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

Dec 2, 2002 Finding Free Stuff on the Internet + Saving Emails
Dec 8, 2002 Printing my Newsletter to Your Specifications - Making Disk Backups - When MSWord Gets Flaky
Dec 10, 2002 "Delete" vs "Remove" vs "Uninstall" + Accidentally Deleting Email + Reviving a Laptop with Flaky WinXP & a Dead CD Drive
Dec 15, 2002 FREE Word Processing & Spreadsheet Software + Reviving a Printer with a New Cable + "InternetAlert"
Dec 17, 2002 More Free Software + Win95 Deficiency + Basics of BMP, JPG & GIF + New Ink Cartridges vs New Printer
Dec 22, 2002 Tips on Downloading Files + Difference Between ZIP & EXE Files + Desktop Appearance Options
Dec 24, 2002 Getting the Most out of Instant Messaging
Dec 29, 2002 Spelling & Grammar Checking Options + Counting Your Words + Changing the "Zoom" View in MSWord
Dec 31, 2002 Keeping Windows & Folders Maximized, Zooming Options, Resizing Photos + Free Language Translation Web Site
Sunday
Dec 31
Keeping Windows & Folders Maximized
     Dolores Burwell wrote to ask how to have all her windows appear in their "maximized" view when she opens them. Well, WinXP users can accomplish this after maximizing a target folder (by clicking the little square in its upper right corner) and then going to Tools, Folder Options, View, and checking "Remember each folder's view settings." Win98 users will find this choice under View, Folder Options, View.
     Once this choice is made, the target folder will fill the screen each time it's subsequently opened. My experience has been, however, that these steps need to be repeated for each folder individually - but the "maximize" choice remains with a folder once it's been made.
     In any case, I rarely "maximize" a window by clicking its little square. Why?
     Well, I normally have several windows open at once and prefer being able to drag them around the screen as needed. (This is done by mouse-grabbing the blue bar along a window's top edge.) If I do want one "maximized" I stretch the window to fill the screen by grabbing a corner or an edge. This way I have the best of both worlds; the window fills the screen, but I can still grab its blue bar and move it to a different location.
     Remember, too, that any overlapped window in the rear can be instantly brought to the front by just clicking it.

Another Way to "Zoom"
     Regarding my recently mentioning that any percentage can be typed in for a program's Zoom view (so that you're not restricted to the choices shown in the drop-down list). Eric from Canada wrote to say that if you use your mouse wheel while holding down your Ctrl key, the percentages can be changed quickly and easily in 10% increments.
     This Ctrl + mouse wheel trick also works for changing the text size on many (but not all) Web pages. Keep in mind, however, that these "zoom" and "text size" options only pertain to one's "screen" view. If you want a larger print-out, the actual font sizes need to be changed accordingly. Herein lies the advantage of copying and pasting a Web page into a word processing document before printing it out. You can edit it to suit your own needs.

Resizing a Picture
     A lady named Helen wrote to say that after downloading a family photo sent as an email attachment, the picture was too large to be printed on a single sheet of paper, and that it can be viewed on the screen only by scrolling all around the image.
     Well, any picture can be reduced to whatever size one wants. Different image-editing programs use different commands, such as Resize or Resample - but here's a trick that's available to everyone:
     Windows has always come with a built-in image-editor named Paint (aka PaintBrush and PBrush). In fact, if no other bitmap-editor has been installed, this will be the program that's launched whenever a photo is double-clicked.
     Beyond this, you can put a shortcut to the program on your Desktop by going to Start, Programs, Accessories and right-clicking Paint. Choose Create Shortcut and drag the newly-created icon onto your Desktop.
     Once into the program, go to File, Open and browse your way to the target picture. After the picture is displayed, go to Image, Stretch/Skew. Typing 50 into the Horizontal and Vertical "Stretch" boxes, for instance, will reduce the picture to 1/4 of its original size (1/2 the height and 1/2 the width).
     Finally, go to File, Save As, to store the picture in its new size. Giving it a different file name will preserve the original, in case you should later need it.
     Another way to reduce the size of a picture is to outline it, using an image-editor's rectangular "Select" tool. Next do Ctrl+C to copy it. Launch your word processor and do Ctrl+V to paste it into a blank page. Once the picture is on the page, you can grab any of its corners or edges to resize it.
     This works fine, by the way, for inserting a picture into a word processing document that will be printed. However, it's not recommended as a way to "store" pictures, since a word processing document's file size is usually much larger than the .JPG format the picture would normally be saved in.

