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

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Year 2000 aro-grn.gif Click Here for Complete Listing of 2000's PC Chats
Year 2001 aro-grn.gif Click Here for Complete Listing of 2001's PC Chats
Year 2002 aro-grn.gif Click Here for Complete Listing of 2002's PC Chats
Jan 1, 2002 Viruses & Hoaxes You Should Know About
Jan 6, 2002 Placing Graphics in Return Address Labels
Jan 8, 2002 Leave Your PC On or Turn It Off? + Some thoughts on Spell-Checking
Jan 13, 2002 More Information on Spell-Checking
Jan 15, 2002 Labels, Business Cards, & Yellow Sticky Notes
Jan 16, 2002 Now Using a Cordless Keyboard & a Cordless Mouse
Jan 20, 2002 Stop the Presses - System Tray vs Quick Launch - Making Your Own Voice "WAV" Files
Jan 22, 2002 Recovering Deleted Emails + Managing Email Folders
Jan 27, 2002 More on Blocking Unwanted Email + How to Save Your IMs (Instant Messages)
Jan 29, 2002 Using the "Files of Type" Options
+ Using Two Versions of the Same Program on Your Hard Drive

Tuesday
Jan 29
Using the "Files of Type" Options
+ Using Two Versions of the Same Program on Your Hard Drive

     Barry Wilson wrote to say the new computer he bought came with MSWorks-2000 and that his MSWorks-4 files couldn't be opened with the newer program. The solution is to use the "Files of Type" box at the bottom of the "Open" window. Clicking the down arrow will display a list of older versions of MSWorks, along with a number of other programs whose files can be opened with MSWorks-2000. These include MSWord, WordPerfect and Excel.

     However, this is not to say that files created by other programs will necessarily appear in their original format when opened in MSWorks-2000. Nonetheless, they will be readable and can usually be reformatted as needed.

     Penny Fedorchak wrote to ask if it's possible to install Works-4 on a computer which already has Works-2000 onboard. Yes, it is, but it can be tricky. When a program is being installed it usually looks to see if another version of the program is already on the hard drive. If it finds one, it will want to overwrite it, but will normally ask if you want it to do so.

     The trick is to install the other version of an existing program in a folder of its own. Most programs, by default, are placed in the "Program Files" folder. That's where my MSWorks-2000 is; but when, like Penny, I decided to reinstall my older MSWorks-4, I created a folder named "Works-4" and told the program to be installed there.

     I've also done this with MSWord-97 and MSWord-2000, along with having two versions of Corel Draw on my machine. So why would anyone bother to install an older version of a program when a newer one is already in place? Well, oddly enough, sometimes the older version will have a feature that was not included with the newer one.

     Take MSWorks, for example. One of my favorite features in the older versions is "Dial This Number" which will dial any phone number you have selected. This works as a handy "Quick Dialer" for any phone connected to the same line as the computer.

     "Dial This Number" is under the "Tools" menu, but a telephone icon can be placed in your toolbar by going to Tools, Customize Toolbar, thus making one-click phone-dialing available. MSWorks-2000 not only left this feature out, it doesn't even offer a "Customize Toolbar" feature anymore.

     As for why I have two versions of MSWord on one computer, this is mainly for researching answers to readers' questions regarding the different versions. However, at this point you might be wondering if having two versions onboard doesn't create conflicts. For instance, when one double-clicks an icon for an MSWord file, which version of the program will be launched?

     All I can tell you is that it takes some experimenting to answer this question. However, the bottom line is that having two versions of different programs has worked very well for me for a long time.

     Speaking of different versions of MSWord, I've written that an entire Web page can be highlighted and then copied and pasted into a blank Word document. Some MSWord-97 users wrote to say this didn't work for them. Right, this only works with MSWord-2000 and XP, with XP giving even more reliable results than 2000.

     I've been told that this can also be done with recent versions of WordPerfect, but I haven't succeeded in doing it. I find I can paste individual parts of a Web page into WP-8, but not the whole page complete with its original formatting. Perhaps someone can tell me how to make this work.

     Speaking of Web pages, I'm frequently asked how to save the links to ones a person would like to return to. In Internet Explorer, when the desired page is open, go to "Favorites" in the menu bar and click on Add To Favorites. The same thing applies to "Bookmarks" in Netscape.

     If you'd like to drag a link directly to your Desktop, just grab the little symbol to the left of "http://." in the URL line of either Internet Explorer or Netscape. The link can then be dragged into any folder of your choice; say, a folder you created and named "Favorite Links."

