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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Feb 3, 2002 Internet & Website Questions Answered
Feb 5, 2002 Inserting a "Signature" in Email & Other Documents
Feb 10, 2002 Placing Web Pages & Links into Email
Feb 19, 2002 Creating Special Effects with Text
Feb 24, 2002 Resizing Photos & Cleaning Up Malformatted Text
Feb 26, 2002 More on WordArt + Fixing "NORMAL.DOT" in MSWord
Tuesday
Feb 26
More on WordArt + Fixing "NORMAL.DOT" in MSWord
     Sandy Broderick wrote to say that when she used WordArt, following my recent suggestions, the image she created wouldn't print. All the surrounding text in her MSWord document, however, printed just fine.
     The fix is to go to Tools, Options, Print, and make sure that Drawing Objects is checked.
     Margaret Ray wrote to say that, using my WordArt suggestions, she created a beautiful Valentine's Day letter. Now, however, each time she launches MSWord her WordArt creation appears on what should be a new, blank page.
     Well, the fix for this can be a little tricky. MSWord uses a file called NORMAL.DOT as its default, blank "template" whenever you launch the program or go to File, New. Once you've entered something and then go to File, Save As - whatever name you choose (say, MESSAGE-1.DOC) will replace NORMAL.DOT, which then quietly goes back to wait for another new, blank document to be started.
     No, you won't see the name NORMAL.DOT, but, nonetheless, this is always a new file's default name until you use Save As to replace it. The extension .DOT means document TEMPLATE, as opposed to .DOC, which simply means Word DOCUMENT. If you use Save As and just type in, say, MESSAGE-1, Word will add .DOC for you, assuming you want the finishd job to be a Word DOCUMENT.
     You could, however, Save As with a name like MESSAGE-1.DOT. This would cause your finished job to become a TEMPLATE, which would then be retained by MSWord on the assumption that you'd eventually want to use the template again.
     Additionally, MSWord has many pre-designed templates, each with a .DOT extension, to facilitate the creation of documents such as formal business letters, fax forms, and various types of office memos. Personally, I never use any of these templates since I prefer to design my own documents.
     However, if you'd like to try them out, you may have to go looking for them. These templates have been stored in different folders in different versions of MSWord. You used to be able to find them by going to File, Open, and then choosing Document Templates (*.DOT) in the Files of Type box. If this doesn't work, you can go to Start, Find/Search, Files and Folders and type *.DOT into your search box.
     Another reason I prefer not to use these templates is that it's awfully easy to open one, fill in your new data, and then accidentally Save the completed letter as another "template" when you meant to save it as a "document" (while leaving the original template unaltered). This can be caused by accidentally choosing Word Template, rather than Word Document (or vice versa) in your Files of Type options and/or by manually adding .DOT or .DOC incorrectly.

But what's all this got to do with Margaret Ray's NORMAL.DOT file having been accidentally changed?
     Well, I can tell you is that every MSWord user I know, including myself, has at one time or another somehow corrupted his or her NORMAL.DOT file. I used to fix this by simply reinstalling MSWord.
     However, Tom Lydon called to let me know of an easier and better way to fix this problem.
     If you're having the problem of a previously-created document appearing when you launch MSWord (or when you go to File, New) do this: exit MSWord and delete the "normal.dot" file.
     The easiest way to do this is to go to Start, Find (Start, Search in WinME or WinXP), Files & Folders, and type normal.dot into the search box. When the file is found, right-click it and choose Delete. When asked if you're sure, click Yes.

     Now launch MSWord again. When Word discovers that its normal.dot file is missing, it will simply create a new one (which will be the plain, blank page you've always expected to see).
     That's all there is to it - and the "normal.dot" problem will be behind you. However, if the pervasive previously-created file is one you want to keep, be sure to do File, Save As, and give it a new name before exiting Word and deleting normal.dot.
     For what it's worth, I've not had this problem since installing MSWord-XP. It seems to be much more stable than any of its predecessors.

Sunday
Feb 24
Creating Special Effects with Text
>> Do you receive
>> a
>> certain amount of email that comes
>> out looking like
>> this?

