Don Edrington - PC Columnist for The Californian & San Diego's North County Times - Specializing in Help to Seniors Who Are New to Computers
Specializing in Help to Seniors
Who Are New to Computers
Home       Brief Bio

Counter-Top Juke Box  Vintage Pop,
 Classical, &
 Country Music

PC Tips - HOW TO:

  1. Make BCCs, Blind Carb. Copies
  2. Crop & Resize Photos
  3. Run Scandisk/Chkdsk & Defrag
  4. Make Filename Extensions Show
  5. Use MSCONFIG on Startups
  6. Make Your Own Icons
  7. Use Keyboard Shortcuts
  8. Make Mailing Labels & Envelopes
  9. Make & Use Screen Prints
10. Create Special Symbols:
    ¡ ¿ ñ ² ® ³ © ¼ ½ ¾ ¢ ÷ • °

WWII  Los Angeles, Hollywood
Pershing Square - Clifton's
 Traveling LA's Old Subway
 Singing in Carmen
 Seductive Divorcee
 Chet Huntley (before TV)
 First Date - First Kiss?
 Love at First Sight
 Blind Date Heartache
 New Thing Called Television
 1st Stereo Radio Broadcast
 Mom Wanted Me to Smoke
 Dropping Out of Hollywood High
 She Had to Sharpen my Pencil
 Ken Murray's Blackouts
       with Marie Wilson

Fort Ord - Fort Belvoir - Korea
Flying with MATS
 Dance Studio Temptress
 Cross-Country Hitchhiking
 No Time for Sergeants
 Havana - Kissed by Celia Cruz

Buddy to Start his own Church

Korea - I Turned a POW Loose

Late 20th Cent. Calif. Memories
1st Job & All Those Pretty Girls
 Starlight Ballroom Mystery
 Rollercoaster Romance
 Flirtatious Chicana
 Fired, Rehired, then Quit

My 1st PC, Radio Shack TRS80
 1991 - Started a PC Club
 Eye-Opening 5-Year-Old
 Flying Lessons & Valium
 Teaching at Fallbrook High
 Grandson Found Loaded Gun

Costa Mesa
Cycling in Fairview Park
 More About the Park
 Finding Old Friends Online
       after 50+ Years

Strange Cyber Stuff
Getting Kicked Off AOL
 Broke my Clavicle at the PC
 Secret Online Sweetheart
 Surprise Invitation from
       a Married Woman

Assorted Fun Stuff
Vintage Jokes
 Don's Vintage Cartoons
 Shaved Legs

I Like the Girls Who Do
 Sharing a Springtime Shower

Silly Stuff
I Like to Look at Pictures
 It Was Midnight on the Ocean

Fun Snapshots

Computer Tutor Don Columns for 2003

Don Edrington's Columns for: 2004 & 2005 & 2006 & 2007 & 2008

The Californian          North County Times

Please Send Comments or Questions to:

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Dec 30

Copying Files to a New Computer + XP Products Require Permission to Reinstall + What Exactly Does "ZIP" Mean? + File Compression, Do-It-Yourself Zipping & Unzipping

Dec 28

Lotus/IBM Word Processor? + Microsoft Support for Win98 Coming to an End + Free Viewers for Microsoft Programs + Playing Continuous Music with the Windows Media Player

Dec 23

Copying from a PDF File to Another Program + Copying from a PDF Graphic + Copying a Web Page to a Disk + Graphics with Strange Filename Extensions

Dec 21

Adding a Personal Signature to a Letter + Folks Sending Me Lots of Email Addresses - Please Use BCCs (Blind Carbon Copies) to Keep This from Happening!

Dec 16

Using Your Taskbar's "Quick Launch" Area + Deleting Startup Shortcuts in MSCONFIG + Using SCANDISK + PCs Run Faster When Defragmented Regularly

Dec 14

Large & Small View of Desktop Icons & Text + Using the "Send To" Command + Using IMs (Instant Messages) + Using a USB "Thumb Drive"

Dec 9

Having Web Pages Open in the Size You Want + Using a Page's Blue Title Bar Effectively + Odd Symbols in MSWord + Moving an ".EXE" File

Dec 7

Plain Text vs Formatted Text + Emailing a Copy of Your Desktop 'Wallpaper' + Missing Graphics + Accessing DOS (MSDOS) in WinXP

Dec 2

Windows XP Picture & Fax Viewer + Many of Us Have Multiple Image-Editors + Resize an Image with Your Word Processor + Cautionary Note About Resizing JPG Photos + Why Don't I See the Animated Clipart Moving? + Resizing an Animated GIF + Sending a Holiday Newsletter in a 'Window' Envelope

Nov 30

Why Email Sometimes Arrives in Code + Using "View, Date Picture Taken" on Digital Photos

Nov 25

Changing a Folder's Icon + Superimposing a Picture on a Folder Icon + Using the "Show Desktop" Icon

Nov 23

More on Using Outlook Express "Message Rules" to Try to Help Control SPAM

Nov 18

Using Outlook Express "Message Rules" to Try to Help Control SPAM

Nov 16

Creating PowerPoint Presentations + Free PowerPoint Viewer

Nov 11

Putting a Decorative Border Around Pictures with BorderArt + Borders & Shading (Line & Fill) + FAT32 vs NTFS

Nov 9

Word Processing Templates + Drawing with WordArt

Nov 4

Copying an Image from a PDF Document + Drawing Tools in Your Word Processing Program + Problems in Creating a "Boot Disk" for Windows XP

Nov 2

Keeping Email Addresses in a Word Processing File + Automatic Backup in Excel + Saving an Outlook Express Message As You Type + Online Data Backups + UPS Backup Battery

Oct 28

Completely Erasing a Hard Drive + Extending the Playing Time of a WAV File + How to Make an Emergency "Startup Disk"

Oct 26

Reader Recommends MSWord for Editing & Printing Pictures + Dragging & Dropping an Image into a Word Document or a Bitmap Editor + Creating a 'Scrap" with MSWord

Oct 21

Requesting Receipts for Email Messages + Putting 'HyperLinks' in an MSWord Document + Inserting Page Numbering into a Document

Oct 19

Using a Favorite Photo as a Desktop Background + Create Your Own "SlideShow ScreenSaver" + "MIDI" Music Files Not Playing on Regular CD Player + Make Your Own WAV Recordings

Oct 14

PowerPoint Basics + RGB Monitor Colors vs CMYK Ink Colors

Oct 12

Printing Mailing Labels & Envelopes with MSWord & Excel

Oct 7

Putting Pictures in Special Folders + Different Ways to Create a New Folder + Free Downloadable Holiday Clipart + More Info on Setting Up a DataBase + Weeding Out Duplicate Entries in a DataBase

Oct 5

Printing Mailing Labels & Envelopes with MSWorks

Sep 30

How to Add Text to a Picture

Sep 28

Multiple Photos Not Fitting on a Print-Out + Using Your Word Processing Program to Print Pictures + Cropping Can Save Money + Using "File, Print Preview" to See How a Print-Out Will Look

Sep 23

Information on Protecting a Computer from Viruses, Hackers, & Microsoft Windows Security Vulnerabilities

Sep 21

Mini-Tutorial for Beginning Spreadsheet Users (Part 1) + Using Excel's "Set Print Area" Command

Sep 16

Using Columns in Your Word Processor + Word Processor "Table" vs a "Spreadsheet" + Finding the "End" of a Spreadsheet + Controlling a Spreadsheet's Print-Out

Sep 14

Recovering Hard Disk Space by Uninstalling Unneeded Programs

Sep 9

Turning Automatic Spell Checking Off & On + Creating a Shortcut Macro to Switch Spell-Check Modes + Assigning a Function Key to a Macro + Automatic Grammar Checking + Temporary Internet Files Question

Sep 7

Word Count + Ressurecting Text Files from Obsolete Word Processors + Using Multiple Anti-Virus Services + Thumbnail Views of Pictures + Putting Images on Your Yellow Folders

Sep 2

Creating Additional Storage Space on Your Hard Drive

Aug 31

Viruses Keep Coming + ScreenSaver Question + More About the PrtSc (PrintScreen) Key + Music Files

Aug 26

New Virus Danger - Infected Emails with NO ATTACHMENTS + CD-Burning Basics for Data Files + Email in a Foreign Language + Creating a "Macro" in MSWord

Aug 24

W32.Sobig.F@mm Virus Info + Email Yourself an Important File + Using PrtSc (PrintScreen) to Keep Items in View + Using Irfanview to Open Unusual Picture Types + Using Your "Files of Type" Options + Compatibility Between Different Word Processors + AutoCorrections Not Necessarily Needed

Aug 19

Various "Save" Options in MSWord & Other Word Processors + Start New File by First Giving It a Name + Saving Files to Other Media for Extra Insurance + Email Yourself an Important File + Sending a Font via Email

Aug 17

Inserting Email Addresses with a Mouse-Click from an Address Book + Removing Forwarded Email Addresses & Headers + Using "Blind Carbon Copies" + Leaving Mail on the Server with Outlook Express + Too Many Fonts?

Aug 12

Alphabetizing (Sorting) Various Parts of Windows + Sort in Either Direction + Getting Familiar with MSWord Tables + Sorting in Other Word Processors + Sorting with Spreadsheets + Using Table Commands to Extract Plain Text

Aug 10

Difficulty Finding the Program You Want Because There Are So Many? + Cluttered Desktop + How to Create a Folder + "Plain Text" vs "HTML" + Put a Program Shortcut in the Start Menu + "Quick Launch" Is Even Better + How to Download the "Yellow Sticky Notes" Program

Aug 5

Accessibility Options for the Physically Challenged + Larger Text & Ojects on the Screen + Some "Computers 101" Re: Browsers & Email + "Plain Text" vs "HTML"

Aug 3

This Amazing Thing Called the Internet + Phone Call from a Stranger + Having Your Own Web Site Can Be Nothing But Fun + Nice to Have Your Site Hosted by People You Know + PDF Questions + Copying Text from a PDF Document

July 29

Turning Off the Sound in a Web Page + Why Buy a Media Player Upgrade? + Bye Bye to Netscape? + Getting Disconnected after an Outlook Express Session + Uncertainaties of Using an Anti-Spam Program + Yellow Sticky Notes + Free 'Full-Time' Anti-Virus Program + Free 'StripMail' Program

July 27

Valuable Free Software + Creating Shortcuts & Icons + Remembering Korea

July 22

Problems & Tricks with Sorting (Alphabetizing) a List + Filename "Ghosts" + Copy & Paste Mystery

July 20

"Windows Explorer" vs "Internet Explorer" + Disguising Your Documents + Expanding the "Most Recently Used File" List in MSWord

July 15

Toggling Between Your Desktop & Wherever Else You May Be + Finding Things on Your PC + Searching in a Particular Folder + Finding Text on a Web Page + Changing a File's Name

July 13

Weeding Out Your System Tray + Email Doesn't Necessarily Need an Attachment to Give You a Virus + Getting to TrendMicro Free Virus Scan Without a Mouse + Cable & DSL Users Need a Firewall

July 8

Creating a Checkmark (P) + Immediate Removal of Temporary Internet Files + Having a Folder Fill the Screen Each Time It's Opened + Which Files to Delete + Free OCR Program + Free Bitmap Format Conversion Program + Java Script Errors

July 6

Deleting Temporary Internet Files & Cookies + Privacy Concerns + Disk Cleanup + Moving an Immovable Window + Not Happy with Receiving Photos via Email

July 1

Some Thoughts on Preparing an Email Newsletter + Using OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

June 29

Controlling the Display & Printing Properties of Digital Pictures + Effects of Airline X-Ray Scanners on Digital Equipment + Using a Favorite Photo as Background "Wallpaper"

June 24

Email Printouts that are Too Small or Too Large + Adding a "Smiley" to Your Message + IncrediMail Is Really Quite Incredible + Finding Free Clipart + Editing Animated GIF Files

June 22

"Bugbear" Virus Warning + Converting Large BMP Files to Compact JPG Files + Information About GIF Files + Shortcut for Attaching Multiple Pictures to an Email + Email File Size Limitations

June 17

Using the ALT Key for Special Character Codes + Other Special Key Combinations

June 15

Icons Mysteriously Vanished + Names Added to Your Address Book When Not Wanted + Why I Keep My Email Address List in a "Word" File + What Are All Those Special Keys For? + Mystery Key + Worthless Key + Uses for the ALT Key

June 10

Dial-Up Modem Problem + Possible Fix for Internal Hardware Problems + Windows 98 Feeling May Be Feeling Its Age + Dealing with a Dead Mouse + Being Careful with "System Restore" Discs + Blowing Out Dust, Lint & Pet Hairs with Can of Compressed Air

June 8

Advantages of Using Thumbnails + PAINT SHOP PRO - Full Featured, Moderately Priced Painting & Drawing Program + Free Slide Show Viewer + Using Different Image-Editing Programs

June 3

Using a Folder Other Than "My Documents" + Not All "Folders" Work the Same Way + More on "File Associations" + Making Your Photos Lighter or Darker

June 1

Have Your Icons Suddenly Changed? + Working with "File Associations" + You Don't Remember Installing a New Image-Editor?

May 27

Where Do Spammers Find Our Names? + Other Cyber Hazards, Viruses, Hackers, Password Theft

May 25

Fighting Spam + Receiving Email with Blank Box Containing a Red X

May 20

Using Your Email Program to Save Web Page Material + Crash Insurance for Outlook Express Users + "Inserted Picture" vs "Attached Picture" + Word Processor Users Want to Start Typing "Near Upper Left Corner of Page"

May 18

Reducing the File Size of a Picture + "Cropping" a Picture + Changing a Picture's "File Format" + Blank Box with a Red X in It

May 13

Inexpensive Program Creates PDF Files + Cropping a Picture with "Irfanview" + Comparing File Sizes + Free PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft

May 11

Printing a "Selection" of a Document + Bringing a Printer to an Instant Stop + Pruning Your Word Processor's Toolbar

May 6

Problems with Enlarging Scanned Pictures + Differences Between JPG & GIF Image Formats + Different "Quality to File Size" Options with JPG Images

May 4

Opening & Reading "PDF" Files + Why Not Just Use HTML? + Making Large Files Fit on a Small Disk + Using WinZip + "Plain Text" Files Are Always Smaller + Using Headers & Footers

Apr. 29

Changing Your PC's Display Settings + Printing Multiple Pictures on a Sheet of Paper + Using Your Word Processor to Print Pictures + Easy Way to Resize a Picture + Making Text Stay Where You Want It

Apr. 27

Differences Between "Painting" and "Drawing" Programs

Apr. 22

Drawing Tools Available in MSWord & MSWorks + WordArt Creations Can Be Rotated to Any Angle + Stars, Triangles, Diamonds, Arrows, Hearts, etc.

Apr. 20

Different Ways to Convert a Font-Created Logo into a JPG File + Using WordArt + Using MSWord's Drawing Tools + "Screen" Resolution vs. "Print" Resolution

Apr. 15

Different Ways of Saving IMs (Instant Messages) & Email + Why Aren't the Flags Waving? + Online GIF-Editing Program

Apr. 13

Animated GIF File Editing Requires Special Software + Speedy Opening & Conversion of Graphic Files + Copying Documents Between Different Programs and Different Computer Platforms + More About Using the "Forward" & "Reply" Buttons + AOL & CompuServe "Carbon Copy" Peculiarities

Apr. 8

Tips on "Forwarding" from Readers + Keyboard Key Overlays for DVORAK and Foreign Languages + Creating Alphabetized (Sorted) Lists in Different Programs

Apr. 6

Problems with "Forwarding" Email - Using "Blind Carbon Copies"

Apr. 1

Accessing Old AOL Email After Canceling the Service + Keeping Outlook Express Email on Your ISP's Service + Switching to the "Dvorak" Keyboard

Mar. 30

More on Google Providing a Map to Your Home + Understanding Outlook Express .EML and .DBX Files

Mar. 25

Is Google Providing a Map to Your Home? + A 3rd Party "Character Map" with Extra Large, Legible Text + How to Find MIDI & WAVE Audio Files + Using the Taskbar Volume Control

Mar. 23

Merging 2 Graphics into One - Making Filename Extensions Visible

Mar. 18

Hyperlinks in MSWord & Various Email Programs + More about Foreign Web Site "ISO" Codes + How to View a Web Page's or Email's HTML "Source" Coding + Sending a Web Page via Email + Deleting Unwanted Email

Mar. 16

Foreign Web Site "Codes" + Missing DLL Files + Left-Handed Mousing + Avoiding Mouse Pain + Keyboard Protection with a Custom "Skin"

Mar. 11

Various Ways of Doing Paragraph "Indents" + Using Your Word Processor's Ruler + More on Using "Wingdings" IJ NOPQRSTVWXYZ124567890

Mar. 9

Making Text "Shrink to Fit" + How to Use "Paragraph Spacing" + Making Text "Fill Up More Space" + More Free Image-Editing Programs: Digital Camera Enhancer + JPEG Cleaner + XnView (similar to Irfanview) See a description of these programs at the end of the Mar. 9 column.

Mar. 4

Selecting a Large Area of Text + Putting a Smiley Face in Email or in a Text Document J + Netscape Mail Losing Out to Outlook Express & Hotmail + More Tips on Using Irfanview + An Even More Powerful (Yet Totally Free) Photo-Editing Program: PIXIA + More Virus Tricks to Watch For

Mar. 2

Using "IRFANVIEW" - a Free Bitmap-Editing Program

Feb. 25

Adjusting Margins & Editing Text in Emails Before Printing Them Out + Sending Sound Files via Email

Feb. 23

Customizing Your Email with "Hotbar" + Using a Picture for a Background in Juno + Incredimail + "Panicware" Pop-Up Killer + Fixing a Sticky Keyboard + Hoaxes & Urban Legends

Feb. 18

Customizing Your Email "Background" in AOL, in CompuServe & in Outlook Express + Having Your Special OE Background Come Up by Default + Copying Graphics for Use in Email + What is "NORMAL.DOT"?

Feb. 16

More on Anti-Spyware + Working with "ART" Files + ".CGM" & ".WMF" Files + Inserting Pictures in Email & Word Processing Documents + Outlook Express Error Message + MSWord Printer Options + Using "Print Preview"

Feb. 11

Selecting a Group with a "Marquee" + "Inverting" a Selection + "Drag & Drop" or "Send To" + Recovering Deleted Files + Bypassing the Recycle Bin + Deleting Temporary Internet Files + Using the Temp. Internet Files Folder to Capture Music Files

Feb. 9

Changing a Document's Text Size on Your Monitor + Free Anti-Spyware Program + More on Backing Up Favorites & Bookmarks + More on Backing Up AOL Items

Feb. 4

Free Firewall Program + Free Anti-Spyware + More on Backing Up Bookmarks & Favorites

Feb. 2

Using "Thumbnails" + Desktop as a Folder + Putting a Thumbnail on a Folder + Choosing a "Background" Picture + Thumbnails in Windows 98 + Using OLE (Object Linking & Embedding)

Jan. 28

Changing a Document's Text Size on Your Monitor + Another Way to Save the Outlook Express Address Book + Inserting a Spreadsheet into a PowerPoint Presentation

Jan. 26

Backing Up Email Address Books in Outlook Express, Eudora, Juno, Netscape & AOL + Using CCs (Carbon Copies) & BCCs (Blind Carbon Copies)

Jan. 21

Backing up OE Emails & Handling DBX Files - Recovering Deleted Files - Changing MSWord Text from ALL CAPS to all lower case to Traditional sentence structure.

Jan. 19

Info from Readers on Scanner for Slides & Film Negatives + Displaying Photos Online + MSN & Outlook Express Deleting .EXE Attachments + More About MSCONFIG + Easy Way to Type in Web Site Addresses + Searching for Lost Files

Jan. 14

Anti-Virus Protection + Using Windows' Built-In Maintenance Utilities (ScanDisk, CheckDisk, Defrag, Disk CleanUp) + Using MSCONFIG to Manage Startup Programs + Scanning Film Negatives & Slides

Jan. 12

Questions about Burning CDs

Jan. 7

Free Spell Checker - Alphabetizing (Sorting) a List - Translate a Webpage with Free Translator

Jan. 5

Outlook Express vs Attachments, Free Anti-Virus Services, Adjusting Your Mouse to Work Better, Free Translating Service, Inserting Special Symbols into Text ( ¢ © ² ® ¾ ¿ º ñ é ± £ )

Dec 30

Top of Page

Copying Files to a New Computer

About this time every year I receive a lot of questions asking how to copy data from an old computer to a new one. Well, if both computers are running WinXP and are connected through a network, transferring personal files can be done by going to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>File and Settings Transfer Wizard, and following the instructions.

However, this does NOT transfer application programs - they need to be reinstalled from the original CDs.

Regarding these programs, in theory, many require permission from the software companies for additional installations. In fact, however, multiple installations of programs has been going on since applications came into being.

XP Products Require Permission to Reinstall

With XP products, however, Microsoft requires a Product ID Number that changes with each installation, and which must be obtained via phone. Nonetheless, I've heard that explaining that a program needs to be reinstalled, because it crashed, is something that's rarely challenged.

Getting back to personal files, many can be transferred via 3.5-inch floppies. OK, this worked well back when hard drives and file sizes were relatively small. Nowadays many types of music, video and graphic files won't fit on a floppy; but the advent of recordable CDs has made it possible to copy much more data per disc. Eventually, we may all be using huge-capacity DVDs.

In the meantime, Zip Drive users know their disks hold at least 77 times more data than a floppy, and that external Zip Drives can be moved from one computer to another. However, this method of file storage generally has given way to recordable CDs, since Zip Disks cost lots more than CDs and don't hold near as much data.

However, one handy "Zip Drive" feature is "AppMover," which can move some applications from one computer to another.

In any case, no matter which type of disk you use, you can cram more files onto it if you first "zip" them.

What Exactly Does "ZIP" Mean?

There are different meanings for the word "ZIP." We'll start with Iomega, a company that manufactures the "Zip Disks" and "Zip Drives" mentioned above. These hardware devices, however, have nothing to do with the generic use of the word "zip," which, in PC lingo, has become a synonym for "compress."

File Compression

To "compress" ("zip") a file is to temporarily reduce its size so that it will take up less disk and bandwidth space. This also means a "zipped" file can be uploaded and downloaded faster. However, a compressed file needs to be "decompressed" ("unzipped") before it can be used again.

Nowadays, much file compression is done automatically, so we don't have to think about it. For instance, when you attach files to an email they are automatically zipped before being uploaded, and then unzipped on the receiving end.

But files copied to a disk or disc will NOT be zipped unless you make it happen; and the program used most often for doing this is called WinZip (available from

Windows XP has a built-in zip/unzip utility, but many techs agree that WinZip does a better job. Whichever you prefer, here's an overview of how zipping is done:

Do-It-Yourself Zip & Unzip

Right-click any file or folder and choose Send To>Compressed (Zipped) Folder. The file (or any folder full of files) will be instantly compressed into a special folder whose name will have .ZIP as an extension. A folder named, say, MyStuff, would create and would take up perhaps half as much disk space as the original folder.

When you later need a file from the zipped folder, open the folder with a double-click. Finally, double-click the file, which will then be restored to its original state.

It's also important to understand that a zipped file has been COPIED, leaving the original file intact. This means that if "external storage to free up hard drive space" is your main purpose in putting zipped files on a CD, you can then delete the original. (However, it's prudent to make two zipped backups before deleting the original).

Conversely, extracting restored files from a zipped folder leaves the folder intact. Many downloaded programs, for instance, arrive as zipped folders that will generate one or more files which comprise the actual application.

Back to migrating files from one PC to another, special software such as Laplink ( can be purchased to help the process along.

Dec 28

Top of Page

Whatever Happened to the Lotus/IBM Word Processor?

Jim Head wrote to say he belongs to a club which e-mails him a newsletter created with MSWord. However, Jim says, he can't open it because his computer came with Lotus WordPro.

Well, this is precisely why most newsletters are now prepared as either HTML or PDF documents, since the former can be read with any browser and the latter can be read with Adobe Acrobat Reader, both of which are free to all PC users. Nonetheless, Jim should be able to open an MSWord file by choosing "Word Document .DOC" in his "Files of Type" box after clicking File>Open. However, I can't verify this because it's been so long since I've seen a computer that uses Lotus WordPro.

Historically speaking, when Windows first cameout there were three main word processors that ran on the then new Operating System: MSWord, WordPerfect, and Lotus WordPro, as well as the word processor in MSWorks. Over time, however, MSWord got the lion's share of the text editing business, with MSWorks and WP running second and third.

As for Lotus, the company merged with IBM to offer a revised WordPro called AmiPro, but the program just died on the vine. Therefore, if you inherit a PC bearing Word/AmiPro, be advised that it is no longer supported by IBM/Lotus.

Microsoft Support for Win98 Coming to an End

Speaking of non-support, Microsoft says it will phase out support for Win98 and Win2000 early next year, as it did for Win95 several years ago. This doesn't mean you won't be able to find Win98 patches and viewers, etc.; it just means there will be no more updates or new add-ons from Microsoft.

Free Viewers for Microsoft Programs

Getting back to Jim's question, if you don't have MSWord, you can get a free Word Viewer from, where you can also download free viewers and converters for other MS products.

Windows Media Player

One of my favorite free MS programs is the Windows Media Player, which I use for playing "background music" while I work. If you have a collection of music files you'd like to play sequentially, here's how to do it:

Drag the favorite MIDIs, WAVs and MP3s into a separate folder, which can be created by right-clicking your Desktop and choosing New>Folder and giving it a name. Next open the Windows Media Player. If you don't see an icon for this program, go to Start>Programs>Windows Media Player, or right-click a music file and use the "Open With" option.

With the viewer open, click on File > New Playlist. Under "Playlist Name" type a title for the collection, or ignore this and the name of the folder holding the music will be inserted.

Finally, drag the songs from their folder into the large open area of the media player. Use Ctrl+A to Select All of them. You may have to move the media player and/or the folder so they can both be seen for the dragging and dropping (which actually creates "shortcuts" to the files, leaving the songs in their folder).

If the music doesn't start automatically, click the Play button, whereupon the first song in the Playlist will begin (unless another song is currently highlighted). The songs will be listed alphabetically, but any song can be moved to another location by clicking it and then clicking the Up or Down Arrow at the top of the player. Clicking the red X will display Delete options for a selected song or the whole Playlist.

If you want the songs to play in random order, click the double-arrow "Shuffle" button at the bottom of the player. Another click will return to the Playlist order displayed on-screen, while double-clicking any song will cause it to start playing immediately.

These are just a few of the things that can be done with the Windows Media Player. Others include picking up Internet radio stations and displaying online or DVD videos.

Yes, there are several other media players available, and I don't pretend to understand the differences among them, other than the fact that certain ones may be required to play certain things downloaded from the Web. If anyone would like to explain why he or she prefers one of the other players, I will be happy to put the reasons into this newsletter.

Dec 23

Top of Page

Copying from a PDF File to Another Program

Dot Greene wrote to ask, "How can I copy a PDF report, which has columns, and paste it into Word or Excel without losing the column formatting?"

OK - let's start with what "PDF" means. A "Portable Document File" is one that can be opened and read with Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free program available at Because of compatibility issues among various word processing and email programs around the world, the PDF format was created so that it can be read by anyone, anywhere.

However, the steps for copying parts of a PDF document are different than those used in most other programs. To begin with, the default cursor is a little hand that cannot be used for selecting anything.

Nonetheless, the letter "T" appears twice on the PDF toolbar; and clicking the left one will turn the little hand into a "Text Select Tool," while clicking the right one will generate a "Column Select Tool." Using the latter, a column of text can be easily selected, whereupon it can be copied with Edit>Copy (or Ctrl+C).

If a PDF page has, say, three columns, they can be individually copied and pasted into three Excel (or any other spreadsheet) columns. As for pasting the columns into a Word page, a table with three columns should first be created by going to Table>Insert Table. The copied PDF columns can then be pasted in with no trouble.

Copying from a PDF Graphic

To the right of the two "T" buttons is a "Graphics Select Tool," which lets one copy any image in a PDF document. The PDF toolbar has a number of other unusual tools that can be experimented with, or learned about by clicking on Help.

Adobe Acrobat is the original, and most often used, program for creating PDF files. However, it costs about $500. I've been told that Zeon DocuCom, from, does a good job and costs about $50.

Copying a Web Page to a Disk

Ramachandra Menon wrote to ask how to save a copy of a Web page on a 3.5" floppy disk. Well, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some Web pages can be copied by going to File>Save As, and giving the file a name (which must end in .HTM or .HTML) as well as choosing a location, such as one's A-Drive (floppy disk) or C-Drive (hard disk).

This will normally create a folder on the chosen disk, which will hold all the graphics seen on the Web page, along with the HTML file. Double-clicking the HTML file will open it, whereupon it will search the folder for the graphics it needs.

However, some Web pages are rigged to prevent these steps from working. In this case, a page's text and overall layout can be copied by going to View>Source, and giving the resulting Notepad file a name which ends in HTM/HTML, along with choosing "All Files" in the "Save As Type" field.

If the page's graphics are wanted, they would have to be individually copied by right-clicking them, choosing "Save Picture As" and giving each a name. Also, the graphics would have to be placed in the same folder that holds the HTML file. Having done all this, however, the page may not look quite the same as it did online because it may need "Style Sheet" information, which could be in yet another online file.

Finally, it must be kept in mind that one of the main functions of most Web pages is to provide "hyperlinks" to other online pages. These links, of course, will not work when the HTML document is viewed offline.

Graphics with Strange Filename Extensions

I hear from lots of people who receive images with filename extensions which are not recognized by their computers. The most recent was a picture whose file extension is PCD. This is a Kodak format that works fine if you have the Kodak program that created it. However, you won't find a "Save As to Another Format" option for this extension in your built-in Windows Paint program, as you will for more common ones, such as BMP, GIF and JPG.

This is why I continue to recommend Irfanview, a free download from for handling format conversions from one image type to another.

Dec 21

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Adding a Personal Signature to a Letter

Buck Jordan called to ask how to add his personal signature to the bottom of a letter he is writing with his word processor. This can be done by writing one's name on a piece of paper and creating a copy of the signature with a scanner. The copy can be saved as a JPG or a GIF file. The graphic format really doesn't matter unless it will also be used in an email or on a Web page, where having the smallest possible file size is advantageous.

As for inserting the signature into a word processing document, going to Insert>Picture>From File will place it at the current cursor position, whereupon it will be moved forward by any text that precedes it. However, if you first use Insert>Text Box, followed by creating a rectangle of the approximate size and shape of the signature, you can then place the name inside the box with Insert>Picture and move it around the page at will.

Using a Text Box, however, puts a black frame around the signature, which can be made invisible by clicking on it and going to Format>Text Box>Line>Color>No Line. By going to Format>Text Box>Layout, you can fine-tune the positioning of a graphic (be it a signature or any kind of picture) by anchoring it to the left, right or center of the page, and by choosing whether text should go around the image, in front of it, or behind it.

