-selling word processor, it's not surprising that I receive a lot of questions about using it. The first thing I advise new users to do is eliminate unneeded toolbar icons. This can open up additional white space for doing one's actual typing. Go to Tools, Customize. Drag all the icons you seldom or never use into the gray window that opens up. They can always be restored if you change your mind.
     One icon that should be on everyone's toolbar, but which isn't unless you put it there, is the Ruler icon. Click on Tools, Customize, Commands. Click on View and then drag the Ruler icon into your toolbar.
     Users of the MSWorks 6.0 word processor will have to use View, Ruler to turn the Ruler off and on. Users of earlier versions can drag a Ruler icon onto their toolbar by finding it at Tools, Customize Toolbar, View.
     From then on, clicking this icon will toggle your Ruler off and on. The Horizontal Ruler at the top of your page is a very helpful tool and will be used often. However, if Word users see a Vertical Ruler on their page's left edge, I'd recommend removing it. It's seldom used, and getting rid of it will open up more white space. Do this by clicking on Tools, Options, View, and UNchecking Vertical Ruler.     

    While you're in Options, click on General and set your Recently Used File List at the number of your choice, up to and including nine. Most programs show only the four most recently accessed documents when you click File - having nine available can be very useful. Another important thing to do under Options is to click on Save, Always Create Backup Copy. Choosing Allow Background Saves and Save AutoRecover Info Every__Minutes are additional security measures for protecting against accidental file loss.
     Getting back to the Horizontal Ruler, it provides you with the easiest way to set Tab stops. Notice the little "L" at the far left end of the Ruler. This stands for Left, and will allow you to set Left Tabs by just clicking on the ruler. Press your Tab key and watch the cursor move from one Tab to the next. Clicking on the little "L" will display a "backward L" which is used for setting Right Tabs. Other Tab settings, such as Center and Decimal, can be chosen with more clicks of this symbol.
    