Sunday
Jan 27
More on Blocking Unwanted Email + How to Save Your IMs (Instant Messages)

     I've written previously about ways of blocking unsolicited email, but this continues to be one of the things I'm most frequently asked about. Personally, I don't know of any system that can guarantee you'll receive only the email you want and which will block everything else - but here are some options you might want to consider.

     Outlook Express users can go to Tools, Message Rules, Mail, and set their preferences. OE users can also click on Message, Block Sender when a particular email message is highlighted. This will prevent the acceptance of future messages from that particular email address. (Of course there's nothing to keep the sender from assaulting you from a different email address.)

     Should you accidentally click Block Sender when a message from a friend is highlighted you'll need to go to Tools, Message Rules, Blocked Senders List to UNblock your friend's name.

     AOL and CompuServe users can use their main screen name and go to Preferences, Parental Controls to set various options regarding incoming mail.

     Hotmail, Yahoo and Juno users can go to Tools, Internet Options, Content to set preferences regarding messages that contain specific words.

     Beyond the above measures, a friend sent me a link to a Web site that offers a free program which claims to filter out unwanted email. I have no personal experience with this program, so cannot vouch for its reliability; but here's the URL if you'd like to try it: www.mailwasher.net.

     It also appears that clicking on an "Unsubscribe" or "Send No More Mail" button in many of the unwanted email advertisements just tells the senders that you looked at enough of their ad to find the button - so they keep you on their list, anyway.

Ways to Invite Trouble

     Personally, I make no attempt to block "spam" of any kind since my Delete key works just fine. However, here are some things you might want to consider: anyone who uses a provocative email name (say, "cutesexygal" for instance) is inviting trouble. I could tell you some horror stories about this sort of thing.

     Guys who use obviously masculine email names (like mine: "MrPCChat") are natural targets for porn hawkers. Another way to expose yourself to the porn merchants is to visit an "adult" chat room. Upon leaving the room, you're likely to be bombarded with this sort of email. Even visiting a "normal" chat room can attract lots of unwanted spam. The cyber-marauders are constantly cruising the chat rooms to harvest potential new victims.

     Besides getting unwanted email, users of IMs (instant messages) can find themselves being literally "stalked" when they are online. Again, provocative screen names are likely to attract "provocative" messages. Beyond that, IM users can also be vulnerable to other types of harassment.

     For instance, did you know that an IM can be saved by someone, and possibly used against you? I know people who've done some flirtatious IMing, only to be threatened by their IM correspondent with showing the conversation to the other person's spouse/fiancÚ/whatever. The rule here is not to say anything in an IM or an email that you wouldn't want made public.

How to Save an IM

     However, you may also find that saving an IM is something you yourself would want to do (for whatever reason). There are different ways to do this, but here are some examples. An AOL or AIM or CompuServe IM can be saved by simply clicking on File, Save As, and giving the file a name. There will be options for choosing a file type for the Save, such as HTML or TXT, along with a choice of which folder to save it in. MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger have similar options.

     You can also right-click anywhere inside an IM and choose Select All to highlight the entire conversation. Another right-click will let you Copy the whole thing. Launch your favorite word processor and do Ctrl+V to Paste it into a blank page. Finally, Save the word processing file as you would any other document.

     Getting back to protecting yourself from online harassment - AOL and CompuServe users can click on Setup in their Buddy List window and choose Preferences. Click on Privacy to choose who can and/or cannot see you online and/or who can send you an IM.

     AIM users can right-click the word Buddies (or whatever you've chosen to call your list of online friends) and choose Preferences, Privacy.

     Having mentioned some of the hazards of using IMs, I must confess that I find IMing to be one of the most fun and useful features of owning a computer. I can't imagine ever being without this capability again.

Tuesday
Jan 22
Recovering Deleted Emails + Managing Email Folders

     I've been asked why deleted email messages don't go to the Recycle Bin like other files do. Well, each email service has its own method of handling deleted messages. These procedures vary from one email service to another. In Outlook Express deleted messages are sent to the Deleted Items folder. After opening this folder you can read the target message and/or choose Edit, Move/Copy to Folder. Deleted emails will remain in the "Deleted" folder until given a "final" delete, or until one goes to Edit, Empty Deleted Items Folder.

     You can, as an alternative, choose to have this Folder emptied upon exiting OE by choosing Tools, Options, Maintenance and checking the top "Empty" box.