If you want to put your personal signature at the bottom of an email, this may be a little trickier. It is easy for AOL and CompuServe users, who can write an email in the usual way, press ENTER, and then right-click the page to choose Insert>Picture. If the recipient of the email is another AOL or CS member, there will be no problem seeing the signature at the bottom of the letter.

Outlook Express users can click on Insert>Picture to put a signature/picture at the bottom of an email, and it should be seen easily by other OE users - but inserted graphics that go from one email client to another tend to have varying results. Personally, I prefer to create a pseudo signature using one of the many "script" fonts that are now available. However, the recipient's computer needs to have the same font, or the signature will default to a standard, such as Times New Roman.

Folks Sending Me Lots of Email Addresses

Speaking of email, I have been receiving lots of holiday greetings from readers of this column. I appreciate the messages, of course, but am saddened by how many of them display multiple email addresses in the CC (carbon copy) box. Using CCs instead of BCCs (blind carbon copies) is an invitation to have all those names and addresses put on a spam list.

No, of course, none of your friends who see all these names would be guilty of this - but you can never be sure of who else might see one of those letters. Please, do your friends a favor and always use BCCs.

OE users can display the BCC field by composing a new message and clicking on View>All Headers. Once this is done, the BCC field will be visible on all future outgoing mail.

AOL and CS users have no BCC field, but addresses placed in the Copy To box will be sent as BCCs if they are enclosed in parentheses. Details on how to do this can be found at Most other email programs have their BCC fields visible and easily found.

Dec 16

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Using Your Taskbar's "Quick Launch" Area

Chuck Miller wrote to say when he tries to drag a favorite Desktop Shortcut Icon onto his Taskbar it won't stay there; it remains on the Desktop.

OK, let's start at the beginning—why put an icon on the Taskbar in the first place? Well, if it's one you use often it can be accessed more quickly and easily, as opposed to its being hidden somewhere behind a number of open files on your Desktop.

However, a Desktop Shortcut can only be placed on a Taskbar's "Quick Launch" area—other parts of the Taskbar will reject it. This area is normally to the left of this marker: ». If you don't see this symbol, right-click the Taskbar and choose Toolbars>Quick Launch, whereupon this area will be created.

As you drag your favorite Shortcuts onto it you may find that only a few are displayed, while the others seem to disappear—but they can be displayed by clicking ». Furthermore, their order can be rearranged by simply dragging and dropping them.

It's also helpful to know that when a Shortcut is dragged onto the Quick Launch area it is COPIED, meaning the original is left intact on your Desktop, from where it can be safely deleted. If you later decide you prefer the icon back on the Desktop, it can always be dragged into place from the Quick Launch toolbar.

How Can I Speed Up My Computer?

One of the questions I hear most often is, "My computer is very slow—how can I speed it up?" Well, there are a number of things that can slow down a PC, and the first I would look at is the number of programs that start when you turn it on. The icons in your System Tray (the area to the left of your Taskbar's digital clock) represent programs that are running in the background.

To see other such programs, go to Start>Run, type MSCONFIG, and click OK. Next click the Startup tab to see the list. Those whose boxes are checked start running when your PC is turned on. Uncheck the ones you don't need running and click OK.

Programs Not Deleted—Just Kept from Starting Until Needed

This only means you have told the programs not to run in the background— they have NOT been deleted. AOL members, for instance, need only access their program when they want to use it.

Items that should be running all the time are SysTray, as well as your Anti-Virus and Firewall programs. But what about all the programs with cryptic names you may see listed?

What I do is uncheck them and restart my computer on a one-by-one basis, to see that everything continues running normally. If there are any doubts about one, I simply recheck it. Beyond that, a number of these odd programs are described on a site whose link can be found at, where information can also be found re: Win95 and Win2000, which do NOT have the MSCONFIG utility.

PCs Run Faster When Defragmented Regularly

Another thing that can slow down a computer is "fragmentation" of its hard disk. When files are created on, or added to, a hard drive they are placed sequentially one after another. When they are deleted, however, they tend to leave gaps that can make your hard drive look like so much Swiss cheese.

This means your hard drive should be defragmented periodically by using the DEFRAG command. (I defrag mine at least once a week.)

However, on pre-WinXP computers DEFRAG may not work well unless SCANDISK has been done first. This utility scans your hard disk and fixes errors, including those which may interfere with running DEFRAG properly.

SCANDISK can be found by going to Programs>Accessories>System Tools, or you can go to Start>Run, and type in SCANDISK, whereupon you can choose "Standard" or "Thorough." Choose the latter, along with "Automatically Fix Errors," to improve your chances of DEFRAG running to its completion.

WinXP users will not find SCANDISK, since it was included with the XP version of DEFRAG. However, XP users can use CHKDSK to do an even more thorough scan and repair of possible disk errors. Double-click My Computer, right-click your C-Drive icon, and choose Properties. Next, click Tools>Error-Checking. Finally, check off both repair options that are listed, and follow the instructions about restarting your computer.

Dec 14

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Large & Small View of Desktop Icons & Text

Larry Ford called to say he changed his display resolution from 800x600 to 640x480 so text and icons would be larger and easier to read. (These settings can be changed by right-clicking the Desktop and choosing Properties>Settings>Screen Area/Resolution, and adjusting the horizontal slide-button.)

However, Larry also found that 640x480 made things so large that much of what he wanted to see had been forced beyond the edges of the screen. He went on to say that when he tried to go back to 800x600 the dialogue box was so big that the "Apply" button was out of reach of his mouse.

I told Larry to just press ENTER. He did, and is now back to his previous settings - and probably thinking of buying a larger monitor.

The principle here is that any "default" action button (usually one with a darker outline) can be activated by pressing ENTER.

Using the "Send To" Command

Sometimes we get so used to doing something a certain way, we tend to overlook other possibilities. For instance, I've been using "Attach" and "Insert" to send pictures with e-mail for years; but have now found an easier way. Simply right-click a picture and choose Send To>Mail Recipient.

This will open your e-mail program with a new blank message, and show that the target picture has been attached. If you want to send multiple items, simply hold down CTRL while you click them. Then right-click anywhere in the selection and do as explained above.

Right-clicking a file and using Send To offers other interesting possibilities, as well. For instance, you can send a picture to an IM (Instant Messenger) correspondent. Your online buddy will get a message saying you want to send him or her a file - and he or she can then click "Accept." If the buddy also clicks "Open file or folder after transfer" the picture (or other type of file) will immediately be displayed for viewing.

Using IMs (Instant Messages)

In case you're not familiar with IMs, they let you communicate with someone in real time by typing messages back and forth to each other. Your IM correspondent can be thousands of miles away or just down the street. Either way, it is entirely free.

IMing comes built-in with AOL and CompuServe; however, users of other ISPs can sign up with an outside IM service. The most popular is AIM (Americaonline Instant Messenger). However, you can opt to use MSN, Netscape, Yahoo, ICQ or Trillian as your IM service.

For more details on how to exchange attachments via IM, click Help on your Buddy List window.

More Uses for the "Send To" Command

Here's another way the "Send To" command can be handy: Use it to copy a file (or files) to a floppy disk or a CD. Instead of having to display the target storage device's icon by double-clicking My Computer (followed by dragging and dropping the file) you can use Send To to save a few steps. (When sending to the CD Drive, the inserted CD will need to have been formatted to accept dragged and dropped files.)

But my favorite storage device has become the USB "Thumb Drive." This is a "flash memory" device that can be purchased in 128, 256 or 512 megabyte sizes. I recently bought a Memorex 256 MG unit because it was on sale at a substantial discount - and I'm going back for more. These Thumb Drives are amazing.

If you have WinXP, just plug the device into any USB port and it's ready to use. For other Windows systems, a CD is included which will install the software needed. As for copying files to the device, just drag and drop them, or use the "Send To" command.

The "drive" is completely re-writable (as are your hard disk and 3.5" floppies). But the file transfer speed is many times faster than sending data to a CD. Furthermore, the Thumb Drive can be easily removed from the USB port and used on another PC. Or you can just store it as a file backup device. Thumb Drives are, by far, the easiest external storage devices I've ever used, although they are considerably more costly than CDs.

Dec 9

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Having Web Pages Open in the Size You Want

Richard Hetherington wrote to say that when he opens a new Internet page it is displayed as a very small window, and that he has to click its Maximize button to get it large enough to work with. Richard went on to ask if there is a way to make the Web page open full size automatically.

Well, any Web page can be resized by mouse-grabbing a corner or edge and adjusting it accordingly. Once a window has been thus reshaped, it will continue to be in that configuration on subsequent openings. Furthermore, this rule applies to all folders and windows, whether found on the Web or on one's own hard drive.

Additionally, any open window can be moved by grabbing the blue title bar along its top edge. Beyond this, any partially hidden window can be brought to the front by simply clicking it. However, if possible, it's best to click the title bar when bringing a window to the front. Here's why:

Using a Page's Blue Title Bar Effectively

Let's say you're copying names from a spreadsheet into a word processing document, and that the two files are overlapping on your screen. Clicking anywhere on the spreadsheet will bring it to the front so you can select the next name, while clicking anywhere on the text file will bring it to the front so the name can be pasted in.

Well, if you click on the spreadsheet's title bar, the last name chosen will still be selected, making it easy to see where you left off. If, however, you click randomly on the spreadsheet you may select an out-of-sequence name that makes it harder to get back to where you were. Clicking the title bar keeps this from happening.

Odd Symbols in MSWord

George Mosko wrote to say that an assortment of odd characters suddenly appeared in his MSWord documents, and asked how to get rid of them. These are special formatting symbols, such as the "backwards P" paragraph mark, and are used in certain editing situations. These symbols can be turned on or off by going to Tools>Options>View>Formatting Marks.

Gretchen Johnson wrote to say her Folders list and Contacts list disappeared from view in Outlook Express, and asked how to get them back. Well, OE gives us lots of latitude in arranging our workspace by going to View>Layout, and by clicking Custom Toolbar foradditional fine-tuning.

Gretchen also asked what it means when a message is "flagged." This is another OE option that lets us make a message easier to find later within a given folder. Just click the space under the Flag Heading and to the left of the target message.

Speaking of Column Headers, it's helpful to know that clicking them in certain cases can make something in the column easier to find. For instance, open your My Documents folder with a double-click and then click on View>Details. Depending on which Details you have chosen, you will see Column Headers such as Name, Size, Type, and Date Modified.

By default, items in the folder are listed alphabetically under Name. Click on Name and the items will be sorted in reverse order (Z-A). Click Name again and the Names will be sorted A-Z. Click on Size and the files will be listed from the smallest to the largest. Click Size again and the list will be from largest to smallest. Switching between the most recent and the oldest date occurs when Date Modified is clicked.

This rule applies to many computer column views. It pays to experiment.

Moving an ".EXE" File

Bill Swedell called to say an ".EXE" file he downloaded ended up on his Desktop and that he would like to get it out of view. However, when Bill tried to delete it he got a message saying a certain program won't work if the file is removed.

Let's look at the possibilities here. Normally, a downloaded ".EXE" file is used to install a program of some kind; and once it has been "executed" (thus creating the new program) it is no longer needed. In Bill's case, however, it appears that this .EXE file needs to be preserved.

I suggested that Bill drag the file from his Desktop to his C-Drive icon (which can be displayed by double-clicking My Computer). Bill did this and said that everything is now working just fine. (More on moving .EXE files next time.)

Dec 7

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Windows XP Picture & Fax Viewer

Plain Text vs Formatted Text

Mary Ann Jacobs wrote to ask how to prepare a "plain text" job résumé email, since this is what many employers prefer; and she wants to use MSWord to compose the résumé. Well, let's first consider what "plain text" is.

By default nowadays, all word processors and most email programs would have us compose a document in "rich text" or "HTML," which means all kinds of fancy formatting can be used (such as the "bold" characters seen in this letter). The only formatting actions allowed in plain text (a.k.a. ASCII text) are paragraph breaks (pressing ENTER) and tab stops (pressing TAB). Furthermore, the text will be in one size, black on white.

The most obvious way to compose a plain text document is to use Notepad (Start>Programs>Accessories>Notepad). However, many of us prefer to use our word processors because they include spell-checking, which Notepad does not.

Well, composing an unadorned document in MSWord (or any other word processor) may look like "plain text," but it actually is not. However, if you go to File>Save As, and choose "Text Only" in the "Save As Type" box, the document will be converted to ASCII and the .DOC extension will be changed to .TXT.

Alternatively, if the finished document is going to be copied and pasted into a "plain text" email, then there is no particular reason to convert the .DOC file into a .TXT file. After pasting the text into, say, an Outlook Express email, simply choose Format>Plain Text.

Emailing a Copy of Your Desktop 'Wallpaper'

Frank George wrote to ask if the Stonehenge "wallpaper" (Desktop background) that came with his computer can be emailed to someone. Yes, this is just another picture (usually a JPG) and it can be attached to an outgoing email. Since wallpaper backgrounds are often buried inside nested folders, it is best to find it by going to Start>Search/Find>Files & Folders, and typing in the name. When the target picture is found, right-click it and choose COPY. Then right-click your Desktop or My Documents folder and choose PASTE. This will make it easier to find when you are ready to ATTACH it to your outgoing message.

But what if you don't know the name of your Desktop Wallpaper? Right-click the Desktop and choose Properties>Desktop, where you will find a number of images listed and where the current background graphic's name will be highlighted.

Missing Graphics

Ann Marie Lorenzini wrote to ask why she occasionally receives email that is supposed to contain a picture, but, instead, has a blank box with a red X in the corner. This happens when the sender attempts to attach a picture according to the rules of his or her particular email program, but may have left out a step.

Ask the sender to try again, and to send him/herself a copy of the attachment to make sure everything works. Some programs expect us to use the "Insert" command, while others offer the word "Attach." Outlook Express uses both. If you are trying to send a Web page you have copied and pasted into an email, you may have to copy the images onto your hard-drive first (right-click and choose Save Picture As...). It pays to experiment.

Accessing DOS (MSDOS) in WinXP

Larry Ford wrote to ask how to access DOS (Disk Operating System) while in WinXP. Previous versions of Windows had a "Restart in MSDOS" option, but WinXP does not. Well, Microsoft has decided that WinXP will take care of all our computing needs, and that we really have no reason to be using DOS anymore.

This is not necessarily true; and if you want to access DOS you can do it by going to Run>Start and by typing in COMMAND. When finished, type EXIT to return to Windows. (Caps or lower-case letters optional.) The DOS prompt can also be found under Start>Programs>Accessories> Command Prompt.

Pauline Bushey wrote to ask if it's possible to send any of the music on my Web site along with an email. Yes, a music file can be attached to an outgoing email, as can a picture or just about any other kind of file.

Beyond this, Outlook Express users can embed a sound file in an outgoing email by going to Format>Background>Sound, and browsing to the target file. However, the sound becomes an integral part of the email, and there is no way for the recipient to copy the sound as a separate file.

Dec 7

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Plain Text vs Formatted Text

Mary Ann Jacobs wrote to ask how to prepare a "plain text" job résumé email, since this is what many employers prefer; and she wants to use MSWord to compose the résumé. Well, let's first consider what "plain text" is.

By default nowadays, all word processors and most email programs would have us compose a document in "rich text" or "HTML," which means all kinds of fancy formatting can be used (such as the "bold" characters seen in this letter). The only formatting actions allowed in plain text (a.k.a. ASCII text) are paragraph breaks (pressing ENTER) and tab stops (pressing TAB). Furthermore, the text will be in one size, black on white.

The most obvious way to compose a plain text document is to use Notepad (Start>Programs>Accessories>Notepad). However, many of us prefer to use our word processors because they include spell-checking, which Notepad does not.

Well, composing an unadorned document in MSWord (or any other word processor) may look like "plain text," but it actually is not. However, if you go to File>Save As, and choose "Text Only" in the "Save As Type" box, the document will be converted to ASCII and the .DOC extension will be changed to .TXT.

Alternatively, if the finished document is going to be copied and pasted into a "plain text" email, then there is no particular reason to convert the .DOC file into a .TXT file. After pasting the text into, say, an Outlook Express email, simply choose Format>Plain Text.

Emailing a Copy of Your Desktop 'Wallpaper'

Frank George wrote to ask if the Stonehenge "wallpaper" (Desktop background) that came with his computer can be emailed to someone. Yes, this is just another picture (usually a JPG) and it can be attached to an outgoing email. Since wallpaper backgrounds are often buried inside nested folders, it is best to find it by going to Start>Search/Find>Files & Folders, and typing in the name. When the target picture is found, right-click it and choose COPY. Then right-click your Desktop or My Documents folder and choose PASTE. This will make it easier to find when you are ready to ATTACH it to your outgoing message.

But what if you don't know the name of your Desktop Wallpaper? Right-click the Desktop and choose Properties>Desktop, where you will find a number of images listed and where the current background graphic's name will be highlighted.

Missing Graphics

Ann Marie Lorenzini wrote to ask why she occasionally receives email that is supposed to contain a picture, but, instead, has a blank box with a red X in the corner. This happens when the sender attempts to attach a picture according to the rules of his or her particular email program, but may have left out a step.

Ask the sender to try again, and to send him/herself a copy of the attachment to make sure everything works. Some programs expect us to use the "Insert" command, while others offer the word "Attach." Outlook Express uses both. If you are trying to send a Web page you have copied and pasted into an email, you may have to copy the images onto your hard-drive first (right-click and choose Save Picture As...). It pays to experiment.

Accessing DOS (MSDOS) in WinXP

Larry Ford wrote to ask how to access DOS (Disk Operating System) while in WinXP. Previous versions of Windows had a "Restart in MSDOS" option, but WinXP does not. Well, Microsoft has decided that WinXP will take care of all our computing needs, and that we really have no reason to be using DOS anymore.

This is not necessarily true; and if you want to access DOS you can do it by going to Run>Start and by typing in COMMAND. When finished, type EXIT to return to Windows. (Caps or lower-case letters optional.) The DOS prompt can also be found under Start>Programs>Accessories> Command Prompt.

Pauline Bushey wrote to ask if it's possible to send any of the music on my Web site along with an email. Yes, a music file can be attached to an outgoing email, as can a picture or just about any other kind of file.

Beyond this, Outlook Express users can embed a sound file in an outgoing email by going to Format>Background>Sound, and browsing to the target file. However, the sound becomes an integral part of the email, and there is no way for the recipient to copy the sound as a separate file.

Dec 2

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Windows XP Picture & Fax Viewer

Al Roller called to ask if there is a feature in Win98 similar to WinXP's "Picture & Fax Viewer," that automatically reduces a large photo to a "best fit" size that allows it to be seen in its entirety. No, this is only available in WinXP. In other versions of Windows, an image-editor is needed to change a picture's size.

Windows Paint lets you do this by opening the picture and going to Image>Stretch & Skew. However, I prefer Irfanview (free download from, whose Image>Resize/Resample feature is much easier to use.

In any case, it's important to understand that the "best fit" size in WinXP's viewer is a "temporary" view, and that changing the picture's actual size will still need to be done with an image-editor.

Many of Us Have Multiple Image-Editors

Most computers nowadays have two or more image-editors on board simply because various peripherals such as printers, scanners and digital cameras come with their own editors, which often get installed along with the peripherals' drivers. This multitude of image-editing programs can be confusing, since their editing commands often vary greatly from one to another.

Resize an Image with Your Word Processor

If you use an editor mainly for changing a photo's dimensions, you might find it simpler to place the picture inside a word processing page (by using Insert>Picture) where you can adjust its size by grabbing a corner "handle" and moving it accordingly.

If you plan on printing the picture, it can be done with the word processor's File>Print command. If, however, you want to save the picture in its new size, you can right-click it and then click on "Copy." Next, right-click a folder of your choice and click on "Paste."

Cautionary Note About Resizing JPG Photos

One caution, however: once a JPG photo's dimensions have been reduced, you can not re-save it back to the original size without some loss of quality. Therefore, it's prudent to first copy the picture into another folder and rename it, by right-clicking it and choosing Rename. Alternatively, you can use an image-editor, go to File>Save As, and save the copy with a different name. This will preserve the "master" photo with its original size and quality attributes.

Speaking of pictures, I've placed a good-sized collection of holiday clipart on my website (, which can be downloaded for use on printed material, such as Christmas newsletters, or added to email messages. Many of the images are animated GIF files, which can liven up an email.

Why Don't I See the Animated Clipart Moving?

Speaking of animations, beginning users are often confused by the fact that the images usually don't move when inserted into an outgoing email. No; but they will be seen in motion by the recipient. If in doubt, simply send yourself a copy of the animation-bearing letter.

Something that needs to be understood about animated GIFs, however, is that they can NOT be resized like "still" pictures can. If you insert a large animation file into a word processing page, you can resize it by grabbing a corner handle (as explained above); but the copied image will no longer move. It will have become a "stationary" image.

This is because animated GIFs are actually a series of "slides" that play in sequence, much like the images on a strip of movie film. Trying to resize the file without using special "animation" software will simply remove all the individual "slides" but one, which will be a static image.

Resizing an Animated GIF

If you do want to change the size of an animated GIF, it can be done by going to and using their free online GIF editor. If you find the program confusing, send me the file and I will resize it for you.

Sending a Holiday Newsletter in a 'Window' Envelope

If you plan on using holiday clipart in a printed "Christmas newsletter" have you thought about sending the letter in a "window envelope" so that you don't need to place addresses on regular envelopes? I've been doing this for the past few years, and it really simplifies things.

I compose a Christmas newsletter in Word, and use Word's "mail merge" tools to place the name and address of each recipient in the letter's upper left area so that they will show through their envelope's window.

This precludes the need for having to hand-address the envelopes or for running them through a printer (which can be problematical, at best).

Nov 30

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Receiving Email That Is in Some Kind of "Code"

Have you ever received an email that was full of some kind of coding that made it difficult, if not impossible, to read? This usually means the message was composed in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) but that the coding had been somehow corrupted in the email's transmission.

Since HTML is used in the creation of Web pages and so much of the email we receive, it's helpful to understand a little about its structure. Here's a mini-tutorial:

HTML may seem complicated, but in its simplest form it is used to add styling to plain text by inserting "tags" into a phrase. For instance, if you wanted the words in the phrase "John loves Mary" to be in three separate colors, the HTML coding could look something like this: <font color="red">John <font color="black">loves <font color="blue">Mary.

Tags are always enclosed in "lesser than" and "greater than" pointy brackets.

If you wanted a phrase to be in bold type you would precede it with a <b> tag and end it with </b>. If you wanted the phrase in Italics, you could start with <i> and end with </i>. Many tags have a beginning form (such as <big> for one font-size larger) and an closing form (such as </big> to end bigger formatting).

Why don't these "tags" show up in the finished HTML message or on a Web page? This is because the document begins with <html> and ends with </html> and is saved with an .HTM or .HTML extension to the file name.

By the way, HTML tags can be written in upper or lower case, as can the filename and extension.

If you would like to examine the HTML coding on a Web page (such as any of my pages at http:/ you can click on View>Source and everything will appear as plain text in a Notepad document. You can then save the file by going to File>Save As, and giving it a name.

At this point you can append .TXT to the name, which will preserve it as a plain text Notepad file. However, if you use .HTM or .HTML as the extension, everything will be seen as a Web page document, when viewed with Internet Explorer (or any other browser).

The reason I suggest looking at my pages (especially the "story" pages) is that the coding tends to be relatively simple and easy to understand. Commercial Web pages often have advanced and complex coding that I don't use.

The Reason Some Email Arrives in "Code"

The reason some email arrives in an illegible format is often because the .HTM/.HTML extension was left off, or because .TXT was used for the extension (or, perhaps, no extension at all was used). This can be fixed by simply making the extension .HTM.

What about Outlook Express messages that have .EML for an extension?

Well, .EML files often have an .HTML file inside of them, which allows all the text in the email to be seen in whatever special styling was chosen. If, however, the HTML tags are showing in the message, you may have to copy and paste the text into a Notepad file and do a little editing.

What sometimes confuses the issue is that many "plain text" messages are sent nowadays with HTML coding. If you use Outlook Express, for instance, and want to send a simple message in plain black and white, go to Format>Plain Text.

If, however, you type a plain message under Format>Rich Text (HTML) your message will still arrive unadorned - but will contain hidden tags that may look something like:
<font face="times new roman" size="2" color="#000000">.
This could mean that all these unnecessary tags would be showing if the email was somehow corrupted along the way.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, I regularly hear from people who have received illegible emails, and who ask if they can forward them to me for deciphering. I am glad to accommodate, but hope the above information will make it easier for folks to fix these problems themselves.

Seeing the "Date Taken" on Your Digital Camera Photos

Digital camera users may not be aware that "Date Picture Taken" is a view option inside WinXP folders. Click on View>Details to display the date, along with other information about the pictures. (Of course, the date may not be correct if you have not set it according to the camera's manual.)

If you don't see "Date Picture Taken" go to View>Choose Details and check the appropriate box. If you find that some of the details are not displayed in full, you can grab the upright "divider" lines at the top of the folder and adjust them left or right as needed.

Nov 25

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Changing a Folder's Icon

Bill Swedell called to say all the folders on his Desktop look the same, and asked if there is a way to replace their default "plain yellow" look with something more distinctive.

Well, this is easy for WinXP users. Right-click a folder and go to Properties>Customize>Change Icon. Choose one you like from a large selection that will appear and click OK.

Win98 users don't have it quite so easy. However, they can move the folder to someplace other than their Desktop, create a Shortcut to it, and then change the Shortcut's icon. Here's how:

Let's start by creating a folder. Right-click your Desktop and choose New>Folder. A folder will appear tentatively named "New Folder." Let's name it, say, "Business Files" by typing over the "New Folder" label.

Now place the "Business Files" folder inside your "My Documents" folder by simply dragging and dropping it. Next, double-click "My Documents" to display its contents. When you see "Business Files" right-click it and choose Create Shortcut.

A yellow folder icon will appear, which will be named "Business Files." Drag this icon out onto your Desktop. Now you can right-click it and choose Properties>Shortcut>Change Icon, at which point the above-mentioned list of icons will be displayed. Make your choice and click OK.

If you would rather not have the "Business Files" folder inside "My Documents" you can choose another location. Right-click your Start button and choose Explore. This will open the Windows Explorer view of your folders. Choose one (or choose your "C-Drive" icon) followed by dragging "My Files" onto it and creating a shortcut as described above.

Superimposing a Picture on a Folder Icon

Windows XP users have an additional choice for changing the appearance of a plain yellow folder; however it doesn't work if the folder is on the Desktop. Let me explain.

If you have a folder inside another folder, such as, say, "Friends" inside of "My Documents" - and if the folder contains one or more pictures, you can right-click the folder and choose Properties>Customize>Choose Picture. All its images will be displayed, inviting you to click one and then click OK.

The chosen picture will then be superimposed over its folder - but only as long as the folder is displayed inside another folder and if "Thumbnails" has been chosen as the "View" option. If you drag the folder back onto your Desktop, it will be displayed in its original "plain yellow" look (unless you use "Change Icon" described above).

But, technically speaking, isn't the "Desktop" actually a folder? Yes, it is - and you can make it behave like other folders by displaying it via "Windows Explorer." In Win98 "Desktop" is listed as a folder inside the "Windows" folder, which is a subfolder of your "C-Drive" icon.

WinXP computers normally have at least two folders named "Desktop" and they can be found by going to Start>Search>All Files & Folders and typing in "Desktop." Click Search to see them all listed. Double-click each one to see which matches the one you are currently using, whereupon any "picture-marked" folder will be displayed showing the superimposed image.

If you plan on using this option frequently, right-click the target "Desktop" folder and choose Create Shortcut. Answer YES when asked if you want the Shortcut on your Desktop.

Using the "Show Desktop" Icon

Another popular icon is the one that says "Show Desktop." By default, it is usually displayed on a new computer's Taskbar. This means that, no matter how many things you have open on your screen, you can click the icon to instantly restore your Desktop to its default view. (Some refer to this as the "Panic Button" they click if they see the boss approaching when they're doing something personal on the company computer.)

Anyway, several people have called to say this icon had vanished and asked how to get it back. Well, it was found the way so many things are found on your PC - by going to Start>Find/Search>Files & Folders and typing in the item's name. The recovered icon can then be dragged onto your Desktop, and subsequently onto your Taskbar.

In order to drag an icon onto your Taskbar, its "QuickLaunch" view needs to be activated. If your Taskbar won't accept an icon, right-click it and choose Toolbars>QuickLaunch. If you still have trouble, look for an upright gray "divider" on your Taskbar, slide it toward the the center of the Taskbar, whereupon the icon will be accepted on one side of the divider or the other.

One advantage of having favorite icons on your Taskbar is that they can be activated with a single-click.

Nov 23

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More About Handling Spam with Outlook Express 'Message Rules'

Cal Townsend wrote and asked how to create a folder in Outlook Express, in which he will temporarily store arriving spam. This can be done by right-clicking any existing folder (including "Local Folders") and choosing "New Folder."

Since writing recently about using OE's "Message Rules" in an attempt to control spam, I've learned more on the subject. One rule lets you list key words, which, if found in the body of an email, will cause the message to be sent to a special folder and/or be handled in a variety of ways.

However, a lot of spam is now arriving with no text at all in the message, other than a link to the spammer's Web site. This is done by sending the "text" as a "picture."

I've also found that no matter how carefully I choose key words, complete with their deliberate misspellings (such as "prescripti0n" spelled with a zero) about 20% of my legitimate incoming email still ends up in my SPAM folder.

There is no perfect system, perhaps, other than "white mail." This will work for someone who wants to receive email only from certain people, and from no other source. Simply tell your correspondents to put a "code" word, say, XYZ, in the subject line of each letter they send you, and have OE's Message Rules reject any email whose subject line does not contain the code.

This obviously wouldn't work for someone like myself who willingly receives mail from many strangers every day.

One lady wrote to ask why I didn't recommend going to Message>Block Sender when an unwanted email arrives, thus blocking future mail from that address. Well, this may work to block mail from an ex-flame you no longer want in your life; but most spammers use hundreds of return addresses, which they rotate in such a way that we rarely see the same one twice.

CORRECTION: As for inserting words and phrases into OE's "target word" list, I said a bunch could be inserted all at once if they were formatted in a particular way with a word processor. Sorry, but this turned out to be ineffective. OE considers such a pre-formatted list to be one single "phrase," rather than an assortment of separate items. Words and phrases do need to be typed or pasted in one by one.

Should the Politicians Handle This?

What about legislation? Shouldn't it be illegal to send spam? Well, one man's spam may be another man's interesting ad. And let's not forget that email is still free. My fear is that if legislators can find a way to "outlaw" spam they may also see email (not to mention IMs) as a tempting source of new revenue.

The bottom line, sadly, is that the only thing that will end spam is for people to stop responding to the advertising. However, considering the cost of name-brand medications, I suppose it's reasonable to assume that many will continue responding to these "discount drug" ads that promise cheaper prices and without a prescription. I won't even get into why porno ads aren't likely to stop any time soon.

