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

Return to Don's Home Page        Return to List of 2002 Columns

June 2, 2002 Free PC to PC Voice Communication with Yahoo Messenger + Using Text IMs
June 4, 2002 Exchanging Files Between a PC and a Mac + Avoiding Junk Mail on Hotmail
June 9, 2002 Using GO BACK + Managing Favorites & Bookmarks
June 11, 2002 Helpful Hints for MSWord Users
June 16, 2002 Printing Selections, Unzipping Downloads, Taskbar & Start/Run Options + Thumbnail Graphics
June 23, 2002 Some Computer Terminology
June 25, 2002 "Clickable" Hyperlinks, HTML vs. Plain Text, Using BCCs
June 30, 2002 More Info on the Differences between MS-Word & MS-Works
June 30

More Info on the Differences between MS-Word & MS-Works
     I recently wrote about some of the differences between Microsoft "Works" and Microsoft "Word." However, the brief explanation generated a number of additional questions, which the following should help answer:
     In its simplest terms, MS "Works" is an "integrated program" which consists of a "word processor," a "spreadsheet" application and a "database" manager. MS "Word" is a stand-alone word processor, but it's also part of the "Microsoft Office" suite, which contains a spreadsheet application named "Excel," a graphical presentation program called "PowerPoint" and, in the more expensive "business" versions, a database manager named "Access." The various parts of MSOffice such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access, can also be purchased as stand-alone programs, whereas the word processor, spreadsheet, and database applications in MSWorks are NOT available individually.

Why Two of the Same Thing?
     So why does Microsoft offer two different "suites" which appear to contain many of the same elements? Well, simply put, all the programs in MSOffice are much more sophisticated and more powerful than their MSWorks counterparts. They are also much larger and, not surprisingly, much more expensive.
     As for "suite compatibility," files created with MSWorks can always be read by users of MSOffice applications. Conversely, users of MSWorks can often open and read files created in Word and Excel. The trick is to go to the "Files of Type" box after clicking on File, Open, and click on file's parent program.

Not Always Fully Compatible
     That having been said, however, it's important to realize that "Excel" files can often be too complex for the "Works spreadsheet" to handle. Likewise, sophisticated formatting features available in "Word" can't always be read by the "Works" word processor. Beyond all this, if you plan to send your document to a user of another program, you may be able make the file compatible with his/her program by going to the "Files of Type" box after clicking on File, Save As. Using the "Files of Type" box can also, in many instances, overcome compatibility issues between newer and older versions of the same program, such as "Word 6.0" vs. "Word 2000."

Use the "Files of Type" Options
     The "Files of Type" box is also where you go to help make "Word" files compatible with "WordPerfect" or "Lotus WordPro/Ami" and to make "Excel" files compatible with "Lotus 1-2-3" or "WordPerfect's Quattro." This is also where you can go to make Macintosh and PC files readable on each other's platform (in many cases). It pays to experiment.

1st, 2nd & 3rd
     As long as we're talking about office "suites" it's helpful to know that "Microsoft Office" is the #1 seller throughout the world of business, while "Corel WordPerfect Office" is a formidable competitor. "Lotus Smart Suite," on the other, is running a very distant third.

The Way It Used To Be
     Historically speaking (in case you're interested) "Lotus 1-2-3" was once the world's best-selling spreadsheet, and "WordPerfect 5.1" (for DOS) was once the best-selling word processor. As for MSWorks, it's the "entry-level suite" most often bundled with a new computer nowadays.
     Speaking again of "suites," I've discovered that many computer newcomers use only their "word processors" and have no idea what to do with their suites' other features. Here's a brief overview of a couple of these other utilities: A "spreadsheet" is a page consisting of rows and columns, with the former labeled "1, 2, 3, etc." while the latter is marked "A, B, C, etc." The "boxes" created by the intersecting rows and columns are called "cells." "A1," for instance, is normally the cell in the upper left corner of a spreadsheet, while the cell below it is "A2." Cells to the right of "A1" would be "B1" and "C1," etc.