     In Netscape, the deleted files folder is named Trash, with message recovery options being similar to those in OE. Other email services, such as Hotmail and Yahoo have a "Folders" option that lets you recover or purge messages from the "Delete" Folder.

     Messages deleted by AOL and CompuServe users can be recovered by going to Mail Center, Recently Deleted Mail - but only if it's done within 24 hours of deleting the message. Otherwise deleted messages are gone forever unless a Folder in which to save them has first been created. Go to Mail, More, File Cabinet, Create Folder. You can also go to Mail, Preferences and choose to have all incoming and/or outgoing messages saved to the Filing Cabinet. Actually, these are "copies" of the original messages, meaning the originals can be deleted without losing these copies. CompuServe users can get to the Filing Cabinet by doing Ctrl+F. (Ctrl+F brings up Find options in most other programs.)

     Choosing Create Folder in AOL lets you create multiple folders, and give each one a name of your choice. In Netscape and Outlook Express, right-clicking the Inbox folder displays a popup menu which includes "New Folder." This offers folder creation and naming options similar to those in AOL.

     Speaking of email, you've undoubtedly noticed that more and more of it -- especially various types of advertising -- arrives as a miniature Web page, complete with fancy text formatting and colorful animated graphics. Well, most of these messages actually are full-blown Web pages, which have been designed to fit into an email format. So how is this done?

     Well, it's not all that hard to do. If you know how to design a Web page, Save it with the extension: HTM (using HTML sometimes doesn't work). After doing a Select All (Ctrl+A) you can then Copy and Paste the page into a blank email letter. This also works with a page you may have downloaded from the Internet.

     Yes, I realize that most computer users haven't yet learned how to create their own Web pages, but placing different sizes and styles of fonts in an outgoing message means the letter is actually being formatted with HTML coding hidden in the background. Adding a graphic with an email program's Insert/Picture command takes the HTML formatting a step further.

     The down side of sending someone a message thus created is that some folks are still using an email program that's been told to read "plain text" only or not to accept any incoming mail that contain graphics or HTML. For instance, when I first started sending out my free newsletter in HTML, a number of people wrote to say everything looked weird and that the letter was hard to read. With most folks now using HTML-compatible email clients, I get fewer and fewer complaints regarding this.

     If you're one of those still having trouble with my newsletter, please contact Mary at MaryPCChat@aol.com. and we'll help you find a fix for the problem.

Tuesday
Jan 22
Stop the Presses - System Tray vs Quick Launch - Making Your Own Voice "WAV" Files

Computer Version of "Stop the Presses!"

     Have you ever started to print a document, only to find that you needed to stop the printing midway through the job? Did you then find that closing your document and/or turning off the printer didn't stop the printing? Well, different printers behave in different ways, but you can usually stop the printing by clicking on the Printer icon in the System Tray (the cluster of icons near the Taskbar's digital clock). This should bring up a list of printing options, including Close or Exit or Stop.

     Alternatively, you can go to Start, Settings, Control Panel and click on the Printers icon (WinXP users = Start, Control Panel, Printers & Faxes icon). Click on your active Printer and go to File, Close.

     Having done this, you may still have to turn off your printer and/or reboot your computer. Some printers - particularly HPs, in my experience - are very reluctant to cancel a print job once it's begun.

System Tray vs Quick Launch

     Speaking of the System Tray, it's helpful to realize that the icons shown there represent programs that were launched at your computer's startup and which are currently running in the background. Typical of these applications might be an antivirus program, a firewall, your speakers' volume control, and a maintenance task scheduler.

     The System Tray should not be confused with the Quick Launch area of your Taskbar, where your favorite shortcut icons can be placed for single-click activation. If you are, say, a WordPerfect user, and normally launch the program by clicking its Desktop Shortcut, you can drag this Shortcut icon into an open area on your Taskbar.

     Why bother to do this? Well, the Taskbar is always in view, while open programs can hide all or part of the Desktop. Furthermore, Quick Launch icons only require a single-click, while Desktop icons usually require a double-click.

     After you've dragged a Shortcut onto the Taskbar, an unneeded copy of it will remain on the Desktop. Right-click it and choose Delete. If you later decide you'd prefer the Shortcut back on the Desktop, just drag it to where you want it.

     Keep in mind that deleting a Shortcut does NOT delete its underlying file, folder or program.

     If you'd like to see the actual "path" to the underlying file that any Shortcut points to, right-click it and choose Properties, Shortcut, Target. This is where you'd have to go, using Windows Explorer, to delete the actual file or folder. Actual programs should be uninstalled by going to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs.