As for clicking an ad's "No More Mail" option, this just applies to that particular letter's return address. Remember? Spammers use hundreds of them.

As for anti-spam filters, what we all want is a miracle-worker that will examine each incoming message and know for sure that it is mail we want or mail we don't want, and to handle it accordingly with 100% accuracy. Good luck.

Handy "Drag & Drop" Way of Downloading Pictures from the Web

Anyone using a computer for a while quickly learns that just about anything can be dragged and dropped somewhere else. Here's another example.

If you find a picture on the Web you would like to download, you can right-click it and choose "Save Picture As," whereupon "My Pictures" will appear as the default storage folder. What if you would rather have the picture in your "My Documents" folder? Simply drag it from the Web page into this folder, and bypass several steps while along the way.

If, however, the desired image is a link to somewhere else (evidenced by your arrow cursor becoming a pointing finger) you will still need to use the right-click procedure.

Another trick is to drag and drop with your mouse's "right button," whereupon you can choose "Move Here" or "Copy Here." This works in most places where "regular left button" dragging and dropping work, but gives you the additional option of "copying" the item or of physically "moving" it.

Nov 18

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Helping to Control Spam with Outlook Express 'Message Rules'

Users of Outlook Express have some very sophisticated anti-spam options, if they are willing to take time to put them into effect. Here's what I did:

I had never taken advantage of these options until recently, since the amount of spam I used to receive wasn't worth the trouble. However, a couple of months ago I began getting bombarded with "medical" spam. So I went to Tools>Message Rules>Mail Rules, and clicked the "New" button.

Under "1 - Select the conditions for your rule" I chose "Where the Subject line contains specific words." Under "2 - Select the Actions for your rule" I chose "Move to a specific folder."

When I clicked on "3 - Rule Description" an underlined blue link appeared, reading: "Contains specific words." Clicking the link brings up a box into which you are invited to type the specific words and/or phrases which will cause an email to be sent to a special folder (or whatever was chosen under "2 - Select the Actions...").

At this point you will type or paste the target words or phases in, followed by clicking "Add" or by pressing ENTER after each entry. Your accumulated entries will appear in another box below. Lastly, you will click "Apply Now" and "OK" when your typing and/or pasting is finished.

After typing in half a dozen entries, however, I realized I could only remember a small percentage of the words I wanted to target. So here's what I did: I created a special OE folder and named it SPAM. Then, for the next two weeks, I dragged each new spam arrival into this folder.

Now, with several dozen e-mails for reference, I selected well over 100 words, which I entered into a word-processing document.

Why not copy and paste them directly into Outlook Express? Well, by having them all in a word-processing file, I can make any needed editing changes much more easily - and then copy and paste the items into the OE "Add" box.

All of the above pertains to an incoming email's "Subject" line. To target words in the main message, under "1 - Select the conditions..." choose "Message Body" and follow the rest of the steps as described above.

Deliberately Misspelled Words

As you have undoubtedly noticed, certain key words in objectionable emails are often misspelled in order to defeat your anti-spam efforts. "Viagra" may appear as "V_iagra" or "v-i-a-g-r-a" or "Vigra (among several other misspellings)." This is why my list was so long. But editing it in a word-processing document makes the job easier.

Once you get a collection of words and phrases inserted in the OE Message Rules, however, you can edit them at any time by clicking the "Modify" button, followed by clicking the blue underlined list of entries.

The down-side to any such list, however, is having a word that might appear in a legitimate e-mail you actually want to receive. "Sex" is often used by spammers - but having it in your list could keep a message from a friend saying "She has lot's of sex appeal" from getting through.

There Is No Perfect Defense Mechanism

In any case, don't expect miracles. There is simply no way you can out-guess all the words a spammer is likely to use and be guaranteed that a legitimate email you want to receive from a friend may not contain one or more of the targeted words. You will still have to check your "SPAM" folder to see if it contains mail you want to see.

Nov 16

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Holiday Greetings with PowerPoint

Have you thought about creating a holiday greeting with PowerPoint? PowerPoint comes pacakaged with all versions of Microsoft Office; but I've found that the program often goes unused because folks don't understand how it works or what can be done with with it.

Well, PowerPoint was designed to create "slide show" presentations, similar to those shown by a salesman to a client using a projector and a roll-up screen. Now, instead of carrying all that gear around, a colorful sales proposal can be placed on a disk or e-mailed to a customer. These presentations can be as simple as some plain photos or drawings, or they can be jazzed up with lively animations and sound that can rival professional TV commercials.

In its simplest form, a presentation is a series of stationary images and text. But the beauty of the program is that all kinds of animation effects can be added to each slide.

A line of text, for instance, can be made to appear on the screen one word or one letter at a time. The words or letters can be made to slide in from one edge of the screen, or the whole phrase can be made to appear in a "venetian blind" effect. These are just a couple of the many ways in which text and graphics can be made to appear on the screen.

There's not room here for a full tutorial, but here are some tips to get you started. After launching the program you can click on "AutoContent Wizard" and be led through a series of prompts that will have you up and running in no time.

What I do, however, is go directly to "Blank Presentation" and build one from scratch.

This will display a window which shows a collection of suggested layouts. Dark bars represent "text boxes" where you'd type in messages. Cartoon faces represent "picture boxes" where graphics can be inserted. Other boxes represent various kinds of "bulleted lists" and "charts," where you would substitute your own material for the "dummy" items.

However, I prefer the "totally blank" frame, because all the things you see in the "suggested layouts" can be created manually as you want them. Here's a brief example:

Starting with a Blank Slide

With a blank slide showing, click on Insert>Text Box. Draw a rectangle of the approximate size needed for adding some text, and then type a message into it, such as, "Happy Holidays from the (YourName) Family!" You will see a familiar toolbar that lets you edit the text, re: font, style, size and color.

Now let's have some fun with this. Mouse-select the message and click on Slide Show>Custom Animation. Next click the down arrow under "Entry Animation & Sound" and choose one of the special effects, such as Checkerboard, Disolve, Spiral, or Swivel

Click OK and then click Slide Show>View Show. Your entire screen will go blank and wait for a mouse click to start the show. After the animated text does its thing, click two more times to return to the editing mode.

Now go to Insert>Picture>From File, and browse your way to a photo. Move the inserted picture to wherever you want it and then return to Slide Show>Custom Animation, where you can choose a special "entrance" effect for the graphic.

Press F5 and watch your message and your picture magically materialize.

Finally, go to Format, and choose "Background" or "Apply Design Template" to give your slide a colorful backdrop. When ready to build Slide 2, go to Insert>New Slide.

This is just the tip of the PowerPoint iceberg. Animated cartoons can also be used, as can background music and/or a vocal narration. The possibilities are limited only by one's own imagination.

As for sending out your creative efforts, the recipient must also have PowerPoint. However, a free PowerPoint "viewer" can be downloaded from Just type "powerpoint viewer" into the Search box and click Go.

PowerPoint can also be purchased as a stand-alone application, and it even works well as a simple "Desktop Publishing" program. Just leave out the animation effects, and use the drawing and lettering tools as you would in any other DTP program.

Nov 11

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Putting a Decorative Border Around Pictures

Glo Gates wrote to ask if there is a way of putting a decorative border around a picture inserted into a word processing page in MSWorks. Well, Microsoft provides a feature called "Border Art" that makes this very easy to do.

After creating a frame (by going to Insert>Text Box) you can click on it and then go to Format>Borders & Shading. Choose Apply To>Text Box and then click the down-arrow above "Border Art." The drop-down menu will display a variety of colorful edges, including stars, flowers, hearts, and confetti effects. These miniature samples are somewhat condensed and each one may need to be displayed full size in order to choose a favorite.

A Size box indicates each decorative border's width, since they are not uniform. However, you can change each one's "point" size to suit yourself.

By selecting Apply To>Page, a chosen border will go all the way around the sheet, leaving enough space to accommodate your printer's margin limitations. Other choices under Border Art are plain lines, which come in a variety of widths and colors.

In MSWord, the colorful flowers and other rococo effects are only available for Page Borders. Text Boxes are limited to straight lines, which are available in different colors and in a few simple patterns.

In both Word and Works, these decorative Text Boxes can always be resized to accommodate the pictures they will frame. Place an image in a Text Box by clicking inside it and going to Insert>Picture. Bear in mind that any picture can also be risized by by grabbing a corner "handle" and moving it as needed.

Adding Color to Rows & Columns in Tables & Spreadsheets

Formatting Borders and Shading can also be used in other helpful ways. If you have created a table and want to, say, make one of its rows a different color, mouse-select it and go to Format>Borders & Shading. Click the Shading tab to change a row's color, and click the Border tab to choose a color (or colors) for its border.

Since each cell in a table has four edges, you can use Format>Border to make all four the same color or you can choose multiple colors.

The same is true in a spreadsheet; however, the command structure varies somewhat. In Excel, go to Format>Cells> and then click the "Border" tab or the "Patterns" tab. In a Works spreadsheet, go to Format>Border or Format>Shading.

If you intend to get creative with border colors in a table, it will take some practice. For instance, you can choose to have each of a cell's four edges a particular color. However, you'll find that the bottom edge of a given cell will be considered the top edge of the cell just below it. Experimenting is the best way to learn to handle these issues.

We've been talking about "Borders" and "Shading." However, it's helpful to know that in some applications these are sometimes referred to as "Line" and "Fill." Furthermore, some programs (such as PowerPoint) go beyond plain "fill" and offer options for "gradients," "patterns," and "textures." More on this next time.

WordPerfect Users will find similar choices under Graphics>Border/Fill when they click on a Text Box or other frame.


Something you need to know if you upgraded a Win98 or WinME computer to WinXP is that you may not be getting the most efficient use of your hard drive. Win98 and WinME used a disk formatting technology called FAT32, which, in its day, was a big improvement over the FAT (File Allocation Table) systems used in earlier versions of Windows.

But WinXP needs NTFS (New Technology File System).

If WinXP came with your new computer, NTFS was automatically built in. If not, you can upgrade to NTFS by doing the following:

Go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>Command Prompt. Where you see the flashing cursor at the bottom of the black window, type the following: convert C: /fs:ntfs
This conversion process also applies to Windows 2000.

If your main hard drive is not "C" replace C in the above instruction with the appropriate letter. During the conversion process, you will be asked for a "volume name." Just press Enter.

This procedure can take a couple of hours or more, but its implementation will give your PC a true Windows XP operating system.

Nov 9

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Helping to Ensure That a Picture Travels with your Email

As I've said before, I learn more about computers from readers of this column than from almost any other source. Here's another example: Linda Sides wrote to say that pictures she sends as Outlook Express attachments sometimes don't arrive, and the intended recipient just sees a box containing a red X. She went on to say this can happen whether she uses Insert>Picture or if she clicks the "Attach" button.

However, Linda added, the problem was solved when she discovered she can click on Format>Send Pictures With Message. Thanks for the tip, Linda!

Using Word Processing Templates

Don Davidson wrote regarding a recent column which explained how to create a page in MSWorks where text could be superimposed over a picture. Don pointed out that saving the file as a "template" would make the page more readily available each time Works is launched.

Templates are a feature of all word processing programs, and can range from pages that contain some simple pre-composed text to more complex ones that can guide us through creating a wedding invitation or filling out a job résumé. If you have a document that will be used over and over with variable text to be added each time, you can save it as a template.

In MSWorks, go to File>Save As and choose "Works Template.WPT" in the "Save As Type:" box. If you name the file, say, "MyProfile," it will be saved as "MyProfile.wpt" in the C:\Program Files\Microsoft Works\Templates folder. When Works is subsequently launched, "MyProfile" will always be listed under "Programs" and ready to use.

If you then add something to the document and then go to File>Save As, you'll be prompted to type a new name that will have the default .WPS (Works Word Processor) extension, and which will leave your template unchanged.

Using the "NORMAL" Template

Going to File>Save As in MSWorks will also display a "Template" button. Be careful - clicking it will bring up NORMAL.WPT, a pre-installed template that determines all the word processor settings, such as its default font style. Do NOT change this template unless you want all future documents to reflect your new "style" settings.

Similar options are available in MSWord, which adds the extension ".DOT" to a template. Also, Word has a "default-settings" template named NORMAL.DOT, which can be used to customize those defaults. If you just want to change the default font, however, it's easier to go to Format>Font, choose your preferences and then click on the "Default" button.

One final word about MSWord's NORMAL.DOT file; you may want to delete it at some point. Word is a super-sophisticated program that can do amazing things; but this super-sophistication also makes it prone to getting out of kilter.

If you ever get an error message that refers to NORMAL.DOT, it's best to just delete the file. Go to Start>Find/Search>NORMAL.DOT. When the file appears, click on it and hit your Delete key. The next time Word is launched, the file will automatically be recreated with its original default settings, and the error message will be gone.

Dress Up Your Word Processing with WordArt

A handy tool that is available in both MSWord and MSWorks, as well as in other MS programs, is WordArt. As its name suggests, you can do artistic things with a word or a phrase. Go to Insert>Picture>WordArt. For Works users, a box will appear reading YOUR TEXT HERE. The regular word processing toolbar will be replaced with a new one that lets you edit the WordArt "drawing."

Click on "Plain Text" and a drop-down window will show a variety of shapes, such as a waving banner, an arch, and a stop sign. Click on a design and your phrase will conform to its shape, whereupon you can edit the drawing by giving it, say, a shadow or a 3D look.

Word users will be presented with a "WordArt Gallery" from which a number of colorful pre-designed drawings can be chosen. Click OK and a floating WordArt toolbar will give you the options mentioned above, along with many others. WordPerfect users have similar options with TextArt.

WordArt makes a nice addition to the word processing drawing tools described in a recent column. Together they are great for designing colorful Holiday Greetings cards or letters.

Nov 4

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Keeping Email Addresses in a Word Processing File
    Max Luikart sent me a drawing of a church sign, which appears on the church's weekly bulletin, and which has a blank area for adding copy. He asked if it is possible to have the "sign" appear on a page created in MSWorks, whereby he could type a different message into it each week.

I told Max he could do this by using two "text boxes" - one for the drawing and one for the text to be superimposed over it. On a word processing page this is done by going to Insert>Text Box, followed by clicking inside the box and going to Insert>Picture>From File, browsing to the target image, and double-clicking it.

With the framed picture positioned where needed, going to Insert>Text Box again will allow a blank box to be created on top of the "sign" drawing, into which a message can be typed. I typed a sample message in 15-point Arial.

You say you don't see "15" in your drop-down Font Size list? Just mouse-select whatever size is showing, and type in whatever size you want, including half-point sizes such as, say, 14.5.

Max's project did have one other issue - the drawing he sent was in a PDF file, meaning one cannot right-click the image and choose "SAVE AS" or "COPY," as you can with images found on Web pages and in many other types of documents. Nonetheless, images on a PDF page can be copied by using the "Graphics Select Tool" on the toolbar. Simply draw a rectangle around the target image and go to Edit>Copy.

I did this and used Edit>Paste to put the drawing into a bitmap-editor, from where I selected it and went to File>Save As, to give it a name and to save it as a JPG. The subsequent "text box options" I used are also available in MSWord and WordPerfect.

Using Your Word Processor's Drawing Tools

This might be a good time to remind you that your word processing program has drawing tools built right into it. To display these tools in MSWord, go to View>Toolbars>Drawing. In WordPerfect, go to Insert>Graphics>Draw Picture. In Works, go to Insert>Picture>New Drawing.

The way these tools are used varies greatly among the three word processors, and are best learned by experimenting and consulting each program's Help files.

Here's a brief sampling of what can be done in MSWord. Click on the rectangle or the oval to draw a corresponding shape in whatever size you want. Click on AutoShapes to find a large variety of geometric designs, including a heart, a crescent moon, a happy face, and all kinds of stars and arrows.

Click on the Pen tool to choose an outline color and on the Paint Bucket for a fill color. Click on the Lines icon to choose the thickness of a line or an outline, and on the Dash icon if you want the line broken.

Click on the Shadowed Box to add a shadow to a shape, or on the 3-D icon to add perspective to a rectangle. Click on the Rotate icon and then grab a corner "handle" of any shape to rotate it in any direction.

Grouping Objects in a Drawing

If you want two or more objects to move as one unit, click each of them while holding down Shift. Then go to Draw>Group. If you want to flip the combined objects, go to Draw>Rotate or Flip. If you want to align them on their centers or on a particular edge, go to Draw>Align or Distribute, the latter option being for putting equal spaces between the objects.

If you have overlapping objects and want to change the order they are in, click on an object and go to Draw>Order.

These tools are no substitute for a professional drawing program like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, but they are easy to use and come in very handy for a quick and simple illustration.

Correction of a correction: I've been told by PC technician Carl Von Papp that the option for creating a "boot disk" given by Microsoft for WinXP creates a disk that probably won't work. However, you can download usable disks from, and Carl's explanation can be seen on Page 100.

Nov 2

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Keeping Email Addresses in a Word Processing File
    John Ladd called to inquire about my saying I keep my email addresses in an MSWord file, and asked if keeping his in an MSWorks word processing file would suffice. My answer was yes; but perhaps I should explain my philosophy of keeping addresses in a word processing file rather than in an email program's "Address Book."
    If you put all your email addresses into, say, an AOL Address Book, and later switch to Outlook Express, you may have difficulties moving your addresses from one program to the other. Changing email programs is never an issue for me, since my addresses (several thousand of them) are always in the same place, from where I just copy and paste as needed.
    Beyond that, adding new addresses, deleting defunct ones, editing changes, and keeping them in alphabetical order is easy with a word processor.

Automatic Backup in Excel
    Joe Phillips wrote to ask how he could keep from losing his recent work on an Excel spreadsheet if he closes the file and unintentionally clicks NO when asked if he wants to save the changes.
    Well, the best protection we have for saving our work as we go, is to do a periodic Ctrl+S (or to click the "disk" icon on our toolbar) no matter what program we're using.
    If you have not yet given the working file a name, your first Ctrl+S (or disk click) will bring up a "File>Save As" dialogue box. In Excel this box also gives us the opportunity to click on Tools>General Options>"Always Create Backup."

Saving an Outlook Express Message As You Type
    In Outlook Express Ctrl+S will not ask you to name the message you are creating, but will save a copy of it in your DRAFTS folder, from whence it can be revived in case of a computer crash.
    It's worth noting, however, that periodically doing Ctrl+S has a built-in hazard of its own. If you should, say, accidentally delete a page of a manuscript, followed by pressing Ctrl+S, the deleted page will need to be retyped. If, however, you periodically go to File>Save As and give your file an incremental name change (such as Story-A, Story-B, Story-C, etc.) your chances of accidentally zapping any of your work are diminished considerably.

UPS Battery Backup
    Speaking of protecting your work, one of my favorite things about using a laptop is that a sudden loss of power will never shut down my job, since the built-in battery is always there to keep things going. Desktop PC users can get this kind of protection by using a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) back-up battery between their computer and their AC outlet. A UPS will not keep a computer powered for a long time, as is the case with a laptop, but it will give you adequate time to save your work and do a proper shut-down.
    Beyond these measures, important data needs to be saved on other media that can be stored in another physical location. The tragic fires we've been experiencing are a reminder that saving something on a backup disk may be of little help if a computer and its backup disks all go up in flame. I keep all my original program CDs in the trunk of my car, along with all my personal backups.

Online Backups
    Beyond this, I have a Web site with nearly 300 pages of data. Not everyone has his own Web site, of course, but many "online data storage" services can be found by looking for them on Google.
    Another file protection device I use is to email certain documents to myself. For instance, I send my email Address Book to myself at least twice a week. Beyond that I use multiple free email services, such as Hotmail and Juno, as extra storage locations.
  CORRECTION: When I recently said WinXP users could make a Boot Disk by inserting a floppy into their A-Drive and double-clicking My Computer, followed by clicking File>Format, and choosing "Create an MSDOS Startup Disk," I neglected to say your A-Drive icon needs to be double-clicked to bring up the File>Format options.

Switching Page Numbering Styles in MSWord
    Regarding a recent column where I said I wasn't sure how to change from plain to Roman numeral page numbering in MSWord, a number of people offered different solutions, which I've posted at

  PS: In case you are thinking of donating an old computer and eradicating all data on its hard drive before doing so, the following suggestion from Dave Tuson is worth considering:

  In fairness to a donator of the computer you might want to make the donator aware that 'killing' all the files from the hard drive will also make the computer unusable unless the donor has the original installation and restore CD that is supplied when the computer is purchased. Most folk do not keep (or can find) these disks and since most of the 98/99 vintage computers are now past their support period (also windows 98 is no longer supported by Microsoft) this makes the computer, though given with good intention, useless to a recipient.

Oct 28

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Completely Erasing a Hard Drive
    A number of people have written to say they would like to give away their old computers, but want to be sure their hard drives are completely erased before doing so. Simply "deleting" files does not not truly eradicate them, and much of your personal data could be retrieved by someone with the proper tools.
    Well, a number of programs are sold for doing this, but a free one can be downloaded from It is a small program that goes on a 3.5" floppy disk, and which can be used to boot the target computer and eliminate all its files.

Making an Emergency "Boot" Disk
    Speaking or 3.5" floppies that will "boot" your computer, we should all have an emergency "startup disk" that will get us up and running if our main hard drive should ever fail. Normally, you will have been asked to create such a disk if you installed or upgraded Windows on your computer. If your PC came with Windows preinstalled, a startup disk should have been included with the package.
    Here's how to create such a disk, in case yours can't be found.
    Insert a blank disk in you're A-Drive. For Win98, go to Start>Settings>Control Panel, and double-click Add/Remove Programs. Click the "Startup Disk" tab, and then click "Create Disk."
    For WinXP, insert a blank floppy and double-click My Computer. Then click on File>Format, and choose "Create an MSDOS Startup Disk."
    Label your disk "Win98 Startup" or "WinXP Startup" and put it in a safe place. WinME and Win2000 have similar options.

Startup Disk Can Boot Your PC - But Does Not "Fix" the Problem
    If your PC ever fails to boot, insert the floppy, turn off your computer and then turn it back on. The startup disk should get you up and running, although it will not actually "fix" anything. However, it will normally make it possible to reinstall your operating system from your Windows CD, by typing D: (or whatever your CD-Drive designation is) at the command prompt. This will access your CD, from whence you can normally type "startup" to begin a reinstallation.
    If your computer ever fails to boot, and you don't have a startup disk available, you can usually borrow one from a friend with the same operating system, or use his computer to make one.

Making WAV Files Longer than 60 Seconds
    Ray Reiss wrote to ask how to extend the 60-second time limit for recording a WAV file. If you are unfamiliar with WAV files, the various dings, beeps, and brief musical chords heard on your PC are WAVs. Most of them can be found by double-clicking My Computer>C-Drive >Media, and double-clicking any WAV file to hear what it sounds like.
    With a microphone plugged into your MIC jack, you can create your own WAVs by going to Start>Programs>Accessories, and clicking on "Entertainment" or "Multimedia." Finally, click on Sound Recorder, where you will find a Red "Record" button and a Black "Stop" button, along with "Fast Forward" and "Rewind" arrows on the Recording/Playback panel.
    You can overcome the 60-second limitation by clicking Record, and then letting Sound Recorder run for 60 seconds. Next, go to File>Save As and name the file BLANK.WAV. (Caps used here for emphasis only - lower case letters are fine).
    To increase the maximum recording time, go to Edit>Insert File, and click on the newly created BLANK.WAV file. When you do this, the maximum recording time is increased by 60 seconds. You can repeat this step for each additional minute of recording time you want.

Soundless WAV Will Be Used as a "Template" for Subsequent Recordings
    The above steps will create a soundless WAV with a length of your choice, which can be recorded over by opening the Sound Recorder and going to File>Open>blank.wav. After you "re-record" this file, go to File>Save As and give it a different name. This will preserve your BLANK.WAV for future use.
    This is just the tip of the WAV iceberg. WAVs can be spliced and edited in a variety of ways with built-in Windows tools that come with all PCs. Use your Sound Recorder Help files to learn more.
    It's also worth noting that many popular songs have been recorded in the WAV format and can be found on the Internet. Go to and type in "FREE WAV" or something like "STARDUST WAV" to find a particular favorite. I have several of these free goodies at

Oct 26

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Reader Recommends MSWord for Editing & Printing Pictures
    Addie Sealey, of the Oceanside Public Library's Community Computer Center, wrote to say she recommends MSWord to her students for editing pictures, rather than Windows Paint, a program I mention periodically. Addie pointed out, for instance, that making an image larger or smaller inside a Word document is simply a matter of grabbing a corner and resizing as needed.
    Well, admittedly, Paint is my least favorite picture-editor. However, I mention it only because all Windows users have it. Not everybody has Word.

File Size Considerations
    All other things being equal, there's a significant difference between saving a graphic as a Word file and saving it as a traditional JPG: the former's file size is usually about 30 times larger than the latter's, thus making a Word picture file much slower at being uploaded and downloaded as an e-mail attachment.
    However, if you find a picture on the Web that you would like to print, copying it into Word has some definite advantages. It can be easily positioned on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper to be right where you want it. A regular JPG may or may not come out positioned on your page where you want it.
    Furthermore, with Word, you can place multiple pictures on a page and arrange them any way you want for printing. This is not so easy with Paint.
    Most of the above Word options are also available in recent versions of WordPerfect and MSWorks. Beyond that, however, Word has some pretty comprehensive picture-editing tools. Let's take a look.

MSWord Picture-Editing Options
    If you double-click a picture inside a Word document, an image-editing toolbar will appear that will allow you to crop the picture, adjust its brightness and contrast levels, convert it from color to grayscale or black & white and even turn it into a watermark for the page.
    If the picture is inside a text box, you can have your typing flow around the box, behind it or in front of it.
    However, you cannot do any "painting" on a picture or edit its colors "pixel by pixel," as you can with Windows Paint.

Marvelous Mystery
    Having said that, however, I need to mention a wonderful Word feature I have that I cannot account for, and wonder if others have it as well. If I double-click an unframed image on a Word page, my Corel PhotoPaint toolbar and color palette appear, allowing me to do full-blown bitmap editing. If the image happens to be a vector drawing, my Corel Draw tools appear. I use these features constantly, but have no idea why I have them.
    Anyway, how does one get an image onto a Word page? The prescribed way is to go to Insert>Picture, where you will see a number of options, including "From File," meaning you can browse to your My Pictures folder (or wherever else you store images) and double-click the desired graphic.

Drag & Drop
    However, you can also "drag and drop" an image file directly onto a Word page. If you first go to Insert>Text Box, you drag the file directly into the box. In fact, dragging and dropping can be used in many situations, and is generally faster and easier than using an "Insert" or "Open" command.
    If you use a bitmap-editor such as Paint or PhotoShop, launch the program and drag your target images directly into your work space. If you have two word processing documents open and need to, say, move a paragraph from one document to the other, simply mouse-select the target text and drag it. If you hold down CTRL while dragging, the text will be COPIED rather than MOVED. The same is true for dragging a selection from one place to another within the same document

Creating 'Scraps'
    In Word, you can drag a text selection directly onto your Desktop, where it will remain as a "scrap" that will be available for future use.
    Another thing I do with Word is use it to store all my e-mail addresses. Why? Well, I send out a newsletter and have several thousand addresses to maintain. I just copy and paste them into the Blind Carbon Copy box of Outlook Express, as needed. And if I should decide to switch to another e-mail client, I don't have the grief of trying to export my addresses from one program to another.

Oct 21

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Requesting Receipts for Email Messages
    Outlook Express user Chuck Miller wrote to ask how to have a "return receipt" sent to him showing that each email he sends has been received. Clicking on Tools>Options>Receipts will display choices for requesting receipts on all outgoing mail, as well as for choices on responding to receipt requests sent to you.
    If you wish to request a receipt for an individual email, after beginning a message click on Tools>Request Read Receipt.
    AOL users can request receipts from other AOL members by clicking the "Request Receipt" box at the bottom of an outgoing email.

Setting Up Email 'Signatures'
    Another handy feature of email is having a variety of "signatures" from which to choose. Although the word suggests having your hand-written moniker at the bottom of a letter, it actually means "some pre-written text" that can be inserted into an email, such as, "If you have any further questions I can be reached at ."
    This can save writers of business-related emails lots of typing, and will ensure that things like addresses and phone numbers are inserted error-free. Outlook Express users can set up signatures by going to Tools>Options>Signatures>New. The first entry will be "Signature #1." Click the Rename button to call it anything you prefer.
    When you want to insert one of these pre-written items into an email, click on Insert>Signature.
    AOL users can click the "pencil point" icon on the toolbar of an outgoing email and choose "Set Up Signatures." Click on "Create" and you'll be prompted on how to create and use multiple signatures.

Putting 'HyperLinks' in an MSWord Document
    Ed Wolford called to ask how to insert a hyperlink into an MSWord document, like the ones used on HTML Web pages. This is done by choosing a word or phrase (such as, say, "Click for more details"), highlighting the phrase, and going to Insert>Hyperlink, where you will be prompted to insert the target URL of the link.

Inserting Page Numbers into Your Document
    I asked Ed if he had considered creating his document as an HTML file, since everyone can open HTML, but not everyone has Word available. He said that all his intended recipients have Word (which is probably not too surprising since the program has become the de facto word processor for business).
    Ed went on to say that the first 16 pages of his document need page numbering in Roman numerals, while the rest of the file will have traditional page numbering.
    Well, setting up automatic page numbering is easy in Word, but I have never been able to get it to switch formatting in the middle of a document. So I suggested that Ed manually number the first 16 pages, since he said they are "engraved in stone" and will never change.

Regular Page Numbering Not Difficult to Do
    Anyway, here's how to insert regular page numbering into a Word document. Go to Insert>Page Numbers, where you will find options for placing the numbers at the top or bottom of the pages, along with choosing left side, right side, or center for alignment. I find it easiest to accept the default of "bottom, right side" and then fine-tune these options later.
    Page numbers are placed in either a "header" or a "footer" and appear in light gray as you work on the body of the document. If you go to File>Print Preview, the numbers will appear in black, along with the black body text (unless you have chosen other colors).
    Click "Close" to return to your working view of the file. To fine-tune your page numbering, double-clicking one of the gray numbers will change it to black while your body text changes to gray. A small "header/footer tool box" will appear to help you with the editing. To get back into your main text, simply double-click anywhere in the body of the letter.

Fine Tuning Your Page Numbering
    The third icon from the left is for "formatting page numbers." Here you will find options for choosing numbering styles, such as 1, 2, 3, or I, II, III, or A, B, C, along with choices for the location of these symbols. To change the font, size, or color of these symbols you will use your regular Word toolbar.
    The sixth icon offers options for alternating page numbering between the left and right sides of subsequent pages, for those who will have their documents printed on both sides of each page.