"Insert" vs "Overtype"
     Bob Fulton wrote to ask why, when typing, he suddenly finds himself in the overtype rather than the insert mode. This happens because the keyboard's Ins (Insert) key has accidentally been pressed. Trying to insert a word into an existing sentence will cause text to the right to be "swallowed up" by whatever is being typed in. Pressing the Ins key again will fix this.
     The Ins key, by the way, is a holdover from pre-Windows days, when it actually served a useful purpose. It's rarely used anymore, and tends to drive people crazy when it's accidentally pressed. If I had my 'druthers, the key would be removed from all future keyboards.

Foreign Language Translation
     I ran across an interesting site that lets you type a phrase in English, whereupon it is immediately translated into another language. I tried it with Happy New Year! and came up with:
French: Nouvelle Année Heureuse!
German: Glückliches Neues Jahr!
Italian: Nuovo Anno Felice!
Spanish: ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
Portuguese: Ano Novo Feliz!
     It also works in reverse, translating a foregin phrase into English or, in some cases, into one of the other languages. As with all translators, it has its limitations and imperfections, but I was surprised at how well it worked with a number of English/Spanish and Spanish/English phrases I typed in. (I'm moderately fluent in Spanish.)
     The site can be accessed by clicking this link. Have fun with it.
Sunday
Dec 29
Spelling & Grammar Checking Options
     I've found that new computer users are often surprised to see a red or green squiggly line appear under a word or phrase they've just typed into a word processing document. In Microsoft programs the red squiggle means that the underscored word is suspected of being misspelled. Right-clicking the tagged word will cause a menu to appear, showing words that the program thinks you may have had in mind. If you see one that fits (often the one at the top of the list) simply left-click it and the misspelled word will immediately be replaced by the correct one.
     If the original word is indeed spelled correctly, the red squiggle tells you it's unrecognized by the program's spell-checking dictionary. This is common with last names and technical words, which can then be added to the dictionary by right-clicking them and choosing ADD.
     As for the green squiggle, it usually appears under a phrase of some kind and suggests that it is somehow grammatically incorrect. Right-clicking the tagged phrase will offer suggestions as to how the grammar can be improved.
     These automatic options can be turned off, however, whereby one can choose to check a document after it's been completed. In MSWord go to Tools, Options, Spelling & Grammar, and make your choices. In MSWorks the choices are found under Tools, Options. Outlook Express users will have spell-check options based on their choices in MSWord, since OE doesn't have a spell-checker of its own.
     With the automatic spell-checking turned off one can opt to check individual words, phrases, or paragraphs by simply mouse-selecting the target area and going to Tools, Spelling. Easier yet, click the ABC-checkmark icon in the program's toolbar or simply press your F7 key.
     Pressing Shift+F7 will bring up a Thesaurus, which will let you look up synonyms to a highlighted word, or to a word you type in. You can then even look up a synonym to a highlighted synonym by clicking the Look Up button.
     Among the spell-checking options, you can choose to have Internet and E-mail addresses ignored, as well as having words with numbers, or words that are typed in all capital letters, ignored. Regarding the latter, you'd be surprised how many e-mails I've received complaining that "MY SPEL CHEKER DOESNT WORK." Well, those who insist in typing in ALL CAPS (which often seems like shouting to a recipient) need to be aware of this option.
     Getting back to "grammar-checking," I always have this option totally defeated, since the program and I don't always agree on what constitutes proper sentence structure. It's not really the fault of the checker; it's just that there are way more variables in what's considered "proper" than the program could possibly cover.
     WordPerfect users find these options under Tools, Spell/Grammar Checker.
     Beyond these features, MSWord automatically corrects a number of commonly misspelled words, whose list can be found under Tools, AutoCorrect. This list can be edited to remove words you know you never misspell and/or to add problem words. Here's where you'll find things like (r) and (c) being automatically being turned into © and a ® along with :) automatically being turned into J.
     I edit this area to automatically change manana into mañana and nino into niño. The "ñ" and other foreign language characters can be found under Insert, Symbol in MSWord. They can also be found by clicking Start, Run and typing in charmap (character map) for any program.

Counting Your Words
     Another handy word processing feature found under the Tools menu is Word Count, in case you have some kind of a word quota to meet.