Creating Desktop Shortcuts

     To create a Shortcut to any file or folder, right-click your Desktop and choose New, Shortcut. Click on Browse to activate a Windows Explorer view that will help find your target. If you want to create a Shortcut that launches a favorite application, the program's folder will usually be found inside the C:\Program Files folder. To create a Shortcut that will launch, say, MSWorks, browse your way to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Works and click "msworks.exe" as the target file.

Create Your Own WAV Files

     I've mentioned before that I receive way more email than I can handle properly, so I've decided to try answering some of the questions with a voice file. Therefore, if you receive an email from me with a "WAV" attachment, go ahead and download it (it's guaranteed to be virus-free). Double-click it and you'll here me giving a verbal reply.

     In case you're unfamiliar with WAV files, they are sound files which you can create yourself using Windows' built-in "Sound Recorder." The utility is located in different places in different versions of Windows, so it's best to go to Start, Find/Search, Files & Folders. Type in Sound Recorder.

     When the icon appears in your Find/Search window, right-click it and choose Create Shortcut. Double-clicking the Shortcut will bring up a miniature "recording panel" with buttons for Record, Play, Stop, etc.



To Record a Voice "WAV" File:

1 - To record voice files a microphone needs to be plugged into to your computer's sound card.
2 - To begin a new voice file, go to File, New.
3 - To begin recording, click Record (the Round Red Button)and speak into your microphone.
4 - To stop recording, click Stop (the Square Black Button.
5 - To save your file, go to File, Save As and give the file a name.

To Play back a Voice "WAV" File:

A - On the File menu, click Open.
B - In the dialog box that opens, double-click the target WAV file.
C - Click Play to start playing the sound.
D - Click Stop to stop playing the sound.

You can jump to the beginning of a sound file by clicking the "double left arrow" button.
You can jump to the end of a sound file by clicking the "double right arrow" button.
To learn about editing WAV files, you can go to the Sound Recorder Help menu.

To attach a "WAV" File to an outfoing email:

After writing your letter, use your email program's "Attach" (or "Attachment" or "Paper Clip") feature to attach the WAV file (just as you would any other type of file).
The recipient will be able to Download the WAV file and then double-click it to activate it an hear your message.

Wednesday
Jan 16
Now Using a Cordless Keyboard & a Cordless Mouse

     I recently bought a combination cordless keyboard and cordless mouse. They're made by Logitech, and cost $50 for the set. I find them very handy because I sometimes like to change the location of the keyboard and/or the mouse and can now do so without having cables all over the place. I'm very pleased with the way they work.

Useless Mouse?

     But may I tell you about my very first mouse? It was also made by Logitech and cost $80 back in 1989. The little rodents were new to the IBM/compatibles in those days, although the Macintosh had been equipped with them for several years.

     My computer at that time was a Tandy 1000, and it came with a "joystick" that moved the cursor around the screen (mostly for playing games). I assumed that the mouse would replace the joystick and give me better control over moving the cursor. The joystick was rather spastic and hard to control.

     Well, guess what - the mouse didn't work at all.

     Why? Because none of the programs on my computer had been written to be used with a mouse. This was back in the old pre-Windows DOS days where everything was done from the keyboard.

     To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement.

     However, just about then Tandy came out with a suite of "integrated programs" called DeskMate. It had a word processor, along with a spreadsheet and database application. (It was sort of a primitive DOS version of what Microsoft Office would become in the next few years.)

     Anyway, the exciting thing about DeskMate was that it was designed to be used with a mouse. I could hardly wait to get the program installed and start using it.

"Double-Arrow" Cursor          arrow.gif  13328 bytes

     But it didn't work right. On the screen, where there should have been an arrow pointer, there were two arrows an inch or so apart. When I moved the mouse, both arrows moved with it.

     I can't tell you how many hours I spent pouring over the mouse instructions and the DeskMate manual to see what I was doing wrong. I don't remember how many times I reinstalled DeskMate, thinking perhaps I had messed up there.

     Oddly enough, I did find a way to make the mouse "sort of work." I discovered that if I could get an icon dead-centered between the two arrows, I could click the left mouse button and activate the icon.

     This was obviously not the way it was supposed to work, so I finally phoned Tandy in Fort Worth. I don't know how many people I talked to before I finally got a technician who said, "Yes, I know - two arrows. Well, that version of DeskMate didn't come out quite right. We're working on an upgrade now. As soon as it's ready we'll let you know."