Then click to download "StripMail," a FREE program that makes it easy to clean up this kind of malformatted text.

Making Photos Fit Comfortably on a Page
     I get asked periodically how to resize a large photo so it will fit comfortably on an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper when printed. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, but let's start with the simplest.
     Right-click the picture's icon and choose Copy. Launch your favorite word processor and go to Edit, Paste. (You may have to choose something like Edit, Paste Special, Bitmap Image - depending on your program.) This will place as much of your picture on the blank page as will fit, with the rest overlapping - probably out of view.
     Click on the picture to select (highlight) it and then mouse-grab one of its corners. Shove this corner toward the picture's center until it has shrunk to the size you want. Right-click on the newly-sized picture and choose Copy. Launch your image-editing program and click Edit, Paste. (You may have to click something like Edit, Paste As New Image - depending on program.)
     Finally, go to File, Save As and give your picture a new name, using the file format you prefer. Normally, this would be .JPG for a photograph. You can now attach this photo to an email, knowing that the recipient will be able to print it on a standard-size sheet of paper.
     Okay, this will work - but there are a number of other things that should be considered. You undoubtedly know that digital photo images are made up of hundreds of tiny squares whose colors appear to blend together when viewed from a distance. The number of these squares that can be squeezed into an inch is known as DPI (dots per inch). The higher the DPI, the finer the image resolution picture will be.
     Your image-editing program will normally let you choose the DPI you want. Beyond that, your printer must be capable of outputting the DPI you choose. So how do you know which DPI to use?

To Be Printed - or Just Viewed on a Monitor?
     Well, if your picture is only going to be viewed on a computer monitor, 72 DPI is about all that can be displayed on the average screen, anyway. Choosing a higher resolution simply increases the picture's file size, thus making it take longer to upload and download as an email attachment. This is also why pictures on web pages are normally 72-75 DPI.
     As for which DPI is best for printing a picture on paper, that depends on several factors. Many ink-jet printers are capable of printing resolutions of 1140 DPI and higher. However, 300 or 360 DPI will generally give very satisfactory results when printed on good quality paper.
     As for what qualifies as "good quality," it depends on your personal needs. Ink jet paper comes in a variety of price ranges, and a medium-cost paper does very nicely for most family photos. Expensive, high-gloss paper is available for professional reproduction at higher DPI resolutions. In any case, using low-cost fax or photo-copier paper not only tends to give fuzzy printouts, it wastes ink because more of it is soaked up into the paper's uncoated surface.
     I mentioned earlier that a graphic's DPI can be chosen by your "image-editing" program. However, there are dozens of image-editors available and there is very little consistency from one program to another in the way their menus and toolbars work.
     However, there is one image-editor that all Windows users have. Windows "Paint" (a.k.a. "PaintBrush" or "PBrush") can be launched by going to Start, Run and typing PBRUSH. Clicking OK will launch this "no-frills" image-editor.
     By going to File, Open, you can browse your way to any BMP, JPG, GIF, TIF image (along with several other graphic formats). The DPI of a picture can be found by going to Image, Attributes. However, PBrush does not let you change an image's DPI; and if you create a new image it will default to 81x81 DPI. However, PBrush does allow easy resizing of an image by going to Image, Stretch & Skew.
     For more sophisticated editing, you probably already have one or more programs on your computer. Whenever you buy a printer, a scanner or a digital camera, the item will come with an image-editing program. Beyond that, if you'd like a 30-day free trial of a more professional program, go to www.jasc.com and download the evaluation version of Paint Shop Pro.

Tuesday
Feb 19
Creating Special Effects with Text
     Don Albright called to ask if there's a way to "expand" text to make the letters wider. He needed three Greek characters used in his Navy Bulldog Logo (Phi, Psi, and Omega) widened before taking the artwork to an engraver.
     The answer is yes - but let's look at some of the steps taken to make this happen.
     First, where do we find the Greek characters? Well, they're all available in a font named "Symbol." In this case, the capital letters F, Y and W become F, Y and W when appearing in the Symbol font. Like any other font, the characters can be made bold, but Don needed them wider yet.
     I accomplished this using Corel Draw, where text can be turned into a "drawing" whose shape can be adjusted by simply grabbing and pulling an edge or a corner.
     However, MSWord has a feature that lets you expand or contract text almost as easily.
     Start by typing any word or phrase. Highlight the text and go to Format, font, Character Spacing, Scale. The defaulting setting is 100%, but clicking the little down arrow displays a number of other percentages.
     Choosing 200% makes your characters twice as wide, while 50% makes them half as wide. If none of the preset percentages is just right, type in the one you need and press Enter. A preview box lets you experiment to get just what you want.