Changing the "Zoom" View in MSWord
     One of the features I like best about MSWord is being able to change its "zoom" display to any percentage I want. 100% is the default, and clicking the down-arrow alongside this number will display options such as 50% and 200%. However, when I'm writing a book, I often choose 10% so I can see dozens of pages displayed all at once, with their text and pictures shown in a graphical representation that gives a view of how the overall formatting looks from one page to the next. What - you don't see "10%" as one of the choices? Just type the percentage you want into the toolbar box and press Enter. It works great.
Tuesday
Dec 24
Getting the Most out of Instant Messaging
     San Diego radio talk-show host Lynn Harper recently wrote to say the program she uses to scan and edit images had begun to malfunction and wanted to know if I had a suggestion for a replacement. I could see that Lynn was online in my AIM Buddy List, so I sent her an IM (instant message) saying that a link to Serif Photo Plus 5.5, a free image-editor, could be found on my Web site. After chatting a few minutes, I suggested sending her the link via the IM so she wouldn't have to go looking for it.
     In a few moments Lynn was downloading the program, and IMed me a little later to say that it was installed and working just fine. (Here's the link, by the way, in case you'd like to download the program: Serif Photo Plus 5.5.)
     I mention this mainly for the benefit of those who have not yet discovered the benefits of using free IMs. In case you're totally unfamiliar with the concept, it simply means that if you and a "buddy" are online at the same time, you can have a real-time, long-distance conversation by typing messages back and forth to each other.

Instant Messaging Built Into AOL & CompuServe
     There are a number of these services available, but here's a brief overview: IM capability comes built-in with AOL and CompuServe. Just type BUDDY LIST into the Keyword box and a window will open up which invites you to insert the screen names (email addresses) of those with whom you'd like to correspond. AOL and CS Buddy Lists are fully compatible with each other, meaning neither "@aol" nor "@cs" need be shown on the names.
     For those using other ISPs, AIM (Americaonline Instant Messenger) can be freely downloaded and put into use. Competitive services are Yahoo Instant Messenger, ICQ (I seek you) and MSN Messenger (a.k.a. Microsoft Messenger and Windows Messenger). Not all these services are mutually compatible, but another free service called Trillian connects them all together and puts all the various buddy names into one list. Trillian can be downloaded from this site.
     Beyond exchanging text messages, you can also send and receive links, as mentioned above. All the recipient has to do is click on the link to instantly access the target Web page.

Even Free Long-Distance Voice Communication
     I've used Yahoo Messenger with voice transmissions. You can use a microphone and your computer's speakers for this, but plugging in a headset/microphone combination makes the sound much better. (Other services may have voice options, as well. If you've had experience with any of these, please let me know so I can tell others with this newsletter. Thank you!)
     Getting back to text IMing, others can be invited into a session, turning it into a private multi-person chat room. Also, privacy options are available to make your name invisible to anyone by whom you do not want to be IMed or, conversely, to make your name visible only to selected buddies. As with any form of communication, there exists the possibility of being a target for harassment if you don't take precautions.

Mr PC Chat (aka MrPCChat) on AIM
     My AIM name, by the way, is MrPCChat and I'm normally visible online to anyone who wants to say hello. This can save the cost of a long distance call if you have a question and you're beyond my Southern California area.
     At the risk of being repetitious, I think it's worth mentioning that all the above is totally free, which brings up the issue of email, which is also free. Yes, I know you pay a monthly fee to get online, but that's for Internet access. There is no extra charge for using email or IMs.
     As for all the junk that comes in, each ISP and email client has a number of options to help protect as best they can. There is no way I can list them all here, but clicking on HELP and typing words like SPAM or ANTI-PORN into a Search box will make the options easier to find.
     Personally, I don't use any email filters because my Delete key works just fine, and the few minutes I spend each day deleting garbage is more than made up for by knowing that my 24/7 use of email has eliminated all but a few certain types of business mail, which still needs to be sent the old-fashioned (expensive) way.
Sunday
Dec 22
Closing Open Applications
     Mike J. Magnano wrote to ask the meaning of the admonition that he "Close All Windows Applications" before installing a new program. This simply means that when new software is about to be installed, whether from a CD or from an Internet download, it's best to close anything else that might be running on one's Desktop or shown on the Taskbar. Files shown on the Taskbar can be right-clicked to display a CLOSE option.

Downloading & Installing Programs
     Speaking of downloading a program, it's helpful to know that this does not necessarily include the installation of the application. A file that is downloaded will normally be an ".EXE" or ".ZIP" file that then needs to be activated in order to be installed. This can be done by clicking the "Open" button that usually appears at the end of the download. Otherwise, you will need to find the downloaded file and double-click it to begin the installation process.
     As for where to find a downloaded file (be it a program or a photo or whatever), the default location can vary from one computer to another, but it will often be in a folder named "Download" or "Downloaded Files." In any case, you can choose your own location by clicking the down arrow next to the "Save In" box and browsing your way to, say, "Desktop."