     Well, talk about being stunned! Anyway, not too long after that various programs did begin to appear which were meant to be used with a mouse (and just one arrow). So my $80 Logitech finally got to be used. But for a while there I was ready to give up in despair and buy a Mac.

     Speaking of which, I love the Mac - but am glad I stayed with the PC - 'cause that's what nearly all my friends have.

Tuesday
Jan 15
Labels, Business Cards, & Yellow Sticky Notes

     More on Creating Return Address Labels

     Regarding a recent column on creating Return Address Labels with MSWord, Gloria McCaffrey wrote to say she couldn't find the Avery Label listings I mentioned. Well, this does work differently in different versions of MSWord.

     In Word97 and Word2000 go to Tools, Envelopes & Labels, and click on the Labels tab. Next click on the "Label" graphic in the lower right corner of the dialog box. This will bring up the Avery list.

     In WordXP go to Tools, Letters & Mailings, and then to Envelopes & Labels. The rest of the instructions are the same as above to access the Avery list.

     MSWorks users will also find labels under the Tools menu, while WordPerfect users will find labels under the Format menu.

Do-It-Yourself Business Cards

     I suggested using the 5160 or 8160 (laser or inkjet) labels which come 30 to a sheet. However, there are dozens of sizes from which to choose. Also listed are "Business Cards" in the standard 2x3.5 inch size. The blank Avery business cards, as well as the blank labels, are readily available in stationery and computer stores. The business cards come ten to an 8.5x11 inch sheet and are die-cut for easy separation.

Do-It-Yourself vs Tradititional Printing

     But isn't it more cost effective to have business cards printed at a print shop? Well, that depends. Print shops normally create business cards in minimum lots of 500 or 1,000, with the cost per card being much lower than making your own. However, the down side of getting hundreds of cards printed nowadays is that things change so fast.

     I've ordered cards in the past, only to have my phone number's area code changed shortly after buying them. I've also had the name of the street my business was on change, not to mention having zip codes, email addresses and web site URLs suddenly change.

     In any case, for the person who just needs a few cards, making one's own with the Avery die-cuts is easy and can actually be fun. The Business Cards templates are included in the listing of Labels. Look for #5371.

More on Creating Return Address Labels with Graphics

     Getting back to adding graphics to Return Address labels, "Nan-Grandma99" wrote to say she's been doing this for years with the American Greetings "CreataCard" program, and that the instructions are much easier to follow than those for MSWord. Furthermore, she points out, the program comes with all kinds of colorful clipart which can be inserted into the label layout.

     CreataCard is one of those programs which are often included with the purchase of a printer nowadays. Similar programs, such as Print Artist, also have label and business card creation features. Check out your own various graphic programs to see what they offer.

sticky2.gif  11776 bytes

     An old joke asks "How do you know when a blonde has been using the computer?" Answer: "When you see white-out on the monitor."

     Well, Vera Gray wrote to say that she uses little yellow "Sticky Notes" on her monitor. Really. She does this to mark the location of a Folder icon into which she wants to drag a file from another location in her Windows Explorer view. She says this is especially helpful when her eyes are tired. Well, it makes sense to me.

Computerized Stickies

     Speaking of "little yellow notes," how about using a "computerized" sticky? You'll find a free program at www.btinternet.com/~tom.revell/.

     This "Sticky" utility is great, and I find myself wondering how I ever got along without it. After installing the program, a "Yellow Sticky" icon will appear near the digital clock in your Task Bar. Click it and a little "Sticky Note" will appear on your screen. The idea is to type brief messages into it that you'd like to keep in view while doing other work.

     You can then move the Sticky, resize it, or even change its color. You can also choose a level of transparency for the color, thus making items behind it visible. You can also choose to have the Sticky always be on top, or to overlap just like other windows. Many other options can be found by right-clicking the Sticky and choosing from the popup menu. Try it - you'll like it!

Sunday
Jan 13
More Information on Spell-Checking

     My recent article about using a Spell-Checker generated quite a bit of mail. Betty Jo Shelley wrote to say she couldn't find a Spell-Checker in Windows 98. No, spell-checking has never been a part of Windows; however, it comes with many of the programs that run within Windows. MSOffice, for instance, has a Spell-Checker that works with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.

     This is also the Spell-Checker that works with Outlook Express. This means that if you don't have the MSOffice suite (or one of its programs) your copy of OE has no spell-checking capabilities.