    If you set Tabs at the beginning of a document, the settings will continue to the next paragraph every time the Enter key is struck. However, it's important to understand that Tab settings apply only to the paragraph that the mouse cursor is in when you set the Tabs. If you want to set Tabs throughout an existing document, do Edit, Select All before positioning them. Otherwise just highlight the target paragraph/s before setting the Tabs.
     There will be no little "L" showing on the Works toolbar, but clicking on the ruler will install Left Tabs. For other types of Tabs, one must go to Format, Tabs. In any case, a Tab setting can be removed in either program by just dragging it off the Ruler. Beyond that, any Tab can be repositioned by dragging it left or right. If you have tabbed text in your document, it will move left and right as the Tabs are moved.
     On another matter, I recently mentioned having trouble finding a way to Export an Address Book from Netscape. My thanks to Art Rideout and Steve Barkas who each wrote to say it's done by getting into Communicator and clicking on Address Book, File, Export.
     Why didn't I know this? Well, there are many different email programs, and it's not easy to keep up with all their differences and peculiarities. So, when asked about programs I don't normally use, I research them as best I can. But, as I've said before, much of what I know about computers has been learned from readers of this column. Again, I thank all of them.
Apr 22 More Tricks for Typing Special Symbols
Ñ, ñ, á, é, í, ó, ú, ü ¿, ¢, ÷, ©, ¼, ½, ¾, ©, ®, , °, ², ³, , ±,
     When I wrote recently about inserting foreign language symbols into a document, I received several calls which explained alternative ways of doing this.  As usual, my readers continue to be my greatest source of useful information on computers, and I thank them all.
     When I mentioned going south of the border to buy a "Spanish" keyboard, I was informed that existing Windows keyboards can be made to generate the special symbols of a particular language by going to Start, Settings, Control Panel, and clicking on Keyboard, Language.  Click the Add button and dozens of languages will be listed, including variations of English such as British, Canadian and Caribbean.
     I chose Spanish/Mexico and found that certain keys on my keyboard would generate special symbols.  For instance, pressing the semicolon (;) generates ñ while a colon (:) produces Ñ.  The other symbols, including ¿, can be found by experimenting with your punctuation keys, or by copying a list of them off my website at www.pcdon.com.
     Once you've chosen a special keyboard from Control Panel, a blue "En" icon will appear near the clock in your Taskbar.  Clicking this icon will display a list of your "national" keyboards, with the default being English (United States).  Click the language of your choice and click back to English when you're done.
     Emily Hanson wrote to explain that foreign language symbols can be keyboard-generated even without using a special keyboard.  By using your "Tilde/Grave" key, the one with ~ in the upper left corner, along with certain other keys, all the special foreign symbols are available.  The key combinations are too numerous to list here, but they are also displayed on my website.
     There is also the "Alt+Numbers" method for inserting special characters.  For instance, Ü can be generated by holding down the Alt key while pressing 0220.  However, only the numbers in the 10-key pad will work with this method; the numbers at the top of your keyboard won't work.  In any case, you can find these numbers by going to Start, Run and typing CHARMAP.  Each symbol in Character Map will show the Alt number in the lower right corner.  Click here for some of the most useful ones.
     The above tips work in any Windows application, but MSWord users have even more options.  I've explained previously how to use Word's AutoCorrect to convert certain keystrokes into special text.  Another lady called to point out that Word also lets you assign "shortcut keys" to insert special characters.  Here's how:
     Go to Tools, Customize, Commands and click the Keyboard tab.  Click on Categories, Common Symbols.  Scroll to ñ and choose, say, Alt+N.  This means that pressing N while holding down the Alt key will produce an ñ.  
     You could then choose Ctrl+Alt+N to generate a capital Ñ.  However, neither the upside down question mark nor the inverted exclaimer are included in the Common Symbol list, so you would need an alternative way to produce those two symbols.  For instance, I let AutoCorrect turn ?? into ¿ and !! into ¡.
     AutoCorrect is also available in MSWorks 6.0 and later versions.  Earlier versions, however, don't have this feature; but they do have something called EasyText.  Go to Edit, EasyText, and click on New.  You'll be presented with two boxes, a small one and a large one.  Type your special code into the small one and your desired text, which can even be on multiple lines, into the large one.
     The next time you want the target word or phrase entered into your document, type its code and press F3.  This allows you to insert, say, a person's name along with his address and phone number, by just typing in his initials and pressing F3.
     I realize that many, if not most, people reading this may be thinking, "I don't type in foreign languages, so a lot of this means nothing to me."  Well, most of the above can also generate other commonly-used symbols not found on one's keyboard, such as: ¢, , ÷, ©, ¼, ½, ¾, ©, ®, , °, ², ³, , ±, & .
Apr 17 Moving Email Address Books from One Program to Another
     I continue to get questions about moving address books from one email service to another.  It's not always easy because of the variety of ways in which the various services store this data.
     Some address book utilities, such as Outlook Express, are mostly lists of names and email addresses while others, such as Outlook, are full-blown "contact" lists containing all kinds of personal data.  Moving data between Outlook and Outlook Express is something I get asked about frequently.
     To copy "contact" data from Outlook to OE, do this:  From within Outlook, go to File, Import & Export, Export to a File.  Click Next. Click "Comma Separated Values (Windows)" and click Next again.
     This will create a file named "Outlook Contacts.CSV" which will serve as a temporary "holding tank" for the data.  At the "Select folder to export from" prompt choose "Contacts" and click Next.  Finally, click Finish.  You're not really finished, however, until you "import" the data into OE.
     From within OE, go to File, Import, Other Address Book, Text File (Comma Separated Values) and click Import.  Browse to your newly created file and then select the fields you want to use.  An OE listing usually contains just a Name, an Email Address, and possibly a Phone Number or two.  Click on Change Mapping if you need to rearrange the order of the fields.  You may also have to answer Yes or No to "Replace existing data that matches data being imported?"
     To reverse the above and copy an address book from Outlook Express into Outlook, launch OE and go to File, Export, Address Book.  The prompts will be the same those shown above for exporting data from Outlook, complete with creating a "CSV" file.
     Next, launch Outlook and go to File, Import & Export, Import from Another Program or File.  Click Next and choose "Text File (Comma Separated Values)."  Click Next and browse your way to your CSV "holding" file.  You'll see some choices concerning importing duplicated data.  Click Next and choose which fields to import.  Choose a destination folder within Outlook and click Finish.
     To import an address book into Netscape's address book, launch the program and go to Messenger, File, and Import, where you'll find "Please select an import format from the list below."  This list should show any other "address books" you might have, including those in a plain text format.  If you choose "Text File" you'll be invited to browse to the "CSV" files you may have previously created.
     A Netscape Address Book, can be exported by going to Communicator, Address Book, File, Export and saving it as a text file with a CSV, TXT, or LDIF file.
     Users of AOL 4.0 and 5.0 can make a copy of their email address book by opening it, clicking on Save & Replace, and following the prompts.  This feature, regrettably, was not included in version 6.0.  However, 6.0 does have a "Print All Contacts" command.  Having a printout of your address book can be handy, I'm sure, but what most emailers want is a way to copy and paste the listings into another file.
     Well, I was able to do this by choosing "Paperport" as my "printer" and then dragging the miniature printout onto a word processing icon at the bottom of the Paperport window.  From there, Paperport's OCR (Optical Character Recognition) function took over, and gave me an editable file.  This may sound complicated, but it's really not all that difficult and it works beautifully.
     As for "importing" an address book into AOL, it can only be done by copying and pasting one item at a time.  My solution to all the above inconsistencies from one program to another is to just keep all my email addresses in a separate text file, from whence they can be copied and pasted as needed.  I use MSWord to store my email addresses.
Apr 15 Free Word Processor + AutoCorrect Tricks + Writing in Spanish with MSWord
     Are you familiar with WordPad?  It's the no-frills word processor that comes with Windows95+ and which can be accessed by clicking Start, Run and typing in WORDPAD or WRITE.  Since most PC users have at least one other word processing program, WordPad is seldom needed.  However, a reader who does use it wrote to ask if there was any way to  automatically double-space a document.  No, there isn't, nor does WordPad (a.k.a. Write) have a spell checker.
     However, StarWriter is a free word processor that is available from Sun Microsystems.  I'm using it to write this column and have found it be very much like Microsoft Word.  For instance, double-spacing can be accomplished by pressing Ctrl+2Ctrl+1 or Ctrl+5 will choose single or one and a half line spacing, respectively.  Most of the other MSWord features I regularly use also have an equivalent in StarWriter, including a Spell Checker, Thesaurus and AutoCorrect.
     If you'd like to have this free program, click on this link: StarOffice5.2
     Another reader wrote asking how to keep MSWord from automatically beginning a sentence with a capital letter.  This is part of Word's AutoCorrect feature, and assumes that the first word in all sentences is to be capitalized.  However, with words like eMachine and dBase this isn't always the case.  This feature can be defeated by going to Tools, AutoCorrect and unchecking "Capitalize First Letter of Sentences."
     Another reader asked if there was an easy way to type in Spanish, since so many people in this area are studying and/or using the language.  Well, I used to teach Spanish and always prepared my lessons in MSWord. This was a number of years ago and I suspect there are now Spanish word processing programs that would make this easier, but I've not really looked into it.  If you know of any, please tell me about them.
     In any case, what I did with Word was use AutoCorrect to insert the special symbols needed to format the Spanish text properly, including Ñ, ñ, á, é, í, ó, ú, and ¿. For instance, typing aa followed a blank space would give me an accented á.  If, however, one expects to use AA in another context, then a different coding would be needed to produce the á.  With AutoCorrect, the choices are endless, and using the feature is easy to do.  
     As for doing whole words in Spanish, I have my most-used ones set up to be automatically inserted.  For instance, when I type in manana, Word's AutoCorrect automatically changes it to mañana.  If I need to type señora or señorita, I type in senor, which AutoCorrect changes to señor.  I then type a or ita to finish the word.  If I need these words capitalized, I type ssenor, which produces Señor.  I carry on from there as explained above.
     In order to get the ñ in the first place, in Word you click on Insert, Symbol, match your font and double-click the desired special character.  Other programs can find these symbols by clicking Start, Run and typing in CHARMAP to bring up the Windows Character Map.
     However, there are obvious limitations.  For instance, I can't have carbon coded to become carbón, since carbon is also a word in English. So I use carbonn instead.  To make this easier, both Word 2000 and StarWriter  have built-in Spanish spell-checkers, which can be found by going to Tools, Thesaurus, Language, Spanish.  If you'd like more details about doing Spanish with MSWord, let me know.
     In conclusion, I must confess that if I were still teaching Spanish, I'd seriously consider going south of the border and looking at computers that might be available with special Spanish keyboards, as well as a Spanish word processor.
Apr 10 An Overview of Using Scanners
     I get a lot of questions from folks who've bought a scanner and tell me they can't figure out how to use it. Well, there are several different brands of scanners and lots of different programs to use with them, so there's no way I can explain every available option. But here's an overview. Scanners create "bitmap" pictures of photographs, drawings, and various types of text documents. The resulting images can be edited and displayed in many different ways.
    Before you do an actual scan, however, you're expected to choose from a list of options that will help produce the kind of image you want. Among these choices you'll normally find Fast Color Photo, Quality Color Photo, Black and White Photo, Fax/File/Copy, and OCR (optical character recognition). You also have the option of doing a "Preview" before doing the finished scan. A Preview is a quick, low- resolution image that lets you have an overview of whatever is in the scanner.
    There will be a "selection" rectangle with moveable edges that let you delineate the actual area to be scanned. If you routinely scan, say, 8 1/2" x 11" printed documents you can skip the Preview and go straight to the final Scan, once these parameters have been set. If, however, you plan on scanning a photograph it's wise to "crop" the image by adjusting the "selection" box to just encompass the important part of the picture, eliminating as much extraneous background as possible. If you plan on outputting your picture with an inkjet printer, unnecessary background imagery can use up your color ink cartridges pretty rapidly.
     If you're planning on emailing the picture, large graphics take longer to upload and download, besides taking up a lot of disk space. Speaking of printing on paper vs. sending with email, it's important to understand how to choose which DPI (dots per inch) resolution to use. For printouts on paper, 300 to 360 DPI is adequate for most family photos, with high-gloss "professional" photos requiring higher DPI resolutions.
    As for viewing a picture on a computer screen, the average monitor has a resolution of about 72-75 DPI. So choosing anything higher for an image that will only be viewed on a screen increases the size of the file, but does nothing to enhance the picture's appearance.
     But what if the email recipient expects to print the picture using an inkjet printer? Then use the higher DPI, knowing that it won't be noticed on the screen, but will make a much sharper printout on paper. Having said all that, you still need to decide on a file format for the finished picture, and there are dozens from which to choose.
    The JPG format has become the most popular format for photos, because of its smaller file size options. BMP is a larger format, but it can be opened on any Windows computer. GIF files are small, but are limited to 256 colors, which makes them ideal for artwork to be used on web pages. Another format option in some of the newer image-editing programs is PDF (portable document file) which can be opened by Acrobat Reader, a program that comes with most new computers or which can be freely downloaded from http://www.adobe.com/.