Spreadsheets & Databases
     Spreadsheets were designed mainly for doing mathematical calculations. A "database" is also a grid, whose "rows" are called "records" and whose columns are called "fields" and whose "cells" are filled with data that's often combined with or compared to data in other cells. A mail order business, for example, might tell its customer database that it wants a list of all customers who are female, above a certain age, and who live in particular zip code area.

June 25

"Clickable" Hyperlinks, HTML vs. Plain Text, Using BCCs
     Hugh Hawkins wrote to say that some of the emails he receives contain Web site addresses that are not "clickable," i.e. underlined in blue text. He asked if there is a way to access these sites without having to retype the often lengthy and cryptic addresses into his browser's URL (universal resource locator) box. The answer is yes, by simply using the old reliable steps of Copy and Paste.
     Many email programs nowadays automatically convert typed-in Web addresses into underlined blue "hyperlinks" as they are written. This is a function of preparing email in HTML formatting, rather than as "plain text." (Email created in AOL 7.0, for instance, is automatically sent in HTML format, while most email services give you the choice of sending letters as HTML or Plain Text.)
     In any case, if you receive URLs in plain text, simply mouse-select the address and then right-click it. Next, click Copy on the popup menu. Finally, right-click inside your browser's URL box and choose Paste from the popup. Whatever address is currently displayed will automatically be "selected" and will disappear as your copied address is pasted in with a right-click.
     Now press Enter or click Go to activate your browser's attempt to connect with the site.

Links to Recently Visited Sites
     By the way, have you ever wondered what the little "down" arrow is for at the far right of your URL box? Click it and you should see a dozen or so of your most recently accessed addresses. A single click on any of them will take you again to its Web location.
     Getting back to having "typed-in" addresses turn into clickable links (hyperlinks) AOL email normally does NOT do it. In order to have a correspondent receive a clickable link, an AOL user must first highlight the typed-in URL and then right-click it. Choose "Insert Hyperlink" from the popup menu and a dialogue box will appear, into which the URL can be typed or pasted.
     I consider having to do this in AOL a time-wasting nuisance, but it does have one advantage; in the body of the letter you can opt to type a "phrase" of any kind, which will turn into a blue link after you've typed the actual URL into the "Insert Hyperlink" box. For instance, if I write Don's Web Page in the letter, it will become a blue link after I've typed or pasted into the "Insert Hyperlink" box. (It will look like this: Don's Web Page).
     Beyond this, AOL users who frequently include a particular link or phrase in an email, can click on the "pencil" icon and choose "Set Up Signatures." Follow the prompts to have a "Signature" (a pre-typed phrase, Web address, or whatever) stored for future use. Finally, after writing a letter, click the pencil and then click the phrase you want inserted. It will appear at the bottom of your email. A very handy feature!
     Hugh Hawkins also asked why some "forwarded" email can't be opened and read. Without having one of these "forwards" sent to me (at I can't really tell.

"Forwards" are Usually Forwarded to My Trash Can
     In any case, I must confess to having a negative attitude toward "forwards" of any kind. I never "forward" email to others, and I rarely open email "forwarded" to me. If someone sends me a story or a picture that I might want to pass on to others, I create a new letter, into which I copy and paste the material. (I may also add comments of my own.) And if I think the material is worthy of being sent to a lot of my friends I put their addresses in a "BCC" (blind carbon copy) box and put my own address in the "To:" box. This way no recipient sees any email address other than mine and his or her own.

Using BCCs Is the Courteous Thing To Do
     And please use BCCs when sending email to more than one person. Unscrupulous "name harvesters" are out there just waiting to find an email with dozens of addresses on display. Most email programs make their "BCC" boxes easy to find and use. AOL and Outlook Express do not, but going to this page will show you how to find them.