     In MSWord, as well as in other MSOffice programs, you can choose to check a document when it's completed or to have its spelling checked as you type.

     "Check Spelling As You Type" is the default, which places a red squiggle line under words not found in the dictionary. When this happens the flagged word can be right-clicked to bring up a list of possible corrections. Left-click whichever suggestion you think is correct, and it will immediately replace the misspelled word.

     Words such as personal names and places will usually not be in the dictionary, but they can be added. As an example, a red squiggly would appear under "Margarita" the first time it's typed in. But you can add this word to your "custom dictionary" by right-clicking it and choosing Add To Dictionary.

     However, it's also possible to accidentally add a misspelled word to the dictionary. You could, for instance, type "physchiatre" and then right-click it to get the correct spelling. But let's say you accidentally click on Add To Dictionary instead of "psychiatry." That would mean this particular misspelling would never be flagged in the future. So how do we fix this?

     I'm glad you asked. Go to Tools, Options, Custom Dictionaries. Click Modify and then click on the target word. Finally, hit the Delete button.

     If you would prefer not to have the red squiggles appear as you type, go to Tools, Options, Spelling & Grammar and UNcheck "Check Spelling As You Type." This is also where you can choose "Check Grammar With Spelling." Using this option puts a green squiggly under suspect phrases and suggests how the syntax might be improved.

     MSWord also has a long list of words that will be automatically corrected if you type them incorrectly. For instance, "recieve" will automatically be changed to "receive" and "paralell" will be changed to "parallel." This list of pre-corrected words can be found by going to Tools, AutoCorrect, where you can also edit the list to suit your own particular spell-correction needs.

     WordPerfect also has the above spell-checking options. However, since I seldom use WordPerfect, I can't tell you where to go to edit the special lists of words.

     Speaking of AutoCorrect options, MSWord has some that many people don't like. Most of the complaints I hear are about Automatic Bullets & Numbers.

     For instance, if you begin a new line of text by typing in a number, followed by hitting your Tab key and then typing a phrase of some kind, each subsequent pressing of Enter will start a new line with the next number. If you began with 1, for instance, each subsequent Enter will generate a line beginning with 2, 3, 4, etc. In order to stop this automatic numbering you have to go to Format, Bullets & Numbering and choose None.

     To keep automatic numbering from happening in the first place, go to Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat and UNcheck "Automatic Bulleted Lists." Next click on AutoFormat As You Type and UNcheck "Automatic Bulleted Lists." "Automatic Numbered Lists" also needs to be UNchecked.

     If you do want Automatic Numbering (or Bulleting or Lettering) go to Format, Bullets & Numbering and choose the style you like. As an additional option, many of these features can be turned on and off by clicking on the Numbering/Bulleting icon on your toolbar:

     Getting back to spell-checkers, they can't be expected to know whether you mean "to" or "too" or "two," but using a grammar-checker can sometimes help make the right choice in these areas.

     Although I've used the spell-checking options found in various Microsoft applications here, other programs (including Microsoft Works, AOL, CompuServe, and Netscape Communicator) have spell-checkers of their own. Press F1 to bring up the Help menus that will tell you more about them.

     NOTE: I was just about to send this letter out, when I received an email from Marshall Byer, who told me he found the Custom Dictionary for MSWorks, going to Start, Find (or Search) and typing custom.dic. Double-clicking this filename will display your special word list in NotePad, where they can be edited as you see fit. (Using this procedure will also bring up other custom.dic files you may have on your hard drive, which can also be edited.)

Tuesday
Jan 8
Leave Your PC On or Turn It Off? + Some thoughts on Spell-Checking

     "A loyal fan" wrote to say that he, his wife, and four sons use four computers at home, and that they wonder if it's better to leave them on or to turn them off after each use. Well, there is no single answer that covers all situations, but here are some things to consider:

     Most computers nowadays come with a "sleep" or "standby" mode which, after so many minutes of inactivity, shuts the computer down, or keeps it on with the hard drive turned off. The monitor can likewise be set to turn off after a period of nonuse.

     The settings for these features are in different places on different computers, but they can be found by going to Start, Help, and typing in "shut down." It's also good to type in "maintenance" to see other useful options. As for my own computer, I only hit the power switch when I expect to be gone all day or overnight.

     Email Courtesy

     Regarding the email from "a loyal fan," I'm naturally flattered that he described himself that way, but I appreciate even more having an email signed with one's real name. We wouldn't dream of writing a traditional letter without having our name appear on it, but much of the email I receive is identified only by the writer's email address. Yes, some email addresses contain actual names, but many give no clue as to the writer's identity.