    Most image-editing software also offers OCR (optical character recognition) which lets you scan a printed document and then feed it into a word processing program, where it can be edited just like any typed-in document. If the scanned document is a spreadsheet or other table of some kind, it can be fed into a program like Excel, where the data will actually end up in the appropriate rows and columns and can be edited accordingly.
    Visioneer Paperport, for instance, will display a miniature of a scanned image in the middle of the screen with a row of "program buttons" along the screen's bottom edge. Just drag the miniaturized image onto one of the buttons and the associated program will be launched, within which the editing can be done.
Apr 8 Changing a BMP graphic into an ICON
     We've talked recently about the hazards of arbitrarily changing a filename's extension and have described some of the rare occasions where doing so can serve a useful purpose.  Here's another example:
     When a reader asked if a "BMP" file could be turned into a Windows icon, I replied that I knew of no way to do it.  However, my friend Mary Hanson did some Internet research and learned that by simply changing a bitmap file's extension from BMP to ICO, the graphic would actually shrink to the proper size and become an icon.  If you plan on doing this, first make a copy of the original by right-clicking it, choosing Copy and then right-clicking another folder and choosing Paste.
     However, it's important to realize that an icon's size is only 32x32 pixels and that any BMP graphic much larger than
that will lose a lot of its detail when shrunk.  If the icon is going to be dragged on to one's Taskbar its size becomes a mere 16x16 pixels.
     The best way to minimize the loss of detail is to "crop" the graphic to eliminate as much unnecessary background as possible.  Next use an image editing program to reduce the resulting graphic to 32x32 pixels.  If the smaller image looks good, go ahead and change its extension from BMP to ICO.
     So how does one use such an "ICO" icon, when all files already have an existing icon?  Well, you can't change the icon of an actual file; however a "shortcut" to a file or folder can have its icon changed by right-clicking it and choosing Properties, Change Icon.  A collection of other icons associated with the file will very likely be displayed, but clicking "Browse" will let you go to wherever your ICO icon is stored and to choose it.  "Shortcut" icons are usually found on the Desktop and are the ones that "take you to" a file or folder not in view.  They can be identified by the little arrow in the lower left corner.
     I use so many of these "ICO" icons that I created a folder named "Icons" where I keep dozens of them.  They were designed with "Icon Studio," a shareware program anyone can have by downloading it from http://www.pcdon.com/.
     How about reversing the procedure and making a BMP file out of an icon?  The easiest way is to have the target icon in view and then press the PrintScrn key on your keyboard.  Go into Windows Paintbrush, or any other image-editing program, and do Edit, Paste.  This will display everything that was visible on your screen when you pressed PrintScrn.  Find the target icon and use the "Selection" tool to outline it.   Do Ctrl+C to Copy the selection and Ctrl+V to Paste it back as a new document.  Finally, go to File, Save and choose BMP as the file type.
     Getting back to arbitrarily changing a filename's extension, here are a couple of other examples of where it can be safely done.  If you have a web page on your computer with the extension "HTM" or "HTML," either of these extensions can be changed to "TXT" if you want to see a plain text document of the HTML coding that went into creating the page.  Reversing this procedure will turn the text file back into a webpage file (assuming nothing has been done to the coding to keep this from happening).
      When you double-click the "text" version of the webpage, you might see a message reading, "This file is too large to be displayed in Notepad; would you rather use WordPad instead?"  Click Yes if you want to continue.
     The one other place I occasionally change a file's extension is to "TXT" if it's a file with an unrecognizable extension and/or is marked by the generic "Flying Windows" icon.  Changing the extension to TXT will let you view the contents of the file as a Notepad or WordPad document.  This MAY let you see some readable text which might offer a clue as to what the file is supposed to be about.  Of course, the extension has to be changed back to its previous one in order for the file to work properly.
Apr 3 Filename Extensions
    Today's article is about filename extensions, which are usually three characters in length.  Examples are story.doc (MSWord document), picture.bmp (bitmap picture) and setup.exe (executable file).  Some are longer or shorter, such as drawing.ai (Adobe Illustrator) and page99.html (hypertext markup language).
    Speaking of file name extensions, I've listed most of the currently used ones on my web site at http://www.pcdon.com/ along with a brief description of what they mean.
    There may be times when you want to change the name of a file or a folder. This can be done from within Windows Explorer by right-clicking the target item, choosing Rename and typing in a new label. Folders can be renamed to just about anything; but if you attempt to change a filename's "extension" you'll get a warning that doing so may make the file unusable, and then be asked if you wish to continue. Normally, a filename's extension should NOT be changed - but some exceptions to this rule are described below.
    If you attempt to attach a file with an "exe" extension to an outgoing email, the "executable" file will probably try to "launch" itself, rather than letting itself be copied and attached to the email. However, if you change "exe" to, say, "xex" the file will cooperate in being attached to the email. The email's recipient would then need to change the extension back in order to use the file.
    The same holds true for fonts, which usually have a "ttf" extension, standing for TrueType font. Leave the "f" off the extension before trying to attach the font to an email. The recipient will need to replace the missing "f" to make the font useable.
    Why would someone want to attach a font to an email in the first place? Well, if you design an advertising flyer and email it to Kinko's for printing, you may be told that they don't have all the fonts you used in your layout. Well, you can e-mail the missing font or fonts (which will be found in the C:\Windows\fonts folder on your PC).
    Speaking of email attachments, a friend recently asked if I could help her open one she'd just received. It was named "usedcar.email." Since "email" is not a "legal" file extension, there was no conventional way to open it. When I asked my friend if the sender had indicated what the file was supposed to be, she said she was told it was a funny ad for a used car, along with a photograph of the vehicle.  (If you want to check out the ad, I've attached it to this letter.  It is rather amusing.)
    Well, when multiple files are sent as email attachments, they normally get compressed into a single file with a ".zip" or ".mim" extension. The compressed file will need to be "unzipped" on the receiving end, in order to extract the enclosed documents and restore them to a useable state. The program used most for compressing and decompressing ("zipping" and "unzipping") files is WinZip. During the process of bundling files which have been tagged as email attachments, WinZip will append a "zip" or "mim" extension to the newly compressed file. How this particular file ended up with "email" as its extension is still a mystery.
    Anyway, I renamed the file to "usedcar.zip" and then double-clicked it. When WinZip saw the ".zip" extension, the program was launched, along with the usual prompts to continue. However, doing so brought up a message saying the file was not in a legitimate "zip" format, and that it couldn't be opened. So I changed the extension to "mim" and tried again.
    Eureka!  WinZip decompressed the file into three separate files; one with a "jpg" extension and two each with a "txt" extension. Double-clicking the first "txt" file produced a Notepad document which showed a classified ad describing the used car. The second "txt" file was the same except that the message was surrounded by HTML coding. The "jpg" file was indeed a photograph of the car.
    Why am I telling you this? Because it's not the first time it's happened. I've had several people send me files with strange extensions (or no extension at all) most of which turned out to be compressed files whose names simply needed a "zip" or "mim" extension.  It's worth a try.
Apr 1 Animated Graphics
     When I wrote recently that graphic file icons in Windows 98 could be viewed as "thumbnails" by right-clicking their folder, choosing "Enable Thumbnails" and then clicking "View, Thumbnails" inside the folder, Jim Steeves wrote to say that in Windows ME one simply right-clicks the graphics folder and then goes to "View" at the top of the screen and then clicks "Thumbnails."
     Having these icons appear as miniatures of the images they represent is very handy if you work a lot with graphics. However, these procedures don't work with all graphic formats, so don't be surprised if some image icons don't change to pictures.
     I keep a lot of graphic files on my Desktop for easy accessibility. So how does one make Desktop graphics appear as thumbnails? Well, first you have to realize that your Desktop is actually a "folder" inside your "Windows" folder.
     From within Windows Explorer, double-click the "Windows" folder; then right-click the "Desktop" folder and follow the instructions above. This will create a window which shows graphic file icons as thumbnails. To make this task simpler, I had previously right-clicked the "Desktop" folder and chosen "Create Shortcut." I then dragged the "Shortcut to Desktop" onto my Desktop, from whence I dragged it into the "Quick Launch" area of my Taskbar. Now whenever I want to see my Desktop Thumbnails displayed, I simply click this icon. It works great!
     Speaking of graphics, I've been getting lots of questions about "animated" pictures. You see them all over the Internet, of course, but we can also put them into email. All email programs have an "Attach" or "Insert" command that lets you send graphics along with your letters. Since most email services have now become HTML-enabled, animated graphics can be sent just as easily as regular photos or clipart images.
     So where does one find these animations? Go to your browser Search Box and type in FREE ANIMATED GIFS. You'll be amazed at how many hundreds of free animations can be found on dozens of different web sites. Right-click any you like and choose "Save Picture/Image As" to download them to your hard drive.
     The problem is that they don't automatically "move" after being saved. The animation only takes place when the files are displayed in certain areas, such as your browser. Launch Netscape or Internet Explorer and go to File, Open, and click on a "Animated GIF." It will come to life in this view.
     Beyond this, when the graphic is inserted into or attached to an outgoing email, the recipient will see the animation, unless he or she is using a "plain text" (nonHTML) email program. In any case, you can send an animation to your own email address to see how it works.
     Another place you can display an Animated GIF is on your Desktop as a "Background" or "Wallpaper" image. Drag any Animated GIF file into your "Windows" folder. Then right-click your Desktop and choose Properties, Background. Double-click the target file and it will appear in the center of your Desktop in full animation. If you choose "Tile" from the "Display Options" the object will fill your screen as a collection of animated postage stamps.
     As mentioned above, all email services can now display animated graphics, including AOL 6.0. However this version is still full of bugs, so many users are sticking with version 5.0 until AOL gets 6.0 to work more reliably. After a lot of trial and error, I've learned to work my way around the deficiencies in AOL 6.0, and use if with HTML email; but I also use version 5.0 to correspond with folks who don't care to deal with 6.0's problems.
Mar 27     Using "Thumbnails" + Using Different Versions of MSWorks
     A neat trick that makes graphic files easier to deal with on a PC is to have them appear as "thumbnails" when you view their filenames.
     Here's how:
     From within Windows Explorer right-click on any folder containing graphic images.  Choose Properties, Enable Thumbnails.  Double-click the folder to open it and go to View, Thumbnails.  All the icons in that folder will change to a miniature view of the graphic each one represents.
     Speaking of Windows Explorer, Microsoft has done it again.  It's not confusing enough to have two programs named Explorer (Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer) -- we now have a third one: MSN Explorer, which is being promoted as a "personal browser."  Well, I downloaded it to take a look.  What it appears to be is a slimmed down version of MSN (Microsoft Network) which is Microsoft's ISP.  I guess the idea is to show you how much better MSN is than your current ISP, in hopes that you'll switch.  It's cute, but I'm not switching.
     A reader wrote to say that when she upgraded her MSWorks from Version 4.0 to Version 2001, the Works word processor she'd used to create so many documents over the years had been replaced by MSWord 2000.  The good news is that the latter is a much more powerful word processor than the one it replaced.  The bad news was that the program with which she created all those older files was no longer there -- so how was she going to be able to use them?
     Easy.  Launch Word and go to File, Open.  In the "Files of Type" box look for "Works 4.0 for Windows" and the files will open just fine.  They can then be re-saved as Word 2000 files and/or in their original Works format.
     Word 2000's "Files of Type" box also lists many other file formats, including WordPerfect versions that go all the way back to 5.1 for DOS.  Some versions of Word files for the Macintosh can also be found here.  Beyond all this, Word 2000 can open Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 files, even though they are spreadsheets.
     However, the "Files of Type" options are not limited to Word.  In Excel, this box lets one open Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro files.  With Corel Draw and Corel PhotoPaint I routinely open files created in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.  It pays to check your various "Files of Type" boxes before giving up on trying to open a document with an unfamiliar extension of the file name.
     Getting back to the lady who lost Works 4.0 -- when she installed Works 2001, I pointed out that she could still reinstall her older version.  I've done this and routinely use both versions.  Why would I do this?  Well, I still get lots of questions from people with older versions of Works and need the software to research the answers.
     Speaking of file formats, I mentioned recently that JPG photo files are not all the same and can't always be opened by a single image-editing program.  The same holds true for EPS (encapsulated postscript).  If you receive a JPG or an EPS file you can't open -- ask the sender if he or she can convert it to a file type you can open, say, a BMP or a TIF.
     One of the problems with bitmap image files is that they are not always compatible between the Macintosh and PC platforms.  However, if you have image-editing software that will handle TIF and EPS files, it's worth noting that when saving a file you'll normally be asked if it's to be saved for Mac or PC.  Be aware, though, that TIF and EPS files tend to be very, very large.