June 23

Some Computer Terminology
     It doesn't seem all that long ago when the only electronic acronyms most of us needed to know were AM and FM on our radios. Then came VHF and UHF on our TV sets. But in the world of computers we're expected to understand the meanings of DSL, USB, HTML, ISP*, along with dozens of others that seem to arrive daily. So I thought it might be time to review some of these, along with a few other quirky PC (personal computer) terms.
     Let's start with "hard" and "floppy." If you've been around computers long enough to remember the 5-1/4" disks that came encased in paper envelopes, you know why they were called "floppy." When the hard-cased 3-1/2" disks arrived, many thought these were the new "hard disks" they'd been hearing about. However, if you slide open a 3.5" disk's metal door, you'll see the same flexible plastic inside that was used on the earlier floppies.
     Also, on these disks' cases you'll find a tiny "window" in one corner with a moveable "cover." When the window is closed, the disk can be "written" to, as well as "read." Uncovering the window, however, will "write-protect" the disk, meaning it can be read, but not edited.
     "Zip" is another word that can be confusing. As generic verbs, "zip" and "unzip" have come to mean "compress" and "decompress" the size of a computer file, using programs such as "WinZip" or "ZipMagic." The Iomega "Zip Drive," however, is a hardware device used with high-capacity Iomega "Zip Disks."
     As for "hard" disks, the one inside your computer that's normally called "C" is actually made of a more rigid plastic. So why is your PC's "hard disk" sometimes called its "hard drive?" Well, a 3.5" "disk" can be inserted into its "A-drive," but since your internal "C" disk is an integral part of its "C-drive" the two terms have become synonymous.
     If all this wasn't confusing enough, a compact disc (CD) is spelled with a "c" while floppy and hard disks are spelled with a "k." (I have no idea why.) Beyond all this, we "write" to hard and floppy disks, but we "burn" CDs.
     What's the difference between "Windows Explorer" and "Internet Explorer?" Well, the former is the "file management" utility that comes with Microsoft Windows, and which can be accessed by right-clicking Start and choosing Explore. The latter is Microsoft's Web "browser," and was designed to let us surf the Web, as was its competitor Netscape Navigator.
     Well, Mr. Gates' critics contend that Microsoft's ultimate goal was to combine Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer into a single program that would be an integral part of future MS-Windows operating systems, so that competitive browsers (such as Netscape, Opera, and Mozilla) would never be needed. In any case, more confusion was added when "MSN Explorer" was introduced a while back. This is a free mini-browser that appears to have been designed mainly to encourage its users to sign up with Microsoft's "MSN" ISP.
     Taskbar and Toolbar are other terms often used interchangeably, although the former is (technically) the gray bar along the bottom of a Windows screen, whereas the latter is used generically to mean any collection of "tool" icons that may come with any program. Beyond this, a "menu bar" is the line of words such as File, Edit, View, etc., that's normally found just above a toolbar. These words, as we know, offer drop-down menu choices when mouse-clicked; however, they can also be activated by pressing Alt while typing "f" or "e" or "v" (for File, Edit or View, or whatever).
     Another question that's often asked is "What's the difference between MS-Word and MS-Works?" Well, the former is a stand-alone word processing application that's usually sold as part of the MS-Office "suite" of programs. The latter is Microsoft's "slimmed-down" suite, which contains a word processor, a spreadsheet program and a database application, along with some other features. Unlike MS-Office's "Word" and "Excel," the word processor and spreadsheet program in Works are combined into one application and can't be purchased separately. Beyond all this,"Wordpad" is a no-frills word processor that always comes with Windows.
   *(Digital Subscriber Line, Universal Serial Bus, HyperText Markup Language, Internet Service Provider)