Difference Between .EXE and .ZIP Files
     Regarding a downloaded file having an ".EXE" or ".ZIP" extension, here's what is meant by this: EXE means a file is "executable" and that double-clicking it will initiate some kind of action, such as installing itself as a program in the above examples.
     ZIP means the file is "zipped" (compressed) to contain one or more files, which will be decompressed and made actionable when the ZIP file is double-clicked. Working with ZIP files used to be rather complicated, but modern Windows systems generally make it easy and self-intuitive.
     One other thing to know about EXE and ZIP files is that they can be written to contain viruses, and that double-clicking one attached to an incoming e-mail can be dangerous. As always, it's best to immediately delete any incoming attachment you didn't ask for. The fact that the e-mail is from a known friend doesn't mean it's safe, since some viruses are written to send themselves to names found in address books that they have secretly infiltrated. Beyond this, always have an updated anti-virus program on your PC.

Filename Extensions Should Be Displayed
     Speaking of EXE, ZIP and other filename extensions, I'm always reluctant to mention ground previously covered; but I hear daily from folks who say their filenames have no extensions and who therefore can't follow instructions such as those above. Well, Windows always keeps these extensions hidden ---- unless we UNhide them. Here's how:
     Win95/98 users need to right-click Start and choose Explore. Next, click View, Options, View. Finally, UNcheck the box that says "Hide Extensions for Known File Types." To find this "Hide" message, WinME/XP users will click Tools, Folder Options, View. After you make this one-time correction, all filename extensions will be visible.
     Why is it important to be able to see these extensions? It's because they tell us what kind of file they are appended to. For instance, DOC means the file is an MSWord document, while BMP means bit map picture and XLS indicates an Excel spreadsheet. But doesn't the icon preceding a filename tell us what kind of file it is? Well, maybe.
     MSWord documents will always have a distinctive "W" icon, but graphical files can have different icons, depending on which program they are associated with. A BMP file, by default, is associated with the Windows "Paint" program, meaning all BMPs have the same icon on new PCs. However, as soon as Adobe PhotoShop or Corel PhotoPaint is installed, the newer program will change all BMP icons to its preferred appearance.

Changing Your Desktop Appearance
     Speaking of appearance, there are many changes that can be made to the way your Desktop appears. Right-click any blank space on it and choose Properties. This will bring up several options, including Settings, which lets you make your Desktop icons and fonts larger or smaller, as you adjust the slide-bar under Screen Resolution. This also is where you will find options for choosing a screen saver and a background theme (wallpaper).
Tuesday
Dec 17
Free HTML-Editing Software
     Regarding my having recently said that 1stPage 2000 (my favorite HTML-editing program) is no longer available from www.download.com, Mary Hanson found that it is still freely available from a "mirror site" on Download's URL.
     Speaking of Web page creation, Clive Gill wrote to say Netscape Composer lets him do this without having to learn a lot of HTML code. Composer is built into Netscape, which is freely available at www.download.com.

More Free Programs
     Regarding the "602Pro PC Suite" that I recently mentioned, which offers MSWord-like and MSExcel-like features for free, Al Brown wrote to say a similar suite from www.openoffice.org has been working great for him, and that he particularly appreciates the support of the programs' authors.
     OpenOffice has the same word processing and spreadsheet abilities of 602Pro PC but also has a very cool drawing utility and a presentation graphics program similar to MSPowerPoint.
     Why would someone who already has MSOffice or WordPerfect Office be interested in a free office suite such as these two? Well, the programs tend to be less bloated and make the Office-like tools we use most often easier to work with.
     A gentleman named Gene sent info on another free text program, called EditPadLite, which is available at www.editpadlite.com. This program improves on the features of Notepad, the no-frills text editor that comes with Windows, and which is often used as a basic HTML-editing program.

Windows 95 Lacks Many Important Features
     A lady named Leah called to ask why her Windows Paint program won't allow saving her picture files in the JPG format, and only offers BMP. She went on to say that eBay requires all photos to be submitted as JPGs, and that she has no way of complying. When asked what version of Windows she has, Leah replied "95." That's the problem. In Win98 and later, JPG graphics are supported.
     However, I found a free picture-editing program for her called Serif PhotoPlus 5.5, which supports JPG and all the other popular bitmap platforms. It can be downloaded from this website.

Bitmap File Formats
     Speaking of picture "formats," I continue to be asked what the differences are among them. Well, this whole page could be filled with a thorough explanation, but here's the essence of what most of us need to know:
     Scanned pictures or digital-camera photos are converted into a collection of tiny colored squares called "bits," which are mathematically "mapped" to give the appearance of "continuous tone" colors. There are many, many "formats" by which this mapping can be achieved, and the resulting files have three-letter extensions to tell us which one was used.
     The ones most of us need to be aware of are BMP, JPG and GIF.
     BMP (bit map picture) has been a Windows-compatible standard for a long time but tends to be very large in file size, which can slow down the uploading and downloading of pictures. However, by using a graphic program's File, Save As or File, Export command, BMPs can be saved as smaller JPG files.
     GIF files are also small and generally used for "clipart," which can even be "animated" (with special software) for use on the Web and in HTML-based e-mail.