Mar 25
Sending Photos with Email
     I continue to get questions from folks regarding problems with email attachments. Most say they've downloaded an attachment, which is often a photograph, but then can't open the file.
     As more and more PC users are acquiring scanners and digital cameras, more and more photos are being attached to email letters. The problem is that photos come in several different graphic formats - and not everyone has the software to recognize every format. The various formats can be identified by the three-letter extension on a file name, some of which are JPG, TIF, GIF, PSD, PCX and EPS.
     However, there is one format that will be recognized by any computer running any version of Windows: BMP (bitmap picture). Try this: go to Start, Find, Files & Folders and type *.BMP. The asterisk is a "wild card" that will find all files with the .BMP extension. Double-click any file to have it displayed in the Windows PaintBrush program. Some will be photos, while others will be images of "background" patterns.
     Repeat the experiment with *.JPG and/or the other extensions to see if you have software that will open them. Scanners and digital cameras always come with an image-editing program, such as Adobe Photo DeLuxe or Corel Photo House. If you have one of these -- or another image-editing program -- it will be launched by double-clicking any file name whose extension it recognizes.
     Once you've opened such a program, and brought up a scanned photo or one taken with a digital camera, there will be a point at which you're asked to name the file -- normally with the "Save As:" command.  As you type in a name look for a box that says something like "Save As File Type:." Choose BMP to be sure that the file can be opened by any other Windows user.
     Some programs use "Export:" in addition to or instead of "Save As:." Adobe Photo DeLuxe makes it even more complicated to choose something other than its own PDD format.  One must go to"File, Send To, Format, Save As:" in order to choose BMP.
     Despite the fact that BMP files can be universally opened and edited by all PC users, JPG has become the most popular format among photo-editing professionals. Why?  JPGs can be "compressed" to make their file sizes smaller while maintaining quality close to their original appearance.  Compressed files can be uploaded and downloaded faster and they take up less disk space.
     So why hasn't JPG become the default photo format for Windows?  The problem is that not all JPG files are created equal.  Not only can JPGs be compressed, they can be compressed at different size/quality ratios -- and different image-editing programs use different systems for doing this.  It's not uncommon for me to have to try three different programs before I find one that will open a particular JPG. Then I will very likely convert the JPG to a BMP before e-mailing it to someone else -- unless I'm sure the recipient has the same "JPG-compatible" software I do.
     Another popular format for images is GIF. GIFs tend to be smaller in size than other formats and are used extensively on web pages because they materialize faster on the screen. The downside of GIFs is that they are limited to 256 colors, whereas other formats can display literally millions of colors. GIFS are used almost exclusively in the clipart-type drawings seen on the web.
     The animated drawings you see on the web are also GIFs and can be downloaded by right-clicking them and choosing "Save Picture/Image As." The trouble is that once you've downloaded the animation it will a non-moving drawing when viewed via most programs.  However, some e-mail programs now let you enclose an animated GIF that can be seen in motion by a recipient using a similar HTML-powered program.  As an example, I've attached a little dancing pencil to this letter.  Let me know if it came out as a moving animation in your e-mail.  Thank you!
Mar 20 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.
     However, Marshall Byer wrote to say Juno lets one go to "File, Page Setup" and specify margin widths.  Harry G. Drewry wrote to tell me he does the same thing in Netscape Navigator.
     Anyway, the last time I used Juno - some years ago - it was a plain vanilla email program with no special formatting features.  So I signed up for Juno's free service and was surprised to learn there are actually two ways to create a wide left margin. On the toolbar there is an "Indent" icon, which shifts highlighted paragraphs about 1/2" to the right with each click. There is also an "Unindent" icon for reversing the process.
     This got me curious about other email programs, since the one I normally use - AOL - has neither a page margin nor an indent feature. Here's what I found out: Juno, Netscape Communicator and MS Outlook all have Page Margin and Indent options. Outlook Express, Hotmail, Eudora, and Yahoo Mail have the Indent option, but no page margin settings. Netscape Web Mail has no special formatting features of either kind, but nonetheless will print out email with special margin formatting the way the sender sent it.
     Next I wrote a sample letter in each of the above programs and sent it around to the various services to see if it would arrive with the wide left margin intact. They all worked fine.  Finally, I sent the letter to some AOL addresses and discovered that in Version 6.0 the wide left margin arrived intact, but in Version 5.0 the special formatting was lost and some HTML-coded characters had been inserted into the text.
     The bottom line is that this newsletter will now be sent out with a wide left margin to anyone who asks for it.
     Speaking of AOL 5.0 and 6.0, I still recommend that beginning users stick to the former, since it's easy to use and relatively stable. Version 6.0 still has numerous bugs and, in my humble opinion, is an interesting challenge for advanced users who want to see if they can work around them.
     As an example, if one writes a letter in, say, MSWord and then copies the document with the intent of pasting it into AOL 6.0, approximately every 10th word will butt up against the one following it, which then becomes an editing nightmare to fix. Pasting the same document into AOL 5.0 creates no such problem.
     However, AOL 6.0 is compatible with other up-to-date e-mail programs whose output can now be made to look like mini-web pages, with their HTML formatting capabilities. AOL 5.0 has only "partial" HTML compatibility.
     I realize that many, if not most, email users couldn't care less about "HTML formatting" and would be happy to just send and receive plain black and white text.
     However, the ability to write with different font styles and colors - not to mention enclosing graphics inside a letter - is going to be there whether we care to use it or not. The main problem is: Not all HTML is created equal - and the ways of producing imaginatively designed letters vary considerably from one e-mail program to another. I'll be explaining more about this in upcoming columns.