June 18
Backing Up Files on 3.5" Disks, Volume Control Icon, Changing and/or Creating Icons
     Marilyn Henderson wrote to ask how to back up copies of her digital camera photos in her My Documents folders to 3.5" disks. Well, the simple answer is to double-click My Computer, which will display the 3.5" A-Drive icon, and then to double-click My Documents, which will display the picture files. The pics can then be dragged and dropped onto the A-Drive. Keep in mind that files dragged from the C-Disk (hard drive) to another disk will be "copied," leaving the originals in place.
     The drawback to saving files on 3.5" floppies is, however, that by today's standards, these disks don't hold all that much data. Photo files can be quite large, and getting two or three on a floppy may be the best you can expect. But with the price of CD-burners having become so reasonable, and the large-capacity CDs themselves being so cheap, this is a much more practical solution to backing up your files.
     Speaking of transferring files, dragging and dropping between folders on the same disk physically "moves" them from one location to another. If you'd rather they be "copied," just hold down Ctrl while dragging. An alternative, within MSOffice programs, is to drag with the right mouse button depressed, and then to do a right-click on the target location. This will bring up a choice of "Move Here" or "Copy Here."

Volume Control Icon
     David Crossman wrote to say his Volume Control icon had vanished from his Taskbar and asked how to get it back. I, too, have had this happen and found that the solution can vary from one computer to another. In theory, all one has to do is go to Start, Run, and type in MSCONFIG. Click the Startup tab and make sure that System Tray is checked. A reboot of your PC should then place the "speaker" icon back in the System Tray near the digital clock. You can also click on Start, Settings, Control Panel (Start, Control Panel in WinXP) and double-click Multimedia (or Sound & Audio Devices). On the Audio tab, check "Show Volume Control on Taskbar."
     If none of the above works, try going to Start, Programs, Accessories, Entertainment, and right-clicking Volume Control. Here you can choose Create Shortcut and then drag the Shortcut icon to your Desktop and/or to your Taskbar's Quick Launch area. Beyond all this, reinstalling Windows should do the job.
     This little Speaker icon, by the way, is just one of several methods of adjusting your PC's sound output. For instance, all the "media players" (Windows, QuickTime, RealPlayer, etc.) have volume control sliders. Beyond that, my Toshiba laptop has a volume control knob and the headset I use also has a manual control, as does my regular desktop speaker set. However, none of these devices do anything if your Windows Volume Control is set to zero or to Mute.

Changing and/or Creating Desktop Icons
     Milos Vancura* wrote to say he's created some new folders for holding special files and asked if there is a way of changing their "plain vanilla" appearance to something more interesting. Yes, you can change the appearance of any "shortcut" icon (the ones with a little bent arrow in their lower left corner). Simply right-click the icon and go to Properties, Shortcut, Change Icon. An impressive collection of colorful alternatives will appear from which to choose.
     Unless you have WinXP, however, Folder icons created on the Desktop cannot have their looks changed. What's needed is to create the folders somewhere else and then to right-click each one and choose Create Shortcut. The Shortcuts can then be dragged to the Desktop and changed as explained above. WinXP users, however, can create a desktop folder and then right-click it to bring up Properties, Customize, Change Icon.
     For the really creative, however, you can draw your own icons using Windows' built-in PaintBrush program. Details can be found at
     *Milos is from Czechoslovakia, by the way, and has a very interesting Home Page, which can be found at

MSWord vs. MSWorks
     Bonnie Marona wrote to ask if documents she's created using MSWord can be opened by someone using MSWorks. The short answer is "yes, usually" but a more detailed explanation can be found at Also, phone calls are also welcome at (949) 646-8615.

June 16
Printing Selections, Unzipping Downloads, Taskbar & Start/Run Options + Thumbnail Graphics
     Nina Klowden wrote to ask if there is any way to print just a portion of something found on the Web or in her email. Well, one way is to mouse-select the target text and/or graphic and then right-click it. A popup menu will offer "Copy" as one of its choices. Another right-click inside a blank word processing document will let you choose "Paste," after which the page can be printed. However, most printers give you the option of printing just the highlighted material, if you go to File, Print, rather than just clicking on your Printer icon. Look for an option that says something like "Print Selection Only."