Something to Think About...
     Regarding the subject of "a dead printer" and what to do about it, someone pointed out that many new inkjet printers cost only slightly more than their ink cartridge replacements. This could mean it's more practical to buy a new printer each time you run out of ink. And it's almost always more practical than paying to get the old one fixed ---- unless it's still under warranty.
     Mary Hanson did some research to see which new inkjet printer would give her the best value in terms of price, print quality, maintenance, and warranty protection. She finally settled on the Lexmark Z45SE. A number of online reviews said it is very sturdy and does sharper text printing than most of its competitors, which is important to Mary, since she does way more black and white text than color photo printing. Also, the ink cartridges are cheaper to replace and the printer has a one-year warranty, compared with 90 days for most of the others in the same price range.
Sunday
Dec 15
Some Worthwhile FREE Software + Reviving a Printer with a New Cable + "InternetAlert"
     I continue to get questions about the differences between Microsoft "Word" and Microsoft "Works." Well, the former is the world's most-used word processing program, while the latter is a "suite" that contains a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a database program. Although MSWord can be purchased separately, it's usually obtained as part of the Microsoft "Office" suite, which also contains "Excel," the world's most-used spreadsheet. MSWorks, on the other hand, is an "integrated" suite whose various components cannot be purchased separately.
     Beyond all this, MSOffice is available in different versions, some of which include "Access," a super-heavy-duty database program.
     In terms of usability, MSOffice programs are way more powerful than their MSWorks counterparts and, not surprisingly, way more expensive. Having said that, I must confess to preferring the MSWorks spreadsheet and database utilities simply because they are easier to learn and use. But MSWord is still my word processor of choice.
     For those who insist that Corel's Worperfect is a better program, I won't argue the point, but I stick with Word simply because it's what most people use nowadays -- particularly in business.

Most Word & Excel Features for FREE!
     So, what if you like the functionality of Word and Excel, but don't feel like paying $300 to $450 for an MSOffice suite? Okay, if you know the ropes you might be able to qualify for an "educational" discount. But how about a totally free suite that contains most of the high-end features of Word and Excel?
     I've run across one called 602Pro PC Suite that's available from www.download.com. While at Download.com, I'd suggest reading the user reviews of the product. I was impressed by the "85%-pro" vs. "15%-con" approval ratio and, from what I've seen so far, everything works just fine. The applications even use the familiar .DOC and .XLS extensions associated with Word and Excel.

More FREE Software
     Another place to find useful free software is at www.karenware.com. Software author Karen Kenworthy has created a selection of "Power Tools" that are definitely worth checking out. I particularly like her Font Explorer, Registry Pruner, and Directory Printer.
     Other favorite free programs of mine are "Yellow Stickies" and "E-mail Cleaner," which are available at www.pcdon.com.
     Speaking of free software, the program I use for creating Web pages is, sadly, no longer available. In fact, it's not even being offered for a price. I've been using 1stPage 2000 from www.evrsoft.com for several years and would hate to be without it. And I don't know about the legalities of letting others have a copy of my 1stPage 2000 installation program. However, since it has always been a free program, I'm going to put a copy of it on my website that anyone can download (unless I'm asked not to by the proper authority).
     "StarOffice" used to be a free "office suite" from Sun Microsystems, but it's now being sold at a price. Well, I think the 602Pro PC Suite (mentioned above) is better and easier to use and, best of all, totally free.

Another Do-It-Yourself Fix-It Story
     Regarding a couple of recent columns where I described reviving non-functioning hardware, such as a printer and a CD drive, Virginia Abushanab wrote to suggest an idea she thought would be worth mentioning. Virginia had reinstalled a dead printer's drivers and had talked to its manufacturer's tech support people several times -- all with no results.
     Finally, one last thing occurred to her; she tried another printer cable. Lo and behold, this fixed the problem and the printer has been working fine ever since.
     Virginia didn't mention whether the cables were of the newer USB (universal serial bus) type or of the older "parallel" type. Parallel cables were used with printers for many years, and tended to be heavy and awkward to handle. I, too, have revived a printer by simply replacing its parallel cable.
     However, most printers nowadays come with both a parallel and a USB port. USB cables are much more reliable, much easier to work with, and adapt to an assortment of hardware peripherals beyond just printers.