Mar 18
    
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.
        Speaking of musical files, several folks have asked if there is a way of making the ones in their computers play continuously, rather than having to click and play each song individually.  I do it with Windows Media Player 7, which can be freely downloaded from: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/en/download/default.asp
        I click the Media Library button and then click on New Playlist.  This will create a new folder which you'll be asked to name.  Click OK and your new folder will appear under My Playlists.  Musical files can then be dragged and dropped into the new Playlist folder. 
        I have dozens of free musical files at http://www.pcdon.com/, which can be freely downloaded.  Getting these files into the Media Player folder is easier if you first create a "holding tank" folder for them.  Right-click your Desktop and choose New, Folder.  Give it a name, and download the files you want into it.  (Right-click any musical file and choose Save Target As or Save Link As.)
        Finally, double-click this folder to open it and do Ctrl+A to Select All.  Grab this selection with your mouse and you can drag all the files into the Playlist folder at once.  Double-click your Playlist icon and all your selections will appear in a Media Player window.  From here songs can be played individually by double-clicking them, or they will play continuously if you click the Play button.  There is also a "Shuffle" icon if you'd like the selections played in a random order.
        Whichever selection is playing will be highlighted as it plays.  Double-click a different selection to stop one and begin another.  If you hear something you don't like, right-click it and choose "Remove from Playlist" or "Remove from Library."  New selections can be dragged into your Playlist folder at any time.
        Another thing I get asked a lot is if I could format this newsletter so that it has a wider margin on the left side.  Lots of folks tell me they save the printouts in a binder and would like to be able to punch holes in the left margin without getting into the text.
        Unfortunately, there is no email program I know of which offers any options on margin widths.
        The solution is to copy this email into a word processing program, where you can format the page margins any way you want.  Highlight the part of the email you want to save and do Ctrl+C to Copy it.  Then begin a new, blank document in your favorite word processor and do Ctrl+V to Paste your selection into it.  Go to File, Page Setup, Margins.
        Speaking of word processing documents, a couple of folks have written to say they tried to make changes to an existing one, but got a message saying the file was "Read Only" and they weren't allowed to save the changes they'd made.  This can be fixed by closing the document and finding its icon in Windows Explorer.  Right-click the icon and choose Properties, General.  UNcheck the Read Only box and you'll be able to edit and save the document as you want.
        Another reader wrote to say he had what appeared to be two icons overlapping each other on his Desktop.  He went on to say that if he tried to delete one, the other would disappear as well.  Yes, it's possible for Desktop icons to overlap one another.  However, they can be easily separated by grabbing the top one and pulling it away from the other.  Finally, right-click the Desktop and choose Line Up Icons to get them all in orderly rows and columns.
Mar 13     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.
Mar 11 "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.
Mar 6
    
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.
Mar 4
    
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.
Feb 27 Using Your Built-In Calculator + Spreadsheet Tricks
     One of the handiest functions of a PC can be its built-in Calculator. You can activate it by going to Start, Run and typing in CALC. Once it's on your screen you can enter numbers from the keyboard or by clicking them with your mouse. As for using the Calculator's various function, the plus (+) and minus (-) keys are self-evident and the forward slash (/) means "divided by." The asterisk (*) has always been the multiplication symbol on computers.
     If you use the Calculator as much as I do, it pays to have its icon on your Taskbar, where it can be activated with a single-click. You can find the icon in your Windows folder followed by the name "calc" or "calc.exe." Drag this icon onto your Desktop, where it will become a "shortcut" to the actual Calculator program. Drag the icon onto your Taskbar, where it will always be in view and immediately available. This will leave the Desktop copy in place, which can then be deleted.
     The Calculator has several handy function keys, such as "sqrt" which gives you the square root of a number and "+/-" which converts a positive number to a negative and vice versa. Tips on how to use the other keys can be found by clicking on Help.
     For those who need a "Scientific Calculator," click on View, Scientific.
     To keep the Calculator in view while working with another program, turn the other program into a "floating window" by clicking on the "overlapping squares" button in its upper right corner. The shape of the window can be adjusted by grabbing its corners or edges with your mouse. If this window and the calculator window overlap one another, clicking anywhere on the one to the rear will bring it to the front.
     However, if you need to have your other document fill the screen, click its "maximize" button. The Calculator, complete with whatever calculation you might be in the middle of, will still be displayed on the your Taskbar near the digital clock. A single click will place it on your open document, where grabbing its blue bar at the top will let you move it to whatever location is most convenient for you.
     Let's say you're writing a letter with your word processor and get to a place where you want to say that "five month's rent at $940 per month equals: $__." Do the math with the calculator and then do Ctrl+C to "copy" the result. Get back into your word processor and do Ctrl+V. The answer of 4700 will be "pasted" in where you want it. Yes, of course, it would probably be easier just to type in "4700" - but if you're using long numbers with decimal fractions, copying and pasting the answer is faster and easier.
     For those who need to keep a copy of the numbers that went into a particular calculation, using a spreadsheet is the way to go. Clicking an Excel or Quattro icon on your Taskbar will launch its program and create a blank spreadsheet, waiting for you to punch in the numbers. If you use MSWorks, you'll first need to launch the program and get into its spreadsheet application.
     When you have a blank spreadsheet in view, go to File, Save As and name it something like "Calculations." Use Windows Explorer to find where this "template" file has been saved - probably in the My Documents folder - and right-click it. Choose Create Shortcut and drag the shortcut onto your Desktop, from where it can be dragged onto your Toolbar.
     I keep a spreadsheet like this on hand, which can be used over and over again by deleting each use's previous entries. If your new entries will be something you want to save, go to File, Save As and give the file a different name. This will leave your "Calculations" template in place for subsequent uses.
Feb 25 Desktop Icons Can Make Your Tasks Easier + Using Notepad
Click to see sample Desktop illustration that goes with this article.
     I mentioned recently that I have about three dozen files that I access frequently - and that I have icons to all of them on my Taskbar. There are certain programs I use all the time - such as MSWorks, Word, Excel, Corel Draw and Photopaint, along with several others. Since my Taskbar is always in view, a single click will launch the application I need. (See the attached illustration or see it on my website.)
     Notepad, for instance, is very handy for jotting down memos and other short messages. The "textbook" way of launching Notepad is to click on Start and then go to Programs, Accessories, Notepad. An easier way is to click on Start, Run and then type in NOTEPAD. But double-clicking a Notepad icon on your desktop is easier yet - and easiest of all is single-clicking a Taskbar icon.
     So where do you find a Notepad icon in the first place? Get into Windows Explorer by right-clicking Start, Explore and double-click the yellow "Windows" folder. Look for a file named "Notepad." Its icon will be - guess what - a little notepad. Drag this icon onto your Desktop. Windows 98+ users can then drag a "copy" of it onto their Taskbar, after which the Desktop copy can be deleted.
     Since Notepad is a "no-frills" text editor, it has only one font, size and style and only comes in black. However, you can change the font, style and size by clicking on Edit, Set font. The first time you use it to write a memo or whatever, you'll want to Save it by going to File, Save As, and typing in a name. If you plan to use one Notepad document repeatedly for adding and deleting various kinds of notes, give it a simple name like, say, "Notes." The file will have ".txt" appended to its name.
     If you plan on creating multiple Notepad documents, then each will need its own name and you'll want to take note of which folder they get saved in. By default, they'll probably be saved in "Windows" or "My Documents" - but you can choose any folder you want - or create a new one just for these documents. The easiest place to create a new folder is on your Desktop. Right-click it and choose New, Folder. Give the folder a name, and files can be easily dragged into it.
     If an icon you place on your Taskbar is a "shortcut" to an "executable" file, say, Excel.exe, clicking it will launch the program. If, however, the icon is for a document, say, one called "Expenses.xls," it will launch the program (in this case, Excel) and open the file. This works great for a document which is used regularly, but which needs constant updating.
     For instance, I keep all the e-mail addresses to which I send this newsletter in a Word document called "Addresses," which has its icon on my Taskbar (a little © ). When anyone asks to be added to the list, a single-click brings up the file for an easy update. To play it safe, I've chosen "Always Create a Backup Copy" by going to Tools, Options, Save within Word.
     But getting back to Taskbar icons - how can one place three dozen on it when there's obviously not that much room. Well, look for the little "sideways chevrons" to the left of a vertical bar on your Taskbar. (See illustration below.) Grab the vertical bar and slide it left and right to see how it changes the view of the various items on your Taskbar. Pull it as far to the right as possible, to see the maximum amount of icons you might have positioned there.
     If you have too many icons for the visible space, click on the "sideways chevron" and a vertical extension of the Taskbar will appear, which will display all the other icons. In the illustration below the "chevron" is to the right of the ©.
     Unwanted icons can always be dragged off the Taskbar onto the Desktop, and then deleted. It's really easy.

