Those Amazing Cell Phones
Cell phones are truly amazing things. When I arrived in Staten Island recently, my laptop PC was still displaying California time; but my cell phone had updated itself to New York time. Also, while riding a Staten Island train, I received a call from a San Diego reader who asked if there was an easy way to move his CompuServe Address Book to a new ISP.
I had to tell him, sadly, neither CompuServe, nor its parent company AOL, provides any way to transfer an Address Book other than by copying and pasting it one address at a time.
Importing & Exporting Address Books
Outlook Express, on the other hand, lets you go to File, Export, Address Book, where choosing "Text File, CSV (Comma Separated Values)" is usually the easiest way to copy and paste the data into another Address Book.
Conversely, you can go to File, Import, Address Book to bring one in from certain other e-mail programs.
A Netscape Address Book, can be exported by going to Communicator, Address Book, File, Export and saving it as a CSV or TXT text file. Netscape's File, Import, Address Book will also work with certain other e-mail programs.
Kathy Hodges wrote to ask how to display her Contact List (a.k.a. Address Book) in Outlook Express. This is done by going to View, Layout, and checking the Contacts box.
Equipment Failure Questions
A question I’m frequently asked is why someone’s printer has suddenly stopped working. There are obviously many possibilities here, including the cable between the printer and PC not being secured properly at one or both ends. If your equipment allows the use of a USB cable, this choice will always be easier to work with than the older, more awkward LPT1 cables and connectors.
However, the solution that seems to work in many cases is simply reinstalling the printer’s drivers. This can be done by inserting the CD that came with the printer and following the installation prompts. If the CD can’t be found, the drivers can be freely download from the printer manufacturer's Web site.
Sometimes the problem is having had drivers for multiple printers installed, and the one listed as “default” not being the one you want to use. After going to File, Print, a list of printers can be found by clicking the down arrow next to Printer Name. If any of the names showing are for printers on longer in service, go to Start, Settings, Printers and delete their icons.
When an internal device stops working, such as a CD drive, it can often be fixed by simply deleting its icon from Device Manager and rebooting the computer. Win98/ME/XP and later will normally find the device during the reboot and restore its settings. A shortcut for getting there is to tap your Pause/Break key while holding down your Windows key. Finally, go to Hardware, Device Manager.
Using a Startup Disk
I’m also asked periodically why a computer refuses to boot up properly. Without being there to see what’s happening, the best short-range solution is to use the 3.5” “boot disk” which was, hopefully, created when Windows was originally installed. The disk won’t fix the problem, but it will get your computer to boot up so it can, hopefully, be checked out.
If you don’t have a boot disk, insert a blank 3.5” into your A drive. Win98 and WinME users will then go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs. Choose the Startup Disk tab and click Create Disk.
WinXP users should go to Start, My Computers. Click the A drive icon and choose Format, Create an MS-DOS Startup Disk.
There are other questions which just can’t be easily answered in a single newspaper column or even in an e-mail reply. For instance, I’m asked periodically about creating and using Macros in MSWord and/or Excel. Well, a Macro is a “recording” of a number of specific keystrokes which are used to accomplish a particular task. If the task is one that’s frequently repeated, having a Macro “recording” of its steps will make it faster and easier to do in the future. All I can offer here is that you go to Help, Macros in Word or Excel and read their instructions.
More RAM Can Help Fix "Illegal Operation" Problems
Rarely do I go a week without being asked why a
computer locks up, along with its monitor
displaying: "This program has performed an illegal
The most common reason for this is
that more programs are running than the computer's RAM
(random access memory) can handle. This condition
usually forces the user into rebooting, which often
solves the problem by closing all programs and clearing
A more permanent solution is to add more RAM. Most new
programs require 128-256 MBs of RAM to run efficiently,
while many older computers are still limping along on
32 or 64 MBs. Although RAM chips can be bought directly
from manufacturers such as www.crucial.com, the average
home user is generally better off to have a local
computer store do the job.
If you still continue to get the "blue screen of death"
it may be time for a new computer, or a repair job on
the old one, which might cost nearly as much as a new
WindowsME vs WindowsXP
I've also been asked about the pros and cons of
upgrading to WindowsME or WindowsXP. Well, it's worth noting
that ME hadn't been out all that long before XP was
introduced. I have both, and find that XP is much more
stable. The main downside of WinXP is that some older
peripherals (scanners, etc.) are not recognized by XP
and that their drivers need to be updated. If, for
instance, you have an HP scanner that won't run under
WinXP, log onto www.hp.com and click on DRIVERS. Choose
your scanner's model number and you'll be prompted on
how to download and install the needed driver.