Using WordArt & TextArt for Special Text Effects
     Another way to adjust the shape of text is to use WordArt, a feature that's available in MSOffice and MSWorks applications. The WordPerfect equivalent is called TextArt.
     Here's a WordArt example using MSWord: go to Insert, Picture, WordArt, choose one of the sample "styles" and click OK. A dialog box will appear with the message "Your Text Here." Type your text right over this. Let's use "Welcome!" as an example.
     If you chose the upper-left style, Welcome! should appear in 36 point Arial-Black, which will be displayed as white text with a black outline. The phrase will be a free-floating piece of "artwork" that can be grabbed and moved to anyplace on your page. By grabbing an edge or corner, the graphic can be resized and/or reshaped.
     When you first create the WordArt dialog box, a special "drawing" toolbar will appear, usually at the bottom of your screen. There are countless things that can be done with these tools; but one example would be to use the Paint Bucket to choose a "fill" color for the outlined text you just created. An imaginative variety of gradients and textures is also available for the fill, including the option of using a graphic or photo of your own.
     A Pen tool lets you change the color of the outline, as well as adjust its thickness. You'll also find options for slanting the letters, putting them on a curve, or for making the phrase have a "waving banner" appearance.
     As mentioned earlier, WordArt is available in MSWorks as well as in Word; however, the above options may appear in other types of dialog boxes and toolbars. Space here doesn't allow for listing them all, but a little experimenting can produce some very gratifying results.
     It should be noted that WordArt and TextArt, are a form of "vector" graphics, as are all "font" characters. "Vector" means that the graphic images, be they text characters or geometric objects, are created with straight lines and curves with smooth edges.
     "Bitmap" drawings, on the other hand, are created with tiny little squares that appear to blend together when seen from a distance. This is how photographs and paintings are reproduced as computer images.
     Why is this important to know? Well, Don's Greek symbol logo could have been reproduced as a "bitmap" ("raster") image, but the engraver would have had trouble converting these little squares into the smooth lines needed to laser-cut the tiny letters. And any attempt to resize the bitmapped logo would have meant adding or subtracting little squares, making the exact proportions of the image hard to maintain. The edges of vector graphics, however, are created as mathematical equations that keep their exact proportions whenever they are resized.
     Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw are two of the best known programs for creating vector graphics, while Adobe PhotoShop and Corel PhotoPaint are among the most popular bitmap editing programs. These programs range in price from about $300 to $700 each.
     However, Paint Shop Pro is a very comprehensive program that combines both vector and raster capabilities in one program and costs about $120 for all its features.