Feb 18
More Info on Printing File & Folder Lists + Icons on Your Taskbar
     My recent article on how to get rid of the >> symbols and the "long & short line" formatting in email prompted readers to tell me about three free programs that can fix all that ugly formatting automatically. 
      Dan Rios and Greta Wacker wrote to tell me about "eCleaner" while Ken Rathe recommended "Stripmail" and Nathan Kelly told me about "EmailStripper."  I tried each of them, and they all work quickly, easily and efficiently.  If you'd like to try them, here are their URLs:
eCleaner: http://members.tripod.com/schin26/index.htm
Stripmail: http://www.dsoft.com.tr/stripmail/
EmailStripper: http://davecentral.com/cgi-bin/homepage.pl?12350
    Regarding a recent column on printing out lists of Files and Folders, I'd mentioned that doing it in DOS with the DIR>PRN command works - but that the printout will not be in alphabetical order and that the file names will be truncated to the old pre-Win95 8.3 format. 
    Ken Putnam wrote to say that by adding /ON to the command (DIR>PRN /ON) the list will be sorted alphabetically and that the full Windows file name will be listed in addition to the DOS name.  He went on to say that other "switches" will sort a list as follows: /OD sorts by last change date, /OE sorts by extension, /OA sorts by last access date/time, and /O-x will reverse the sort on any of the above.  Dotty Boyer phoned to give me this same information.
    If you just want to see these directory (folder) listings in DOS, rather than print them out, use CD\{folder-directory name} and type DIR /P.  The /P switch will pause the scrolling of the data at the end of each screen view.
     When Dotty Boyer called, she told also me about an MSWord trick that I wish I'd known about while writing the computer manual I recently completed.  To force a page break - i.e., cause subsequent text to jump to the next page, even though the current page may not have been filled up - I'd always gone to Insert, Break, Page BreakDotty pointed out that the same thing can be done by pressing Ctrl + Enter.  The learning just never ends!
    A number of folks have written to ask how to launch a second program while you're already working on one.  Let's say you're writing a letter with WordPerfect, but need to look up some information in an Excel file.  The text book way is to go to Start, Programs, and click on Excel
    A much easier way is to put icons to all your most-used programs on your Taskbar.  The Taskbar is always in view, and a single click will launch the needed program.  A third or fourth program can be accessed just as easily, in case you need to work with multiple programs simultaneously, as I often do
    So how do you get an icon onto your Taskbar?  Well, if it's already on your Desktop, just drag it onto the Taskbar.  It will be "copied" onto the Taskbar, leaving the original on the Desktop, which can then be safely deleted.  If it's not on your Desktop, get into Windows Explorer (right-click Start, click Explore) and find the "EXE" file you want, say, "excel.exe," and drag it onto your Desktop.  The actual "executable" file will remain in place, but a "shortcut" to it will be placed on your Desktop.  This shortcut can then be dragged onto your Taskbar.
    Would you believe I have 36 icons on my Taskbar?  It's true - that's how many "important" files I regularly access.
Feb 13 Fixing Those Long & Short Lines in Email + Getting Rid of Those >>> Symbols
     One of the questions I get asked most often is: What can be done about e-mail that arrives with all those pointy ">>" symbols down the left side, along with the text being in a variety of long and short lines.
The reason for the long and short lines is that "Carriage Returns" - hitting the Enter key - are often arbitrarily inserted into the text by various email servers, causing the lines to end in odd places.  As for the "pointy brackets," they often get inserted when email is "forwarded."
    Well, you can't stop this malformatted text from arriving in your mail - but you can reformat it so that it will print out decently.  However, this can't be done efficiently with your e-mail program - you need to use your word processor.  Here's how:
    Mouse-select the text you want to fix and Copy it with Ctrl + C.  Launch a blank word processing page.
    Now go to Edit, Paste Special and choose "Unformatted Text."  The pasted in text will have the same sloppy appearance that it had in the e-mail.  The trick is to use your "Find and Replace" commands to change all this bad formatting to good formatting.  We'll start by getting rid of the ">>" symbols.
    1.  Place your cursor at the beginning of the text.
    2.  Go to Edit, Replace (Ctrl + H).
    3.  In the "Find What" box type:  >
    4.  Leave the "Replace With" box blank.
    5.  Finally, click Replace All and click OK.  All the pointy symbols will be gone.
    Now let's fix those long and short lines:
    6.  Go to Edit, Replace (Ctrl + H).
    7.  In the "Find What" box, type: ^p. This is the "carat" symbol (Shift 6) and a lower case p,
    which is Microsoft's code for a "CR" (Enter).
    8.  In the "Replace With" box type one blank space with your spacebar.
    9.  Now click Replace All - OK.

    This will get rid of all the CRs and cause your text to flow smoothly from left to right.  However, you may find some wide spaces between some of the words in your text.  We'll also fix these with Find and Replace.
    If the wide spots all seem to have the exact same number of blank spaces, say,  each, do this:
    10.  Go to Edit, Replace (Ctrl + H).
    11.  In the "Find What" box, type four blank spaces.
    12.  In the "Replace With" box type one blank space.
    13.  Now click Replace All - OK.

    Okay - the above instructions work fine for a single paragraph of text.  But what if you have several paragraphs, each separated by a blank line?

    Let's start all over again, and preserve the blank lines between the paragraphs.  Begin by repeating steps 1 thru 5 - but skip 6 thru 13 for now.
    A.  Go to Edit, Replace (Ctrl + H).
    B.  In the "Find What" box type: ^p^p.
    C.  In the "Replace With" box type ^p^t.
    D.  Now click Replace All - OK.
    What does all this mean?   Well, ^p means "Paragraph End" (or "CR" or "Enter") and ^t means "Tab."  We're going to use these features to restore the original paragraph spacing.

    Mac users can substitute \p and \t for ^p and ^t, while WordPerfect users can substitute HRt and Left Tab for ^p and ^t.
    Go to Edit, Replace (Ctrl + H).

E.  In the "Find What" box type: ^p^t.
F.  In the "Replace With" box type ^p^p.
G.  Click Replace All - OK.

    Steps E through G will find the "Tabs" you inserted into the text and convert them to "Enters," thus putting a blank line between each paragraph.