     Forgive me if I seem picky about this, but I receive stacks of email every day, and must browse through them quickly in order to determine which will get the quickest response. May I tell you which letters usually go to the bottom of the priority list?

     Use UPPER CASE text for HEADLINES or for SPECIAL EMPHASIS.

     It's very hard to get interested in email WRITTEN IN ALL UPPER CASE. Yes, I realize some folks are uncertain about using lower case, and feel more secure with all caps. Well, all caps not only make the letter appear to be SHOUTING at you, it's just plain harder to read.

     All caps have yet another disadvantage. Spell-checkers are normally set to ignore words in all caps. Thus, misspelled words can go through completely unchallenged.

     Speaking of spell-checkers, I recommend that everybody use them. More than half the email I receive arrives with misspelled words, grammatical errors, and punctuation that defies description. All email programs have built-in spelling and grammar checkers, along with an option to "Check spelling before sending the letter."

     These spell-checkers can also check for grammatical and punctuation errors. I'm a pretty good speller, but never send out an email (or a regular letter) without double-checking for typos. However, I do keep my grammar-checker turned off because I sometimes choose to use less than perfect sentence structures. Like this, for instance.

     Spell-check options are found in different places in different programs. There's not room to list them all here, but Outlook Express users can go to Tools, Options, Spelling. AOL users can go to Settings, Preferences, Spelling, Advanced. MSWord has these options at Tools, Options, Spelling & Grammar.

     Nearly all programs will bring up spell-checking when you press your F7 key. For WordPerfect it's Ctrl+F1.

     Getting back to ALL CAPS, MSWord has a nice trick for dealing with these kinds of messages: Highlight the text and go to Format, Change Case. Here you'll find options that will instantly change "THIS IS A NEW YEAR" into "This is a new year" or "This Is A New Year" or "this is a new year."

     Disk Formatting (or Reformatting)

     Suzanne Fischer called to ask if formatting (or reformatting) a disk will erase any virus-infected files on it. Yes, formatting a disk wipes it clean, except for some small system files needed to make the disk operational.

     Formatting is something most users will never be likely to do, since all "floppy" disks now come pre-formatted. They didn't always. We used to have to format them before we could use them.

     If you do want to reformat a previously-used floppy, double-click My Computer, click on the A drive and go to File, Format.and follow the prompts. Just be careful you don't choose Format C. This will wipe out your whole hard drive.

Sunday
Jan 6
Placing Graphics in Return Address Labels

     Jan Fiedler wrote and asked how to add artwork to some return address labels she wanted to create with MSWord.

     Well, Word doesn't provide a "regular" way of doing this, so I invented a procedure. First I found some clipart that was small enough to fit on an Avery 5160/8160 label. These labels come 30 to a sheet and are a good size for return addresses.

     Next I created a new, blank page in Word and then clicked on Tools, Letters & Mailings, Envelopes & Labels. When the label dialogue box appeared I clicked on Label and chose the Avery 5180 (for inkjet printers). This brought up an 8.5x11 page with grid lines defining the edges of the 30 labels.

     These gridlines are created with Word's Table function and will not print out. The 30 cells created by the grid lines will accept both text and graphics. I typed my name and address into the upper-left cell, using left alignment. I chose a 10-point font that would leave space at the right for my graphic.

     Next I went to Insert, Text Box. I then drew a box to the right of the text, which would be large enough to hold the graphic. Clicking inside the box I went to Insert, Picture, From File, and browsed to the location of my artwork. I double-clicked the file's icon, which inserted it into the Text Box.

     Finally, I clicked on the box's edge and went to Format, Text Box. There I went to "Colors & Lines" and chose "No Line" for the box's border. Then I clicked on "Layout" and chose "Behind The Text." This meant the lettering would overlap the drawing, if necessary. Having made one label look just the way I wanted it, I scrolled over the text and graphic and did Ctrl+C (Copy). I then clicked into each of the remaining 29 cells and did Ctrl+V to paste the combined text and artwork into place. Of course I did Save As and gave the file a name.

     This may sound a little complicated, but once you get the first label done, the rest is easy. Also, different versions of Word may have slightly different command sequences to achieve the above; but don't be afraid to experiment. If you get stuck, email me at MrPCChat@mediaone.net and I'll send you a template to get you started.