Page Numbering in WordPerfect
    Click Format>Page Numbering. Then, from the Position box, choose a position for the page numbers. Finally, from the "Page Numbering Format" box, choose a format for the page numbers.

Oct 19

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Using a Favorite Photo as a Desktop Background
    Connie Debloomers wrote to ask if there were a way to use a grandchild's picture as a screen saver or as a Desktop background image. Well, creating a Desktop background (aka "wallpaper") is easy.
    All you have to do is right-click your Desktop and choose Properties. Click the "Desktop" tab, and then click the Browse button. This will allow you to browse to any folder containing images (including "My Pictures") to make your choice.
    You will also find "Position" options of Stretch, Center and Tile, meaning that you can stretch an image to fill your screen, center it on your screen, or tile it like a sheet of postage stamps.
    A family photo chosen as a background usually has a JPG file-name extension, but other types of images can also be selected, including GIF animations.
    You can even choose a Web page with an HTM or HTML extension.
    You can also opt to have no picture, and choose a solid color by clicking "None" in the Background box. You can also click the "Appearance" tab to check out the various "Color Schemes" and other advanced options available.

Create Your Own "SlideShow ScreenSaver"
    Getting back to Connie's question, WinXP gives you a very easy way to create a "SlideShow ScreenSaver" of family photos (or any other pictures). First, put all the desired images in your "My Pictures" folder and remove any that you don't want to appear in the slide show.
    Next, right-click your Desktop and choose Properties. Click the "Screensaver" tab and choose "My Pictures SlideShow." This will create a PowerPoint-like slide show of all pictures in the folder. Finally, click on Settings to choose the number of seconds between slides, along with some picture "sizing" options.
    Win98 does not have these personalized Screensaver options. However, some image-editing programs, such as Corel PhotoPaint and Paint Shop Pro, come with slide-show options. Check the manuals.
    Speaking of pictures, I continue to receive questions on cropping and resizing them, but don't want to repeat instructions I have given recently in this column, so I have put a special page with these instructions at
    Speaking of the site, visitors tell me their favorite page is my collection of "oldies, but goodies" music (including the original "Monster Mash").

"MIDI" Music Files Not Playing on Regular CD Player
    However, Glenda Hamilton wrote to ask why she can copy the page's WAV and MP3 files onto a CD and play them back on her car's CD player, but she can't do this with the MIDI files.
    Well, the WAVs and MP3s are recordings of actual analog voice and musical instrument sounds, while MIDIs are computer-generated digital keyboard files, which can only be played back on a PC.

Make Your Own WAV Recordings
    Nonetheless, a MIDI file can be converted to a WAV by simply playing it and recording the sound as you would record any other sound, using a microphone plugged into your PC. Of course, the quality of the recording would depend on the specs of your microphone and other "recording studio" factors available.
    If you are unfamiliar with recording WAVs, here is how it's done using Windows' built-in "Sound Recorder." The utility is located in different places in various versions of Windows, so it's best to go to Start>Find/Search>Files & Folders and type Sound Recorder into the "Name" field.
    When the Recorder icon appears, drag it onto your Desktop. Double-clicking this icon will bring up a miniature "recording panel" with buttons for Record, Play, Stop, etc.
    With a microphone plugged into to your computer's "Mic" jack, you can create a new voice file by going to File>New. Next, click "Record" (the round red button) and speak into the microphone.
    To end the recording, click Stop (the square black button). To save your file, go to File>Save As and give it a name.

Playing Your WAV File
    To hear your WAV, go to File>Open. In the dialog box that appears, double-click the target file and click "Play." Click "Stop" to end the playback at any time.
    You can jump to the beginning of a sound file by clicking the "double left-arrow" button, or to its end by clicking the "double right-arrow" button.
    To learn how to edit WAVs, go to your Sound Recorder "Help" menu (or press your F! key).
    Finally, WAVs can be attached to outgoing e-mails, just like any other kind of file.

Oct 14

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PowerPoint Basics
    Charlotte Pidgeon called to ask how to copy a slide from a PowerPoint presentation so that it could be sent to someone as an attachment.
    Well, this is easy if you have a basic understanding of what a PowerPoint presentation is. Let's take a look.

Comes with Most Versions of MSOffice, but Can Be Purchased Separately
    PP is a program that comes with Microsoft Office, and is probably used most by salespeople who want to give clients a "slide-show" of their goods and services. The program is designed to let us create "slides" that can look very much like professional TV commercials, with colorful animated text and objects designed to capture a viewer's attention.

For Business or Personal Use
    However, the program is also used by folks who want to create, say, a slide-show of family photos, complete with descriptive text that appears on the screen in colorful and interesting ways. Others use the program to create inspirational presentations that are shown to family and friends, with background music and/or vocal narrations as additional options.
    Passing these presentations around during the holiday season is very popular, and if you receive one you'll recognize it by its "PPS" filename extension. If you have PowerPoint on your PC, simply double-clicking the filename will begin the slide-show.

Free PP Viewer Available
    If you don't have PowerPoint, you can get a free viewer by going to and looking for Download>PowerPoint Viewer. The free viewer will let you play PP presentations, but not create or edit them.
    If you have PowerPoint, and receive a presentation which you would like to alter in some way, it can be made editable by changing its extension from "PPS" to "PPT." As a general rule, changing a filename's extension is NOT recommended, but this is an exception to the rule. To edit a filename, right-click it and choose "Rename."
    If you double-click a PP filename with an extension of "PPT" it will open to display miniature views of all the slides, along with information on how each was assembled.

Saving a Slide as a JPG
    Getting back to Charlotte's question -- if you want to convert a slide to a file that can be ed, simply double-click its miniature and go to File>Save As, give it a name and choose "JPG" in the "Save As Type" box, whereupon the image will normally be stored in "My Documents."

Using the "PrintScreen" Method for a Larger Image
    Creating a JPG copy of a slide by this method will normally save it in a size somewhat smaller than its full-screen view. However, if you play the presentation, you can capture a full-screen slide by pressing your PrtSc (PrintScreen) key when the target slide is on the screen, whereupon you can launch a bitmap editor, such as Windows Paint, and use Edit>Paste to insert the image. Thus displayed, you can turn the picture into a JPG by going to File>Save As.
    In future columns I'll offer some tips on creating a PP slide-show from scratch.

Can a Monitor's Colors Be Calibrated to Match Print-Out Colors?
    Richard Rininger wrote to ask how to calibrate his monitor so that his color print-outs will match what he sees on his screen. Well, a definitive answer to this question would take up way more space than we have here, but I'll offer some tips that Richard may find helpful.
    The first thing that needs to be understood about how color on a print-out relates to color on a screen is that there is no true relationship. Colors on a computer monitor or a TV screen are combinations of RGB (Red, Green and Blue) light sources, whereas print-outs on paper are usually a combination of four ink colors known as CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK).
    Furthermore, these four basic ink colors may vary in shade from one print-out to another based on the texture of the paper being printed, as well as on other factors such as the quality of the ink. For most of us, getting our print-outs to look the way we want is a matter of trial and error. Professional printing companies, on the other hand, have systems in place that help get their print-outs right with a minimum of experimentation.
    In answer to Richard's question, I recommend going to a Web service like Google and typing CMYK into the search box. Dozens of articles can be found on how to minimize the headaches involved in getting the color print-out you want.

Oct 12

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Printing Mailing Labels & Envelopes with MSWord & Excel
    I explained recently how to create mailing labels and envelopes with MSWorks. Here's how it's done with MSWord.
    In Word XP you can go to Tools>Letters & Mailings>Mail Merge Wizard, where you can choose "Envelopes" or "Labels," and follow the wizard's prompts.

Using Excel as your DataBase
    With earlier versions of Word it's best to use Excel as the "database" of names and addresses, while Word will be used to format the actual printing of the labels or the envelopes.
    Excel, technically, is a spreadsheet program - but it works fine as a database if you use the top row as a "header row." Type "First Name," "Last Name," "Street Address," "City," "State" and "Zip" into the top row's first six cells. A column for "Space/Apt.No." can also be created, if needed.
    Now go to File>Save As, and name your database something like "Address List.xls." By default, it will normally be saved in the "My Documents" folder.
    You can alphabetize your database by clicking on Data>Sort>Last Name>Ascending, where you would normally sort the "Last Name" column.

Printing the DataBase in a "Landscape" Format
    If you want to print out your database, it's best to do it "sideways" by going to File>Page Setup>Page, and choosing Landscape. This can usually make all columns fit on a page. However, choosing a smaller and narrower font, such as 8 pt. Arial Narrow, also helps.
    To make column widths accommodate their text data lengths do Ctrl+A (select ALL) and go to Format>Column>AutoFit Selection.
    Keep in mind that any font selected for the database has nothing to do with the one to be used later for the finished label or envelope printing. Formatting the final print-out is where Word comes in. Let's do that now.

Using Word Is Somewhat More Complicated than Using MSWorks
    Launch Word and go to File>Save As to name the file (perhaps "Holiday Mailing List.doc"). Click on Tools and you'll see a menu item called "Envelopes & Labels." Don't go there - it's for creating INDIVIDUAL labels and envelopes.
    Instead, click on Mail Merge>Create, and choose "Envelopes & Labels."
    We'll start with labels. Click on Active Window and then click Get Data>Open Data Source. This should take you to the "My Documents" folder - but you probably won't see your Excel file there.
    This is because Word looks for file names ending with a ".DOC" extension. Click on "Files of Type" and choose "MS - Excel Worksheet *.xls" (or just choose "All Files").
    Double-click your Address List's icon. You'll get some prompts about "using the entire spreadsheet" and "setting up your main document." You'll eventually arrive at choosing the kind of label you want. The Avery 5160/laser and 8160/inkjet are the most popular, and each has 30 labels to a sheet.
    Next you'll see an enlarged, blank label, where you'll be asked to insert the "Merge Fields." Click "First Name," press the spacebar and click "Last Name." Press to start the next line and fill in the other fields accordingly.
    Merge the data with the document by clicking Merge to New Document>All Records. Next click Merge. Finally, go to Edit>Select All and choose the font, style, and color you want. There will be other "fine-tuning" options along the way, but these are main ones.
    Going to File>Print Preview will show how the first page of completed labels will look. Pressing your key will show subsequent pages.
    Formatting envelopes is similar to the above, but you'll also be given the opportunity to insert a return address.

Doing It All in Word
    If you don't have Excel, all of the above can be done in Word.
    Start with a new, blank page and go to Table>Insert Table. Choose 6 Columns and however many rows you think you'll need. (This can be adjusted later.) Type "First Name," "Last Name," etc. into the top row of cells. Then fill in the Name/Address data below. When it comes time to alphabetize your data, go to Table>Sort.
    Choose Column 2>Text>Ascending. This will sort everything by "Last Name." (Be sure to choose "My List Has a Header Row.")
    Give this "database" Word document a name such as "Holiday Mailing List.doc." Even though you are doing the whole thing in Word, two separate Word files are needed - one for your "database" and one for your "label or envelope print formatting."
    Illustrated instructions on creating Mailing Labels & Envelopes can be found on my Web site at:

Oct 7

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Putting Pictures in Special Folders
    Jacque McKenna wrote to say that when he right-clicks an image found on a Web site, and chooses "Save As," he has trouble getting the picture to go into a folder he has created.
    Well, having special folders for all the pictures that end up on our hard drives nowadays is definitely a good idea. Here are some suggestions for creating them and getting your pictures into them.
    By default, graphics downloaded from a Web site try to go into your "My Pictures" folder. However, by clicking the down arrow on the "Save In:" box you can browse to any folder you prefer.

Different Ways to Create a New Folder
    If you'd like to put the picture in a folder named, say, "Holiday Clipart" - but no such folder exists - left-click the tiny "yellow folder with a red star" icon and you will be invited to create a "New Folder" inside your "My Pictures" folder. Type in a name for it and lick "Save" to finish the action.
    If you expect to be downloading a number of "Holiday Clipart" images, you can create the folder in advance by right-clicking your Desktop and choosing New>Folder, whereupon you would name it accordingly. If you would like this folder to be a sub-folder of "My Pictures" (or any other folder) simply drag and drop it onto the target folder's icon.
    Alternatively, you could open "My Pictures" (or any other folder) with a double-click and then go to File>New>Folder to create your sub-folders.

Free Downloadable Holiday Clipart
    Speaking of Holiday Clipart, you can find some Halloween graphics at,where I'll be adding other holiday artwork in the coming weeks.

More Info on Setting Up a DataBase
    I recently wrote about using MSExcel and MSWorks as database programs for organizing names, addresses, and phone numbers. If you have a large number of names and would like to break the data down into various "groups," here are some helpful tips:
    Let's say you have a business whose contact list includes information such as Gender, Age, Largest Purchase Made, and other pertinent sales data history; and that you are planning a promotion that would appeal to men over the age of 40.
    If this information is listed in an MSWorks Database, you can go to Tools>Filter, and type in a name for the filtering process you are about to begin. Next you would look at the various "Boolean" filtering options available, such as: "Greater Than," "Less Than," "Equal To," "Same As or Less Than," "Contains," or "Does Not Contain," etc.
    In this example you would click the "Gender" field and choose "Is Equal To" and type in "M" (assuming records in this field are marked "F" or "M"). In the "Age" column you would choose "Is Greater Than or Equal To:" and type in "40."
    These filtering options are also available in Excel, but arrived at a little differently. In Works your Fields (columns) have "headings" that you inserted, such as "FirstName," "LastName," etc. In Excel your "headings" are pre-designated as "A," "B," "C," etc. However, you can insert column headings into "Row 1" cells, and later choose "My Sheet Has a Header Row."
    Next, go to Data>Filter>AutoFilter>, whereupon a little down-arrow will appear in each of your "Header" cells. Click any of these arrows and you'll see choices of "All," "Top Ten," and "Custom."
    For now, choose "Custom" and you will see a selection of "Boolean" options like the ones in MSWorks. (We'll discuss "All" and "Top Ten" another time.) WordPerfect Quattro users will find these options under Tools>QuickFilter.

Weeding Out Duplicate Entries
    Getting back to Excel's Data>Filter - if you choose "Advanced Filter," you can click on "Unique Records Only," which will automatically weed out any duplicated Records.
    For those to whom worksheets are new, Excel, Quattro, and MSWorks Spreadsheet users can alphabetize items in any column by going to Tools>Sort. MSWorks DataBase users would go to Records>Sort Records.
    In case you're wondering about the differences between the MSWorks DataBase program and its Spreadsheet application, the latter is designed more for handling complex math formulas, while the former is for cross-referencing various data, along with generating mailing lists.

Creating Charts & Graphs
    Excel and Quattro are also designed mainly for math, and are also used for generating charts and graphs. More on this next time.

Illustrated instructions on creating Mailing Labels & Envelopes can be found on my Web site at:

Oct 5

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Addressing Envelopes & Mailing Labels
    As the time to send out holiday greetings approaches, I've been receiving a number of questions about printing envelopes and labels.
    Addressing envelopes or labels is basically a function of two separate applications: a "database" program and a "word processing" program. The former is where all the names and addresses are stored, while the latter is what's used to format the actual print-outs.

Using MSWorks
    Those who have MSWorks will use the program's "DataBase" utility to list their names and addresses, while its "Word Processing" application will be used for the formatting.

Using MSOffice or WordPerfect Suite
    Users of MSOffice generally store their names and addresses in Excel and use Word for the formatting, while WordPerfect Suite users have similar options in Quattro and WordPerfect.

What is a DataBase?
    For beginning computer users it's helpful to have an overview of what a "database" is. In its simplest form, it's is an alphabetical listing of items, along with additional information about the items. The database used by most of us is a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers, along with additional information such as e-mail addresses, fax numbers and cell phone numbers. Items like "job title" are often included in business-related databases.

Various DataBase Programs
    Let's look at some of the various database choices we have.
    MSOffice users can store their data in Excel, Word, Access, or Outlook. Excel is normally thought of as a "spreadsheet" program, but is frequently used as a "database" for name and address information. The same applies to WordPerfect's Quattro.
    Word itself can also be used as a simple database by using its "Table" utility.
    Access is a super-sophisticated "relational" database used by businesses with thousands of different items that need to be readily cross-referenced, such as, say, all the parts that go into the manufacture of an automobile. Access is way more complex than we need for basic name and address management, so no attempt to explain it will be offered here.
    Outlook is a popular "Contact Management and Calendar" program whose database capabilities will be explored later on.

MSWorks - the Easiest to Use
    My favorite program for envelope and label addressing is MSWorks, whose recent versions offer a step-by-step "wizard" to help you get started. The following mini-tutorial applies to all versions of the program.
    Create your list of names and addresses by launching Works and getting into its "DataBase" utility, which invites you to create column headings called "Fields," wherein you will type over "Field1" with, say, "FirstName." Click on Add and "Field2" will appear, over which you would normally type "LastName." After typing in all your "Field" Headings, click on Exit or Done.
    Now go to File, Save As, and name the file, say, "Holiday-Address-List." By default, the file may suggest being saved in the MSWorks\Documents folder, or in the My Documents folder. However, you can designate any folder you want. Works will add the extension ".WDB" to the filename.
    Now comes the hard part; typing in all the names, addresses, and any other data for which you have created fields. Alphabetize the data by going to Records, Sort Records, and following the prompts.
    Next, we'll format the printing of the labels/envelopes.
    Go to File, New, Word Processor. Use File, Save As to name this file, say, "Envelope-Printing-Layout." Works will add the extension ".WPS" to the filename.
    Next go to Tools, Labels (or to Tools, Envelopes) where a rather intimidating multiple-choice window will pop up; but don't let it scare you. Just click Next.
    For labels, choose Avery #8160 for inkjet printing or #5160 for laser printing. Click Next two more times.
    A window will open to display any Works databases you might have created. Choose "Holiday-Address-List.WDB." Now, assuming you plan to print a label or envelope for every name on the list, keep clicking Next until you arrive at "Label Layout" or "Envelope Layout."
    Here you'll click "Add Field" and "New Line" until you get a layout that indicates "First & Last Name" on the first line, "Street Address" on the second line, and "City, State and Zip" on the third line. Using an additional line for "Apt." (or whatever) is optional.
    Additional formatting options, such as different font styles and colors, are available by clicking Advanced. Go to File, Print Preview, to see just how your print-out will look.

Illustrations to go with the above instructions can be found on my Web site at:

Sep 30

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Adding Text to Pictures
    Merrill Balser wrote to ask if there is an image-editing program that lets you add text to a picture, such as a name or a date label
    Yes, there are several programs that have this feature, but the way they work varies considerably. The built-in Windows "Paint" program lets you add text, and I'll explain it here because it's a program that all PC users have.

Using the Built-In Windows "Paint" Program
    I must warn you, however, that Paint is a "no frills" program that limits you options. More sophisticated programs (such as Adobe Photo Shop, Paint Shop Pro, or Corel PhotoPaint) will let you type text directly onto an image and then allow you to move it to exactly where you want it. With Paint, however, your text will remain exactly where you type it - so it pays to choose your location carefully.
    Go to Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint, to launch the program, and then use File, Open, to browse to the picture you want to edit. Next click on the "A" icon in the toolbar. This lets you draw a "Text Box" of the approximate size and shape needed to hold your message. If the Text Box is too narrow to hold your message on one line, the box will expand downward and "word-wrap" your text as you type.
    If you don't see a "Text Toolbar," go to View, Text Toolbar, where you can choose a Font, along with a size and style. The Text Box and Font Colors are determined by the "Foreground" and "Background" colors shown in the Color Palette. A Foreground (text) Color is chosen by left-clicking a color on the Palette, while a Background Color is selected with a right-click.
    If you prefer a transparent Text Box, click the "Transparency" icon at the bottom of the Tool Bar. If you are not satisfied with your text edits, you can Undo everything with Ctrl+Z. In fact, Paint allows three Undos if they are needed.

Using Other Bitmap Editors
    For bitmap programs other than Paint, look for an "A" or a "T" icon to get into text-editing. Beyond that, I would go to Help (F1) and look for information regarding Text.

Using Your Word Processing Program
    If you choose to display your pictures on a word-processing page, adding text can be much easier. You can place the text above or below a picture, or directly on a picture.
    Start by going to Insert, Text Box, followed by drawing a "frame" of the approximate size and shape of the image it will hold. Next, with your cursor inside the Text Box, type your message. Use your regular word processing toolbar to choose your font specifications, including the "Center" icon in order to have your message centered horizontally.
    If you want your picture to go below the message, press Enter and then go to Insert, Picture. Should you prefer your picture above the message, place your cursor at the beginning of the text and press Enter. Finally, with the cursor above the message, go to Insert, Picture.
    You can also adjust the distance between your picture and its message (label) by clicking anywhere in the text and going to Format, Paragraph, Spacing, followed by adjusting the space "Before" and "After" the text.

Using MSWord's Drawing Tools
    If you prefer having your text superimposed on the picture, you will create two Text Boxes - one for the picture and one for its label. For the label you can have both the background and the border of the Text Box transparent by clicking the frame and going to Format, Text Box, Colors & Lines, and choosing accordingly.
    Now it's just a matter of dragging and dropping your message/label Text Box on top of your picture Text Box. However, if you decide to move a framed picture, it's label will remain in place - unless you "group" the objects together.
    How this is done may vary among different programs; but here's how to do it in MSWord. Go to View, Toolbars, and put a checkmark in front of Drawing. A Drawing Toolbar will appear on your screen.
    Now click on the label Text Box and press your Shift key. With the Shift key held down, click on the picture Text Box. Finally, go to Draw, Group and the two Text Boxes will be locked together. Go to Draw, Ungroup, to separate them.

Sep 28

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When Multiple Photos Don't All Fit on a Print-Out
    Dottie Youngwirth wrote to say she went to her son's Web site to download some family photos; but, since the pictures were in two columns, only those on the left side of the page would fit on a print-out, while those on the right got cut off.
    This is not an uncommon problem, since Web pages are rarely laid out in a standard 8.5" x 11" format. However, there are different ways to compensate for this. The following steps can make multiple pictures fit on regular typewriter-size paper:
    While viewing a Web page containing pictures, right-click each one and choose Save As. Give each picture a name (or accept its current name) and click OK. This will place each image inside your "My Pictures" folder.

Using Your Word Processing Program to Manage Print-Outs
    Launch your favorite word processing program and go to File, Page Setup, where I suggest setting all margins to .8" (8/10 of an inch from the edges).
    Next go to Insert, Text Box, and draw a rectangle of the approximate size and shape you expect a photo to be. With the cursor inside this box, go to Insert, Picture, followed by browsing to one of your downloaded images. The text box "frame" will adjust to fit comfortably around the picture's edges.
    You can insure a perfect fit by clicking the frame and going to Format, Text Box, Size, 100%, where you can also opt to make the frame invisible by choosing Colors & Lines, Line, No Color.
    The main advantage of having an image inside a Text Box is that you can place it wherever you want it on a page. Unframed images behave just like text characters and move along with your typing.
    If you prefer to print one Web page picture to a sheet, you can right-click it and choose Print Picture. No need to bother with your word processor.

Cropping a Picture Can Save Money
    Bear in mind, however, that printing any picture "as is" can use up a lot of expensive colored ink. If you download a picture of a new grandchild who is centered in a photo, give some thought to "cropping" the image and printing just the important part.
    I prefer Irfanview ( which is automatically in the "selection/crop" mode when a picture is opened by the program. Draw a box around the important area and click the Scissors icon. Finally, click the Paste icon and go to File, Print or to File, Save As. You can also make a very large picture smaller by going to Image, Resize/Resample and specifying other dimensions or a percentage of the original size.
    (The "Image, Resize/Resample" command varies among different bitmap-editors. In Windows Paint it's shown as "Image, Stretch & Skew.")

Word Processing Files with Pictures Can Be Very Large
    Getting back to printing photos on a word processing page - this is fine for print-outs, but emailing an MSWord document filled with photos is NOT recommended. Graphics-laden word processing files tend to be very, very large and can take much longer to upload and download than pictures sent as individual JPG files.
    Also, a carefully cropped picture will always travel much faster than its overstuffed original.

Using "File, Print Preview" to See How a Print-Out Will Look
    Getting back to Internet printing, if you do want to print a Web page directly from its site, you can go to File, Print Preview to see if and how it will fit on a standard typewriter page. If it is too wide, causing items to extend beyond the page's right edge, you can do one of two things:
    You can download the entire page into your "My Documents" folder by going to File, Save As. Inside "My Documents" you will find another folder which contains all the graphics on your target page. You will also find an "HTM" file with a name corresponding to name of the Web page and the new folder. Double-clicking this file will open it in Internet Explorer and display the target page just as it appeared on the Web.
    You can then pick and choose which text and/or images to copy and paste into you favorite word processor, where you can then reformat everything to suit yourself. For instance, you can change font styles and/or their sizes to make them more legible. You can also use Irfanview (or the bitmap-editor of your choice) to crop and/or resize any of the downloaded images.
    Getting back to File, Print Preview, this command is available in Internet Explorer and in Netscape; but not in the AOL or CompuServe browsers. However, AOL and CS users are not obligated to use their built-in browsers for everything - they can switch to IE or Netscape whenever they want.

Sep 23

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Protecting Your Computer
    It is getting more critical each day to have an updated anti-virus program in place. The most recent infection-carriers (as of this writing) have been prepared to look as if they come from Microsoft, and are very convincingly written to get you to follow their instructions on how to "protect your computer with a Microsoft patch."
    Yes, there are legitimate Microsoft patches that should be installed on your PC, and (if you have signed up for their special mailings) you will receive emails from them explaining what to do.
    For complete details, go to and click on: "Get the Latest Windows Security Update." Follow all the steps and your PC will be brought up to date regarding Microsoft's patching of "security vulnerabilities."

There Are Different Kinds of "Protection"
    These patches help keep hackers from accessing your computer and your files; and they are especially important to users of cable or wireless connections. Users should also have a "firewall" in place that lets them know when someone is attempting to access their PC, and which will ask for permission before allowing such outside access.
    I use the free firewall from ZoneAlarm ( and have been very satisfied with its performance. A couple of users have written to say they didn't like the program because it kept them from accessing some Internet sites they wanted to connect with. Well, when that happened to me I simply uninstalled the program and reinstalled it with a couple of option changes, and have had nothing but first-class perfomance.
    It's important to understand, however, that Microsoft's "security patches" and the use of a "firewall" are not necessarily "anti-virus" protection, and that you also need to have your anti-virus software continually updated.

Timing Can Be Everything When It Comes to a Virus
    As an example of how important this can be, I was surprised to see two phony "Microsoft patch" emails arrive the other day without being spotted by my Norton AV program. Fortunately, I recognized the scam messages and immediately deleted them, and then emptied my Deleted Items folder.
    About ten minutes later I received an online update from Norton that would have caught these worms (and which has since caught several others).
    This is an illustration of how virus-writers are always busy working on a new germ, while the anti-virus people are working just as hard on a remedy (once they've learned the germ exists). Consequently, there is always the possibility that you could receive a brand-new virus before the AV people have had time to discover it and create a fix.
    This is why it's important to NEVER open an email attachment you aren't expecting, even if it appears to be from someone you know, since your friend's address book could have been infected and programmed to pass along a virus.
    As for receiving an email from "Microsoft," it could be one of the latest viruses sent from a phony Microsoft return-address. Call me if in doubt. If I'm not available, delete it and go to Microsoft's home page for the latest update information.

Presumed Protection re: Your Address Book
    Speaking of address books, an email that's been circulating for years advises you to create a phony address, that begins with "AAA" or "000" or something else that would be "alphabetically first" on your list, and which will then keep the virus from infecting your real addresses. Well, this friendly advice, if followed, does nothing to protect your own computer, and is very unlikely to protect anyone else's. This is because today's viruses have been programmed to access random addresses, meaning the "alphabetical" defense is invalid.

Spreadsheet Stuff Next Time
    I had planned to continue explaining spreadsheets today, but decided the PC protection information was more urgent. More on SSs next time.

Mouse Becomes Spastic When Highlighting Large Areas
    Paul Gonzales wrote to say his mouse becomes difficult to control when selecting large areas in a word processing document or on a Web site. Right - the farther a cursor travels from its point of origin, the more spastic it becomes. Here's how to regain control:
    Use your mouse to establish the beginning or ending point of the target selection. Now set your mouse aside and hold down the Shift key while you expand the selection with your Arrow keys and/or with your PgUp and PgDn keys. This will give you absolute control over making the highlighting stop exactly where you want it to.

Sep 21

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Using Excel's "Set Print Area" Command
    Regarding my recently mentioning that spreadsheet users can regulate the size of a print-out by mouse-selecting the work area and then going to File/Print/Selection, Gerri Jellison wrote to say that MSExcel makes this even easier. By going to File, Print Area, Set Print Area, a spreadsheet's print-out dimensions can be established, as well as saved for subsequent uses.
    Speaking of spreadsheets, my email tells me that many new computerists have only a vague idea of what they are and of what can be done with them. Here's a mini-tutorial:
    A spreadsheet is a "table" made up of rows and columns, whose intersections are called "cells." Rows are identified by numbers, (1, 2, etc.) while columns have alpha designations (A, B, etc.). Thus, a typical spreadsheet's upper-left-most cell will be A1, while its lower-right ending point could be, say, Z99. If a spreadsheet has more than 26 columns, subsequent ones are designated as AA, AB, etc.
    The original purpose of a spreadsheet was to simplify mathematical computations - however, modern worksheets have evolved into sophisticated database programs. Let's look at the basics:
    Enter three random numbers into cells A1 through A3, whereupon we will calculate their sum in A4. After typing the numbers to be added up, place your cursor in A4 and type in the "equals" sign (=). Next type: A1+A2+A3 and press Enter. This will give the total value of the three cells.

There Must Be an Easier Way
    But, surely, there must be an easier way to write the SUM formula. There is. Enter three numbers in B1 through B3. Type the "equals" sign (+) in B4, followed by: (SUM)A1:B3, and press Enter.

An Even Easier Way
    But it gets even easier. Since adding a column (or row) of numbers is such a common task, there is a toolbar icon that inserts the formula for us. Create another column of figures, and click into their "sum" cell. Now click on your toolbar "Sigma" symbol (S) and press Enter. See how easy?

Subtraction, Multiplication & Division
    To subtract one number from another (say, the values in A3 and A2) click into the "sum/total/answer" cell and type the "equals" sign, followed by typing: A3-A2, and pressing Enter.
    As you've seen, formulas always begin with the "equals" sign, followed by entering the actual formula, using "+" to mean PLUS, "-" (hyphen) to mean MINUS/LESS, "*" (asterisk) to mean MULTIPLIED BY/TIMES, and "/" to mean DIVIDED BY.

Click Instead of Type
    But even this gets easier. Instead of typing the designation of each cell in a formula, you can click on the corresponding cell, instead. For instance, to multiply a number in, say, A1, by a number in B1, just follow the above instructions except for one thing; click on A1 and B1 instead of typing in their "names."
    By now you might be thinking, "This is all very cute, but I could have done it faster with a pocket calculator."
    Yes, but this only the tip of the spreadsheet iceberg. If you have ever balanced a checkbook with Quicken or figured your taxes with TurboTax, you have an idea of how sophisticated a worksheet can be, since super-powered spreadsheets are what these programs are.