Should She or Shouldn't She?
     Bonnie Marona wrote to ask if she should download something called "InternetAlert." This popup message says her system is vulnerable to hackers and virus-senders and that she needs to buy the protection this program presumably offers.
     Well, I had just read an authoritative article by PCWorld.com, which gives a very comprehensive overview of these kinds of deceptive popup ads and which mentioned InternetAlert by name. The article can be found at http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,101916,00.asp. It's definitely worth reading.

Tuesday
Dec 10
More on Printing This Newsletter
     Regarding last Sunday's newsletter, where I described how to place this letter in a word processing document (to make ie easier to print) the Copy and Paste instructions I gave may not work on graphics. Normally this would be a moot point, since I seldom include graphics. But I have been doing so recently, by way of showing some of the neat stuff that can be freely downloaded from my web site at www.pcdon.com. If you didn't receive a copy of the Dec. 8, 2002 newsletter, just email Mary (MaryPCChat@aol.com) and ask for one.
     In any case, a graphic will probably have to be handled separately. This can be done by right-clicking it and choosing Save Picture As. Once you have a name and location established for a graphic, it can be replaced inside the copied newsletter using whatever rules apply in your word processor. In MSWord, for instance, you can go to Insert, Picture. Better yet, you can go to Insert, Text Box, draw a box, and then go to Insert, Graphic (with your cursor inside the newly-created Text Box).

Accidentally Deleting an Incoming Email
     Jack Tischhauser wrote to say that when he receives an email to which he wants to reply, the whole incoming letter is deleted if he highlights any text and hits his Delete key. Yes, this will happen to mail received via Outlook Express and simply viewed in the Preview Pane. Once the letter is opened, selecting text and hitting Delete will do nothing, since it is not possible to edit an incoming email for a reply until the Reply button has been clicked and the original letter appears in the reply. In any case, Jack's letter can normally be retrieved from the OE Deleted Items folder.
     Depending on one's settings, the original email may or may not automatically appear in the reply. In OE, this setting is found under Tools, Options, Send, "Include Message in Reply.." AOL users can do Ctrl+A to highlight ALL the incoming email's text before clicking Reply. Also, AOL users will be asked if they really want to delete an incoming email if they highlight something in it and clck Delete.

Remove vs Uninstall vs Delete
     Bill Smith wrote regarding a recent column where I said a non-functioning hardware item can often be returned to service by going to Device Manager, finding the device, right-clicking it and choosing "Uninstall," whereupon it should be reinstalled with the computer's next startup. Bill said he found "Remove" instead of "Uninstall" and asked if it meant the same thing.
     Yes - different versions of Windows may use "Remove" or "Uninstall" or "Delete" to mean the same thing. (In DOS, the same command may be "Kill.") However, if you want to remove a "program" from your computer, it must be "uninstalled." Simply "deleting" the program's folder won't get rid of all the various pieces of the application, which may be stored in other places on the hard drive.
     Nowadays, most programs come with an "Uninstall" or "Unwise" icon in their main folder (the latter being a cute way of trying to discourage you from removing the program). If you don't find one of these icons, you can double-click My Computer, Control Panel (Start, Control Panel in WinXP) and choose Add/Remove Programs. Finally click the target program and choose "Uninstall" or "Remove."