Having said that, I must acknowledge that Visioneer
never did make a new driver available for my older
scanner; so I went out and bought a new Epson for about
$75, which is easier to use than the old Visioneer
(which cost about $300 new). In any case, I'm still able
to use the Visioneer with one of my older computers.
A program that all Windows users have, but which many
are unaware of, is Notepad. It's a "plain text" word
processor, which can be activated by going to Start,
Run and typing NOTEPAD. It only allows you to use one
style of plain black text, with no formatting allowed
other than paragraph breaks and tabs. When a Notepad
file is saved (by doing File, Save As, and giving it a
name) it will have a .TXT extension. You've very likely
received "help" files for various programs with names
So what use could the average home PC user find for
Notepad? Well, if you've ever highlighted the entire
contents of an email and then pasted it into your
favorite word processor, you've discovered that all the
email's special "table" formatting of the "headers"
get pasted in, as well. However, if you were to paste
everything into a Notepad file, all the "table"
settings will be converted to "plain text" thus making
subsequent editing easier to do.
Make It Easy with "Yellow Stickies"
Having explained this, however, I've found a much
easier way to do it. A Free Yellow Stickies program
can be downloaded from my
Home Page. A new,
blank "sticky" can be launched with the click of an
icon, which can be used to convert pasted-in HTML email to plain
text. A new, blank sticky is small, but expands to
accept whatever amount of text you put in it.
The sticky can be saved by right-clicking the bar at
its top and choosing Save As. The saved file will then
be converted into a Notepad file, but the yellow sticky
will remain on your Desktop for further use. It can be
deleted at any time by clicking the X in its upper
right corner. In other words, the stickey acts as a
quickie way of creating a Notepad file. Furthermore, if
you forget to name and save a sticky, it will still be
on your Desktop the next time you reboot.
I use stickies constantly to type all kinds of memos,
and wonder how I ever got along without them. Space
here won't let me list all the really useful things
that can be done with the little rascals, but it's very
rewarding to experiment and find out for yourself.
Viruses - Real & Phony + Accessibility Options for the Physically Challenged +
Inserting ™ & Other Symbols
I've sure been getting hit with a lot of virus stuff lately, particularly by email that arrives with attachments ending in .ZIP. Some of the email is totally blank, while others contain messages like "I want you to enjoy this new web site." If you receive anything with a .ZIP attachment, delete it immediately; unless, of course, it's something you asked for and are expecting.
The other thing I've been getting is email from well-intentioned friends passing along a message that says to delete a file called JDBGMGR.EXE because it's a virus. This is a hoax! The file is part of your Windows operating system and should NOT be deleted.
The bottom line regarding virus threats is: install an antivirus program and keep it updated, and do NOT download any attachment you're not expecting. For a free online virus check from Norton/Symantec you can go to www.pcdon.com and click the link at the bottom of the page.
When I recently asked if anyone had a good way to cancel printing on an HP printer I'd didn't expect to be buried in an avalanche of email. Harry Stultz wrote to say his DeskJet 930C has a Cancel button on it; however, everyone else said to simply remove the paper in the feed tray.
Linda Breitman wrote to offer a helpful trick I'd never heard of. Your mouse can be programmed to automatically jump to the "default" button of any multi-button dialog box that opens. Go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Mouse, Mouse Properties, Pointer Options and check the "Snap To" box. WinXP users go to Start, Control Panel, Mouse, Mouse Properties, Motion, and check the "Smart Move" box.
The "default" button, by the way, is always the one with a darker outline, and can also be activated by simply pressing Enter. As for your cursor "snapping to" the button, it can still be moved to any other button.
Speaking of little-known tricks, here are some others: if you find yourself typing a line of text in all capital letters because you unknowingly pressed your CAPS LOCK key, you can program this key to have a noticeable click when pressed, thus warning you it's been activated. Go to Control Panel, Accessibility Options and check off "Toggle Keys."
Here you can also check off "Sticky Keys." This means that keystroke combinations which normally need to be held down all at once (such as CTRL-ALT-DEL) can be pressed one at a time to accomplish the same result. Why would anyone need this? Well, my assistant Mary Hanson has a disability that allows her to type with only one hand. Get the picture?