Copy, Drag & Paste a Formula
    One of the advantages of a spreadsheet is: once you're created a formula, you rarely have to punch it in again; you simply copy and paste it. Here's an example:
    Let's say you have a column of figures, representing the sales made on a particular day. Now let's say you have 31 of these columns, showing all sales made for the month of August. OK - you know how to add up any of these columns, using the "AUTOSUM" Sigma symbol.
    Well, you could punch in this formula 30 more times -- or you could simply "drag" the formula from one answer cell to the next.
    Click on any cell and notice the tiny black square in its border's lower-right corner. This is the cell's "Copy, Drag, and Paste" marker.
    But, instead of asking you to type in a month's worth of widget sales, let's use a simpler example to illustrate how this works.

Try This - It's Really Quite Amazing
    Choose any cell at random and type in the name of a month. Press Enter and then click on the target cell's tiny black square. Now, with your left mouse button depressed, drag the symbol in any direction.
    Impressed? We'll talk more about this next time.

Sep 16

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    Be on guard against an email that has "Microsoft" in the return address field, and which says,
"Dear friend, use this Internet Explorer patch now!
There are dangerous virus in the Internet now!
More than 500.00 already infected!
    If you have an updated anti-virus program in place, it will catch this email and its deadly attachment. Make sure you delete it immediately and DO NOT click on the attachment.

Using Columns in Your Word Processor
    Jane Lupton called to say she tried using her word processor to create a list of names and addresses in two columns, but that she was having trouble keeping the data lined up properly from one column to the next.
    Well, the problem is that choosing "Format, Columns, Number of Columns" is intended for an entirely different purpose. Let's take a look.
    If you've ever read a lengthy document that was printed in the traditional "edge-to-edge-of-the-paper" style, you know how tiring it can be on the eyes. Well, dividing the text into multiple columns can make it much easier to read.
    If you already have a lengthy document, you can highlight it with Ctrl+A (Select ALL) and go to Format, Columns, where you'll find options for choosing the number of columns and the amount of space between them.
    With programs like MSWord you can even mouse-select portions of text and make the column attributes vary from one part of a document to another. This means you can have, say, four paragraphs displayed in two columns, the next two paragraphs in three columns, and the rest of the document in one column.
    However, these columns will appear on your monitor properly only if you've chosen "View, Print Layout." "View, Normal" will give you a single column view, although the print-out will be in whatever column format you've selected.

Different Column Layouts for Different Purposes
    Getting back to Jane's question about putting names and addresses in two matching columns, the answer is to use your word processor's "Table" options. If you go to Table, Insert Table, you would choose (in Jane's case) two Columns and the approximate number of Rows needed to accommodate the intended list. (Additional rows can always be inserted or removed later.)
    With this layout, the names would be typed in the left column cells and addresses would be typed in the corresponding right column cells. If the names needed to be divided by First and Last, a three column table would be used.
    If other elements of the data need to be separated (such as City, State, and Zip Code) the number of columns would be set up accordingly. The top row of a table can list these designations, and all the data could later be sorted by, say, Last Name, or by Zip Code, or however one wants. Just be sure to check the marker indicating your "Table has a Header Row."

Word Processor "Table" vs a "Spreadsheet"
    Yes, all of the above can also be done with a spreadsheet program - but one of the advantages of using one's word processor is that data too wide to fit into a cell will automatically word-wrap to additional lines, with other cells in the row expanding accordingly to keep everything lined up.

Finding the "End" of a Spreadsheet
    Speaking of spreadsheets, Excel user Joan Kazmarek wrote to say that when she uses Ctrl+End (the keyboard shortcut that sends the cursor to the end of a document or to the bottom of a Web page) her cursor jumps to a cell way beyond the last one she is currently using.
    Well, this happens because the distant cell had been used at some point, even though it now no longer contains any data. My suggestion was click on the apparently empty cell and then go to Edit, Clear, Contents. This is because using Edit, Delete (or deleting a cell's contents with the Spacebar or Del key) may empty the cell, but will leave it active in the worksheet.

Controlling a Spreadsheet's Print-Out
    Other spreadsheet users have written to say they can't seem to control a worksheet's print-out, and that using the Print command will generate multiple sheets of blank paper, when it is only a one-page job.
    There are various reasons this can happen, but the usual cause is having used a far-distant cell at some point that the spreadsheet thinks needs to be included in the print-out.
    Well, there are a number of ways to fix this, but for a one page print-out I think this is the easiest: mouse-select the whole worksheet and then go to File, Print, and choose Selection. This means that only the selected data will be printed.
    However, there is one other step that is recommended before printing any spreadsheet (or any other kind of document); go to File, Print Preview, to see exactly what will be printed.

Sep 14

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More About Recovering Hard Drive Storage Space
    In regard to recovering hard disk storage space, I recently suggested deleting unneeded files. Well, getting rid of unwanted programs can free up even more space. However, removing a program is normally not done by just deleting a particular file; the entire application must be "uninstalled."
    Double-click My Computer and choose Control Panel. Next click on Add/Remove Programs and a listing of your various applications will appear. Click on any unwanted program, choose Change/Remove, and follow the prompts.
    If the unwanted program does not appear in the Add/Remove list, look for its main folder under My Computer\C:\Program Files. Double-click the folder and look for a file named "Uninstall" or "Unwise" (the latter being a cute way of trying to discourage you from uninstalling the program). Finally, double-clicking either of these will take you through the uninstallation steps.
    Bear in mind that a program's "main folder" might not have the same name as the program itself. For instance, AVG (the free anti-virus program) is inside a folder named "Grisoft."

Searching for Files and Programs
    However, you can always use Start, Search/Find, Files & Folders, to locate any programs you want to uninstall. If you type "uninstall" (or "unwise") into the File Name box, you'll be shown every "uninstall" file on your computer, along with the program with which it is associated. Double-clicking one will begin its uninstallation process.

Getting Rid of "Spyware"
    One way to find and remove unwanted stuff on your PC is to use an anti-spyware program such as "SpyBot - Search & Destroy," which will display a list undesirable items you may have accumulated while surfing the Web. This free program can be found at
    After uninstalling a program, you should run "Defrag" to defragment your hard drive. This is because the various files that comprise a program are usually spread all over a hard drive, and their deletion can leave your disk looking like so much "Swiss cheese."

"ScanDisk" and "Defrag" - Important Hard Disk Maintenance Tools!
    Win98 users should run ScanDisk before running Defrag, while WinXP has a "scan disk" feature built into its Defrag utility.
    These tools should also be run periodically as routine hard drive maintenance; and there are different ways they can initiated. The complete list of options would take up more space than we have here - however, all the instructions can be found on my site at

Error Message on Boot-Up
    A question I often hear goes something like this: "Every time I boot up I get an error message saying "something" is missing. I can click "Cancel" and continue my session - but how do I get rid of this message altogether?"
    This usually occurs when a program has not been completely uninstalled and something has been left behind that looks for the rest of the application during each bootup. The easiest way to fix this is to reinstall the entire program, followed by uninstalling it (using one of the above methods).

Deleting Games
    Another way to pick up some disk space is to delete unused "single-file" programs, such as (in my case) the games that come with Windows. Items like "freecell.exe" and "sol.exe" (Solitaire) can be found in the C:\Windows\System32 folder.

What About "WordPad?"
    WordPad, the no-frills word processor that comes with Windows, can also be deleted. If you have another word processing program onboard (such as MSWord, or WordPerfect, or the one in MSWorks) there is really no reason to keep WordPad.

Deleting Fonts
    Fonts also use up lots of disk space, and most computers nowadays have many dozens of them, some of which are pretty ugly. They can be found inside the C:\Windows\Fonts folder. Just be careful not to delete any designated with a red "A." These are system fonts needed by Windows.
    If you think you may want to recover a deleted font in the future, copy it onto a CD or floppy disk. Restoring it is simply a matter of dragging it back into the Fonts folder.
    It's also prudent to leave any files you delete in your Recycle Bin until after having done a reboot or two, just make sure it was safe to delete them. If a file does need to be restored, double-click the Bin, right-click the file and choose Restore.
    Finally, don't delete anything you have doubts about. Ask someone with more computer experience for advice.

Sep 9

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Automatic Spell Checking
    One of the handiest features of modern word processors is that they will flag misspellings by putting a squiggly red line under a suspect word. When this happens you can right-click the word to see a number of suggested corrections displayed. Click on one and it will immediately replace the typo.
    On the other hand, if you know that a flagged word is actually spelled correctly (which is often the case with proper names and technical terms) you can right-click it and choose "Add." This will add the word to your program's spell-checker.

Turning Off Automatic Spell Checking
    If you prefer, you can turn off Automatic Spell-Checking, thus eliminating the red squigglies. In MSWord go to Tools, Options, Spelling & Grammar, and deselect "Check spelling as you type." Then, when you have completed a document you can spell-check the whole thing by putting the cursor at its beginning and pressing F7.
    You can also spell-check an individual word by double-clicking it and pressing F7. Pressing Shift+F7 will open a Thesaurus that will display synonyms to the word, along with options for finding additional synonyms to the synonyms.

Creating a Shortcut Macro
    Getting back to Automatic Spell-Checking, if you find yourself turning this feature on and off on a regular basis, you can create a Macro that will do it in one click. For instance, I have it on when writing these columns, but I turn it off if I'm typing a list of people's names.
    Go to Tools, Macro, Record New Macro, whereupon a suggested name for the Macro will appear. You can accept the default (Macro1, for instance) or type in a name of your choosing. Click OK and a floating "Recorder Icon" will appear.
    With the recording session running, go to Tools, Options, Spelling & Grammar, and deselect "Check spelling as you type." Click OK and then click the little black square on the "Recorder," which will turn it off.

Use a Macro to Switch Spell-Check Modes
    You can now place this Macro on your Toolbar by going to Tools, Customize, Commands, Categories, and choosing Macro, whereupon your new Macro will be displayed under Commands. Now you can grab the Macro's icon and drag it onto your Toolbar.
    If you want to create another Macro for reinitializing Automatic Spell-Checking, you can repeat the above steps - except that you will put a checkmark in front of "Check spelling as you type."

Assigning a Function Key to a Macro
    You can also assign a special key to a Macro, meaning you won't have to place it on your Toolbar. Under Tools, Customize, click Macros, Keyboard. Now click Macros, choose your target Macro's name, and click inside the "Press New Shortcut Key" box. Finally, press one of your "Function Keys" (F1-F12) to assign it to the Macro.
    When choosing a Function Key, you will be advised if it already has an assignment (such as F1=Help or F7=Spell-Check). Click the various Function Keys to find one which has no current assignment, or one whose assignment is rarely, if ever, used. Finally click "Assign" and then "Close."

Automatic Grammar Checking
    A feature that often coincides with Automatic Spell-Checking is Automatic Grammar-Checking, which places green squigglies under suspected grammatically incorrect phrases. Although I always keep this feature turned off, it can be helpful to those who have problems with grammar and punctuation.

Temporary Internet Files Question
    Bonnie Marona wrote to ask if deleting items from her Temporary Internet Files folder would cause any of her Favorites to be lost. No, deleting items from this folder will in no way affect the Web site links kept under Favorites or Bookmarks.
    Temporary Internet Files consist of items recently accessed online, and which are stored in a folder on your hard drive. This folder can only hold so many items; so older links are eventually deleted to make room for new ones. This means that emptying the folder does little to increase overall hard disk storage space, since the it begins to fill up again the next you go online.
    Nonetheless, there are good reasons for emptying this folder periodically. If, for instance, you are doing a virus-scan of your entire C-Drive, why not delete all temporary files so that the scan won't take as long?
    These files can be deleted by double-clicking Internet Explorer (the blue "e" in your Start menu) and choosing Tools, Internet Options, General, Delete Files.

Sep 7

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Word Count
    Jim Horn called to ask where to find the "Word Count" command in WordPerfect. In MSWord and MSWorks, it's under Tools, Word Count -- and is a feature I depend on constantly when writing these columns. Well, I couldn't find the answer in WP's Help files, and Jim said he couldn't even find it in the WP Dummies book. However, long-time WP-user Barbara Quanbeck told us to go to File, Properties, and Information, where all the stats on the number of words, characters, and lines created are to be found.

Anti-Virus Programs
    I continue to receive questions about how to best protect one's self against virus infections. Well, the most obvious way is to have an anti-virus program installed that continually sends updates as needed. I use both Norton and the free service from AVG Grisoft, along with getting a periodic free system-check from Trend Micro. McAfee and Panda are other services with good reputations.
    So why do I use more than one service? Well, stop and consider that, at this very moment, a virus-writer somewhere is working on yet another new one, which he hopes will infect a bunch of machines before the anti-virus companies can discover it and provide a remedy. It's a never-ending game of leap-frog between the villains and good guys, while we hope to receive the latest update before the newest virus hits us.
    In my case, Norton has faithfully zapped 99% of the viruses I've recently received -- but AVG actually found two that got past Norton. So I feel that the extra drain on system resources of having two AV programs running is well worth it.

Thumbnail View of Pictures
    One of my favorite features of WinXP is the fact that icons can be viewed as "Thumbnails." With the increasing use of digital cameras, being able to preview a "miniature" of each photo on our hard drive has become a plus we'd never again want to be without. However, WinXP will occasionally and inexplicably duplicate all the pictures inside a given folder and give them names like "Copy of Image-001," "Copy of Image-002," etc.
    Dave Kulchin is one of many who have asked why this happens, and what can be done to prevent it. If you know, we would surely love to hear from you.

Putting Images on Your Yellow Folders
    Another one of my favorite WinXP "good" features is being able to replace a mundane "yellow folder" icon with an image of my choice. If you have a folder named, say, Family Photos, you can choose one of its pictures to be miniaturized and used as the album's icon. Right-click the folder and choose Properties, Customize, Choose Picture. The folder will open to display its contents, from which you can choose a "cover image" by double-clicking it. Finally, click OK and the folder will always have the chosen photo as its icon.
    What's that - you say you followed the instructions and the yellow folder icon didn't change? Well, yes, there is a quirk in this procedure; it only works if the chosen folder is inside another folder, and it does NOT work with Desktop folders. For proof, drag the target folder into, say, My Documents, and you'll see your chosen image as its icon.
    However, there is a trick whereby you can place your photo on a Desktop folder icon as well. Right-click the folder and choose Properties, Customize, Change Icon, whereupon you can choose an icon that will show up just fine on the Desktop. How to change a photo into an icon will be explained next time.

Sep 2

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Creating Additional Storage Space on Your Hard Drive
    I've received a number of inquiries recently from folks who say they are running low on hard disk space and who ask what they can do to increase their storage capacity. Well, I would begin with the Recycle Bin.
    Right-click the Bin and choose Properties, Global. Here you'll see an adjustable lever which shows that ten percent of your hard drive space has been set aside for deleted files. This is way more than most of us need; and the lever can be safely moved to a lower percentage (2%-4% is usually plenty). The only down-side is that you may have to empty the Bin a little more frequently - but it's well worth it.

Delete Unneeded Personal Files
    Another way to pick up space is to delete excess personal files, such as backup files no longer needed. Go to Start, Search/Find, Files & Folders and look for file names beginning with "Backup of..." or those ending with the extension, "BAK."
    You may also have a collection of files whose names begin with "~" and/or end with the extension "TMP." These are temporary files created in the background, and are usually (but not always) placed in one or more folders named "TEMP." Use Search/Find to locate them and look at the dates associated with them. Unless their dates are the same as the day you're checking (which could mean they are currently in use) they can be safely deleted.

Look for Very Large Files to Delete
    Another thing you can do is look for exceptionally large files to delete. When using Search/Find, Files & Folders, click on "What Size Is It?" and specify "Large Files." Leave the "Name" box empty when you search, and click on View, Details. After you've searched your whole hard drive, click on "Size" and all the files will be listed from the smallest to the largest. Click "Size" again, and the order will be reversed, putting the largest files at the top of the list.
    Among the largest, you'll often find graphics and/or media files, such as BMPs, MPGs, and MP3s. Delete any you no longer want, and/or copy them to a CD or a DVD. Just be careful not to delete any "system" files, such as those with extensions of DLL, or COM, or SYS, or any you are unsure of. Ask a technician, if in doubt.

Delete Unneeded Duplicates
    Another thing to look for is duplicate files. If you do a lot of graphics work (as I do) it's not uncommon to end up with multiple copies of the same image in different folders. Delete the surplus.

Compress ("Zip") Files to Save Space
    Another way to pick up useable space is to "compress" (or "zip") personal files. In case you're unfamiliar with the concept of file-compression, most files can be "shrunk" (compressed/zipped) to take up less disk space. However, they need to be "unzipped" to be useable again.
    Whenever you send attachments with emails, for instance, they are automatically "zipped" (to upload and download faster) and then are automatically "unzipped" on the receiving end. Well, you can take a folder full of personal files, and shrink them down to as little as, perhaps, a quarter of their original sizes.
    WinXP users have a built-in "zip" utility, while users of other versions can obtain "WinZip" from With WinXP, you can right-click your Desktop and choose New, Compressed (Zipped) Folder. Give the folder a name, and then drag the files you want compressed into it from other folders or from your Desktop. When finished, double-click the special folder (which will have a "zipper" on it) and look at its contents. By going to View, Details, you'll see each file's original size, along with its new "zipped" size and its percentage of compression.
    To make a file readable again, simply double-click it and it will open itself, fully decompressed and useable. Also, you can drag it out of the zipped folder to restore it to is previous state.

    Using WinZip is a little more complicated, but the program comes with a very comprehensive tutorial. Nonetheless, here's how to begin: right-click a target folder of personal files, and choose "Add to WinZip." From there, just follow the prompts. You'll eventually end up with a folder full of zipped files, while the original folder and its files remain intact. Delete the originals when satisfied that copies have been properly zipped.
    Last, but not least - zipping files before copying them to another disc will mean you can get a lot more of them onto a CD. However, zipping takes time - and with the price of blank CDs being so reasonable, I find it more practical to make backups without zipping.

Aug 31

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Still Receiving Infected Emails with NO ATTACHMENTS
    Viruses have been arriving by the truckload lately, mostly the "W32.Sobig.F@mm" variety. Hopefully, you're using an updated anti-virus program to catch these worms as they arrive. I use both Norton and AVG.
    However, if a person does accept one and clicks on its attachment, it can get into his Address Book and send out copies of itself to names it finds there, while using other names it finds as "return addresses." This means you could get some indignant emails from people accusing you of sending them a virus, when your "return address" was actually lifted from someone else's Address Book.
    SoBig emails are easy to spot because every message is virtually the same, "Click the attachment for details." However, I've been receiving other infected emails that have NO ATTACHMENTS, and which look very legitimate. One was a "Help Wanted Ad" for a newsletter editor; and it might have fooled me had not Norton AV caught it the moment it arrived.
    Additional anti-virus tips are posted on

ScreenSaver Question
    Jim Steeves called to say a CD he had been given, bearing some beautiful pictures, had installed a screensaver of the photos on his hard drive; and he asked how to get rid of it.
    In case you're unfamiliar with the origins of "screensavers," they were created for early PCs, when monitors often had images "burned" into them if a display was left on the screen for a while. To avoid this, an animated "screensaver" would appear after a few minutes of keyboard inactivity, since "burning in" was less likely with moving images. Modern monitors don't have this deficiency, so screensavers nowadays are intended mainly for fun.
    Most PCs come with quite a few screensavers, and if you'd like to check them out, right-click your Desktop and choose Properties, Screensaver, where you will find them all listed, along with various Settings choices and a "Preview" option.
    Back to Jim's question; since none of the above options lets you delete a screensaver, I suggested going to Start, Search/Find, Files & Folders and typing in *.SCR. "SCR" is the extension appended to screensaver filenames, and the "wildcard" asterisk will display all the ones you have. Jim quickly found and deleted the one he didn't want.
    If Search doesn't find any screensavers, click on Advanced Options and make sure "Search System Folders" is checked, since they are normally in your C:\Windows or C:\Windows\System32 folders.

More About the PrtSc (PrintScreen) Key
    Regarding my recent explanation of using the PrtSc (Print Screen) key to Copy whatever is on your screen and subsequently pasting it into a bitmap-editor, PC Instructor Bill Lyon pointed out that holding down ALT while pressing PrtSc will only Copy the topmost dialogue box displayed on your monitor, thus minimizing the need for cropping.
    Bill went on to say that, instead of pasting these "screen shots" into a bitmap program, he pastes them directly onto a word processing page, placing several on a single sheet, which he then prints and passes out to his students as "quick and dirty Help pages." Great idea!
    Nonetheless, since I do so much graphics work, I prefer to use Irfanview with PrtSc. However, Joan Solka wrote to say she found Irfanview's long list of "file-type" choices bewildering and didn't know which ones to select.
    Yes, this free program displays just about every kind of bitmap file imaginable; but it also works with various "media" files. I prefer to use Windows Media Player for music and movies, and use Irfanview for JPG, GIF, BMP, and other standard bitmap formats.

Music Files
    Speaking of media files, Chuck Williamson asked how to convert a WMA to a MIDI. Well, WMA, MP3, and WAV files are digital recordings of actual musical sounds, whereas MIDIs are played on an electronic keyboard connected to a computer. Thus, a MIDI is considered a "data" file; and "sound" files cannot be converted to a MIDI. This also means that the downloadable MIDIs on my Web site can be saved to a CD, but can only be played via a computer, whereas the other musical formats can be saved to a disc and played back on regular CD players.

Aug 26

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New Virus Danger - Infected Emails with NO ATTACHMENTS
    In addition to the flood of SoBig viruses that keep pouring in (the ones with a message that says, "See attachment for details.") I got two viruses this morning in emails with NO ATTACHMENTS.
   One of them had "FW: Direct Deposit Form for SMEs" in its Subject Line, and the other had "Looking for Editor & Director of Communications."
    One of the deadly emails had the following message:
   1. Am looking -- urgently -- for an Editor of our two four-color periodicals (magazine & newsletter) and a few annual color publications. (Just got the two-week alert.)
   Ideal candidate would have:
   a. Experience in magazine journalism / production
   b. Military background; junior to mid-grade officer or senior NCO
   c. Familiarity with Military & / or private sector engineering
   [ Will consider anyone with 2 of these 3. ]

BEWARE - They Look Like Legitimate Emails!
   These virus-bearing emails were very professionally written to look like legitimate messages. Fortunately, my Norton Anti-Virus software caught them immediately. I hope you have an updated anti-virus program in place, too.

    Doreen Burchett wrote to say she has "Roxio CD Creator 5" disc-burning software, but has trouble copying files to a disc. Well, a full-length tutorial on CD-burning would take up more space than we have here, but we can cover some of the most common tasks.
    Roxio offers two methods for copying data files to a CD: (1) Drag and drop the files onto your CD-Drive icon, much like it's done with a 3-1/2" floppy disk in the A-Drive. (2) Assemble the files to be copied into a group, and then tell Roxio to "record" the group onto a CD.
    When you place a blank CD-R or CD-RW in the disc drive you should get a message asking what kind of files you want to copy (Data, Music, etc.). For this example we would choose "Data." A window displaying a "Make a Data CD" button will let you choose "Direct CD" or "Data Project."

Two Ways of Burning Data Files
    Choosing the former gives you the "drag and drop" option. Choosing the latter lets you browse for files in a top window and click them into a bottom window, where they will await the "Record" command.
    When you choose Direct CD, a button will appear inviting you to "Format the Disc." The Data Project method does the formatting automatically.
    Once you've gotten beyond these beginning options, you'll be prompted on finishing the burning process and giving the CD a name. A CD-R disc can be written to, but files cannot later be overwritten, as they can with a CD-RW disc.
    I think the best way to learn how to burn CDs is to experiment with the various options that are presented, and use the Help menus when needed. CDs are much cheaper than floppy disks, so messing one up now and then is not a major expense.

Creating an Email in a Foreign Language
    George Watkins wrote to ask how to switch his computer between English and Spanish, so that he can write emails in both languages. Well, Windows does not have an automatic method for switching between various tongues, although newer versions of MSWord can be configured to handle a second language, using instructions in the Help files.
    As for writing an email in another language, I use AltaVista's "Babel Fish" Free Translation Service, which does a reasonably good job on short messages. I use this utility when composing a letter in Spanish because it generates the special symbols used in the language. This means that when I later edit the translation, I don't have to bother inserting all the symbols manually.
    Babel Fish works with several foreign languages and a link to the free program can be found at

Creating and Using a "Macro" in MSWord
    I mentioned recently that I would give an example of an MSWord "macro," which is the "recording" of a group of keyboard and/or mouse-entries that can later be "played back" with a single mouse-click.
    Well, I have thousands of email addresses in an MSWord file, which I need to copy and paste into these newsletter emails. So I created a "macro" to do some of the repetitious work for me.

Goal of the Macro
    My goal was to (1) have a group of names copied, (2) change the color of the copied names, so they would stand out from yet-to-be-copied ones, and (3) to save the file with these changes. Here's how it was done:
    First, I mouse-selected a target group of email addresses. Then I went to Tools, Macro, chose "Record New Macro" and accepted the default name of "Macro1" by clicking OK. A miniature "Recording Icon" then appeared, with a square "Stop" button on it. This meant that each subsequent editing step I took would be "recorded" until I clicked "Stop."
    So I clicked on Edit, Copy, followed by choosing red on the Text Color "A" icon, and finished by going to File, Save. At this point I clicked the "Stop" button, whereupon the "recording icon" disappeared.

Putting the Macro's Icon on my Toolbar
    Next, I went to Tools, Customize, Commands, and Macro, which displayed an icon labeled "Macro1." I dragged the icon onto my toolbar, where it now waits to be clicked whenever I need to copy some addresses, change their color, and save the file.
    Lastly, I right-click an email's BCC box and choose Paste, which inserts all the addresses. This simple procedure saves lots of time in the handling thousands of addresses.

Aug 24

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Important Virus Protection
    I'm sure that by now you've heard of, or perhaps have received, the last virus that is spreading like wildfire: W32.Sobig.F@mm. If you haven't seen it yet, it arrives as an attachment to a very brief email that says something like, "Please click on the attachment for details." The Subject Lines of these deadly emails have phrases like: Re. Your Application, Re. That Movie, Wicked Screensaver, and Thank You. The attachment's name will have an extension of .pif or .scr.
    Each virus arrives from a different email address, since the return addresses are usually those of other people whose computers have been infected and whose address books have been hijacked.
    The best protection against this virus is having a continually updated anti-virus program installed on your PC. Norton has caught everyone of the 150 or so that have come to me in the last few days. These germs can be easily spotted and deleted upon arrival without an AV program - but why take a chance? Also, be sure to empty your Email Trash Can after each deletion.
    Norton is offering a free W32.Sobig.F@mm Removal Tool at this site:

Latest Virus Protection
    Users of WinXP, WinNT® 4.0, and Win2000 also need protection from the "Blaster" Worm, which includes an update from Microsoft. The update, along with more information, can be found here:

Using PrtSc (PrintScreen) to Keep Items in View
    Have you ever had an Error message appear that you wish you could copy so you could refer to it later? Or have you gone to a Help menu, and wished you could keep the instructions visible while you continued working on a file?
    Well, most error messages can NOT be copied and pasted, nor can you continue working in most programs while a Help file is displayed.
    However, you can make a "screen shot" of these messages by pressing your PrtSc (PrintScreen) key, which makes a copy of everything displayed on your monitor. If you hold down ALT while pressing PrtSc, only the top window or dialogue box will be copied. Next, launch a bitmap editor, such as Windows Paint, whereupon you can PASTE the image into it and then "crop" it so that just the target message remains.
    The exact "pasting" and "cropping" procedures vary among different bitmap editors, but I've found that this is done most easily with Irfanview, a free download from .

Here Are the Exact Steps:
    When the Error or Help message is on your screen, press PrtSc. Then, launch Irfanview and go to Edit, Paste. You will then see everything that was displayed shown in an Irfanview window. Next, use your mouse to draw a rectangle around the target message. Now click the Irfanview "Scissors" icon. The outlined message will vanish.
    Finally, go to Irfanview's Edit, Paste (or just click the Paste icon). The target message will normallyreappear in a frame just large enough to hold it. Grab the frame's blue bar to move it to wherever you want. This will let you place the message to the side of your file in progress.

Why is this easier with Irfanview?
    (1) Most bitmap editors fill up a lot of your screen, while Irfanview's frame will usually be just big enough to hold the target image. (If it's too large, just grab any edge to adjust it.)
    (2) Before drawing the rectangle around the target area, other editors make you find and click on a "Select" tool, while Irfanview is automatically in the "Select" mode and lets you start outlining immediately.
    (3) Finally, other editors make you "Select" an object before it can be Cut or Pasted, while Irfanview lets you immediately Cut and Paste all or part of the enclosed image.

Dealing with Unusual Picture Types
    Irfanview can also handle many kinds of images not viewable in many other bitmap-editors. If you've received a picture with a strange file extension that won't open when double-clicked, try Irfanview. (Make sure you have an anti-virus program installed, to make sure the picture is not infected.)

Using Your "Files of Type" Options Speaking of picture filename extensions, I recently got a call from a reader who said he had downloaded some JPGs into his My Pictures folder, but when he went to File, Open in his bitmap editor, there were no files listed.
    The problem was that his "Files of Type" box had "GIF" displayed, meaning his editor was looking only for this type of picture. When he switched to "JPG" (or, better yet, to "All Files") his pictures were listed as expected.
    This principle also applies to other files and programs. If you're using MSWord, for instance, and can't find any "DOC" files in your My Documents folder, check your "Files of Type" box.

Compatibility Between Different Word Processors
    This is also where you go to look for a file created with a different program. MSWord users, for instance, can normally open WordPerfect files by looking for the matching file type in this box; and vice versa goes for WordPerfect users.

AutoCorrections Not Necessarily Needed
    Speaking of MSWord, it has a lot of "AutoCorrect" features that are very helpful, but which can be a hindrance at times. For instance when I type a phrase like "...your My Documents folder..." Word immediately changes "your My" to "you're my" -- and no matter how many times I retype the phrase, the same thing will happen. The fix? Simply do Ctrl+Z to Undo the "correction." (Or, you can click your Undo icon on the toolbar.)
    All of Word's "autocorrections" can be found under Tools, AutoCorrect, where you can delete any you don't like and where you can create new ones if you want to. This is where I go to create "mini-macros" such as making "fpcug" turn immediately into "Fallbrook PC Users Group."
    Speaking of "macros," the official meaning of this term is the "recording" of a number of editing steps that can be later executed with a single mouse-click. I'll give an example next time.