I'm Not a Technician, But...
     Getting back to reviving a dead component, may I tell you of a recent experience?
     I have a relatively new laptop that is still under warranty, and was about to take it back because Windows XP was acting flaky and the CD drive had stopped working altogether. Well, I figured that if I could get WinXP reinstalled, it might fix everything.
     But I couldn't get the drive drawer to open for inserting the WinXP CD. Well, all computers have a tiny hole near the CD drive open/close button that can be used when all else fails. Using a straightened paper clip, I got the drawer to open, and got the CD inserted. But the drive was totally non-functional. So I went to Device Manager, by pressing my Windows and Pause/Break keys simultaneously.
     Finally, I clicked on the CD driver icon and chose "Uninstall." Sure enough, rebooting the computer reinstalled the CD drive and got it to work. Thus I was able to use the CD to reinstall Windows XP and, I am happy to report, everything is working beautifully!
     By the way, this was the fourth time I installed WinXP from this CD. Doing multiple installations from a Windows CD used to be no problem, but XP has been designed so that any installation beyond the original has to be cleared through Microsoft with a lengthy headache of a procedure. However, I must say that when I explained to the tech rep that Windows had crashed and needed to be reinstalled, he gave me the activation code with no further questions.
     Don Gold wrote to say an Excel spreadsheet had somehow become corrupted so that only one section of it would print. Without being there to see the actual page, I can only point out that spreadsheets always have a File, "Print Area" option that lets the user select/highlight a section for printing. By using Ctrl+A, ALL the spreadsheet will be selected for printing.
     In a similar vein - if one wants to print only a certain section of a word processing document, the section can be mouse-selected, followed by clicking File, Print. In the option box that appears, "Selection" will be one of the choices.
Sunday
Dec 8
Printing my Newsletter to Your Specifications - Making Disk Backups - When MSWord Gets Flaky
     I continue to get questions on how my free newsletter can be edited to one's own "printout" specifications. Well, this is best done by copying the letter into a word processor, where it can be edited in any way you like. Simply right-click anywhere in the body of the letter and do Ctrl+A (Select ALL) and then right-click and do Ctrl+C to COPY the selection. Launch MSWord or WordPerfect or WordPro or the word processor in MSWorks and right-click anywhere on a blank page. Do Ctrl+V to PASTE the entire newsletter into your new document.
     WordPad can also be used, but the HTML formatting tends to get messed up in this no-frills Windows word processor. If you want to use WordPad (a.k.a. Write in earlier versions of Windows) it's best to click on Edit, Paste Special, Plain Text.
     At this point you can edit out unwanted text, along with changing font styles and/or margin settings. Changing colored headlines to black can help save on expensive colored ink cartridges. Go to File, Print Preview to get a look at how everything will appear on paper.
     For the technically-minded, this newsletter is prepared as an HTML document, using 1st Page 2000, a wonderful HTML-editor from Evrsoft.com, which can be downloaded for free a www.download.com. After being thus prepared, the document is copied from my Internet Explorer browser and pasted into a blank Outlook Express email.

When Microsoft Word Gets Flaky
     When I said recently that MSWord users can restore their program to its original default settings by deleting NORMAL.DOT (which will reinstall itself the next time Word is launched) Gerri Jellison wrote with a better idea. Gerri suggests making a backup of NORMAL.DOT, which can be reinstalled any time Word starts acting flaky. Let's take a closer look.
     Whenever changes are made to Word's settings, such as, say, adding or removing Toolbar icons or changing the default font, the changes are recorded in a file named NORMAL.DOT. Once you get Word working just the way you like it, here's how to set aside a copy of this file for easy reinstallation:
     Go to Start, Find (or Search in ME/XP), Files & Folders and type in NORMAL.DOT. When the filename is displayed, right-click it and choose COPY. Then you can right-click anywhere on your Desktop and choose PASTE. Should the need arise, you can right-click this file and choose COPY. Go to the folder containing the original file, right-click it, and choose PASTE. When asked if you want to replace the existing NORMAL.DOT, click YES.
     But where do you find the existing file? Well, different versions of Word have it in different folders. While using Start, Find/Search, NORMAL.DOT, click on View, Details to find the parent folder on your hard drive.

Using Word Templates
     Word's ".DOT" extension should not be confused with ".DOC" which is the default extension for Word Documents. DOT actually means Template; and Word has many other Templates available. If you go to Start, Find/Search and type in *.DOT (the asterisk is a "wild card") you'll find a collection of Templates for items such as Contemporary Resume, Elegant Letter, and Professional Fax.
     The Templates are pre-designed with eye-catching layouts that let you substitute your typing for their "dummy" text. Just double-click any ".DOT" Template to open it and start filling in your personal data.
     When using any of these Templates, it's important to quickly go to File, Save As and choose "Word Document (.DOC)" in the "Save as Type" box. This will store your document in the regulation ".DOC" format, and preserve the ".DOT" file for any subsequent "Template" setups.
     Getting back to NORMAL.DOT, if you double-click this file you'll probably see just a blank page. Not to worry; all your Word settings are there, hidden with invisible coding. I can tell you how to make it all visible, but you'll see mostly gibberish with a few recognizble words. Just use the file as explained above.
     Getting back to PASTING a copy of NORMAL.DOT on your Desktop; the file can actually be pasted anywhere you'd like. If you'd prefer to have it in, say, My Documents, just right-click the folder and choose PASTE.