"Unzipping" Downloaded Attachments
     Shirley Ford wrote to ask how to "unzip" (decompress) files she finds attached to her AOL email. Well, AOL, along with many other email programs, usually does this for you automatically. If AOL is not doing this, go to Settings, Preferences, Downloads, and choose to have this done. Once this setting is established, here's what will happen to any downloaded "zipped" files:
     If the attachment is a single file, it will be restored to its original condition with its original file name. If the "zipped" (compressed) attachment contained multiple files, however, a folder will be created and given a name similar to that of one of the "unzipped" files. Then all the files will be placed inside this folder. Either way, the decompressed items will be placed in AOL's Download folder.
     The Download folder will be inside the AOL main folder, which on newer computers can be found under C:\Program Files. On older PCs it's normally found under C:\AOL.

Taskbar Questions
     I receive a lot of questions regarding the Windows Taskbar, and will try to answer a few of them here. The part of this bar holding the digital clock is called the System Tray, and the other icons you see there are shortcuts to programs which get loaded when your computer starts. They then continue to run in the background. You can eliminate any you don't want to have launched automatically by going to Start, Run and typing MSCONFIG. Click OK and go to the Startup tab to make your choices.
     Speaking of the digital clock, letting your mouse pointer hover over it for two seconds will display the current Day and Date. Double-clicking the clock will bring up a dialog box which lets you correct the current time and date and/or manipulate the calendar to find out, say, what day a certain date will fall on.
     Another item in your System Tray is a little "speaker" icon. A single-click on it will display a Volume Control box, while a double-click will bring up a Multiple Audio Control Panel.

Various "Start/Run" Options
     Getting back to the "Start, Run" commands, there are several that will bring up some handy utilities. For instance, typing CALC will bring up a floating calculator, with which you can do some quick mathematics as well as Copy and Paste the results into a document you might be working on. By going to View, Scientific, the calculator becomes one of those high-tech tools that I've personally never learned how to use.
     Start, Run, NOTEPAD will bring up the "plain text" editor that lets you do simple word processing in a single type style. The default font is pretty ugly, but you can change it by going to Edit, Font.
     Start, Run, PBRUSH will launch the "no frills" bitmap editor that comes with Windows. If you don't have a more sophisticated "painting" program PaintBrush can be used to crop and/or resize photos, among other things.

"Thumbnail" Icons for Graphic Files
     One of the things I like about Windows XP is that you choose "Thumbnails" as a "View" option. This lets you see icon-sized reproductions of many of your graphic files. Well, Win98 and WinME will also let you see these miniatures if you right-click on any folder containing images and choosing Properties, Enable Thumbnail View. Inside the folder, you can click on View and choose Thumbnails. It works great!