Aug 19

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Automatic "Save" Options in MSWord
    P. Knight wrote to ask if a document created in MSWord is still in existence if the file was closed without being saved. Well, a portion of it might be, depending on certain options that were previously chosen. To see these options, go to Tools, Options, Save. Here I recommend choosing "Always create backup copy," "Allow background saves," and "Save AutoRecover info every 10 minutes."
    The second two options combine to automatically save your work every ten minutes (or whatever time frame you choose) regardless of whether you do periodic saves or not. The first means that every time you do a manual save (by going to File, Save, or by doing Ctrl+S) your previous save is set aside in a file named "Backup of " and is give an extension of ".WBK."

Start Any New File by First Giving It a Name
    All this is predicated, of course, on your having given the document a file name in the first place. Beyond all this, Word is always maintaining a "temporary" file of any that is/are currently in process, with cryptic names such as "~WRL3857.tmp." All of these files are stored, by default, in your My Documents folder and can be accessed with a double-click.
    WordPerfect users can find similar options by going to Tools, Settings, Files. Users of the MSWorks word processor, however, have no similar options for automatic saving. However, there is one option we all have for protecting files in progress, whether using a word processor or any other kind of program; "incremental file name changes."
    Here's how it's done: save your work periodically with a file name bearing a number that changes with each save. Let's say you're writing a story called "My-Story.txt." Start by going to File, Save As and naming the document "My-Story-1.txt." After writing a few paragraphs (or a few pages, depending on how often you want to update your saved files) name the document "My-Story-2.txt," and so on.
    In this example you might end up with nine documents, with the final one named "My-Story-9.txt." The other eight would be backups of what you had written up to a certain point, and could be deleted whenever you are satisfied with the final version. In the meantime, you will have given yourself extra insurance against a file being lost due to a power failure or having accidentally named some other file with one you want to keep for this particular document.

Saving Files to Other Media for Extra Insurance
    For added insurance, important files should be copied to a floppy disk or a CD, or sent to another computer. When writing these columns, for instance, I often email myself whatever has been written up to a certain point. In case of a computer crash (heaven forbid) I could then retrieve the work on another PC.
    Copying a file to a floppy disk is simply a matter of dragging it from My Documents onto the "A: Drive" icon inside My Computer. Copying to a CD is similar, depending on the options chosen with your CD-burning software.

Sending a Font via Email
    I recently mentioned moving unused fonts from the "C:\Windows\Fonts" folder into one you've created for this purpose. However, it is a good idea to create a list showing the descriptive names the fonts bear in the "Fonts" folder compared to the compressed DOS versions they will bear in any other folder. In any case, all alphabets in the Fonts folder can be found by going to My Computer, Control Panel, Fonts, and double-clicking any to display them in various sizes.
    In the early days of Windows we were lucky to have a dozen different fonts on our computers, and those of us doing graphic arts work often paid $50 or so to obtain special ones we needed. Now most Windows users have hundreds of them - but we don't all necessarily have the same ones. However, if a friend needs a font you have and he doesn't, it can be sent to him as an email attachment or copied onto a disk.

Aug 17

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Inserting Addresses into Outlook Express with Your Mouse
    Warren Krum called to ask how to insert email names from his Outlook Express Address Book into the "TO:" and "CC:" (Carbon Copy) fields, using his mouse. I embarrassingly told Warren that I didn't know, since I keep all my email addresses (several thousands of them) in an MSWord file, and just copy and paste them in as needed. However, I said I'd find out and send him an email.
    Well, I'd no sooner found the information in the OE Help menu, when I got an email from Warren saying he'd looked in Help, too, and sent me the instructions. Here's what we found:
    After beginning a new letter with Create Mail, click on the "Book" symbol in front of "TO:." This will display the names in your Address Book. To insert a name, click on it and then click on the "TO:->" button.
    You can then add names to the CC: field by clicking on them, followed by clicking on the "CC:->" button. If you have several names to add, it can be done faster by holding down CTRL while clicking the names. Clicking the "CC:->" button will insert all the tagged names at once. If all the target names are contiguous, you can click the first one, hold down SHIFT, and then click the last one. This will highlight all inclusive names, making them ready for the "CC:->" button.

Please Use "Blind Carbon Copies"
    However, I strongly recommend that you do NOT use "CC" and use "BCC" (Blind Carbon Copies) instead. Then each recipient will see only his or her name on the incoming email.
    Unfortunately, OE doesn't show the "BCC" field by default. After beginning a new message, you have to click on View, All Headers. However, this is a one-time fix and the "BCC" field will always be there in the future.
    AOL users likewise have no Blind Carbon Copy field showing, but can click on their Address Book and use the "Blind Copy" icon to insert names into the "Copy To" box. The inserted names will be enclosed in parentheses, which is AOL's way of saying a name will be sent as a "BCC." When inserting multiple names, the same CTRL and SHIFT rules explained above can be used to speed things up.

Removing Forwarded Email Addresses & Headers
    Speaking of Carbon Copies, Scott Adams wrote to ask if there is a way to automatically delete all the ones he often sees on the forwarded email he receives, as well as automatically deleting all the forwarded headers. Unfortunately, I know of no way of removing these items other than manually.
    If you know of a way, we'd love to hear about it.
    In any case, Scott is performing a service for all the people whose names are shown in those CCs when he deletes them before sending the message on to others. Had previous forwarders used BCCs, this wouldn't be necessary. Kudos to Scott!

Leaving OE Email on the Server
    When I mentioned recently that Outlook Express email is normally removed from one's server after it has been downloaded, Tom Inglesby wrote to say OE has an option for temporarily leaving mail on the server. Go to Tools, Accounts and click the account you use. Then go to Properties, Advanced and click the "Leave Copy on Server" box.
    Be aware, however, that ISPs have different rules about how much mail can be left on their systems. Check with yours for details.

Too Many Fonts
    Barbara Quanbeck wrote to say she has more fonts on her computer than she needs, and asked about putting the unwanted ones into another folder, in case she ever needs them.
    Yes, this can be done, but there are some issues to be aware of. All our alphabets are stored in a folder named "Fonts" which is inside the "C:\Windows" folder on our hard drives, and many of them have fairly long descriptive names, such as "Bookman Old Style Bold Italic.TTF" (TTF = TrueType Font).
    However, when a font is placed in any folder other than "Fonts" its name is changed to its "DOS 8.3" equivalent, which, in the case of the Bookman mentioned, becomes "BOOKOSBI.TTF." Thus, if you move a number of fonts into another folder, you could have trouble finding the one you later need.
    More on this next time.

Aug 12

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Alphabetizing (Sorting) Various Parts of Windows
    Jeff Fastnow wrote to ask if there is any way to alphabetize the program icons listed in the Windows Start Menu. Well, depending on other Start Menu options that may have been chosen, the files normally arrange themselves alphabetically by default. If this hasn't happened, they can be mouse-moved manually.
    Bear in mind that each icon is a "shortcut" to the indicated program, and right-clicking one of them will display a number of other options, such as renaming it or removing it from the list. Clicking on "Properties" will display the "path" leading to the actual program, along with a "Change Icon" option.
    Something that can be alphabetized is the list of items in the "Favorites" folder, by right-clicking any item and choosing "Sort by Name." This also applies to the "Favorites" found in the Internet Explorer menu bar.

Sort in Either Direction
    MSWord users can alphabetize a list of items by highlighting the list and going to Table, Sort, where they will be prompted to choose between Ascending (A-Z) and Descending (Z-A). If sorting of more than one column is needed, MSWord users can go to Table, Insert Table, and type in the number of columns needed. For an Address Book, one might choose seven columns; First Name, Last Name, Street, City, State, Zip Code, and Phone.
    Data could then be sorted by Last Name or by Zip Code or by any other criteria one might choose by simply selecting the target column (which can be done by placing the cursor above it and doing a left-click when a little "down arrow" appears). Then go to Table, Sort, and you'll be asked if your list has a "Header Row." Choose the affirmative if you've typed First Name, Last Name, etc. into the top cell of each column. This will preclude the Headers from being mixed in with the sorted data.

Getting Familiar with MSWord Tables
    If you're new to Word Tables, you'll discover that when you create one all the columns will be the same width. However, a column's width can be adjusted by clicking the upright line on either its left or its right edge and moving it when the cursor changes to a double-pointed arrow. You'll also discover that any cell will expand to accommodate any amount of text that's typed into it.

Sorting in Other Word Processors
    WordPerfect users will find the Sort command under Tools; but Table creation and other options are similar to those described above for MSWord.
    The word processor in MSWorks has Table capabilities similar to those in MSWord; but it does not have a Sort command (unless you have a version of Works that substitutes MSWord for the regular Works word processor).
    So how does one alphabetize a list in MSWorks? You use the Spreadsheet utility. If the list already exists in the word processor, highlight it and do Ctrl+C to COPY it. Then go to File, New, Spreadsheet. Click inside any cell and do Ctrl+V to PASTE in the list. Finally, highlight the target column and go to Tools, Sort.
    After you've sorted the list, the COPY and PASTE steps can be repeated to insert it back into the word processor.

More on Sorting with Spreadsheets
    Speaking of Spreadsheet programs, the Sort command in MSExcel is found under Data, where you will be asked about using a Header row, along with other options similar to those found in MSWord's Tables. Users of Quattro Pro (the spreadsheet in WordPerfect Office) will find the Sort options under Tools.
    Getting back to MSWord Tables, it's helpful to know that they are similar to those used on Web pages, and that some of Word's Table commands can be used to reformat a copied Web page's appearance.

Using Table Commands to Extract Plain Text
    Let's say you find an interesting article on a Web page that has some ad banners mixed in with it, or that you've received an email newsletter similarly chopped up.
    Well, you try to mouse-select just the text; but all the other stuff gets highlighted as well. So you go ahead and do Ctrl+C to COPY it.
    Now let's say you want to PASTE the story into an MSWord page without the graphics. Easy - go to Edit, Paste Special, Unformatted Text. But if you've already pasted in everything, you can click near the intrusive graphics and go to Table, Convert, Table to Text.
    This may have to be done more than once, and it may take a little experimenting - but it's easy once you get the hang of it.

Aug 10

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Difficulty Finding the Program You Want Because There Are So Many?
    Gary Koester wrote that his kids have so many games on their computer, that when they go to Start, Programs, they have trouble finding the applications they want to run. Gary went on to say that using the alternative approach of right-clicking Start, choosing Explore, and then browsing to Program Files to find the applications is also very time-consuming. He asks if there is a way of putting shortcuts to the desired files on the desktop.

Works for Me
    Well, that's the way I get to my most-used files, and here's how it's done: Go to Start, Programs ("All Programs" in WinXP) and find the target program's name and icon. Then drag the icon onto your Desktop, whereupon a little arrow will be added to its lower left corner, indicating that it's a "shortcut" to the target program.
    Normally, when you "drag and drop" a file's icon, the attached file is physically moved from one location to another. However, when dragging a "program" file (i.e.: the main executable file that is used to launch an application) the file remains in place and a "shortcut" is created that points back to it. From then on, double-clicking the shortcut activates the file and launches the program.

Desktop Can Fill Up Fast
    If you normally use a lot of different programs, however, you may find your Desktop getting too cluttered to keep track of them easily. Well, you can right-click the Desktop and choose Arrange Icons, By Name, and they will all line up alphabetically. However, a more practical solution is to put shortcuts to similar programs into separate folders, (such as Games, Business, Household, etc.) or to create folders bearing the names of the individual family members.

How to Create a Folder
    To create a folder on your Desktop, right-click it and choose New, Folder. Give the folder a name by typing over the "New Folder" label. Finally, drag the appropriate icons into the folder.
    The downside of putting a frequently-used icon inside a folder, some will argue, is that you first have to double-click the folder before you can double-click the icon. Well, how about putting your very favorite icons someplace where a mere single-click is required to activate them?

You Can Put Program Shortcuts in the Start Menu
    Drag the shortcuts onto your Start button, whereupon they will be displayed in the "Start Menu" after clicking Start, and where only a single click is required to launch a program. But wait - that is still a grand total of two clicks to launch them program.

"Quick Launch" Is Even Better
    Okay, instead of dragging the program icon onto Start, drag it onto the "Quick Launch" area of your Taskbar. This area is between two gray upright dividers, usually toward the left end of the Taskbar. If you don't see it, right-click the Taskbar, choose Toolbars, and click on "Quick Launch." Once in place, your favorite icons can always be in view, waiting for a single click.
    The gray dividers can be moved left and right to adjust the number of one-click icons displayed. Additional iconsz can be displayed by widening the Taskbar (grab its top edge and pull it up) or by clicking on the "»" symbol that appears in the Quick Launch area.
    Getting back to custom-created folders on the Desktop, they need not be restricted to holding "program files." You can create folders to hold documents of all kinds, such as correspondence, recipes, spreadsheets, etc. If you have lots of photos or music files, you can group them into their own special folders. If you have zillions of files of all different kinds you can also put folders inside of other folders. The possibilities are endless.

How to Download the "Yellow Sticky Notes" Program
    Marion Weter wrote to ask for more detailed instructions on downloading and installing the "Yellow Sticky Notes" I recently mentioned. Okay, start by going to my Web site,, and clicking on "Free Programs." Then click the Yellow Sticky icon to bring up a comprehensive description of the program, along with instructions for using its various features. This page can be copied to your hard drive by going to File, Save As.
    As for the program, click on the word "Download" in the left column of the page and follow the prompts. When installed properly, a yellow icon will appear in your System Tray (near the digital clock on your Taskbar) and can be single-clicked to create a Sticky.

Aug 5

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Getting You CAPS LOCK Key to "Beep"
    Pat Wordon wrote to ask how to make the CAPS LOCK key "beep" when pressed. Why would anyone want this?
    Well, in case you press the key accidentally, the beep will let you know it, and can keep a touch-typist from generating lots of unwanted capitalized text.

Difficulty Holding Down Multiple Keys
    Others have asked if it is possible to press certain keystroke combinations (such as CTRL+ALT+DEL) individually, since they have difficulty pressing all the keys at once. Others with impaired vision have asked how to enlarge everything on their monitors.

Accessibility Options to the Rescue!
    Well, all these things are possible with Windows' "Accessibility" features. Win98 users can go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, and Accessibility, where they will find options for a variety of features for the physically-challenged, including mouse adjustments to make it easier to double-click and/or to control its movements.
    WinXP users can go to Start, Control Panel to find these menus; or they can go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, Accessibility, and find a "Wizard" that will lead them through all the various options.

Larger Text & Ojects
    If your main need is to have text and objects enlarged, you can right-click your Desktop and choose Properties. Then click on Settings, Display, Screen Resolution (or Screen Area) where you will find a horizontal "slide panel" with a movable lever. Sliding the lever to the right increases the screen resolution and will make everything smaller on your monitor. Sliding it to the left does the opposite. Experiment to find your own visual comfort level.

Some "Computers 101"
    I hear from a lot of newer users who are confused about the differences between Netscape and Internet Explorer and their relationship to email. Well, I could write a book on the subject - but here's what most of us need to know:
    Netscape (AKA Netscape Navigator and/or Netscape Communicator) is an Internet "browser" that, at one time, was the one used by most Web surfers. Browsers usually had to be purchased back then, and Netscape sold for about $60.
    When Microsoft came out with Internet Explorer, Mr. Gates offered it at no charge, thus putting Netscape in danger of being abandoned altogether. So Netscape made its browser free as well, and before long AOL bought the company to keep it afloat.
    So what's all this got to do with email? Well, Netscape included an excellent email client, which many ISPs (such as NCTimes) recommended to their subscribers. Internet Explorer, by way of competition, came out with Outlook Express, which eventually surpassed Netscape Mail in customer usage.
    Which program is better? Well, you'll get some pretty strong opinions from dedicated users of each one. I prefer OE.

Strange Bed-Fellows
    Beyond that, the world of computer bed-fellows can be pretty strange at times. AOL now owned Netscape and could have caused it to be used by millions by simply including it with AOL's combination ISP/email package. However, they had already contracted with Microsoft to use a modified IE browser.
    Anyway, Outlook Express and Netscape Mail are designed mainly to work with one user on one computer. Unless special arrangements have been made with one's ISP (Internet Service Provider), once an email is downloaded it is removed from the ISP's server. AOL email, on the other hand, can be kept on the AOL server indefinitely and can be accessed from any computer that uses AOL, by simply logging in as a "guest."
    Netscape Mail and OE users can also access their mail from remote computers (usually) by logging onto their ISP's home page and looking for its "Web mail" area. However, doing so will normally mean the mail cannot be "re-accessed" when the user gets back to his own computer. AOL users can access and re-access multiple times, if they want to.
    Beyond all this, Netscape and Microsoft each have free "Web-mail" services. Microsoft's is "Hotmail" while AOL/Netscape's is simply "Netscape." Other free Web-mail services include Yahoo and Juno (although the latter continually encourages you to sign up for its "premium" paid services).
    Web-mail is similar to AOL mail, in that it stays on its server until you delete it, during which time it can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection.

"Plain Text" vs "HTML"
    Finally, early email was always written in "plain text" and was compatible with all the various services. HTML email has yet to achieve totally inter-compatibility, but it's getting closer all the time.

Aug 3

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Google Toolbar with Anti-PopUp Feature
    I recently mentioned having installed a new feature from Google which included an anti-popup feature. However, I didn't give details on how to find it. OK, I could list the steps I went through to get there, but it's easier just to click on this link:
    Google points out that this program is actually in beta-testing and that they are interested in getting feedback from those who use it. Personally, I found the anti-popup feature to be very effective. It's definitely worth a try, and easy to uninstall if you decide you don't want it.

This Amazing Thing Called the Internet
    I'm continually amazed and often delighted by some of the things that can be done via the Internet nowadays. I once wrote here about becoming reacquainted with some school friends I hadn't seen in over 50 years, as a result of one of them finding me via I subsequently put their pictures on my Web site and wrote some little stories about them.

Phone Call from Strangers
    Well, the other day I got a call from a couple driving west through Arizona. The woman on the cell phone introduced herself as Shirley Fruits and said that she and her husband Russell were friends of Larry Tepstein, whom I've known since junior high school days. She went on to say they wanted to vist Larry and his wife Nancy in California, but had lost their unlisted number - and wanted to know if I could give it to them.
    So how did these people find me? They called their daughter Colleen in Indiana and asked her to punch Larry's name into a computer search engine to see if anything might come up. Well, since the Tepsteins have an unlisted number, the Internet search could not find them in the usual "white pages" services, but it did bring up a reference to Larry and Nancy being mentioned on my site, where the daughter then found my phone number and called her parents to give it to them.
    Pretty cool, I'd say, and the Fruits and Tepsteins ended up having a wonderful visit.

Having Your Own Web Site Can Be Nothing But Fun
    Do you have your own site yet? Most ISPs have provisions for letting subscribers have a free one, along with templates and simple instructions for setting it set up. However, the price of a "free" site is having advertising displayed on it, which may or may not be okay with you.
    Some of the better-known free services are AngelFire, Yahoo-GeoCities, and Tripod. You can find reviews on these and others by typing "free web pages" into a search engine.

Nice to Have Your Site Hosted by People You Know
    My site is one I pay for, and am glad to do so for the privilege of being able use it as I see fit. About half of its 100+ pages are devoted to computer tips, while the rest is filled with all kinds of stories and graphics that folks tell me they find quite interesting. The site is hosted by TFB-Net in Fallbrook, which is owned by people I've known for over 25 years and who provide outstanding 7-day-a-week support.

PDF Questions
    P. Knight wrote to say he sometimes has trouble reading small type in a PDF document, but uses the "magnifying glass" tool to make it legible. He added, however, when he tries to do a print-out of the enlarged version, it comes out at the original size. He went on to say he would be willing to copy and paste the text into a word-processing document (where he could easily edit the text's "print-out" size) but he can find no way of selecting (highlighting) anything in a PDF file.
    Well, let's talk about these Portable Document Files. PDF was designed to be a format that can be universally read by anyone with a computer. This is possible because the program needed to open the files, Adobe Acrobat Reader, is freely available to any who wants to download it.
    A letter written with WordPerfect may not look quite the same when viewed with MSWord, and Web pages created for Internet Explorer won't necessarily look quite the same in Netscape. Furthermore, all these documents will look different to viewers who don't have the exact same fonts that were used in preparing the files.
    However, a PDF document will always appear exactly the same way to anyone who sees it. This is why downloadable government forms, such as 1040 tax forms, are always supplied in PDF nowadays.

Copying Text from a PDF Document
    As for highlighting stuff in a PDF, two "T" (for Text) icons can be seen on the toolbar. The first is a "text-selection" tool and the second is a "column-selection" tool. Use the former to highlight contiguous lines of text, and the latter for selecting columns or tables of text. An entire document can be highlighted with Ctrl+A (or Edit, Select All).
    Text thus selected can be copied with Edit, Copy (or Ctrl+C) and pasted into an email or word processing page with Ctrl+V. If you don't have Acrobat Reader, it can be obtained from
    As for expecting a document to print out larger because its "magnifying glass" view has been enlarged, keep in mind that "zooming" affects only the "screen" view of text and objects. To make text larger when printed one needs to increase the font size on the document's toolbar.

July 29

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   Good morning!
   As you probably know, Mary Hanson does most of the research needed to find answers to questions sent to us by readers. By way of trying to encourage you to send your questions to her, future PC Chats will be sent from Mary's email address at
   Just for the record, neither Mary nor I are paid to send out these newsletters nor for any the work that goes into maintaining their archives at (which is commercial-free and maintained entirely at my own expense).
   Yes, the North County Times does pay me to write two columns a week, but everything else regarding these newsletters is done at my own expense. And, believe me - many, many unpaid hours go into sending out these letters, answering questions (via both phone and email), and maintaining the Web site each week.
   Why do Mary and I do it? Well, we just happen to be intrigued by computers and enjoy trying to be helpful wherever we can - particularly to seniors to whom computers can sometimes be new and intimidating.

Don Edrington's PC Chat
(San Diego's North County Times) Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Turning Off the Sound in a Web Page
    Joyce Harris wrote to ask if there is a way to turn off the music she hears when logging onto a Web page. Well, it depends on which media player you're using for online music, but most have a square STOP button near the PLAY button (or which becomes the PLAY button when clicked). Also, some players let you right-click their display and choose STOP from a popup menu.
    The music currently being heard on my home page at is a WAV recording of Bob Hope and Frances Langford singing "Thanks for the Memories." You can download this file from my Free Music Page at, along with dozens of other "oldies," among which there is also a very nice MIDI arrangement of "Thanks for the Memories."

Why Buy a Media Player Upgrade?
    When I asked recently why I should buy an upgrade to any of the free media players available, Scott Chester wrote to explain that one only needs QuickTime's upgrade if he/she wants to author QuickTime movies or to export a QuickTime file to that of another player. Scott says the average computer user would normally have no need for the upgrade, called QuickTime Pro.
    I would assume the same principles apply to other media player upgrades.

Bye Bye to Netscape?
    Netscape recently came out with Version 7.1 of its browser and email client, which have some noticeable improvements over 7.0 - but they have also announced that this will be their final upgrade. There was a time when Netscape had over 75% of the browser market, but now divides about 5% of it with Opera and a couple of other smaller contenders while Microsoft's Internet Explorer and AOL's browser share about 95% of the field. Ironically, AOL owns Netscape, but its AOL and CompuServe browsers are built on Internet Explorer.
    Having most computerists use IE makes it easier on folks like myself who design our own Web pages, since IE is a lot more forgiving when it comes to writing HTML code. A minor imperfection in coding will often be overlooked by IE, but can cause a whole page to vanish when viewed via Netscape.

Getting Disconnected after an Outlook Express Session
    Ken Rusk wrote to say that each time he sends or receives email via Outlook Express, he is immediately disconnected from the Internet upon completion of his mail tasks. Mary suggested to Ken that he go to Tools, Options, Connection, and UNcheck "Hang up after sending & receiving." This did the job.

Uncertainaties of Using an Anti-Spam Program
    Karen Hanson wrote to say that she recently installed SpamAssassin, a program that is supposed to protect users from incoming spam. Karen has been receiving this newsletter for a long time, and said she had to laugh when SpamAssassin blocked my last message, citing twelve reasons it had to be spam. Of course, she manually overrode the blockage, but sent me the list of things that, according to SpamAssassin, mean my newsletters are very likely unwanted spam.
    This is the problem with all anti-spam programs. They really have no goof-proof way to tell good mail from bad. Be vigilant with how you use them.

Yellow Sticky Notes
    "Sticky Notes" is one of the handiest utilities you'll ever use. If you need to jot down, say, a phone number or a Web site address, just click the Sticky icon in your system tray and type your notes into the yellow box that appears in the middle of your screen.
    Without having to be formally "saved" (as in File, Save As) these yellow Stickies will remain alive until you delete them - even when you turn off the computer - and they can be moved around to wherever you want them on your Desktop.
    By default, they are yellow to resemble the Post-It notes we're all familiar with - but you can make them any color you want, including transparent colors that let you see through the background if a Sticky is on top of another item. You can also reshape them to fit comfortably wherever you want them, and they can be stacked overlapping one another so that you can store several in one corner of your Desktop. I can't imagine ever being without them again.
    Yes, MSOutlook has a built-in Yellow Sticky function, but not everybody has Outlook.
    Also - Mary is currently beta-testing MSOffice 2003 (for no pay, of course) and says that this version will have Yellow Sticky features built-in when it's completed.

Free 'Full-Time' Anti-Virus Program
    Regarding free programs, "Ruth in Happy Camp" wrote, "Don't forget AVG (the anti-virus program from I downloaded it on your recommendation...and it has been performing perfectly ever since."
   Yes, Mary and I use it, too. It's free for home-user non-commercial use, although they have multi-computer versions sold to businesses.

Free 'StripMail' Program
    Another handy freebie is StripMail, which can clean up those badly formatted messages (usually forwarded ones) with the pointy brackets (>>>>>) and hard-to-read long and short lines of text.
    StripMail, along with Character Map (for creating special symbols not found on your keyboard) are available at page22.html.

July 27

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US-Flag.gifSouth-Korea-Flag.gif Sunday, July 27, 2003 is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice. I was one of the lucky ones who came back alive and in one piece. I've posted some stories about my Korean adventures here but have not talked about the bloody parts, preferring to remember some of the funny things that happened.

Can Something That's Free Really Be of Any Value?
    Well, I like to think this free newsletter offers some value along the way.
    Anyway, there's an old saying that goes, "You get what you pay for," which suggests that anything gotten for free is probably worthless. Well, I've found all kinds of useful free stuff on the Internet.
    This doesn't mean one should throw caution to the winds when downloading, since there is a lot of "spyware" that may look appealing, but which can send information about you to all kinds of advertisers. In any case, some of my favorite freebies are:
   SpyBot Search & Destroy. Well, it was free - but the author has begun asking for a $1 donation to help cover his expenses. Personally, I think it's worth a lot more.
   Ad-Aware is said to be free if you download it from CNet, but free to try and $29.95 to buy, if you get it directly from LavaSoft. Go figure. Anyway, it's said to be similar to SpyBot. URL is:

More Free Software
   The links to the following free programs can be found on this site at page22.html. (Putting all their URLs here would make the letter too long.)
   Serif Photo Plus 5.5 - A very nice free basic bitmap-editor. Serif does have upgrades for sale at reasonable prices.
   Pixia is another very nice bitmap-editor (with no upgrade charges, that I know of).
   IrfanView Graphics Viewer (See animated GIFs in motion, among many other neat features).
   XnView Graphics Viewer (Similar to IrfanView - but with some different features)
   602 PC Suite (MSWord-like Word Processor & Bitmap Manager)
   OpenOffice Suite (MSOffice-like Suite, including PowerPoint-like Presentation Graphics)
   ZoneAlarm - The free Firewall that I Use on My Computers
   Splitter - is a program that can copy large files onto two or more 3.5" floppy disks.
    I also downloaded a free Google add-on that appears to defeat a lot of popup ads. However, I uninstalled after a few weeks because I don't really have a problem with popups, and Google added a toolbar to my regular Internet Explorer toolbar which takes up space I'd rather have for viewing a Web page.
Web Site Home Page Hijacking?
    Another complaint I've been hearing recently is "Someone keeps hijacking my homepage - how can I stop this from happening?" Well, Browser Hijack Blaster appears to solve this problem. I have not tried this program personally, but saw it recommended by a reputable software reviewing service.

Damn the Spam!
    The complaint I hear most often, not surprisingly, is that of receiving endless mountains of spam. Yes, we'd all like a program that can magically detect and delete the incoming junk we don't want, without zapping any of the messages we do want. Well, all the major ISPs and email programs are now advertising that they have tools to help with this; and I'd suggest trying them out. Beyond that, MailWasher is an anti-spam program that has been recently recommended by You can read reviews and/or download it (and other programs) at

How Many Media Players Do We Need?
    Speaking of free programs with upgrades that cost, I've lost track of how many "media players" there are (QuickTime, WinAmp, and RealPlayer, to name a few). However, I normally use Microsoft's Windows Media Player, which is totally free without endless pitches trying to sell me an upgrade. If someone can explain why I should pay to have one of the upgraded others, I'd love to hear about it.

My Favorite and Most Used Free Program
    Evrsoft's 1stPage 2000 is the HTML-editor I use to help create all the pages on my Web site (well over 100 of them currently). Why they make a totally professional program like this free for the asking is a mystery to me. But I'm glad they do - and have been using for over five years now.

Shortcuts & Desktop Icons
    Now I'd like to talk about "icons" and "shortcuts." You already know that the postage-stamp-like images on your Desktop will cause something to happen when double-clicked. A file activated by doing so may actually be on the Desktop, or it may be buried deep within some nested folders on your hard drive. If an icon has a little bent arrow in its lower left corner, it is a "shortcut" leading to a file located somewhere else. To learn where it leads, right-click it and choose Properties, Shortcut (or Target). Some system folders, such as My Documents, don't have the little arrow, but are shortcuts nonetheless.
    Beyond all this, you can create your own shortcuts in a couple of different ways. Let's say you have a document named "To Do List" that you normally access every day and that is not on your Desktop or in My Documents. Go to Start, Find/Search, Files & Folders and type in the document's name. When it's found, right-click it and choose "Create Shortcut (or just drag it onto the Desktop)." When asked if you'd like to put a "Shortcut on the Desktop," answer Yes.
    Another way to do this is to right-click your Desktop and choose New, Shortcut, whereupon you'll be prompted on how to find the target file and on naming the shortcut.
    If the target document happens to be, say, an MSWord file, the resulting icon will be the familiar blue "W." However, you can change this icon by right-clicking it and selecting Shortcut, Change Icon (or Customize, Change Icon) whereupon you'll be shown a number of others from which to choose.
    What I prefer, however, is to make my own icons. Using an image-editor such as Windows Paint I create a 36x36-pixel white image. I then "paint" a design and save the image as a BMP file, after which I rename it with an extension of ICO. Finally, when using one of the "Change Icon" options, I browse to the folder containing my custom icons and make my choice.