     Here is a miniaturized rough example of how one row of labels might look:

DONLABEL.gif

     Now here's an alternative to the above. Create a graphic that contains a drawing within it, along with your return address. This way, all that need be inserted into each label is a single graphic. Admittedly, creating special graphics like this falls into the area of advanced image-editing, but it can be done if you're willing to try.

     Go to Start, Run and type in PBRUSH. Click OK and the Windows PaintBrush program will be launched. Space here doesn't allow for a full tutorial, but by going to View and making sure Tool Box and Color Box are checked, you'll be able to enter text by clicking on the "A" in the Tool Box and drawing a "text box" for your typing.

     You can then use Edit, Paste From and browse your way to a desired graphic. A double-click will paste the image into your PaintBrush "drawing." The image and text can be moved around and aligned the way you want them. Finally you can "marquee" the whole thing and do Ctrl+C to copy your finished product.

     Back in Word, Ctrl+V will paste the whole thing into each label on your page. Experimenting with PaintBrush might just give you a taste for learning more about bitmap image editing. It's actually fun.

Tuesday
Jan 1
Viruses & Hoaxes You Should Know About

"sulfnbk.exe" Virus Hoax

     In June of last year a 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, within a certain time frame, would wipe out their hard drives unless it was immediately deleted.

     I wrote here at the time that this message was a fraud, and I eventually stopped receiving additional "warnings." Now the hoax is back and I'm getting more mail than ever "warning" me about this "virus" and telling me to warn all my friends.

     The truth is that "sulfnbk.exe" is part of Windows and should NOT be deleted. However, it's a file that's not often accessed by Windows, so its being deleted may never be noticed. This file's black and white icon happens to be a particularly ugly one, and I suspect this is why the hoaxter chose it to start the false rumor about.

     If you did delete this file, it can be restored by reinstalling your Windows operating system from its CD. If you don't have this CD, you can email me at MrPCChat@mediaone.net for a copy of the "sulfnbk.exe" file.

     If you sent this file to your Recycle Bin, and have not emptied the bin, you can restore the file from this location. Double-click the Recycle Bin to open it. Right-click the "sulfnbk.exe" icon and choose "Restore" from the popup menu. The file will immediately be returned to its rightful place.

     I should mention, however, that any report saying you have a virus, or that you may be about to receive one, should be taken seriously until it is proven false. When I first received the message that I had been sent the "sulfnbk.exe" virus and that it should be deleted, I was suspicious because it just plain didn't sound right. But instead of deleting the file, I renamed it to "sulfnbk.ex." Omitting the final "e" (or any character) from an ".exe" file makes it inoperable. Later, after I'd been assured that this was a hoax, I restored the missing "e" and made the file valid again. This was much easier than having to reinstall Windows.

     For technical information on the "sulfnbk.exe" issue, please go to the following Symantec web page:
     http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/sulfnbk.exe.warning.html

     "Congressional Bill to Tax Email" Hoax

     Another hoax that's been around even longer is one that says a bill before congress would add a tax to each email we send. The "warning" goes on to mention a congressman named Tony Schnell and says the bill is #602. We are also told that a certain lawyer is working full time at no pay to defeat this bill and that we should all write our senators and congresspersons about putting a stop to the bill.

     Well, the bill, the congressman and the lawyer are all fictitious. I suppose one could argue that this is a relatively harmless fraud, inasmuch as it gets us to write our representatives regarding the very idea of adding a tax to email.

     A Real Virus That I Receive Daily

     A real virus that I'm receiving on a daily basis, however, is the "Sircam worm." This virus continues to be sent to me because my email address is in the Address Book of a number of Outlook Express users, who themselves have received the germ. As I've said several times in the past, I don't use the OE Address Book, so there is no danger of my sending Sircam on to anyone else. I keep my hundreds of email addresses in a Word file, from where I copy and paste them into my outgoing letters.

     For those who prefer the convenience of using the OE Address Book, however, they can still use the trick of creating a dummy address called, say, "_000" which will be the first name in the book by virtue of its beginning with a special character rather than a letter. With this name's "email Address" box having been left blank, Sircam can't migrate to the other names to do its mischief.

     Using this trick, however, doesn't change the fact that one may have the virus in the first place. Nonetheless, a link can be found on www.pcdon.com that will take you to a couple of free online virus tests.

     How to Rename Files & Folders

     Getting back to renaming a file (or a folder) simply right-click its label and choose "Rename" from the popup menu. Type in the new name and press Enter.

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