June 11
Helpful Hints for MSWord Users
     Dick Grove wrote to say his "Font Name" and "Font Size" boxes had somehow vanished from his MSWord Toolbar, and asked how to get them back. Well, all the items seen in the MSWord toolbar can be managed by going to Tools, Customize. In this dialog box Dick would click on the Format tab, which will display all the formatting icons, along with the "Font" and "Size" boxes. From here any item can be dragged and dropped directly into the Word Toolbar.
     Conversely, any unneeded icon can be dragged from the Toolbar into the "Customize" dialog box. In fact, one of the first things I tell new users of Word is to get rid of all the icons they seldom, if ever, use. Word normally comes with about three times as many icons in its toolbar than most of us would ever use. This surplus of icons makes it harder to find the ones we actually need, and usually requires three rows to display them all. I have all my icons in one row and use the extra space for working in my document.
     Oddly enough, one of the icons I use most is one that Microsoft does NOT place in its default Toolbar. This is the Ruler icon, and clicking it will display or hide a ruler at the top of your page. To place this icon in your Toolbar, go to Tools, Customize, View and drag the Ruler icon into place.
     Speaking of the Ruler icon, it will display both a Horizontal Ruler and a Vertical Ruler in the Print View. I use the Horizontal Ruler constantly (for setting tab stops, etc.) but have yet to find a use for the Vertical Ruler. So I get rid of it by going to Tools, Options, View and UNchecking "Vertical Ruler."
     While in this dialog box you can also UNcheck "Status Bar." This bar is useful if you're writing a book and need to have your Page Numbers and other pertinent data displayed; but removing it gives you an extra row of white space for working on your document.
     Going to Tools, Options, General will let you change the number of recently used files from "4" to as many as "9." These are the filenames that are listed when you click on File in the Word Toolbar; and I find being able to access the most recent nine to be enormously helpful.
     Under Tools, Options, Spelling & Grammar you can choose whether or not to have your spelling and/or grammar checked as you type. Word, by default, does this by putting a red squiggly under words suspected of being misspelled and a green squiggly under phrases it considers to be grammatically incorrect. When you find a red squiggly under a questionable word you can right-click it to bring up a list of suggested correct spellings. If the word is correctly spelled, however, but not found in Word's dictionary, you can click "Add to Dictionary."
     Personally, I prefer to have the spelling checked after my document is completed, and I defeat the "grammar" options altogether.
     Another thing I suggest to all Word users is to "Always Create a Backup Copy." This invaluable bit of ongoing insurance can be found by clicking on Tools, Options, Save. Here you can also choose " Save AutoRecover Info Every __ Minutes." This feature will create an ongoing backup even if you forget to Save your file periodically.
     I've been referring here to the Word "Toolbar" as a singular entity. Actually, Word normally displays two Toolbars; "Standard" and "Formatting." Other Toolbars can be displayed by going to View, Toolbars. The "Drawing" Toolbar, for instance, gives you a fairly comprehensive set of tools with which to draw geometric and freehand shapes, along with plenty of "line" and "fill" colors and textures.
     Experiment with some of the other Toolbars to find out what an amazingly versatile program Word can be.
June 9
PC Don - Using GO BACK + Managing Favorites & Bookmarks
   Ken Rusk wrote to say he's used the "System Restore" command in WinXP and wondered if there's a similar feature in Win98. Well, WinME has this tool, but Win95/98 does not. However, a program named GoBack can be purchased that will install "System Restore" into Win98.
    If you're not familiar with this feature, it gives you the opportunity to have your computer's settings go back to a previous date, in case you have a problem that can only be fixed by returning to a time before the problem began.
     To use the built-in "Go Back" feature in WinME/XP go to Start, Run and type MSCONFIG. Click OK and then click "Launch System Restore." Here you'll be given a choice of recent dates to which you can return. Choosing an earlier date will not cause any of your recently created or edited files to be lost or changed; only your "system" settings will be reverted to that date. Check out for more information.
     Gail Jarrard asked if there is a way to copy her Internet "Favorites" to a file so that she doesn't have to type in each URL. This can be done by getting online and clicking a Favorite (called Bookmark in Netscape). The target Web page will appear on your screen. A single click in the Web Address box will select the entire URL (Universal Resource Locator). Right-click the highlighted URL and choose Copy from the pop-up menu. Now the copied link can be pasted into any word processing document by right-clicking in it and choosing Paste.

Managing Favorites and Bookmarks
     Others have asked why their Favorites and Bookmarks don't display themselves in alphabetical order. Well, I assume it's because each address usually has two names: its actual "http://www..." name and its "shortcut" name - and the computer wouldn't know which names you want alphabetized. However, you can rearrange these items in any order you like. You can even create your own folders, into which you might put similar Web addresses. In Netscape you can click on "Bookmarks" and then on "Manage Bookmarks" to see all your favorites followed by their actual URL addresses.
     In this area you cannot only rearrange the URLs, you can rename any shortcut by right-clicking it and choosing Rename from the pop-up menu. The same works for renaming a folder. In Internet Explorer these features are found by clicking on "Favorites" and then on "Organize Favorites."
    Another thing you can do with a copied URL is paste it into an outgoing e-mail. When the recipient gets the letter, the URL will normally appear in blue with an underline, meaning that a single-click will take addressees directly to the indicated site. With most e-mail programs nowadays, pasting or typing a URL into an outgoing letter means it will turn into a clickable blue link. AOL, however, does not do this automatically.