Sunday
Feb 10
Placing Web Pages & Links into Email
     Wouldn't it be nice if all email systems worked exactly the same way so we'd always know that what we sent would be received the same way we sent it?
     This was the case back when all email was plain black and white text. Now, however, the HTML capabilities of email makes enclosing a full-blown web page inside a letter entirely possible. But this doesn't work exactly the same way with each email service.
     The only way to know for sure how this works for you and for your intended recipients is to experiment. For instance, if you use Hotmail, Yahoo or Juno, you can open a web page and then click on Edit, Select All. You can then right-click the selected page and do Ctrl+C to Copy it.
     Finally, right-click inside your email and choose Paste. This will Paste the whole web page into your outgoing email, complete with all the graphics(including the animated ones, if any).
     If you follow the above instructions using AOL's email, the web page will be Pasted into your letter, but the formatting of the page will very likely be rearranged.
     If you follow the above using Outlook Express, the colorfully formatted text of the web page will be Pasted into your letter, but there will be empty boxes where images are supposed to appear. However, you can click on the boxes and use Insert Picture to place the individual graphics (after first Copying and Saving them from the original web page).
     Of course, the more obvious way to get a friend to see a particular web page is to simply put a link to the page in your email. The easiest way to do this is to open the web page in your preferred browser and then to drag the Internet Explorer logo or Netscape logo, which precedes the web address, directly into the email you are writing.
     If you're using AOL, drag the little red heart into the email. CompuServe users can drag the little checkmark.
     But when you do this with Outlook Express the link will be placed in your Attachment box, rather than in the body of the letter. The recipient then has to download the attachment to get the link.
     The most universally reliable way to get a URL into any outgoing email is to simply click in the web page's address box, causing its text to be selected. Right-click the selection and choose Copy. Back inside your letter, right-click and choose Paste. This will place a clickable line of blue underscored text inside your letter.
     This also works with IMs (instant messages). Having a conversation about a particular web page? Send the link to your buddy so he or she can instantly see what you're talking about.
     Speaking of web page URLs, Jonathan in Encinitas asked why they usually appear as long lines of cryptic text, while other times they appear in understandable English. Well, the "www" text is the actual Internet address of the site. However, using HTML, the address can be "edited" into easily understood English.
     I won't go into details of the HTML coding, but if you have a list of Favorites in Internet Explorer, right-click any one of them and choose Properties. You'll see the actual URL along with the "Favorites" name, which can be edited to read anyway you'd prefer. If you click a Favorite in AOL, you'll see an Edit button at the bottom of the window. Click it to find similar options. If you go to Bookmarks in Netscape, you'll find your editing options by clicking the "Manage Bookmarks" button.
     Regarding a recent column about inserting a "Signature" into outgoing email, Jonathan asked if this is really a good idea, suggesting that it gives the spammers that much more personal information about you.
     Well, I can understand the basic concept of wanting as much privacy as you can get, but, speaking for myself, I not only make no attempt to hide my name, I also put my phone numbers on my web page. I have nothing to hide - and, as for spammers, my Delete key works just fine.

Tuesday
Feb 5
Inserting a "Signature" in Email & Other Documents
     David Best wrote to ask how I created the handwritten "signature" seen on some of the pages of my web site. The easiest way to put your own signature on word processing documents, email, or a web page is to sign your name with a black pen on a piece of white paper and then scan the signature. Save the scanned image as a .GIF file and then insert it into your documents just as you would any other graphic.
     Another way to generate what can appear to be a handwritten signature is to simply choose from the many script or cursive fonts found on most computers nowadays.
     This works fine for a word processing document that will be printed on paper, but using a script font in an email message will only look the same to a recipient who has the same font on his/her computer. The same holds true for doing this on a web page; a viewer would need the same font to see what you intended.
     Beyond that, you can have a custom TrueType font created, based on your actual handwriting. This way a whole letter can be created in what appears to be your own hand, or you could insert a "personal note" into a letter prepared with a standard font. Again, however, email and Web viewers would only see this "handwriting" if they had a copy of your special font. Otherwise, the characters would appear in the viewer's "default" font; most often Times New Roman.
     To find companies that create "handwriting" fonts, I went to google.com and typed signature fonts into the Search box. Several businesses were quickly found that do this.

Here's one of the "Signatures" I've Been Using:
     donsig.gif  2432 bytes
     This "signature," however, was actually created with a standard script font which I then converted to a .GIF file. Here's how I did it: I simply typed my name onto a blank text page, using an easy-to-read script at about 20 points. With my "signature" showing on the screen, I hit my PrntScrn key.
     Then I went to Start, Run, and typed in PBRUSH. Clicking OK brought up the Windows Paint (a.k.a. PaintBrush) program. Going to Edit, Paste placed the black "signature" into the upper left corner of a white "canvas." I mouse-grabbed the lower right corner of the canvas to shrink it to be just large enough to contain the image, which I then saved as DONSIG.GIF into the My Documents folder.
     I can now insert this graphic wherever it seems appropriate, and can even resize it by grabbing and moving any of its corners.
     I've mentioned the Windows Paint program here only because all Windows users have it. However, using a more sophisticated image editor, such as Paint Shop Pro, will let you apply a transparent background, meaning the image can be placed on a background of any color.