July 22

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When an Item Refuses to Go In Alphabetical Order
    Have you ever sorted (alphabetized) a list of names, only to have, say, "Williams" come to the top while all the other names were in proper order? What often causes this is an unnoticed blank space preceding the errant name.

If you use a

mono-spaced "typewriter" font, such as Courier New,
a blank space can be easily spotted; but with a

proportionately-spaced font such as Times New Roman,
a blank space can easily go unnoticed.

    In computer-sorted lists a blank space always comes first, followed by punctuation symbols, and then by numbers, with alpha characters coming in last. This is worth knowing in case you do want to place an out-of-sequence item at the top of a sorted list. In a list of cities you could put, say, Oceanside first by using an underscore (i.e.: _Oceanside).
    Should you need three items displayed ahead of the others in a group, you can precede item #1 with three underscores, followed by item #2 with two underscores and item #3 with a single underscore.
    Why an underscore? Well, I've found that this usually comes first among punctuation symbols. You may want to experiment to see which ones work best for you. I use underscores a lot with the names of folders that are inside other folders. Folders First - Then Files
    If you do have multiple files and folders inside another folder, you'll notice that folders are always listed ahead of files and that they are always listed alphabetically. However the files might not be. Why? Because you can opt to have files listed in other ways.

Using "Arrange Icons By..."
    If, for instance, you have different types of files inside a folder (such as text documents and graphics) you may want the files grouped accordingly. Do this by clicking on View, Arrange Icons By, and choosing "Type."
    Other "Arrange Icons" options include, "Size," "When Created," and "Date Modified." If you switch back and forth among these options fairly often, there is an easier method than going to "View, Arrange Icons By" each time. Rather, go to "View" and choose "Details." This will normally display the files' names, their sizes, their types, and when they were last modified.

Changing View Options Quickly
    By default, they will be listed alphabetically under "Name." If you would rather see them listed chronologically by their "Modified" dates, just click the Date Modified header. Now they will be listed from the most recent modification to the oldest. Click Date Modified again, and they will be shown in reverse order.
    Clicking Name will return them to A-Z order, and clicking Name again will show them from Z to A.

Select Your Own "Details"
    As for which "Details" you prefer, go to View, Choose Details.

Filename Ghosts
    Another puzzlement I'm often asked about is "Why does the name of a file I've deleted continue to show up when I click on Start, Documents ("Recent Documents" in WinXP)? And if I click on the filename I get an error message."
    This happens because the fifteen filenames shown are just that: "names" and they are put there on a FIFO (first in, first out) basis. In other words, when another file is accessed or created it goes to the top of the list and removes the name at the bottom. The fact that a file has been deleted doesn't change the way this procedure works.

Copy & Paste Mystery
    Yet another puzzlement is why something that has been "copied" doesn't always "paste" the way you expect it to. For instance, if you have a long list of names in an MSWord document and you want to copy them into an Excel file, you would first mouse-select the names (or do Ctrl+A to select ALL the names). After doing Ctrl+C to COPY the selection you would go to your Excel spreadsheet and click inside the cell where you want the list to begin.
    But when you go to Edit, Paste (or do Ctrl+V) a small rectangle may appear with a label reading something like "MSWord Picture." This means the names are being inserted as "an object" and that they will not be editable.
    If this happens, go to Edit, Undo (or Ctrl+Z) to clear the cell. Now go to Edit and choose Paste Special. Here you'll be given the choice of pasting in the list as "Unformatted Text" or as "HTML Formatted Text." You can then choose whichever would work best for your project.

July 20

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One of my favorite persons passed away this past week.

I met the Cuban singer Celia Cruz quite by accident during a 1951 trip to Havana. The brief meeting was so special to me that once I posted a little story about it on this site.

Imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call last year from a TV station in Miama saying they wanted to fly me there for a reunion with Ms. Cruz. They had somehow found my obscure little posting, and insisted that I was needed for a surprise testimonial they were preparing for the singer.   (Click for the whole story...)

"Internet Explorer" vs "Windows Explorer"
    If you've ever wondered about the difference between "Internet Explorer" and "Windows Explorer," the former is a "browser" used for accessing the Internet, while the latter is a "file management" system used to keep track of the files and folders on our computers. Most folks have learned that clicking the blue "e" on their Desktop can take them to an Internet site (once they're connected) but many have limited knowledge about accessing any local files or folders other than those seen on their Desktops.

Here's a brief overview Windows Explorer:
    Right-click Start and then left-click Explore. A double-paned window will appear, displaying a collection of icons in the left pane, with "Desktop" at the head of the list. One of icons below will identify your computer's C-Drive (hard disk).
    Think of your C-Drive as a huge filing cabinet containing dozens of yellow folders, each of which can contain other folders along with countless files of all kinds. If you don't see your C-drive icon, click the plus sign (+) to the left of "My Computer."
    If the C-Drive has a minus sign (-) you will see a collection of yellow folders displayed below it. If you see a plus sign, clicking it will bring the folders into view.
    You will notice that some of these folders are also marked by plus signs, which means they contain other folders. Clicking a folder's plus sign will change it to a minus sign and display the folders nested therein, some of which may have plus signs of their own.

Learn by Experimenting
    Experiment by clicking various plus and minus signs to see what happens. Doing so can show you the locations of all the folders on your hard drive. However, no files will ever be displayed in the left pane; they will always be displayed in the right pane when you double-click a folder.
    If doing so doesn't display a list of files in the right pane, click the message that says, "Show All Files" (or words to that effect).
    So what's the advantage to seeing our files and folders displayed in this double-paned window? Well, for one thing, you'll discover items you probably didn't know you have. But the main advantage lies in being able to easily move files and folders from one location to another. If you want to move a file into a different folder, just drag it from the right pane into any target folder - or drag it onto the A-Drive icon if you want to copy it onto a 3-1/2" disk.
    This is just the tip of the Windows Explorer iceberg; but a little practice will have you using it in all kinds of worthwhile ways.

Disguising Documents
    Dave Tuson wrote that a means he uses to shield certain documents from prying eyes is to delete a file's 3-letter extension. Removing .DOC from an MSWord filename, for instance, changes its familiar "Blue W" icon into a generic one that doesn't reveal what program was used to create the file.
    Good idea - but not necessarily foolproof. A filename thus altered, when double-clicked, will normally generate an error message asking what program you want to open it. An MSWord file, however, will open in its usual way. (This does not happen with WordPerfect documents.)

Create Your Own Extensions
    In fact, you can create your own extensions for Word (or Excel) files, and they will still open normally.
    An exception to the rule would be changing .DOC to .TXT, since .TXT is a universal extension that can be used to make nearly any file partially legible.

Use a Password
    However, you can assign password protection to Word files. When going to "File, Save As" you can click on Tools and go to General Options, where you'll find a box for inserting a password to "open" the document, along with a second password that could be required to "modify" it.

Expanding MSWord's "Recently Used File List"
    Speaking of Word, Charlene Chavez wrote asking how to increase the number of previous filenames displayed when "File" is clicked. Most programs display only the four most recent filenames, but in Word you can go to Tools, Options, General, and change the number of "Recently Used Files" to anything up to nine.

July 15

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Toggling Between Your Desktop & Wherever Else You May Be
    John Naranjo wrote to say the "Desktop" icon disappeared from his Taskbar and asked how to get it back. I told John to go to Start, Find/Search, Files & Folders, and to type in SHOW DESKTOP. He would then be able to drag the found icon onto his Taskbar.
    Clicking this particular icon immediately returns you to your opening Desktop, no matter how many task windows may be open at the moment. Clicking it again will reverse the action. However, pressing D, while holding down the "Windows" key, will do the same thing.

Finding Things on Your PC
    Speaking of Start, Find (Search in WinXP and WinME), I use this feature constantly to locate various items. When unsure of a missing file's exact name, typing in part of it will often do the job. If you're looking for, say, an MSWord file that you think was named HOMEWORK.DOC, typing in either HOME or WORK will find all files containing those character strings.
    You can also use an asterisk (*) as a "wild card" to help in your search. If you're unsure of a filename's spelling you could type in, say, AF*AN, to find files named AFRICAN, AFGHAN or AFGHANISTAN. (Capital letters are used here only for emphasis; searches ignore capitalization unless you choose Advanced Options, Case Sensitive.)
    Using a 3-letter extension can narrow the search to a particular kind of file. Typing SCHEDULE.XLS would find only Excel files with names such as, say, 2003 SCHEDULE OF EVENTS.XLS.

Why Some Searches Fail
    One of the reasons searches sometimes fail is that the Search box says to only look inside certain folders, such as My Documents. Change this to search the entire C-Drive. Folks with multiple hard drives can also select C-Drive & D-Drive, etc.

Searching in a Particular Folder
    If you do want to search only one specific folder, you can right-click it and choose Find or Search from the popup menu.
    One of the best features of the Find/Search command is what you can do with a file once it's found. You can double-click the file to open it, or you can drag it onto your Desktop or into, say, your My Documents folder. You could also drag it onto the A-Drive icon inside My Computer to copy the file onto a 3-1/2" disk.

    If you fancy one of the games that come with Windows, you can launch it faster when its icon is more accessible. Searching for, say, FREECELL, will mean you can drag the found icon directly onto your Desktop.

Changing a File's Name
    You can also change a file's name (or a folder's name) by right-clicking it and choosing Rename from the popup menu, or by simply pressing F2 after single-clicking the name. However, I don't use either of these methods. I prefer to single-click a filename, wait a second, and single-click it again, which then makes the label editable.
    A cardinal rule of name-changing, however, is to NEVER change a filename's extension unless you absolutely know how doing so will affect the file's properties. If your filenames don't happen to show their extensions, you can go to to learn how to fix this.

Finding Text on a Web Page
    Getting back to searches, pressing Ctrl+F will bring up the Find option on any Web page, as well as in many kinds of documents, such as spreadsheets or text files. Type in a word or a partial word to find the character string inside the document.
    In many documents Ctrl+F also displays a Find & Replace option, wherein you can type say, Street, and have it changed to, say, Avenue. Choosing "Replace All" would change every occurrence of Street in the document. Most Microsoft documents also use Ctrl+H as a Find & Replace function.
    On a Web page Ctrl+F looks for actual text, and will NOT find words or phrases that are part of a graphic of some kind.
    Outlook Express user Dan Baumbaugh wrote to ask how to change the way his name reads in the FROM line on outgoing email. This is done by going to Tools, Accounts, Mail and clicking the Properties tab. Whatever appears in the Name field can be changed, but one normally needs to get his ISP's approval to do this - so it's best to have their Tech Support on the phone when you're ready to make the change.

July 13

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Weeding Out Your System Tray
    An important computer maintenance step we can all take is to remove the unneeded program shortcuts found in our System Tray (the collection of icons near the Taskbar's digital clock ). An example might be AOL, which is sometimes pre-installed on a new PC, even though the buyer has no intention of using it. Right-clicking the icon should display something like, "Do you want AOL to begin the next time you start your computer?" Personally, I choose NO, and just launch AOL when I intend to use it.
    Right-clicking the other icons may or may not offer similar startup choices, but Win98 and WinXP users can find these shortcuts by going to Start, Run and typing in MSCONFIG. Click on the Startup tab and UNcheck the programs you don't want running in the background.
    Keep in mind that all these items are actually "shortcuts" and that disabling them does not harm the underlying programs. If in doubt, try disabling one Startup item at a time, and reboot to see if you notice any undesirable change in performance. If so, simply recheck the item.

Shortcuts to Be Left in Place
    Programs that should be running in the background normally include ScanRegistry, SystemTray, LoadPowerProfile, Volume Control, along with your Virus Scanner (and your Firewall, if you're on a network).
    Win95 and Win2000 users do not have MSCONFIG - however, you can email me for information on how to disable unneeded startups in these versions of Windows.

Email Doesn't Necessarily Need an Attachment to Give You a Virus
    We used to be reasonably sure of avoiding viruses by simply deleting any email bearing a suspicious attachment, since opening the attachment was how we could get infected. The Bugbear virus, however, can be embedded directly in an email; and I've received several recently. Fortunately, my updated Norton Anti-Virus alerts me whenever one arrives, whereupon I delete the email and then empty my Deleted Items folder.
    One of the things Bugbear does is make your mouse act erratically, to the point where you may have little control over it. If this has happened to you, here's how to get a free online fix, using your keyboard to get you to the TrendMicro House Call Anti-Virus site.

Getting to TrendMicro without Your Mouse
    Press your Windows key to open your Start menu. You can now use your arrow keys to get you to Internet Explorer, or simply press your "I" key. Next, press Enter to launch Internet Explorer. Now press your Tab key once to get into the browser's URL (Web address) field. Finally, type: and press Enter.
    When the TrendMicro site opens, click on "Scan Now." Yes, you need your mouse to do this, since there is no easy keyboard way of doing it. My experience has been, however, that even though the mouse is behaving erratically, you can eventually get your cursor to the place that needs to be clicked.
    Finally, you will need to click the "Local Disk (C)" box, the "Auto Clean" box, and the "SCAN" button. The scan can take an hour or longer; but when it's done it will prompt you on how to deal with any virus that may be found.

Full-Time Protection Is Better
    It's nice being able to get this free fix to delete a virus you've already contracted, but having an updated anti-virus program onboard to zap them as they arrive is really the way to go. Which one is best? Well, I like Norton, but there are lower-priced ones such as Panda, as well as a free one called AVG If you type anti-virus into Google's search box, you can find others to check out. Cable & DSL Users Need a Firewall
    Speaking of protecting your PC, you also need a firewall if you use a cable or a DSL connection. Firewalls are not for keeping out viruses, but can keep "hackers" from accessing your computer. Several companies sell firewalls, but the free one from Zone Labs works fine for me. (Look for the " Free ZoneAlarm® - Click here" link in the middle of the page.)
    "Norton Utilities" has both anti-virus software and a firewall, along with several other maintenance tools. These tools are great for technicians; but I've seen them cause more problems for non-technical users than they solve. I find that using Windows ScanDisk (CHKDSK in WinXP) and Defrag regularly are all the PC maintenance I need. However, if you've had trouble using ScanDisk and Defrag, a page of special instructions can be found at

A Word of Caution...
    A firewall can keep you from doing some of your normal chores, such as sending and receiving email, if you don't have its options set correctly. A firewall's default settings normally block any kind of access to the Internet, and will ask you if it's OK each time an access is requested.
    To certain requests, such as transmitting email, you would normally choose "Say YES Each Time This Request Is Made" (or words to that effect). However, if you've accidentally chosen NO to, say, accessing a new browser you just installed, you can go crazy trying to figure out why you can't get online with it. If you're unsure of how to adjust your firewall's settings, uninstalling and reinstalling the firewall will often make it easier to set up anew.

July 8

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Creating a Checkmark (P)
    We talked recently about using the ALT key plus a 4-character code to generate special symbols. (Go to for a list of the more popular ones.) However, when Mac McGann wrote to ask if there is a way of creating a "checkmark" I had to do some looking, since it is not available among the dozens of ALT symbols. Anyway, I found that a checkmark can be created by typing a capital P, highlighting the letter and then choosing Wingdings 2 from the font list.
    To see all the symbols available in Wingdings, Wingdings 2, and other "special symbol" fonts, go to Start, Run and type CHARMAP to launch the Windows Character Map.
    By the way, Wingdings 2 is a font that nearly all Windows users have nowadays. If you don't have it, let me know and I'll tell you how you can get it.

Immediate Removal of Temporary Internet Files
    After I recently explained different ways to delete "temporary internet files," AL Nienhaus wrote that by double-clicking Internet Explorer and going to Tools, Internet Options, Advanced, Security, one can choose "Empty Temporary Internet Files Folder When Browser Is Closed." If you are sure you'll never need to access one of these files (which I occasionally do) this is a great way to keep them off your hard drive.

Having a Folder Fill the Screen Each Time It's Opened
    George Roberts asked if there is a way to always have folders open to fill the screen, without having to click on their "maximize" button each time (the little icon showing a square in a window's upper right corner).
    Well, Win98 users can double-click any folder and then go to View, Folder Options, View and check "Remember each folder's view settings." WinXP users will find this choice under Tools, Folder Options, View.
    One would think that this procedure would automatically apply to all folders once it's selected; but I've found it has to be done to each folder individually. If someone knows an easier way, we would love to hear about it.

Deleting Files
    George also said he clicked on Start, Find (Search in WinXP), and saw zillions of files listed that he didn't recognize and asked which ones could be safely deleted. Well, using the Find command without typing in a word or phrase to be searched can cause all files on a computer to be displayed. As for deleting any of them, most of what George saw were "program files" that are needed to make things work, and which should not be disturbed.
    For the average user, the only items that can normally be safely removed are one's own personal files and those listed in "Disk Cleanup" (which can be found by double-clicking My Computer, and then clicking on C-Drive, Properties).
    If your main reason for deleting files is to gain additional hard drive space you might want to invest in a program like Norton's Cleansweep, which will help you decide which ones can be safely removed.
    If you want to remove an entire program that's no longer needed, go to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs and follow the prompts. Some programs have an "uninstall.exe" option available inside their main folder - however, this file is sometimes named "unwise.exe" as a cute way to discourage you from using it.

Free OCR Program
    When I talked recently about OCR (Optical Character Recognition) programs, Don Rhea wrote to say that a free one is available from and that it has worked very well for him.

Free Bitmap Format Conversion Program
    When I recently mentioned that Irfanview is my favorite program for converting bitmaps from one format to another (such as BMP to JPG) Al Nuwer wrote that he found a freeware utility that will do this without even having to first open the picture. Pretty cool! "Pic2Pic" can be found at

Java Script Errors
    A question I hear frequently is: "Certain Web pages and some incoming email will generate 'Java Script Error' messages; how can this be fixed?"
    Well, there are a number of things that can cause this, but the following suggestions should solve the problem for most PC users.
    Internet Explorer users can go to Tools, Internet Options, Security and choose Internet Zone, Custom Level, Settings and change Java Script options to "Disable" or "Prompt."
    Netscape users can go to Edit, Preferences, Advanced and UNcheck the three items regarding "Enable Java Script."
    AOL and CompuServe users can go to Settings, Preferences, (Internet Properties) WWW, Security, Custom Level. The rest of the instructions are the same as for Internet Explorer.
    I must confess, however, to not being an authority on Java, and would love to hear from anyone who can suggest other ways of dealing with these error messages.

OE Stripping Attachments from Incoming Email
    A number of Outlook Express users have written to say that many incoming email attachments are being flagged as suspected virus-carriers and being arbitrarily deleted, even though they are legitimate files the recipient is expecting. This can be fixed by going to Tools, Options, Security, and UNchecking "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus."
    Having done this, however, one should always have an updated anti-virus program operational - especially in view of the fact that it's now possible to send a virus inside an email with no attachment. I've received several, and Norton Anti-Virus 2003 has saved me each time.

July 6

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Deleting Temporary Internet Files
    Beverly Bosch wrote to ask how to get rid of "Temporary Internet Files," those items that are stored on our hard drives whenever we visit a Web site.
    Well, one way is to double-click Internet Explorer and go to Tools, Internet Options, General, where you’ll find buttons to Delete Files and to Delete Cookies. Clicking the former will delete the files Beverly asked about. As for the latter, you can get some heated opinions on whether they should be there in the first place.

    Cookies are small text files often placed on our computers by businesses who take notes on our visiting patterns in order to, ostensibly, help us make decisions about buying their goods and services.
    Another use of cookies can be to "save a password" in case you want to access, say, Hotmail without having to type it in each time. Leave the cookie alone and save some typing, or delete it and go through the password ritual next time you want to check mail.
    Getting back to "Temporary Internet Files," they are placed on our computers to make accessing a previously-visited site faster and easier. Only a finite number of these files are kept on our hard drives, after which the oldest is deleted each time a new is added.
    Therefore, deleting them does little to increase one’s disk storage capacity since the emptied folder soon fills up again anyway. However, some folks routinely delete the files for privacy reasons, thus making it harder for others with access to the computer to see what sites have been visited.

Privacy Concerns
    If this is your concern, you might also want to click on "Clear History" as well as change the "Number of days pages are kept in History" to zero.

Disk Cleanup
    Finally, anyone to whom a regular purging of excess files is a top priority should also double-click My Computer and then right-click the "C Drive" icon. Next, click Properties, and then click Disk Cleanup where options for emptying other "Temp" folders and the "Recycle Bin" will also be found. Naturally, those who have data stored on additional hard drives should do the above for each one.

Couldn't Move Window
    Bob Owens called to say he was unable to move a window displayed on his screen, which was partially out of view. I explained that the blue bar along the window’s top edge is what needed to be "grabbed" in order to move the window. When Bob said this didn’t work, I suggested clicking on the "overlapping squares" icon in the window’s upper-right corner. "That did it!" was Bob’s delighted response.

Learn by Experimenting
    Learning how to use the three icons in the upper-right corner of a "task window" is "Computers 101" and I won’t say more about it here, except to suggest clicking the icons in various windows and taking notes on what happens each time you do.

Specifics on "Dragging Photos"
    Jane Marcotte wrote asking me to be more specific about "dragging photos" into an outgoing email, rather than having to use the "Insert" or "Attach" commands. OK – start by having the photos’ icons showing on your Desktop or inside an open folder that can be seen as you create an outgoing email. Finally, drag and drop the pictures into the main body of the email.
    With Outlook Express, the photos will be "attached" to the letter, and will be shown listed in a box marked "Attach." Furthermore, the pictures can be dragged individually or as a group.
    With AOL and CompuServe, the pictures can only be dragged one at a time, whereupon it/they will be displayed inside the body of the outgoing letter.
    As for Web-based email, such as Juno and Hotmail, I have not been able to make this work. Dragging a photo into one of these simply displays the picture inside your browser's window.

Another Thought on Emailing Photos
    Although emailing stacks of photos can be marvelously easy nowadays, not everyone appreciates the idea. One gentlemen wrote to tell of how an acquaintance routinely sends him bunches of pictures, which he is then expected to view and send back comments on. He went on to say he doesn’t know a tactful way to tell the sender that he is really not interested in these "family photos" and would prefer not to receive them.
    How would you handle this?

July 1

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Some Thoughts on Preparing an Email Newsletter
    Jim Bassett, Secretary of the “Subic Bay Marines“ wrote to say he has always used regular US mail to send periodic newsletters to the world-wide veterans’ group, but has recently been thinking of switching to email. He went on to say it costs about $1,000 to send printed mail to the organization’s approximately 2,000 members, and asked how I go about preparing this newsletter.
    Well, there is quite a bit of work involved; but it is much less than stuffing envelopes, applying postage, and waiting in line at the post office. In any case, here are some issues one needs to be aware of.
    The first is to recognize that all ISPs set limits on how much “bulk” email can be sent at one time. Their fear is that someone emailing 2,000 letters all at once is trying to sell something and that the advertising is probably unsolicited “spam.” I’ve had to show that my newsletter has nothing to sell and that the recipients have asked for the type of information being sent along.
    In addition, bulk-mailers are expected to send the messages out in small enough quantities that they won’t clog up the ISP’s system with too much mail from any one subscriber; and there needs to be an “opt-out” paragraph that makes it easy for recipients to unsubscribe.
    Finally, of course, one needs to keep his/her mailing list constantly updated, as a number of messages are returned from each batch, marked “undeliverable.”

Programs That I Use
   As for for the programs I use, I type into an MSWord document, and then copy and paste it into an HTML editor so that I can fine-tune the newsletter’s final appearance. (My favorite HTML-editor is 1st Page 2000.) Finally, I copy and paste this into Outlook Express.

I Rarely Use Any Email Program's Address Book
   As for an “address book,” I keep my email names in an MSWord file, from which I copy and paste the addresses into the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) box of the outgoing messages. I then put my own email address in the TO: box.
    Having explained this, I hasten to add that most people sending mail out in these quantities sign up with a mailing service and pay to have these chores done. For more specific details it's best to call me at (949) 646-8615.

Editing Scanned Text with "OCR"
    Joe Gallagher wrote to say he had scanned a “certificate” into MSWord, in hopes of being able to edit the text that appears under a company logo. However, the whole certificate came out as a "picture" with no way of editing the text.
    Right - scanners are designed to create "bitmap" images, meaning that they produce a collection of tiny squares that blend together to simulate a reproduction of the original document, be it a photo, a drawing, or a typewritten page.
    Well, all scanners come with software designed to let you edit these digital bitmaps, but most also come with something called Optical Character Recognition software. Just look for “OCR” in your scanning options.
    With this kind of program, your computer will attempt to take the tiny black squares that constitute alpha/numeric characters and turn them into editable text. The program will also look for word processing software on your computer, and then ask which program you'd like to use.
    Beyond this, most OCR programs are now smart enough recognize and reproduce spreadsheets, databases, and other types of tables. Thus, Excel may be among the program choices you'll see after doing an OCR scan.
    However, not all OCR programs are created equal; some are more sophisticated. TextBridge and OmniPage are said to be among the best. I'd check for comparative reviews.
    But no matter how good your software is, the output won't be any better than what you put in the scanner. For instance, the original should be positioned with its text running parallel to the scanner's edges. A typewritten page that is slightly skewed when inserted will make the text difficult to scan legibly.
    Beyond that, originals with red-lining, thumbprints and coffee stains will make it harder for the software to do its job.

June 29

Controlling the Display & Printing Properties of Digital Pictures
    A number of folks have been asking questions regarding the viewing and printing of digital snapshots. Bruce Sturzl asks how to display a picture "upright" that appears "sideways" because he had turned his camera 90 degrees before shooting. Others have said they want their "wide" pictures to be turned "sideways" so they will fit on a sheet of paper.
    Well, the answers to these questions have to do with the image-editing software one uses. However, there are dozens of these programs with dozens of different display options, and there is no way I can cover them all here. Nonetheless, I can tell you what to look for within these programs to help get the results you want.

Portrait & Landscape
    First some terminology: pictures that are taller than they are wide are referred to as "portrait" while those that are wider than they are tall are known as "landscape." (These terms also apply to any kind of paper document or screen display.)
    If an image on your screen is not automatically displayed "upside-up" look for a "Rotate" command in your program, with which you can turn the picture 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
    As for printing a picture, merely going to File/Print, or clicking on a "Printer" icon, should bring up a dialogue box that lets you see how the image will be laid out on the paper, and which lets you make adjustments if you are not satisfied with what you see. Sometimes these options will be found under "File, Printer Setup" or "File, Print Preview."

Easy with Windows XP
    Windows XP users, by default, have merely to double-click any image's icon to have it displayed in the "Windows Picture & Fax Viewer," where a Printer icon and two Rotate icons can be found near the bottom of the screen. Clicking Printer will launch a "Print Wizard," which will lead one through all the steps needed to generate a perfect printout.
    The Windows Picture & Fax Viewer, also has a built-in Slide Show feature, which gives a full-screen display of each picture in a given folder, and which changes from one image to the next with a mouse-click.

Effects of Airline X-Ray Scanners on Digital Equipment
    Speaking of digital cameras, Wilbur Bradley wrote to ask if data on their "picture/memory cards" can be damaged by x-ray scanners at airline terminals. Well, Research Sleuth Mary Hanson was told that, considering all the laptop computers, PDAs, and other electronic devices that get scanned, if any of their data were to get zapped the airlines would be in big trouble. The cameras and their memory cards are safe.

    Shelley Marler wrote to ask how to change her "Wallpaper." Well, what used to be called "Wallpaper" in earlier versions of Windows is now called the Desktop "Background" and can be accessed by right-clicking one's Desktop and choosing Properties. Here you'll find a number of Background options under "Themes," "Desktop," and "Appearance."
    If you make a "Themes" choice such as, say, "Jungle," not only will your Background have a tropical look, your task windows, title bars, and mouse pointers will be changed as well. This particular Theme uses a nearly illegible "junglish" font for its title bars, and is one I would definitely avoid.
    Not all computers have all the same "Themes" choices , but the more recent your version of Windows, the more options you have. You can even click on "More Themes Online" under "Themes."

Using a Favorite Photo
    You can also use a favorite photo as your Background. In older versions of Windows you had to drag the picture into the C:\Windows folder, where only BMP files would be recognized. Now, however, you can click on Browse, under Desktop, and go to the folder containing your bitmap photo, whose filename extension can be JPG or GIF or nearly any other.
    Finally, you can choose Center, Tile or Stretch from the "Position" menu. "Center" will place the picture in the middle of your Desktop, while "Stretch" will expand it out to all four edges. "Tile" will replicate the picture across your screen like a sheet of postage stamps.
    With all these colorful options, I choose "None" under "Background" and "Black" under "Color," which gives me a solid black screen with easy-to-read white text under each icon. With the amount of PC work I do, I prefer efficiency over eye candy.

June 24

Email Printouts that are Too Small or Too Large
    Kathleen Flones wrote to say she receives email in all different font sizes; but when she prints them the printouts are so tiny they can hardly be read. Dr. Kris of Fallbrook wrote to say he has the opposite problem and mentioned that my two-page newsletter came out on six pages.
    Well, the things that can go wrong between what you view in an email and what you see coming off your printer are too numerous to list here; however, there is one sure way to have control over a printout: Copy and Paste the message into a word processing document.
    Click inside the email message and do Ctrl+A (to Select ALL of it) and then do Ctrl+C to Copy it. Finally, click inside a blank word processing page and do Ctrl+V to Paste the message in.
    Having done this, you can now (1) highlight the text and choose any font size and style you prefer, (2) go to File, Page Setup and choose your page margin settings, and (3) go to File, Print Preview and see exactly how the finished printout will appear on a sheet of paper.
    Some older printers may have mechanical settings that don't always acknowledge your font preferences, but modern inkjet or laser printers will always give you the exact layout seen in Print Preview.

Adding a "Smiley" to Your Message IJ

    Ed Wentz wrote to ask how to insert "smiley faces" into his email. Well, many email services, such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, now have colorful "emoticons" built into their programs. IncrediMail comes with animated emoticons, as well as all kinds of other lively clipart.
    Personally, my email load is way too heavy to include any of this colorful cuteness, but if I do feel compelled to add a smiley I use the Wingdings font.
    To try it out, type a capital I and J into an email, instant message, or word processing document. Next, mouse-select the IJ and then choose Wingdings from your Font menu. The I will turn into a hand and the J will become a smiley face, resulting in in what you see above. Choosing a large font size, say 36 points, and a color like pink or orange can make the effect even more impressive.
    Choosing K and L will give you two other Wingding faces: KL

IncrediMail Is Really Quite Incredible
    If you are really into creating colorful communications, IncrediMail has some mind-boggling features. IncrediMail is free, if you don't mind the little ad they put on each outgoing message, but is ad-free if you buy the program.
    The program uses an Outlook Express-like interface and copies all your OE folders and messages into this interface. The company also says they are developing an "add-on" version to work with OE and are looking for beta-testers to help them get it completed. Details can be found at

Finding Free Clipart
    Helgard Deuel wrote asking where to find animated clipart to use with her email. Well, I have a variety of waving US flags on my site at, and all kinds of animations can be found by going to a search engine such as and typing in "FREE ANIMATED CLIPART." Some sites will try to sell you artwork, but tons of free stuff is available if you take time to look. When you find a clip you like, simply right-click it and choose "Save Picture (or Save Target) As."
    By default, downloaded art will go into your My Pictures folder. However, you can choose a different folder and/or change the name of the file before clicking "Save." When ready to add art to a message, choose Insert or Attach and browse your way to the target item. Animated GIF files will be seen in motion by the recipient.