AOL Users Have to Work Harder to Insert a Link and Bookmarks
     Here's how to put a clickable link in AOL mail. First type in the actual URL or, if you prefer, type a "shortcut" name for the link. Next highlight the name or link and do a right-click on it. From the pop-up menu, choose "Insert a Hyperlink." A dialog box will open into which you can type the URL. You can start with "www" but I usually start with http://www just to make sure.
    After you've typed in the URL and click OK, the highlighted text will change to blue with a blue underscore and will be sent as a clickable link to whomever receives it.
     Irene Kazakoff wrote to ask if she should upgrade her Internet Explorer browser to Version 6. She also asked how to find out what version she currently has. Well, to see the version number for a program, you can click on "Help" in the menu bar and choose "About" in the drop-down menu. As for using IE6, I've been using it for months and have had no problem with it. I also recently downloaded the "test" version of Netscape 7.0. The nice thing about downloading these free browsers is that you can always uninstall them and download an earlier version.

June 4
Exchanging Files Between a PC and a Mac + Avoiding Junk Mail on Hotmail
   Bob Whitegiver wrote to ask if there is a way to send an MSWord document as an email attachment to a Macintosh user. The answer is yes, assuming the Mac user has a version of MSWord that's compatible with Bob's. Generally speaking, users of recent versions of Word (Word2000/XP or Word98/Mac) can open each other's files with no problem. However, if the document is to be sent to a user of an earlier version of Word (Word95, for instance) then "Word6.0/Word95" should be chosen in the "Files of Type" box by the sender.
   It's interesting that Bob's question arrived at a time when I've been asked to move a bunch of MSWord files from a friend's iMac to a used PC she recently acquired. Since her PC will be using a compatible version of Word, conversion of file types is not an issue; but how do I get all these files from the iMac to the PC?
   Well, the iMac came with a CD-writable drive, but not with the CD-writing software needed. Okay, I could copy the files onto individual 3.5" floppy disks - but that would take forever. So I decided to transfer the files as email attachments. The iMac came with an Ethernet card built-in, meaning I can hook it up to the cable system I use with my PC and ISP.
   When multiple files are attached to an email message, they are normally "zipped" with compression software such as WinZip. You can do this yourself before attaching the files, but all email services nowadays do this for you automatically. In the Mac environment, Stuffit is the program used most often.
   Well, using a cable connection and "stuffed" files means the email will upload quickly from the Mac and can be downloaded quickly on my PC, where WinZip would decompress the files were I using Win98. However, WinXP has its own built-in "zip/unzip" software, so that's what I'll use. Finally, I'll copy all the decompressed Word files onto a CD, which my friend will use in her PC.
   Regarding file conversion and the "Files of Type" box, here you'll also find choices such as "Plain Text" and "WordPerfect5.x for DOS." The latter means your Word document will be converted to a file that can be opened by users of what was once the world's most popular word processing program.
   Choosing "Plain Text" will assure that your file can be read by any user of any word processor, be it for the PC or the Mac.