Inserting "Links" (Hyperlinks) into Email
     I wrote recently, suggesting that a Web site's address be copied and pasted into a browser's URL box, rather than typing it in - or better yet, clicking a "link" to the site if one could be found. Links can also be automatically generated in most of today's email and IM messages. If you type nctimes.net inside an Outlook Express letter, it will automatically turn into an underlined blue link that, when clicked, will take you directly to the North County Times home page. Likewise, typing an email address into an OE letter will bring up a new, pre-addressed email when clicked.
     This also works for Hotmail, Netscape, Juno, and Yahoo mail.
     However, AOL and CompuServe users have to work a little harder to place a clickable link into an outgoing message. They can right-click anywhere in an outgoing email and choose "Insert Hyperlink." Two boxes will appear, inviting you to type the actual URL into the "Address" box and to type anything you want into the "Description" box. For instance, I might use "Don's Home Page" as the description, but type "www.pcdon.com" into the Address box.
     Having done this, Don's Home Page will appear as clickable underlined blue text in the letter, although the actual URL will not be seen.
     Next time we'll see how to do this with an email address and talk more about Hyperlinks, Favorites and Bookmarks.

Sunday
Feb 3
Internet & Website Questions Answered
     Today's column was written in Miami, where, much to my surprise, I was invited to appear on a Spanish language TV talk show. Somehow the show's producers spotted a little story on my Web site that tells of something that happened to me in Cuba in 1951. More on this later.
     Speaking of Web sites, here's a brief summary of answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject. Web sites basically consist of one or more pages of various types of data, which can be can be accessed by typing the site's Internet address into a browser's URL (uniform resource locator) box.
     A Web site's address normally begins with "http://www." (followed by what is often a cryptic bunch of characters) and ending with something like ".com" or ".org" or ".gov"(which stand for commercial, organization, and government, respectively). A Web site's "home page" URL is normally less cryptic, often being the actual name of a company or an organization. For instance, typing "nctimes.net" will bring the North County Times' home page.
     But what about "http://www." - doesn't that have to be typed in as well? Yes, there was a time when it was needed, but browsers have become smart enough to fill this stuff in for you. If, for instance, you type escondido.com into your browser's URL line, you'll get Escondido's home page, complete with links to all kinds of interesting things in and around the city.

     The 3-Letter Suffix Can Make a Difference
     As for the three-letter suffixes, ".com" and ".net" generally refer to commercial enterprises; and knowing which one your target company uses is needed to access its site. Beyond that, using the wrong suffix can generate some unexpected results. I once went looking for some income tax information and typed in irs.com. What I got was a tax preparation business that wanted to sell me their services. However, when I typed in irs.gov, I got the information I was looking for.
     The main thing you should know about typing in URLs correctly is: don't do any typing at all if you can avoid it. It's too easy to make a mistake - and one wrong character can keep your from accessing of the site you want.
     Rather, try to find a "link" to the target Web site and just click on it. Links are very often an underlined phrase in blue text. Other times a link will be a graphic image and still other times it will be a word or phrase that is NOT blue nor underlined. However, you can always identify a link by the fact that your cursor changes from an "arrow" to a "pointing finger" when it comes into contact with one.
     Beyond that, a "pointing finger" requires only a single click to activate an underlying link, whereas icons touched by a regular "arrow" cursor normally require a double-click.
     So how do we find "links" to a Web site we want to visit? The easiest way is to use a search engine. A browser will always have a "Find" or "Search" box into which you can type a key word or a phrase. Typing in Ford, for instance, will bring up links such as "Ford Motor Company" and "Ford Theater." Typing General Motors will bring up zillions of links to all kinds of items with either "General" or "Motors" in their names. However, typing "General Motors" in quotation marks will narrow the search down items relating only to the automotive company.

     Bookmarks and Favorites
     Once you've found a Web site, you can "Bookmark" it in Netscape or put it in your "Favorites" in Internet Explorer or in the AOL/CompuServe browsers. The next time you want to visit that particular Web site, find it in your Bookmark or Favorites list and give it a click.

     "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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