    Now a disclaimer:  The above instructions work MOST of the time in MOST e-mail situations.
Feb 11 Tips & Questions from Readers - Screen Prints - Printing Lists of Files & Folders
           Marla Vannice reminded me of another way to print lists of files that I hadn't thought about in years - using the old DOS commands.  Go to Start, Run and type COMMAND.  Click OK and you'll be in DOS, where a black screen will have a prompt that will read: C:\WINDOWS\DESKTOP>
         Type CD\ to get into your hard drive's "C:" (root) folder.  Type DIR/W (directory/wide view) to see a list of your hard drive's Files and FoldersFolders are called Directories in DOS and are enclosed in parentheses to distinguish them from Files.
           To print the contents of a particular Directory, type CD\"directory name" and press Enter.  To print the contents of this Directory/Folder, type DIR>PRN and your printer will take over.  Type EXIT <Enter> to return to Windows.
           Be aware, however, there are a couple of downsides to DOS file listings.  They will NOT be in alphabetical order, and the file names will be truncated to the old pre-Win95 8.3 character limit.
           Billye Fogel wrote to ask if there is a way to change background colors in various Windows views and/or change the size of fonts, to make them easier to see.      Yes, there is - within certain limitations.  You can experiment with these items by right-clicking your Desktop and choosing Properties.  Near the bottom of the Display Properties dialog box that appears you will find Color choice boxes for Text and for the various Display views that are shown.  Click on any of these and choose a Color you like for it.  Make sure the Text Color you choose for each background has adequate contrast.
           You can also change the Default Size of the font, as well as the font itself.  You'll also find a long list of "Schemes" with a variety of different color combinations, including some "high contrast" and "large size" ones for the visually impaired.
           I should mention that I've known people to experiment with these items and end up with a mishmash of nearly illegible color combinations.  When all else fails, click on "Scheme" and choose "Windows Standard" near the bottom of the list.
           Beyond these features, folks with visual or other physical limitations can double-click My Computer, Control Panel and choose Accessibility Options.
           A simple way to make EVERYTHING on your screen larger is to right-click your Desktop and choose Properties, Settings.  Slide the lever in your Screen Area box from 800x600 to 640x480.
           Ray Alexander wrote to say that over time his Desktop has filled up with numerous icons that got there from experimenting with a variety of programs and downloads, and asked about doing a "Desktop Cleanup."
           Well, any icon with an arrow in its lower left corner is a "Shortcut" icon and can be safely deleted because the underlying file is normally still in existence, and another Shortcut to it can be created at any time by right-clicking it and choosing Create Shortcut.  Any icon that was downloaded from the Internet as a "Setup" icon can be safely deleted after it's been double-clicked and the desired program has been set up and is working properly.
           Finally, your Desktop can be tidied up by simply placing all those icons into a single folder.  Right-click your Desktop and choose New, Folder.  Name the folder, say, "Desktop Icons" and drag them all into it.  Certain "system" icons, however, like My Computer and Recycle Bin can't be put in a folder.
Feb 6 Taxes, Amortization & Spreadsheets + Printing Lists of Files & Folders
    As Apr 15 approaches, it's time to consider doing your own taxes with a tax preparation program.  I've used TurboTax for years and find that it becomes more comprehensive and easier to use each time.  For those who've kept records with Quicken or QuickBooks all year, the data flows even more easily into TurboTax forms.
    Yes, there are other tax preparation programs, and they can be compared at www.cnet.com.  However, I can tell you that TurboTax is their top choice.
    I've always used TuboTax's disc software - but now they make it so you can do your taxes online and save money in the bargain.  Log onto www.turbotax.com and you'll be presented with a choice of using the 1040 "regular" or the 1040 "EZ" form.
    The federal 1040 costs $19.95 to do online, with the state form costing $9.95.  However, the federal drops to $14.95 if you file before Apr 1.  Using the EZ form costs $9.95 - or $6.95 if filed before Apr 1, while the state form is free either way.  In fact, it can all be free if your adjusted gross income is $25,000 or less.  Check it out.
    Just for the record, tax preparation and bookkeeping programs are basically enhanced spreadsheets.  Another thing that spreadsheets are used for is figuring amortization on various types of loans.  MSWorks comes with an easy-to-use amortization "wizard" which makes figuring your principal and interest payments a breeze.  
    Users of Works 4.0+ can get there by going to Task Wizard, Business Management, Mortgage/Loan Analysis.  Works 2000/1 users get there by clicking on Works Spreadsheets, Financial Worksheets, Loan Amortization.  
    In the template that appears, you can type in the amount to be financed, the interest rate and the number of months or years the loan will run for.  A table will show the date each payment is due and how much of each payment goes toward principal and interest.
    Or - you can type in the monthly payment you'd like to make, along with the interest rate, and the table will show how many months it will take to pay off the loan, along with the accumulated interest charges.
    Beyond that, creating your own worksheets to figure sales/cost/profit ratios or adding up hours on time sheets is something anyone can do with Excel or any spreadsheet program.  If you've never created a spreadsheet before, you can download a couple of columns I wrote on the subject last June, by going to www.pcdon.com.
    I often get asked if there is a way to make a printout of the files and/or folders that are listed in the various Windows Explorer views.  The only way I know of doing this is to make a "screen shot" of the listed files and print out the resulting "picture."
    Right-click Start and choose Explore to find the list of files or folders you want to print out.  Press your "Print Screen" button to "Copy" whatever you see on your screen.
    Go to Start, Run and type PBRUSH.  Press Enter to bring up the PaintBrush program.  Click on Edit, Paste.  Finally, use the rectangular "selection" tool to draw a "marquee" around area you want to print.  Go to Edit, Copy.  Doing another Edit, Paste will have your selected image replace the full screen view it had been cut from.  Go to File, Print to print out this "picture" of your list of files.
    You can also bring up a blank page in your favorite word processor and do Edit, Paste to get the image positioned on a regular 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper.  You can also grab any of the eight "handles" around the picture to resize it.
Feb 4 Managing Email Address Books
    I get lots of questions from folks who've changed ISPs and want to know if there's a way to copy their email address book from one online service to another. This is a tough one because different email programs use different methods for storing the addresses and there is very little compatibility among them.
     This is why I don't use any "built-in" address books. I keep my address list in my word processor, and it works with all email programs.
    I send this newsletter to hundreds of people and need an easy, reliable way of organizing the names. Each new email address gets added to a list kept in MSWord - and each is on its own line. To alphabetize this list, I go to Table, Sort, Paragraphs, Text, Ascending.
    For Blind Carbon Copies, the addresses need to be all on one line, with each separated by a comma and a blank space - and then to have the list pasted into a "BCC:" box (or on a "BCC:" line).
    So how do you get these names from each being its on its own line into a single line with commas and spaces in the right places?
    In MSWord or MSWorks, do this: Place your cursor at the beginning of the list and go to Edit, Replace. In the "Find What" box type ^p. In the "Replace With" box type a comma followed by a blank space. Click "Replace All."
    Here's what this means: The "carat" symbol "^" (Shift key + 6) followed by a lower case "p" is Microsoft's code for a "carriage return" i.e., pressing the "Enter" key. (WordPerfect's code for "Enter" is HRt.)

The "Edit, Replace" command (which can also be activated by pressing Ctrl + H) has been told to look for each occurrence of an "Enter" and to replace it with a comma and blank space.
    Finally, mouse-select the names and do Ctrl + C to Copy them. Place your cursor in the "BCC:" box and do Ctrl + V to Paste the names in. Delete the comma and blank space following the final entry. You'll need one email address in the "Send To:" box, and I recommend putting your own address there.
    Back in your word processor, you can return all the addresses to each being on its own line by simply doing Edit, Undo (or Ctrl + Z). If the Undo command doesn't work, do another "Find & Replace" with the entries in the "Find:" and "Replace With:" boxes switched.
    This may seem complicated and intimidating the first time you do it - but it's really very easy and works beautifully. However, the above procedures make no provisions for having a person's actual name associated with its email address.
     Well, you can maintain a second list with both email addresses and personal names listed - or you can put all the data into a spreadsheet such as Excel or the one in MSWorks. With a spreadsheet you can put in additional data, such as phone, cellular, and fax numbers, as well as mailing addresses.
    To insert the addresses into your online email program, just Copy and Paste them from their spreadsheet column into your word processor, where the commas and blank spaces can be inserted as explained above.
    However, after copying data from a spreadsheet column, you may have to use "Edit, Paste Special" and choose "Unformatted Text" to get the addresses into a word processor properly.
Jan 30 Some Observations on MSWorks 2000
    Nowadays everyone needs MSWord.  This is not to imply that MSWord is necessarily the "best" word processor - but it's the one most of the world is using.  
    Users of MSWorks 2001 have MSWord 2000 included with the package - however, MSWorks 2000 still has the much-lighter-duty word processor it's always had.
    Nonetheless, the MSWorks 2000 word processor has some significant changes from its previous versions that are worth noting.  One might say that "Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away."

    Among the "MSWord-like giveths" is the ability to do multiple undos and redos, rather than just toggling between the most recent editing change and its previous condition.  Another upgrade is the ability to get symbols such as the cents sign (¢) or the upside-down Spanish question mark (¿) by going to Insert, Special Character.  Another plus is the choice of "Insert Picture" and "Insert Clipart" icons on the toolbar, whereas earlier versions of Works made you jump through several hoops to insert a photo.
    Works 2000 users also have access to full-blown bullets and numbering, rather than bullets only.  They also have tools to create useful tables similar to those in MSWord.
    "New Drawing" and "New Painting" icons let one choose between creating a "vector" or a "bitmap" image.  The "vector drawing" options are the same as those in MSWord, and are not too shabby.  However, one would have an easier time creating a "bitmap painting" by going to Start, Run and typing in PBRUSH to bring up the Windows PaintBrush program, which allows you not only to "paint" your own picture, but to open and edit other bitmap images.
    Speaking of pictures, MSWorks 2000 lets one insert a "text box" which can be positioned to let text flow around it, a la MSWord.  Graphics and/or text can be placed inside these moveable and resizable "text boxes."
    Now let's look at the "take-aways" such as "Dial This Number" which was a handy feature that went all the way back to DOS versions of Works.  Also yanked was the "Normal" page view, leaving only the "Print Layout" view.  However, this view is preferable anyway, in my humble opinion.
    Another "take-away" was the ability to "customize" the toolbar by adding and subtracting individual icons of your choice.  However, you can go to View, Toolbars, where you have a couple of "toolbar" choices.  