Backing Up Important Files
     This brings up the subject of "making backup copies" in general. Backing up an important file in a different folder on your hard drive, as explained above, is good insurance in case the original file gets lost or damaged. However, if your hard drive crashes, the backup could be destroyed along with the original. This is why we back up important files to other disks.
     For years this was done with low-capacity "floppy" disks, while buying a "Zip Drive" gave us disks with much larger capacities. Nowadays, however, inexpensive "CD-burners" give us much, much more capacity on a disc.
     In any case, saving files to "floppy" or "Zip" disks is as simple as dragging and dropping a file's icon onto the target drive, such as "A:" for "floppies." Right-clicking Start and choosing Explore will provide a display of your folders and available drives. Double-click any folder to display its files. Drag any file onto a "drive" icon, where it will be "copied" while leaving the original file in place. To copy a file from a disk into a folder, just reverse the process.
     As for copying files onto a CD, different versions of different "CD-Burning" programs have different procedures. The procedures also vary considerably, depending on what type of CD is being used and/or what type of CD drive will be used to access the copied files. There's no way all these various procedures could be covered in a newsletter, so it pays to keep your CD-Burning manual handy.
Monday
Dec 2
Saving Copies of Emails When Changing ISPs
     Mary Burmeister wrote to ask if she will lose all the emails she received via MSN when she switches to the NCTimes ISP. The short answer is: No. Documents within any email client can always be saved by going to File, Save As. However, I'm not an MSN user, so am unfamiliar with what default format its email is saved in (such as .eml, .txt, .htm, etc.). If an MSN user could let me know, it would be appreciated. I can't afford to sign up with all the various ISPs and email clients, so I depend on users of the various services to help me out.
     Speaking of "help," most programs nowadays come with very comprehensive Help tools, which can usually be accessed by pressing F1. Help for "Windows" itself can be found by clicking Start, Help. Beyond this, going to www.microsoft.com and accessing their Knowledge Base will provide answers to just about every "Windows" question imaginable.

Finding Free Stuff on the Internet
     Another question frequently asked is "Where did I find all the free music and free clipart seen on my website?" Well, let's start with the music. Being an old-timer, I'm not too interested in the controversial "Napster-style" swapping of MP3 files, but have lots of "swing-era" MIDI and WAV files on my website. (Instructions for downloading and saving the files are also on the site.)
     I found most of these songs by going to www.google.com and typing things like "free music" or "free midis" into the Search box. You'd be surprised at what you might find. Of course, you can use any search engine you prefer - I just happen to like the way Google works. I especially like being able to click on the "Images" button when I'm looking for graphics of various kinds. tinyangl.gif

     As for artwork, I typed things like free clipart and animated gif into the Search box. The latter choice will find lots of those cute animations that can be inserted into email. (You can also copy and save any graphic found in this newsletter by right-clickining it and choosing "Save Picture As.")


AutoCorrect Problems in MSWord
     Frank Marsh wrote to ask how to keep MSWord from automatically turning a few typed-in asterisks, dashes, underscores, equal signs or tildes into symbols that go clear across the page. This feature can be turned off by going to Tools, AutoCorrect, "AutoFormat as You Type," "Apply As You Type" and by UNchecking "Borders."
     However, Frank wrote back to say he did this, but that later on this "AutoCorrect" feature returned to haunt him.
     Donald G. Wilson wrote with a similar complaint about MSWord, saying that after going to File, Page Setup, choosing his Margin preferences, and clicking on Default (to lock in the settings) the old settings somehow returned later on.
     Well, I've used every incarnation of MSWord since 1989's Version 3 for DOS, and have found the program to be increasingly unstable, as newer super-sophisticated features are continually added. When things like this happen, I normally use Start, Find (or Search) to locate Word's "normal.dot" file, and then delete it. This file holds all of the program's layout and formatting preferences, and if it's deleted it will be reconstructed with all Word's original "default" settings the next time the program is launched.
     This usually fixes things; but when even this fails I simply reinstall the program.
     Getting back to Word's turning a few symbols into a whole line of symbols - if you'd like the choice of using or not using this "AutoCorrect" feature, do this: after Word extends the symbols across the page, hit your "Backspace" key and the symbols will return to the way you originally typed them. This can also be accomplished by pressing Ctrl+Z (Edit, Undo).

Turning MSWord "Links" into Plain Text
     Pressing the "Backspace" key will also undo the changing of an email or Web site address into an underlined "hyperlink." If you want to totally defeat Word's automatic changing of URLs and email addresses into hyperlinks, go to Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat, Internet and UNcheck "Network Paths With Hyperlinks." Lastly, click on "AutoFormat As You Type" and UNcheck the same command.
     When I wrote recently that a modem's Volume Control could be found under Device Manager (by pressing the Windows and Pause/Break keys simultaneously) Nicholas Roberti wrote to say that his Win98 system displays this device in three different places, and that all three need to be adjusted to control the noise. In addition to the Device Manager location, he found a Volume Control by double-clicking My Computer and going to Control Panel, Modem, Properties. The third location is found by double-clicking My Computer and choosing Dialup Networking. After right-clicking the specific connection, choose Properties, Configure.

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