In this same Accessibility Options area, "Filter Keys" can be checked to help eliminate the accidental repetitions of any key. Visually-impaired users can go to Display and check "High Contrast" to make their screens easier to read. Several other choices are available here to make things easier for folks with various disabilities. Check them out.
Steve Guffanti wrote to say he's writing a book with MSWord,
and asked how to add the TM (trade mark) symbol to a name that appears many times. Well, in Word TM can be created by typing (TM). All that needs to be done to add it to each occurrence of the name is to go to Edit, Replace and type the name into the Find box. Then, in the Replace With box, type the name followed by (TM) and click Replace All.
Also in Word, typing (R) will create this: ® while typing (C) will generate this: ©. Typing :) will produce this:J.
To see what other handy keyboard shortcuts are available go to Tools, AutoCorrect.
Handy "Zoom" View Trick -
A Number of Uses for the Ctrl Key
Steven Barisof wrote to let me know about a handy trick available in MSWord. If your mouse has a "scroll wheel" between its two buttons, you can change your screen "Zoom" view by rolling the wheel while holding down your CTRL key. The view will change in 10% increments, and this is a marvelously handy way to adjust your document's legibility as you work. Steven pointed out that this trick also work's in Word's Print Preview mode.
This got me to wondering about other word processors, and I discovered that the trick also works with recent versions of WordPerfect and MSWorks. However, in the latter program the trick doesn't work in the Print Preview mode.
But guess what - the trick also works with Internet Explorer - however when viewing a web page only the text size will change, leaving graphics unaltered. Nonetheless, both graphics and text will change in the above-mentioned word processors.
Users of PaintShopPro can likewise move the mouse wheel to change the Zoom size of any graphic; and holding down the CTRL key is not necessary.
It's also helpful to know that in PSP and the word processing applications, the Zoom view affects only the screen appearance of your document, while a print-out will still be in whatever font sizes you've chosen. However, changing the text size views, using Internet Explorer, will be reflected in the actual print-out of the Web page.
More Uses for Your CTRL Key
Speaking of your Ctrl key, it has dozens of other handy uses. If you hold it down while dragging a word or phrase from one location to another in a word processing document, the text will be "copied" rather than "moved," thus leaving the original text in place.
If you need to select multiple files in a folder, Ctrl will let you click and choose the ones you want for a group Delete, Copy, or whatever. Ctrl also lets you choose multiple rows or columns in programs like Excel.
However, the most common use for the Ctrl key is to hold it down while pressing other keys, in order to accomplish a task normally done with one's mouse. Probably the most used keyboard shortcuts are Ctrl+X for Cut, Ctrl+C for Copy and Ctrl+V for Paste. Others combine Ctrl with S for Save, P for Print, F for Find, and A for Select All.
With selected text, Ctrl+B will make it Bold, while Ctrl+I will Italicize it and Ctrl+U will cause it to be Underlined. With selected paragraphs Ctrl+E will Center them, Ctrl+L or R will Left align and Right align them. Ctrl+J will cause the selected text to be fully Justified.
Ctrl+W is the same as File, Close in many programs, while Ctrl+G or H will initiate a Find and Replace dialog box. Most of these keyboard shortcuts also work on Macs by substituting the "Apple" key for Ctrl.
Other popular keyboard shortcuts that work on most computers are F1 to bring up Help options and F7 to activate a Spell-Checker. Shift+F7 brings up the Thesaurus in most Microsoft programs. Also in most MS applications, Ctrl+Y reverses the action of Ctrl+Z, which means Redoing the last Undo.
Holding down the Windows key while clicking E will bring up Windows Explorer, which is an area of Windows that all users should become familiar with. A shortcut for getting into System Tools is to hold down the Windows key while pressing the Pause-Break key. Alt+F4 can be used to Exit any program.
For a handy, downloadable & printable chart of these Keyboard Shortcuts,
One key that I, personally, think should be eliminated altogether is the Insert key. Although it can be programmed to perform the same action as Ctrl+V (Paste) in some programs, it usually ends up being more of a nuisance than a help.
If, for instance, you've ever found that while doing some word processing you try to edit something in the middle of a sentence, only to find each keystroke "eating" the character to the right of your cursor, this means you've unknowingly pressed the Insert key. Press it again to get out of this bit of text editing quicksand.