What Hotmail Users Can Do About Junk Mail
   Karen Floyd wrote to ask if there is any way to avoid the junk mail she keeps getting at her Hotmail email address. Well, I've often wondered if some of the spam Hotmail users receive isn't sent via Microsoft, on the theory that doing so can load up a user's mailbox to where he/she will agree to buy additional storage space. Nevertheless, I have to acknowledge that Hotmail is a totally free service and does offer some useful features.
   As for limiting the spam, clicking on "Options" in the Hotmail toolbar will bring up all kinds of choices. Beyond this, one of the things I find useful is that I can access from any computer anywhere. My main email account ( uses Outlook Express and a cable connection with ATT. When using this system however, my email is automatically downloaded to my hard drive as soon as it arrives, and no copies are held on the ISP's server, as are my Hotmail messages.
   Yes, I can go to ATTBI's Web site to download new messages when not at my own computer. This can also be done by users of other ISPs, by the way, including the North County Times ISP. Type into any browser's URL box, and then click Web Services at the bottom of the NCTimes home page. Click on Email, where you'll be invited to type in your email name and password to find your messages.

June 2
Free PC to PC Voice Communication with Yahoo Messenger + Using Text IMs
   I've written previously about IMs (instant messages) and how being able to have free, online, long distance conversations with someone thousands of miles away is one of the best things about having a computer. In case you're not familiar with the concept, here's how it works: once you and your friends are signed up with an IM service your names will show up on each other's screens whenever you're both online. Double-click a buddy's name and a box will appear into which you can type a message. Click SEND and the message will appear on your friend's screen with another box into which he/she can type a reply.
   What you have, in effect, is a realtime long distance conversation where you type instead of talk. And there is no charge other than your regular ISP monthly fee.
   Well, for those who'd rather talk than type, voice recognition software is available that turns your speech into a "typed" message which can be seen by your online correspondent. But wouldn't it be nice if you could just talk and eliminate the printed messages altogether? Well, now it can be done.
   The concept of free PC to PC audio communications is not new, but those who' ve offered it have usually been obscure companies with whom only a few dedicated "nerds" have been able to make the often unstable systems work. Now, however, Yahoo has gotten into the game with "Yahoo Messenger" and I've found its service to be more than satisfactory. Go to and click on "Messenger" to download the free software. Anyone with whom you'd want to use this service needs to do the same thing. Once you're both set up, unlimited free voice communications are yours for the asking.

Headset Better than Microphone & Speakers
   All computers come with speakers and a microphone nowadays, but using a headset/mike combination improves voice conversations considerably.

Instant Messaging Comes Built-In with AOL & CompuServe
   Getting back to "text instant messaging" it's always come built-in with AOL and CompuServe, meaning members don't have to "sign up" for anything nor download any special software. Just click on Keyword and type "buddy list." A "Buddy List" box will appear with instructions on how to start using it. Add the names of any AOL or CS friends to the list and their names will appear in an "Online" box whenever you and they are on at the same time. Non-AOL/CS members can tap into this free service by going to and clicking on AIM (AmericaOnline Instant Messenger).
   Microsoft offers Windows Messenger (a.k.a. Net Messenger & MSN Messenger) as a competitive free service, as does ICQ (I Seek You). Detailed information can be found on their Web sites.
   Taking PC voice communications one step further, there are services which offer PC to phone capability. Some time back I used Dialpad, which was then totally free but very unreliable. I've heard their service has improved but there is now a fee to use it, as there is to use Net2Phone and several similar companies which can be found by typing "pc to phone service" into any search engine's "search" box.
   Getting back to Yahoo Messenger, you can talk or type or do both and you can even send file attachments. How can they do this for free? Well, you'll see advertisements as you use the service. However, I find their ads to be much less obtrusive than the pop-ups shown by PalTalk, a competitive service that 's been recommended to me by several readers. Check out to compare.
   Speaking of search engines, we use Google and Ask Jeeves and constantly to find answers to questions sent in by readers. In fact, answers to most of the questions we receive can be found by using a search engine and/or the Help files that come with most programs nowadays. However, some questions need to be answered by experts in certain fields. For instance, we're frequently asked how to get rid of viruses. Well, the only thing we know about viruses is how to avoid them in the first place. For answers from the specialists I'd go to or call the Norton Customer Response people in Santa Monica at 310 449-4800.

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