    Works 2000 will not allow the default font to be changed.  You can, of course, change the font within a document - but you're stuck with 10 point Times New Roman every time you launch the program.
    However, you can create a "template" that has the font size and style you want.  Launch MSWorks 2000 and click on "Start a New Word Processing Document."  When the blank page appears, choose the font, style and size you like, and go to File, Save As.  Click on Template and give the blank document a name.  Be sure to check the box that says, "Use This Template for New Word Processing Documents."
    You can also put a "shortcut icon" on your Desktop that takes you right to this template, in case starting a new Works word processing document is something you do frequently.  Get into Windows Explorer by right-clicking Start, and choosing Explore.  Find the template you created in the "My Documents" folder, and right-click it.  Choose "Create Shortcut" and drag the shortcut onto your Desktop.
    You can also use this trick with MSWorks 2000 spreadsheet and database files, if you'd like to be able to access these functions more quickly than going through the traditional "Launch" procedure.
Jan 28 Copy & Paste + Computer Classes
     I get asked regularly where one can go to learn more about computers.  Well, most high schools and junior colleges have computer labs with evening classes available.  Beyond that, many communities have computer clubs that give periodic seminars and even regular classes. 
     The Fallbrook PC Users Group, for instance, recently installed a computer lab in the town's Community Center, where, I'm honored to report, they're using my new instruction manual (shown below) as the classroom text book.
    You can log on to the club's web site at http://gate.tfb.com/~fpcug/ or call (760) 451-9630 for more information.
    If you have information about computer clubs and/or classes in your area, please email me.  I plan to put a page on my web site at http://www.pcdon.com/ where this information will be readily accessible.
    A reader recently asked, "How can I make a web page easier to read, when the text is very small or is on a dark background with very little contrast?"  Many others have asked, "How can I print just the part of a web page or an e-mail that I want, without printing all the unneeded stuff along with it?"  The answer to both questions is: Select, Copy and Paste.
    You can't control the way web pages appear on your screen, nor the way email arrives with its multiple lines of extraneous text - but you can pick out the parts you want and place them in a new document, which you can edit in any way you'd like.  Simply mouse-select the text you want and do Ctrl + C (Copy).  Launch a blank page in your word processor and do Ctrl + V (Paste).  Confirmed mousaholics, like myself, prefer to right-click the selected text and choose Copy from the popup menu and right-click on the blank page to choose Paste from its popup menu.
    Once the selected text is on a word processing page, you can edit it to suit yourself.  As for highlighting the text in the first place, you may find your mouse difficult to control if the selection is very large.  Here's the remedy: click at the very beginning of the desired text and then put your mouse away.  While pressing the Shift key, use your arrow keys and/or your Page Down key to select the text you want.  Try it - you'll like it.
    If you want to copy a graphic from a web page or email, right-click it and choose "Copy" if you plan to Paste it immediately into a document - or choose "Save Picture As" if you want to store it for future access.
    Being able to "Copy and Paste" has been a fundamental of computers since they were first invented - but AOL 6.0 has a glitch that's a real mystery.  I normally type this column in Word 2000 and then Copy and Paste it into an outgoing AOL email.  When I do this in Version 6.0, however, every tenth word or so gets connected to the one following it, meaning I have to re-insert several dozen blank spaces before sending the letter.  I can't tell you how readers many have written to me with the same complaint.
    As for how to easily launch your word processor while you're online, here's how I do it.  I've dragged a shortcut icon to MSWord onto my Taskbar, which is always in view.  I also keep a shortcut icon to Notepad there.  Notepad is a no-frills text editor that I find extremely handy for quickie notes and memos.  Launch Notepad by going to Start, Run.  Type in NOTEPAD and click OK.  When a blank Notepad page appears, go to File, Save As and give it a name, say, "MyMemos.txt," choosing the Desktop as the place to store it. 
    Close this document by clicking its X.  "MyMemos.txt" will then become an icon on your Desktop.  Drag this icon onto your Taskbar, where it will become a "shortcut" to the file and where it will always be in view.
Jan 23 No Free Lunch?
     One of the hazards of writing a computer column is: things change so fast that what you write about one day may have changed the next. I wrote recently that AOL's new version 6 is a big, cumbersome program that's slower than its predecessor and that some of its new features are unreliable and/or not very helpful. However, I just discovered that, with version 6, AOL has finally made its email compatible with other email services, in terms of font formatting with different colors and styles.
     Speaking of "Version 6," have you wondered why Netscape recently went from Version 4.7 to Version 6? My guess is: since Netscape is now owned by AOL, they want to keep their "versions" consistent. In any case, I tried Netscape 6 and ended up uninstalling it. I won't list all the things about it that bother me, but one of the commands I use most often is Ctrl + F - to FIND things - not only on web pages, but in many other types of documents as well.
     Guess what - Netscape 6 displays a dialogue box which invites you to type in the text you want to find - and then tells you it can't be found - even if you see it right in front of you. Anyway, all versions of Netscape are free to download, as are all versions of Internet Explorer, in case you'd like to experiment with different browsers.
     Speaking of free, there are some other programs available that are really quite impressive. For anyone who'd like a free "office suite" that's compatible with MSOffice, there's Sun Microsystem's Star Office, which includes a word processor, a spreadsheet application, a database manager, a presentation graphics program, a drawing utility, and even a built-in web browser. It's a huge package that can take over six hours to download - but you don't have to go for the whole thing - you can pick and choose the applications you want.
     I haven't had time to check out all of Star Office's features, but I found some significant pros and cons worth mentioning. One thing I like is the spreadsheet's ability to format text in a "header" row to be displayed at an angle (a la Excel) or even stacked, with one letter on top of another. This is handy when you want to create, say, a "State" field which only has two characters in it, such as "CA."
     On the down side, Star Office has a number of Menu and Toolbar inconsistencies with MSOffice - but they can be worked around with a little practice. One major deficiency I found is that there is no "word count" option in the text processor. For those of us who write newspaper columns and/or send out free newsletters, this is a sorely missed feature. In any case, when you consider MSOffice sells for $300 and up, getting Star Office totally free is something worth considering.
     Another free program is 1st Page 2000, which is an HTML editor for creating and editing web pages. I've been using it to maintain my website at http://www.pcdon.com/ - and it's so full-featured and comprehensive, that I continue to be amazed that its owners allow it to be freely distributed. I can't say enough about the merits of this amazing and thoroughly professional application. Check it out at http://http://www.evrsoft.com/some_awards.html or go directly to http://http://www.download.com/, where it and all the above mentioned programs can be freely downloaded.
Jan 21 More About Various Email Services
     In response to my recent request for e-mail with special formatting, I received dozens of interesting replies, for which I thank everyone who wrote.
     What I discovered is that there are basically two protocols for sending and receiving e-mail with fancy fonts and colored backgrounds - the one used by AOL-CompuServe and the one used by everyone else.
     Users of Netscape, Outlook Express, Eudora, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Juno, and others can see each other's colorful formatting - but there are certain inconsistencies among the services.
     Some allow you to insert a picture right inside the email, and some don't. All services allow you to "attach" a picture, as well other types of files, to an e-mail - and attachments can be downloaded by any user of any other service, including AOL/CS.
     However, users of some services will find that a picture included inside an e-mail will still have to be "downloaded" as if it were an "attachment," while some will find that an enclosed picture will show up as a square "marker" inside the e-mail which has to be right-clicked to bring up a "Show Picture" command.
     In fact, there is no consistency regarding the way different services use the words "insert" and "attach." To me, the former has always meant placing one thing inside another, while the latter means connecting one thing to the outside of another. The various e-mail services seem to have their own definitions, which we are left to decipher.
     All ISPs provide subscribers with an e-mail service, but we're free to use others in addition to - or instead of - the one we get with our ISP. Hotmail and Yahoo mail need to be accessed from the Internet while online, while Juno, Outlook Express and Eudora can be used offline for creating mail to be sent after one logs on. Juno works through its own ISP, while OE and Eudora can work through any ISP.
     I discovered that OE and Hotmail are pretty much interchangeable, which is not surprising since both are Microsoft products. However, pictures can be included inside the former but not the latter, although graphics inside OE can be opened by Hotmail users.
     Eudora is one of the oldest e-mail systems and has some very useful features, including a voice-mail option. For many years the program had to be purchased, but is now offered free in a "Light" version - or it can be had free in its full-featured version - if you're willing to accept advertising along with it.
     One of the things I like most about Eudora is that there appears to be no limit to the number of "blind carbon copies" one can put in the BCC address box. I find this very useful for the newsletter I send out, since other services limit you to a couple of dozen names in this box.
     One reader sent me a link to a free e-mail program called "IncrediMail" and it does seem quite incredible - with all kinds of fancy features, including the ability to send and receive animated graphics. However, it has no provision for sending BCCs, which makes it unusable for me.
     For those who've not yet tried using special fonts and colors in their e-mail, here's what to look for: Hotmail users will check the "Rich Text Format" box. Yahoo users will click on "Switch to Formatted Version." OE users need to click on Format and choose between "Plain Text" and "Rich Text - HTML." Netscape users will go to Edit, Preferences, Mail & Newsgroup to make their choice.
     Eudora's full-featured version is RTF/HTML only - but you can still type your letter in plain vanilla text. The same applies to AOL and CompuServe - but their fancy formatting can only be seen by other members of those services.
Jan 16 Taking Advantage of Your PC's Desktop
     We recently talked about viewing one's computer as a "filing cabinet" that holds scads of files and folders. Your Desktop is actually one of these folders - and it's always open so its contents can be seen each time you power up.
     New PCs always comes with certain Desktop icons that are part of Windows, such as "My Computer" and the "Recycle Bin." Other icons are there to launch certain programs. You'll also see a folder called "My Documents," in which many of the files you create will automatically be stored.
     You'll usually see an icon for "Internet Explorer," the Web browser that comes with Windows. If you prefer "Netscape Navigator" you'll probably have to download it.
     I've noticed that many folks tend to leave their Desktop the way it way it came with the computer - but it's actually a very useful tool that can be used advantageously. For instance, you can put "shortcut icons" there that lead to your favorite programs.
     The first shortcut I'd suggest adding is one that leads to "Windows Explorer," the "file management" area of Windows. Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, puts an "Internet Explorer" icon on the Desktop, but doesn't put one there for "Windows Explorer." Yet the latter is the one you will be using all the time for such things as copying, moving, deleting, and moving files and folders. Here's how to get this important icon on your Desktop.
     You can launch Windows Explorer by right-clicking "Start" and choosing "Explore" - or by pressing your "Windows key" and "E" simultaneously. Find a folder named "Windows" and double-click it. Look for a file icon labeled "Explore.exe." If you see "Explore" without ".exe" it means your file extensions have been hidden - another mysterious thing Microsoft does. Let's fix that. Win98+ users go to View, Folder Options, View and UNcheck "Hide File Extensions for Known File Types." Win95 users can fix this item by going to View, Options, View.
     Now drag your "Explore.exe" icon onto your "Desktop" icon - the top one in the left window pane. Exit Windows Explorer and return to your Desktop, where you'll see an "Explorer" icon with a little arrow in its lower left corner. Double-click it whenever you want to get into Windows Explorer. Drag this icon onto your Taskbar, and you can jump into this area with a single-click.
     You can also do this with any other programs you want quick access to, such as, say, TurboTax. Get into Windows Explorer and look for the TurboTax folder, which may be inside the Program Files folder. Look for a file called TurboTax.exe and drag into onto your Desktop. The dragged icon will become a "shortcut" while the actual file remains in place.
     If you frequently use utilities such as Calculator, Dialer, Character Map or PaintBrush - these can all be found inside the Windows folder. Look for Calc.exe, Dialer.exe, CharMap.exe, or PBrush.exe - and drag any or all of them onto your desktop. Game buffs will also find FreeCell.exe, Hearts.exe, and Sol.exe (Solitaire) in this folder.
     To make documents you create easier to find, put one or more folders on the Desktop for them. Right-click the Desktop and choose New, Folder. When it appears, type in a name. Get back into Windows Explorer and drag your documents into the new folder/s.
     If you have zillions of documents, however, your Desktop can quickly become cluttered. The fix? Drag folders into other folders, after naming them in some kind of order makes them easy to find.
     For instance, I have a folder called "Artwork" that contains other folders named, "Corel PhotoPaint" and "Adobe PhotoShop," etc. Another folder contains shortcuts to my most frequently used programs, such as Word, Quicken, Corel Draw, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Jan 14 Compatibility Features of Various Email Services
     I continue to get more questions about e-mail than just about anything else. There was a time when e-mail was relatively simple - it was plain black and white and never had anything "attached" to it.
     Now e-mail can be sent with fancy colored fonts and special backgrounds. However, the person on the receiving end may just see plain black and white.
     This is because most e-mail nowadays is sent in an "HTML" format - but different e-mail services have different "rules" regarding HyperText Markup Language. For instance, AOL and CompuServe use the same set of rules, so their fancy e-mails will look the same to all members. They can even enclose pictures right inside a letter.
     Users of Outlook Express will find that their fancy email will look the same to users of OE, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, as well as vice versa. Outlook Express users can even insert pictures in their e-mail, which can be seen by other OE and Hotmail users. However, Hotmail users cannot insert pics in their e-mail - nor can Yahoo users.
     Users of Netscape WebMail can only send plain black and white "typewriter-style" monospaced text, however some HTML letters received by WebMail users will arrive with fancy formatting in tact.
     Users of Netscape Communicator can have colored fonts and pictures inside their e-mail. What I've yet to learn about Communicator mail, however, is if the inserted pictures can be seen by users of other e-mail services. But I'm working on it.
     Juno "Internet" users now have colored font and background choices, whereas the original free Juno e-mail service has always been plain black and white. I've not yet learned it fancy-formatted Juno mail comes through in colors to other services, but would love having some sent to me so I could check them out.
     Speaking of Juno's formatting capabilities, I found that only one font style and color can be used in an e-mail, whereas users of the other HTML services mentioned above can use multiple font styles and colors in a single letter.
     I realize that many reading this are thinking, "What's with all this HTML stuff? I just type out a letter and click Send. What else do I need?"
     Well, I can only speak for myself. I send out a newsletter to quite a few people, which I believe is easier to read when fonts of different sizes and colors are used. So I've recently begun sending out the newsletter via different services, in an attempt to let everybody see it in colors.
     For those who are totally in the dark about HTML, it's a set of formatting codes that tell text to be in a particular size and style, naming a background color for a document and telling where graphics should be placed on a page.
     Every time you look at a Web page on the Internet, you're seeing a document that was formatted with HTML coding called "tags." Ironically, most of the e-mail you receive nowadays has HTML coding in the background, even if the letter comes through in plain black and white.
Jan 9 Organizing Your PC Filing Cabinet
     Are you getting maximum use out of your computer's "filing cabinet?"
     If you think of your hard drive this way, it's easy to visualize all your files as being stored in a collection of alphabetized folders. Let's take a look.
     Get into Windows Explorer by right-clicking Start and choosing Explore - or by pressing your Windows key and E. Notice the yellow folders displayed in the left side of the double-paned window that opens. A plus sign (+) in front of a folder tells you it has one or more other folders inside it. Click on a plus sign and another level of folders will be displayed, some of which may have plus signs of their own.
     Click the resultant minus signs (-) to collapse the folders back to where they were. Now double-click any folder to have all its contents displayed in the right window pane. To make these contents easier to work with, go to View, Folder Options and choose Classic Style. Then go to View, List.
     Many of these folders came with your computer and contain the various files that make your PC do what it does. Other folders may have been created when you installed a new program or when you downloaded something from the Internet. But the important thing is: you can create your own folders.
     Let's say you need a folder for Correspondence. Double-click the C: (hard drive) icon in the left window pane. Click on File, New, Folder. A yellow icon will appear named "New Folder" which has a flashing cursor that invites you to type in a name for it. Type "Correspondence" and press Enter. Exit Windows Explorer. When you get back into Explorer you'll see your new folder listed alphabetically. Double-click C: and you'll see it listed in the right pane, as well.
     You can now put a couple of folders inside your "Correspondence" folder and call them, say, "Incoming" and "Outgoing". Here's how. Double-click the "Correspondence" folder in the left pane. If you don't see it there, click on your C: drive icon until it appears. Now repeat the above "File, New, Folder" steps twice. Name one new folder "Incoming" and the other "Outgoing." Additional folders could be placed inside of these two, with names of months and years. The possibilities of nested folders are limited only by your own imagination.
     But how do you get your personal files into these folders? Well, you can put them there as you create them, by going to File, Save As, and "browsing" your way to the new folders. However, this can be time-consuming. Let's make it easier. Most programs have a default folder where files go automatically as they're saved. MSWord files, for instance, normally go into a folder called "My Documents." Here's how to put the letters you write with Word in the new "Outgoing" folder.
     Use the plus signs to find your "Outgoing" folder in the left window pane of Windows Explorer. Right-click it and choose "Create Shortcut." A shortcut will have now been created to take you instantly to this folder. But where is it?
     Since the "Outgoing" folder is actually inside the "Correspondence" folder, the shortcut is in there, too. Double-click the "Correspondence" folder and the "Shortcut to Outgoing" icon will appear in the right window pane. In the left pane, find the "My Documents" folder. Now simply drag the shortcut icon from the right window pane into "My Documents" in the left pane. The next time you do a "File, Save As" from within Word, the "Shortcut to Outgoing" icon will appear. Double-click it to go instantly to the target folder.
     Yes, Word lets you set a default folder by going to Tools, Options, File Locations. However, by following the above instructions, you can create shortcuts to multiple folders - and the instructions work with any program.
Jan 7 Resizing & Cropping Photos
     It would appear that lots of photos were e-mailed over the holidays, since I've gotten so many letters asking how to resize them. Most have said that the pictures are too big - and they'd like to make them smaller.
     Resizing is a function of your image-editing software, and different programs use different terminology. Corel PhotoPaint, for instance, uses "resample" while Adobe PhotoDeluxe uses "size" and Windows PaintBrush uses "stretch & skew." Whichever program you use, it's important to understand that the "screen" size and the "print" size are two different things. An image can be made smaller or larger on the screen so that it's easier to edit - but this doesn't change the print size. To reduce the size of a print-out, the picture's actual dimensions need to be changed.
     It's also important to understand that computer pictures are made up of hundreds of tiny colored squares, called bits, which blend together to create the illusion of "continuous tone" photography. When a picture is made smaller, some of the bits have to be left out. If a picture is enlarged, more colored squares have to be added. As to how this affects the finished print - experiment to find out.
     A picture can also be made smaller by "cropping" it. It's not uncommon for a photo to have lots of extraneous background surrounding the person who is the actual subject of the shot. Make the picture smaller by just using what's needed to frame the person attractively.
     Since all Windows users have PaintBrush, we'll learn how to do it with this program. Click on Start, Run and type in PBRUSH. Click OK. Go to File, Open, and "browse" your way to the target photo. Click Open and the picture will appear.
     To change the picture's print size, click on Image, Stretch & Skew, and type in the percentage of reduction or enlargement you want. Click OK and the picture will change accordingly.
     To "crop" an image in PaintBrush, two "Selection" icons are available at the top of the toolbar - a rectangle and a star, the latter being for "free-form" selecting. Use either tool to "outline" the part of the picture you want to keep. Click on Edit, Copy. Then click on File, New. The cropped image will appear in the upper left corner of the new, blank "canvas" when you click on Edit, Paste. You can then grab the lower right corner of the white canvas and resize it to match the edges of the cropped image.
     Use, File, Save As to name the cropped picture. In the Save As Type box, choose JPG or JPEG, unless you have particular reason for choosing one of the other bitmap formats.
     By going to File, Print Preview, you'll see how the finished picture will look on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. It will be in the upper left corner of the paper, and PaintBrush offers no way to move it. However, you can paste the picture into a word processor and move it around as you see fit. Use a Selection tool to outline the picture and do Edit, Copy. Launch your word processor and do Edit, Paste.
     Once the picture is on a word processor page, it can be resized by merely clicking on it and adjusting any of the little square "handles" at the picture's corners and edges.
     Another important thing to know about is the "resolution" of your pictures. Screen images are normally about 72 DPI - dots per inch. However, printouts on paper are often 300-720 DPI and can go even higher. In any case, it pays to buy better quality inkjet paper for prints to look their best. Plain photocopy or typewriter paper usually gives fuzzy, unsatisfactory results. Inkjet paper "quality" comes in a variety of ranges, with "high-gloss" type being the most expensive. I use a medium-price paper for most printouts, and the high-gloss for pictures that rival regular photographic prints.
Jan 2 Clearing Out McGee's Closet
     Have you made a New Year's resolution to clean up your hard drive and get rid of the unwanted files that may be cluttering it up? A good way to start is clear out your "TEMP" files. These are files which are created in the background when you use some of your programs - and they can be safely deleted at any time. They normally get stored in a folder named "Temp" which you can find by getting into Windows Explorer. Right-click Start, and choose Explore - or press your "Windows" and "E" keys simultaneously.
     Oddly enough, you probably have two "Temp" files on your computer. The one inside your "C:\Windows" folder is the one that normally contains these surplus files. The other is listed directly under your "C" drive, and should be looked into as well.
     After locating the target "Temp" folder, double-click it to display its contents. Then go to Edit, Select All - or do Ctrl+A. Hit your Delete key to get rid of the files. If you see a message saying certain files can't be deleted unless you take certain steps - just follow the prompts.
     Directly below the "C:\Windows\Temp" folder you'll see a folder named "Temporary Internet Files." These are files you accessed on the Web at one time or another, and which were copied to your hard drive to make them more quickly reaccessible. These files are stored in a "cache" which only holds so many files, and whose oldest files will eventually be dumped as new ones are added. Therefore, deleting these files does little to free up hard disk space, since the cache will eventually fill up again. Nonetheless, some folks have their own reasons for wanting to purge these files. Anyway, if you select all the files with "Ctrl+A" and hit your Delete key, it may look like nothing happened. However, if you exit the folder and then double-click it again, you'll see that it's been emptied.
     Getting back to "Temp" files, there may be some stored in other places on your hard drive. Most will have a ".TMP" extension and many will begin with the "~" tilde character. You can locate these files by going to Start, Find, Files & Folders and typing in *.TMP. The asterisk acts as a "wild card" which will locate all files with a .TMP extension. If you try to delete one of these files and get a message saying "Access Is Denied" it usually means that the file is currently in use. For instance, if you have an MS-Word document open, it will very likely have a "TEMP" file in use at the same time, which you won't see because it's working in the background. After you close the Word file, the TEMP file gets sent to the "C:\Windows\Temp folder, from whence you should eventually delete it.
     Another way to clean up your hard drive is to delete any programs you don't use. Most applications come with an "Uninstall.exe" file that can be found in the program's main folder. This file will sometimes be named "Unwise.exe" in a cute attempt to keep you from uninstalling the program. Anyway, if the unwanted program doesn't list such a file, it can still be uninstalled by going to My Computer, Control Panel and clicking on Add/Remove Programs. Click on the target program and then click on Install/Uninstall. Follow the prompts when asked if you're sure you want to uninstall the program.
     It's worth noting that merely finding a program's main folder and "deleting" it is NOT the same as "uninstalling" the application. When programs are first installed, some of their files are placed in different locations on your hard drive. Using an "Uninstall" command is what's needed to find and delete all pertinent files.