Editing Animated GIF Files
    If you're adventurous enough to want to edit an animated GIF, go to and use their free online tools. Go to File, File Open, and then click the "Browse" button. Find the target picture and then click "Upload Image."
    The item will then appear in a special window with various menu choices. I often want to make a large animation smaller, so I choose Edit, Resize and type my preferences into the dialog box that appears, followed by clicking "Save."
    Finally, I right-click the new, smaller version of the animation and choose "Save Picture As," whereupon it joins its larger parent in my Desktop My Pictures folder.

See the Email Address Associated with Someone's Name
    A number of folks have asked how to see someone's actual email address when only their name appears on an incoming message. Right-click the name and choose "Properties" to see this info.

June 22

"Bugbear" Virus Can Arrive in Email Without an Attachment
    A deadly new virus called W32.Bugbear.B@mm is currently being circulated and can infect your computer if you simply view an email that contains it. I decided to install the latest Norton Update and have seen a number of these (and other viruses) stopped dead in their tracks. To learn more about this virus go to:
    Please do not confuse the "Bugbear" virus with the "Teddy Bear" hoax that has been circulating for several months - the one where you are told to delete a file that has a "Teddy Bear" icon, but which is actually a Windows system file.

Converting Large BMP Files to Compact JPG Files
    Betty Smallfelt wrote to ask how to turn her bulky BMP files into smaller JPG files. Well, there was a time when BMP was about the only bitmap format Windows would recognize; but JPG is now preferred by most users because of its ability to display high-quality images with much smaller file sizes.
    Converting a BMP file to a JPG is simply a matter of opening it with a bitmap-editor and going to File, Save As, from where "JPG" would be chosen in the "Save As Type" drop-down menu. The easiest way for a Win98 user to open a BMP file (or any other bitmap file) is to simply double-click it. WinXP users need to right-click the image's icon and choose "Open With," from where one or more bitmap-editing programs can be chosen.
    There was also a time when "Windows Paint" was the only image-editor available to most of us; but nowadays there are dozens of such programs around -- and there is no way I can list all their various idiosyncrasies here. However, some programs require us to use "File, Export" instead of "File, Save As."

Information About GIF Files
    Another "bitmap format" that's often misunderstood is GIF. Well, unlike BMPs and JPGs, which can use millions of colors, GIFs are limited to 256. This keeps their file sizes small and makes them ideal for Web-page drawings. The GIF format is also the one used for simple animated drawings seen on the Internet and in emails.
    These animations are actually a series of "frames," similar to those used on movie film, and will continue to "move" when copied and pasted in their entirety. If, however, you try to edit an animated GIF, you will most likely end up with a single, still frame (unless you have GIF animation software and know how to use it).
    With the proliferation of scanners and digital cameras nowadays, sharing pictures via email is becoming increasingly more prevalent. There was a time when only one picture could be attached to an email, but now we can attach an album-full nearly as easily as attaching one. Here are a couple of shortcuts for doing this faster.

Shortcut for Attaching Multiple Pictures to an Email
    Depending on your email program, there will be an "Insert Picture" or "Attach File" option somewhere. After clicking it, you can "browse" to the folder holding the images. The usual way to attach them is to click them one at a time and follow the "Insert" or "Open" option that's displayed. Double-clicking a picture will usually let you skip the "Insert/Open" button.
    But this is faster: click on a picture's icon and then hold down your CTRL key while clicking the others. Finally, click the "Insert/Open" button to attach/insert all the selected files all at once. If the files are listed contiguously, you can click the first and last one while holding down SHIFT to accomplish the same thing.
    Another shortcut is to simply "drag and drop" the files directly into the body of the outgoing email.
    No, these procedures won't work with all email programs - but they work great with Outlook Express and are definitely worth a try.

File Size Limitations
    Yes, different ISPs and email clients impose file-size limitations, which can stop multiple pictures from reaching their destinations. However, I've explained previously how "cropping" pictures can trim their sizes, and have archived these instructions at
    Joe Ellis has asked if there is a "master list" of icons available that explains what each one stands for. No, there is not - simply because almost any file can have any icon assigned to it. Furthermore, you can change a file's icon to one you like better, and you can even create your own icons. More details on this in an upcoming newsletter.

June 17

Using the ALT Key for Special Character Codes
    Regarding my recently saying that the ALT key is not used as much as it used to be, Leonie Mist wrote to remind me that it can be used with the numeric keypad to generate all kinds of special symbols not found on our keyboards. Tom Marmolejo sent the same reminder, along with a list of some of his most-used symbols (which I've added to my "Special Key Combinations" chart that can be easily downloaded from

Try Them For Yourself
    In case you're not familiar with this concept, launch your favorite word processor and hold down your ALT key while typing 0162 on your "keypad." (Using the numeral keys along the top of your keyboard won't do it.) ALT+0162 will generate the familiar "cents" symbol (¢).
    ALT+0169 will create the © (Copyright) symbol, while ALT+0176 will produce the "degrees" (°) sign used in weather forecasts and cooking recipes. Furthermore, all the special characters used in Spanish, French and most other European languages can be created with these ALT codes.
    So where does one find a list of these codes? Well, the Windows "Character Map" displays a chart of all available symbols; and clicking on any symbol will display its ALT code in the chart's lower right corner. This "map" can be found by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Character Map.
    It can also be displayed by clicking on Start, Run and typing in CHARMAP.
    MSWord has a similar chart, which can be displayed by clicking Insert, Symbol. Once the Character Map or MSWord Symbol chart is displayed, whatever font you prefer can be selected from a drop-down menu. MSWord also offers a "Normal Text" option, which works with nearly all fonts.
    These charts are designed to let you copy and paste their special symbols into words or phrases as needed.

Which Method Is Better?
    So which is easier - copying and pasting individual symbols, or typing in their ALT codes?
    Well, it depends on one's own typing preferences. If you're good at memorizing four-digit codes, the ALT method might be easier, whereas keeping a floating CHARMAP window alongside a text document in progress might work better for others.
    I used to teach Spanish for Palomar College, and found that using MSWord's "AutoCorrect" tools can be an even more comprehensive way of doing all this. I would enter a word such as senorita in the REPLACE box, and then put señorita in the corresponding WITH box. From then on, the former would be automatically replaced by the latter each time I typed it in. MSWord users can go to Tools, AutoCorrect to install such entries.
    MSWord's "AutoCorrect" feature was originally designed to automatically fix common typos, such as turning "recieve" into "receive." However, it can also be used to cut down on repetitive typing by changing, say, fpcug into Fallbrook PC Users Group, or by turning your initials into, say, your complete name, address, and zip code.
    If your initials happen to spell a regular word, then making a minor adjustment in this kind of a "code" might be needed. For instance, Bob O. Young could use bboy instead of boy. AutoCorrect possibilities are really limited only by your own imagination.

More on Special Key Combos
    Getting back to "special key combinations," Eric Fletcher sent a list of his MSWord favorites, such as using SHIFT+F3 to change a phrase from "ALL CAPS" to "all lower case" to "Capitalizing the first word of a phrase." Eric's list can also be found at
    Another nice feature of MSWord, in case you haven't yet discovered it, is the way it will undo your CAPS LOCK key, if you've accidentally left it engaged. In most programs, using your SHIFT key to capitalize certain words will look something like this: "tODAY IS tUESDAY, jUNE 17" if the CAPS LOCK key is unknowingly engaged. MSWord will automatically disengage this key and turn your typing into: "Today is Tuesday, June 17."
    Wouldn't it be nice if this feature was built into all text editors and email programs?
    Speaking of lists, Joe Ellis wrote to ask if there is one that explains what all the different icons mean. No, there is not; but I'll say more about icons next time, which will include tips on changing them and even on making your own.

June 15

Icons Mysteriously Vanished
    Lionel Lizarraga wrote to ask how to retrieve certain icons which mysteriously disappeared from his Outlook Express toolbar. I don't know why the icons vanished, but the OE Toolbar can be rearranged to one's liking by going to View, Layout, Customize Toolbar. Here you can also choose large or small icons, as well as which Folders will be displayed when you launch OE.

Names Added to Your Address Book When Not Wanted
    If you have ever wondered why new names keep appearing in your OE Address Book, a default setting under Tools, Options, Send reads: "Automatically put people I reply to in my Address Book." UNcheck this setting if you prefer to add names just when you want to.

Why I Keep My Email Address List in a "Word" File
    Personally, I never use any email program's Address Book. I keep all my contacts' names (several thousands of them) in a word processing document, from where they can be copied and pasted in as needed. This way I never have to worry about "Exporting" or "Importing" an Address Book from one email program to another.

What Are All Those Special Keys For?
    Since recently mentioning that pressing the WIN (Windows logo) key along with PAUSE/BREAK will take you to Device Manager, a number of folks have asked what some of the other special keys are for.
    Well, in the early days of computers most commands were executed by typing in lengthy strings of characters, followed by pressing ENTER. Eventually, a number of Function keys (F1, F2, etc.) were added to reduce the amount of typing needed to make things happen.
    With the introduction of the mouse, however, clicks and double-clicks were soon executing nearly all the commands that had previously been done from the keyboard, thus making the Function keys somewhat redundant.

Rather Redundant, But Not Radically Rejected
    Nevertheless, the keys are still with us and some of them can be actually be quite handy.
    F1, for instance, brings up HELP in most programs. F7 initiates the Spell Checker in Microsoft applications, while SHIFT+F7 brings up the Thesaurus. In many programs, F5 generates a Find & Replace window while F12 brings up the Save As window.
    Pressing the WIN key by itself is the same as clicking the Start button, while WIN+E launches Windows Explorer, WIN+R brings up the Run command and WIN+F initiates the various Find/Search options.
    The CTRL key, when pressed with certain other keys, can generate all kinds of editing commands. Some of the most-used combinations are CTRL plus X, C, and V for Cut, Copy, and Paste, respectively. "V" is for "Paste" simply because it comes right after X and C, and because it's used so often. CTRL+P is for Print.
    CTRL+A selects ALL of a document, while CTRL+S Saves the file. CTRL pressed with HOME or END will take you to the very Top or the very End of an open file or Web page.

Mystery Key
    Probably our least understood key is the one showing a tiny arrow overlapping a miniature page. This is the "Right-Click" key, and it will do what right-clicking your mouse would do in any given circumstance.

Virtually Worthless in Windows
    The "INS" (Insert) key, in my opinion, could be eliminated altogether, since it is not helpful in Windows. It can be useful in DOS; but when pressed accidentally in Windows, it puts you into the "overtype" mode, which means: Trying to add typing inside a phrase will cause characters to the cursor's right to be "swallowed up" rather than pushed to the right to make room for the new typing. Pressing "INS" again, however, will get you out of this keyboard quagmire.

    (Some programs let you use the INS key as a PASTE button - but I have one of my Microsoft Optical Mouse buttons programmed to do pasting - and I find this to be much easier and more efficient.)

    Speaking of DOS, the PAUSE/BREAK key will pause the scrolling of what often seems like endless lines of data, while another tap will resume the scrolling.

What Is the ALT Key Good For?
    The ALT key is another that is now mostly redundant. Were it not for the occasional need to press CTRL+ALT+DELETE (to break out of a computer lock-up) or ALT+F4 (to close something, or shut down the comupter) it would rarely be used anymore. In pre-mouse days, however, ALT was used with other keys to activate many different commands.
    As an example, launch any program and look at the toolbar that appears at the top of the window. Notice the underscored letters, such as "F" in File and "E" in Edit. Pressing a letter thus underlined, while holding down ALT, will display the corresponding File or Edit MENU, which will then display additional words with underlined key letters, that can be activated by pressing the corresponding key while holding down ALT.

    Regarding all these "special key" options, a very handy chart can be freely downloaded from

June 10

Dial-Up Modem Problem
    Connie Knox called to ask if I had a suggestion for fixing her dial-up modem, which had suddenly stopped working. Well, I'm not a technician and, even if I were, trouble-shooting hardware failures on the phone is very iffy. Nonetheless, there is one thing we can always try when an internal peripheral, such as a modem or a CD drive, stops working.

Possible Fix for Internal Hardware Problems
    Press your Windows key and Pause/Break key simultaneously to bring up System Properties. Next choose Hardware, Device Manager and look for the problem peripheral in the list that appears. Clicking on the item's plus (+) sign may display additional choices.
    When you find the specific device, right-click it and choose Uninstall (or Delete) from the popup menu. Next, click OK when asked to confirm this action. Finally, go to Start, Shutdown, Restart.
    As the computer reboots you should see a message saying that new hardware has been found and is being installed.
    There is no guarantee this will work in all instances, but I've seen it work in many, many cases. Connie called back to say it worked perfectly for her.
    If the above doesn't do the job, you can open your computer's case and look for things such as loose peripheral or cable connections (depending on your comfort level about getting inside the PC). If you actually have to replace a device that's gone bad, those that come on a "card" (such as most modems) can usually be installed fairly easily. Check your warranty first, however.

Blowing Out the Lint & Dust Can Solve Some Hardware Problems
    Fixing a floppy drive that has stopped working can be as simple as using a can of compressed air with a straw to blow out dust, lint and pet hairs that may have accumulated inside. The compressed air is also great for keyboards which may have debris stuck under or between the keys. Whenever I have to open my desktop's case for some reason, I also use the compressed air to clean out its insides.

Windows 98 Feeling May Be Feeling Its Age
    Speaking of system failures, one of the things that has been discovered about Windows 98 is that it sort of "wears out" over time, and that reinstalling it is sometimes the easiest way to fix problems such as the infamous "blue screen of death," which mentions an "Illegal Operation" and suggests shutting down the computer.
    If you have your original Windows 98 disc, just placing it in your CD drive will normally give you a display that prompts you through the reinstallation. Such a reinstallation will never harm your personal files, although it's always prudent to have your important documents backed up on other media, anyway.
    One peculiarity of reinstalling Windows, however, is that changes made in certain operating procedures might be left unaltered, rather than replaced by the original Windows defaults. This issue can be circumvented by renaming a file called WIN.COM, before initiating the reinstallation. The file is located inside the C:\WINDOWS folder, and can be renamed to, say, WIN.MOC by right-clicking its icon and choosing Rename. (This will preserve the file as a backup whose name can be changed back, if needed.)

Be Careful with "System Restore" Discs
    If your computer came with "System Restore" discs, rather than a Win98 CD, you will need to check out all the prompts very carefully. Some "restore" discs will erase everything on your hard drive, including your personal files, while others will offer to restore only specific Windows files. Read your owner's manual for details.

Dealing with a Dead Mouse
    Another problem I often hear is "My mouse suddenly stopped working. What can I do?" Well, if the mouse is connected by a USB cable, simply unplugging and replugging it may do the job. If this doesn't work, try the Device Manager procedure explained above.
    But how can the PC be shut down and restarted in the "prescribed way" if the mouse is dead? Just press your ALT and F4 keys simultaneously.
    ALT+F4 will normally close any open window or file. Another ALT+F4 will close any open program and additional ALT+F4's will lead to the familiar "Shut Down" screen.
    If the rodent is truly dead, I'd recommend replacing it with a 4-button Microsoft Optical job. Any mouse that uses a rolling ball will eventually get clogged with dust and lint. An optical mouse has no moving parts.

Don't Forget to Run Scandisk & Defrag Periodically
    Other computer slow-down problems can often be fixed by simply doing ScanDisk and Defrag periodically. Details can be found at

June 8

Advantages of Using Thumbnails

    As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite features of WinXP is that it offers "Thumbnail" views of all bitmap files, which is very handy for manipulating one's digital photos. Win98 users can also see Thumbnail views in a selected folder by right-clicking it, choosing Properties, and then by clicking "Enable Thumbnail View."
    Some of us, however, would like to be able to see Thumbnails of our "vector" graphics as well as of our "bitmap" images. Users of Paint Shop Pro can do this by right-clicking their Start button and choosing Browse with PSP. This will display Thumbnails of AI and CDR (Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw) files along with others such as CGM files.

"PSP" - Full Featured, Moderately Priced Painting & Drawing Program

    PSP sells for about $100 and has the same high-end features in programs selling for many times its price, such as Adobe PhotoShop and Corel PhotoPaint. A 30-day evaluation version of PSP can be freely downloaded from, and I just discovered they are currently offering a $30 rebate on the program. Jasc is also reputed to be very good about giving free phone support.
    I have PSP, but also use several other image-editors. Why? Well, professional bitmap-editing has become the digital replacement for what used to be done by photography technicians in the darkroom; and learning to use all the features of a high-end program has become an art form requiring many, many hours of study.
    I've never taken a course in photo-editing, but I have picked up a number of tricks over the years that are available in a variety of free programs. Whenever possible, I try to pass these no-cost or low-cost tips along to readers of this column. For those interested in becoming bitmap professionals, many community colleges and high school ROP classes are offered nowadays in programs such as Adobe PhotoShop.

Free Slide Show Viewer

    Speaking of free programs, a number of readers have asked if I can recommend one that allows them to display their photos as a "slide show." John Rudell wrote to suggest Xnview, a versatile image-viewer which has this feature along with several other handy functions. The program can be downloaded from
    Upon clicking the Slide Show icon, you'll be asked whether you want the images to be displayed automatically, with your choice of how many seconds each slide will be shown, or manually with your mouse. Using a mouse left-click will display the slides alphabetically while a right-click will show them in reverse order. You can also opt to display them in a random sequence.
    Xnview also lets you rotate pictures with single-click 45-degree turns or by a specified number of degrees. By choosing Auto-View you can see each one-degree turn as you click it. This can be very handy if you are, say, wanting a flagpole to point straight up, but are unsure of how many degrees of rotation your snapshot needs to accomplish this.
    Xnview also lets you lighten or darken pictures, along with offering features for enhancing them that are too numerous to list here. The program also displays animated GIF files in full motion.

I Use Both XnView & Irfanview

    I also use Irfanview, which is very similar to Xnview. Why use both? Well, Irfanview is faster with certain features I use very often; such as cropping, copying and pasting.
    An example might be a digital snapshot that has lots of sky and grass showing, when all I want is to feature the person in the center of the shot. Double-clicking the snapshot's icon opens it immediately in Irfanview, since this is my default imaging program.
    Next I crop the main subject by drawing a box around it with my mouse. (In most programs one would first have to click on a "Select" tool.) Next I "cut" the selection by clicking the Scissors in the Toolbar. Finally, I click Edit, Paste, and the cropped image immediately replaces the original without my having to choose "Paste as a New Image" (or some similar phrase).
    Saving a few seconds from the time required to do this in other programs may not sound like much, but if you do it as many times as I do in the course of a day, it all adds up. Irfanview can be freely downloaded at

June 3

Using a Folder Other Than "My Documents"

Regarding a recent column in which I described how to use "File, Save As" to store email messages in different document formats, Bruce R. STÜRZL, Jr. wrote to ask if there is a way to save them automatically in a folder other than "My Documents."

Well, Microsoft created this folder as a catch-all for documents created with any of their application; but you can designate a different default folder from within any MSOffice program. In MSWord, for instance, go to Tools, Options, File Locations and click "Modify" to change any or all of the defaults shown there.

If you want to create a special default folder for files created with non-MSOffice programs, but which normally go to "My Documents" and which do not have the "Modify" option, do the following:

Open "My Documents" with a double-click. Then click on File, New, Folder. Type in a name for your new folder and press ENTER. From then on, whenever you go to "File, Save As," the "My Documents" folder will open and display your special folder, which can then be opened with a double-click. Beyond this, you can create other special folders inside "My Documents."

Since "My Documents" is displayed on everyone's desktop, this is really a very handy way of keeping track of folders and files that are accessed frequently. To open a previously created file, all you need do is double-click "My Documents," then double-click any special folder and, finally, double-click the target file.

Not All "Folders" Work the Same Way

Concerning email, I realize the term "folder" can be somewhat confusing. Outlook Express, for example, comes with several default folders and also lets you create additional folders by right-clicking any existing one, choosing New Folder, and typing in a name for it.

Messages can then be dragged from one's "Inbox" folder into any other folder. Furthermore, messages can be dragged from any folder into any other folder. Also, they can be Sent or Copied to other folders using choices from the right-click menu.

What tends to be confusing, however, is that these folders are different from the yellow ones we see on our Desktop or inside other folders (such as "My Documents") and they can NOT be dragged onto the Desktop nor into any Windows Explorer-type folder.

However, individual OE messages CAN be dragged onto your Desktop or into any Windows Explorer-type yellow folder. Messages thus moved will have an .EML filename extension and can be opened with a double-click.

Why Can't We Do the Same Thing with OE Folders?

Well, these folders are compressed into a special type of file and given the extension .DBX. These compressed files are full of special coding and can only be opened and read easily from within OE. However, these DBX files are the ones we use if we want to copy a complete set of OE files and folders from one computer to another.

Information on manipulating DBX files can be found in my Jan. 21, 2003 column, which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

AOL and CompuServe users can also create special folders for saving messages; but, as with OE, these folders cannot be easily opened and read outside the parent program. Nonetheless, individual messages can be saved outside of AOL or CS by going to File, Save As and assigning them a name and location. In fact, using this "Save As" rule works with messages in all email programs, although the choice of "file types" may vary slightly from one program to another. Nonetheless, they will all offer TXT and HTML as choices. Consider using the former for "plain text" messages and the latter for "specially formatted" messages.

More on "File Associations"

In a recent description of how to associate an icon with a particular program, I said that WinXP lets us do this by right-clicking the icon and choosing "Open With."

Helmut Wilck wrote to say this can also be done within Win98 by doing the following:

First left-click the filename to highlight it, and then do a right-click while holding down SHIFT. After that you'll find "Open With" options similar to those found in WinXP.

Thanks, Helmut!

Making Your Photos Lighter or Darker

Gene Johnson wrote to ask how to lighten photos that appear too dark on his screen. Well, most image-editors have "Brightness" and "Contrast" options for making such adjustments. You can go to "Help" to find the location of these options in your particular program.

In "Irfanview" (the free image-editor I use for doing this) the command is found under Image, Enhance Colors. Here you will also find a sliding bar for "Gamma Correction" which makes lightening and darkening photos easy to do. For a free copy of this handy program go to

June 1

Have Your Icons Suddenly Changed?

One of the questions I hear most often is, "Why have the icons for my picture files changed and how can I get them back to the way they were?" Well, this happens when someone's "file associations" have been changed - often without the his or her knowledge.

So, What Is a "File Association?"

The three-character extension on most filenames tells us which program (or, at least, what kind of program) the file is "associated" with. For instance, the extension XLS tells us the file is associated with MSExcel, while QPW says the file was created with QuattroPro.

In many cases an extension will be associated with a specific program, as per the examples above, but this is not true of all extensions. For instance, a file with the extension JPG could have been created with Adobe PhotoShop or with PaintShop Pro or with Windows Paint or with any of several other bitmap editors. All Windows-based computers come with Paint and the icons associated with, say, BMP, JPG, and GIF files will usually be the same on all new computers.

However, the moment another bitmap editor is installed, these icons will likely be changed to match the newer program.

You Don't Remember Installing a New Image-Editor?"

What's that? You say you haven't installed a new graphics program - but your icons changed anyway? Well, here's what probably happened:

If you bought a scanner or a printer or a digital camera recently, the hardware came with a CD containing the device's "drivers." In addition, there was very likely an image-editing program on the CD that you were advised to install. Well, when a new graphics program is installed, it often changes all the graphics-related icons to match its own designs.

At some point during the installation you should have been asked, "Do you want your graphics icons to be associated with this program?" In fact, you will normally be shown a list of graphics-related extensions and asked to click which ones you want changed and which ones you want left alone.

However, this screen is often overlooked (or not understood) by the buyer, who will very likely just click NEXT. This usually results in all the icons being changed accordingly.

When this happens, not only will the appearance of these icons be different, it means whenever you click one of the altered icons the related file will be opened in the newer program (rather than in the one you're probably used to seeing). This, however, can be a good thing if you previously used Windows Paint, since most other image-editors have more and better features.

All of the above also applies to the free bitmap-editors you can download from the Internet.

So the Question Remains: How Do I Change the "File Association" From One Program to Another?

Well, if you use WinXP it couldn't be easier. Simply right-click the target icon and choose Open With. Next click Choose Program. Then check the box reading "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file." Finally, click your preferred program from the list that will appear.

Win98 users can accomplish this by following these steps: Right-click the target icon and choose Rename. Next rename the file so that its extension is slightly changed. For instance, change IMAGE.JPG to IMAGE.JP.

Now double-click the renamed icon. You'll get a message saying the file type is not recognized and you'll be offered a list of programs which might open the file. Choose your preferred graphics program (along with checking the "Always use..." option, as above). Finally, change the altered filename back to what it was originally.

The above scenarios were about image-editing programs and icons; but the same thing can happen with other applications. For instance, there are some free programs that offer the same basic features as MSWord and MSExcel, and whose filenames have the familiar DOC and XLS extensions. Well, I know some folks who have tried these programs, but then asked how to fix the file associations so that clicking on a DOC filename would go back to launching Word, rather than the new program. Following the above steps can make this happen.

May 27

Where Do Spammers Find Our Names?

Regarding a recent column that mentioned avoiding unwanted spam, a number of folks wrote to ask how the spammers get our email addresses in the first place. Well, one of the most obvious ways is if you go into a chat room using an email address as a chat name. This is particularly true for AOL and CompuServe users, whose "screen names" are their actual email addresses.

Most ISPs allow subscribers to have multiple identities nowadays, and one AOL user wrote to say she has one name set aside exclusively for chat room use along with having her Mail Preferences set so that this name will not accept any incoming messages. She went on to say she has another screen name that's used only for incoming messages and that she's given this name only to friends she expects to hear from.

She uses a third name for things such as requesting information from various Web sites. This is a good idea, since there is always the chance that your name can be passed on to others.

Check Out the Privacy Policies of Web Sites You Visit

Most legitimate online businesses offer a Privacy Statement that explains their policies regarding sharing names with various "partners" and will usually have a place where you can check Yes or No to such sharing. Some sites, however, will have a checked box indicating that sharing your information is okay, and that your privacy will be preserved only if you UNcheck the box.

AOL users should also be aware that, if they ever fill out a User Profile, their screen names will be available to any other user who chooses to access the Membership Directory.

Always Use BCCs (Blind Carbon Copies)

Another way addresses can be harvested is from email sent to multiple recipients, where the sender uses CCs (carbon copies) instead of BCCs (blind carbon copies).

Hotmail Can Be a Hotbed of Spam (but I use it, anyway)

As for Microsoft's free Hotmail service, some suspect that Microsoft not only tolerates spam, they may actually encourage it. If you don't delete the spam regularly, your Hotmail inbox will quickly be filled to the limit and you'll be urged to sign up for additional space at an annual fee. Beyond this, you'll be encouraged to sign up for MSN, which has been promoting itself lately as having "patented" anti-spam built into its service.

In any case, I normally use my Hotmail address whenever I sign up for anything on a Web site whose privacy policies I tend to doubt. Consequently, about 95 percent of the spam I receive goes to this one address, where I spend a couple of minutes each day clearing it out.

Other Online Threats to Be Prepared For

Other cyber mine fields we need to be concerned about are viruses, hacker-attacks, and having our passwords stolen. Most viruses can be avoided by immediately deleting any email attachments you are not expecting. However, having a regularly-updated anti-virus program installed is still your most secure protection.

Personally, I prefer Norton - but I only use its A/V software. I find Norton's "utility" programs to be cumbersome and unnecessary. I prefer using Windows' built-in maintenance tools, such as ScanDisk, Defrag, and Disk Cleanup.

Users of cable networks need the additional protection of a "firewall" to keep out hackers who could gain access to their systems. I have been very pleased with the free firewall available at

As for password theft, I know people who have been duped into giving theirs up through a variety of different scams. AOL users seem to be the main target of emails saying there has been an error in their account and that they need to fill out a form to keep their service from being cut off. Others have received messages saying they are being sent an "Instant Kiss" from a secret admirer and that they need to type in their password to receive it.

These messages are very convincingly designed to look like they are from AOL, and even admonish you to "never give your password to anyone but any authorized AOL agent."

What can a crook do with your password? Well, the victims I mentioned had their screen names used to send out porno advertising that included a P.O. box for sending in orders with a check or credit card number. Guess who got all the indignant emails from people not interested in buying.

More information on using BCCs and Windows Maintenance Tools can be found at Don's BCC & Maintenance Tips.

May 25

Possible Reason for Receiving Email with Blank Box Containing a Red X

Regarding recent questions as to why some pictures sent as email attachments are occasionally arriving as a box containing a red X, here's what I've discovered; some ISPs are now deleting images in an attempt to protect their members from receiving graphics that might be considered objectionable. This is a by-product of the growing demand by email users that something be done to keep spam out of their inboxes.

Fighting Spam

What we all want, of course, is a simple filtering system that lets us receive legitimate email while keeping out the trash. However, this is kind of like expecting our mail carriers to examine each envelope before putting anything into our mailbox, and to set aside the "junk" mail, while depositing only the letters we want to receive.

The problem is - one person's "junk" mail may be another person's weekly supply of money-saving grocery coupons. And what about legitimate business letters? Should our mail carrier be expected to know which envelope contains just another ad and which contains a question regarding an order we've placed?

Yes, some spam and porno mail is obvious by what's printed in the subject line; but many spammers are becoming more sophisticated about putting legitimate-sounding text there.

And why do they keep sending us this junk when we all hate it and immediately delete it? Well, not everybody does hate and delete it. The hucksters wouldn't keep sending it if a certain number of people didn't respond by actually sending checks and credit card numbers for the snake oil and porn that's likely being promoted.

Shouldn't the Government Be Dealing with This?

So is there anything we can do to defend ourselves from all this? Well, some people feel the government should get involved and that spammers should be subject to criminal charges of some kind. However, this is not so easy to implement, what with the Internet being the global free-for-all circus that it actually is.

Furthermore, crooked spammers are continually changing their own email addresses, and normally keep one just long enough to collect a few credit card numbers before discarding it and sending more spam from another address.

Beyond that, the thing that worries me about government involvement is that they may want to start taxing us for what up to now has been totally free - unlimited email and IM (instant message) usage. I don't know about you, but the only "snail mail" I send anymore is a tiny bit of "business" stuff that still requires a stamp and an envelope.

Furthermore, why pay extra postage to send photos of the grandkids when I can do it all online for free? Something to think about before telling our congresspersons that they should fix our spam problems for us.

Thus the question remains; what can we do? Well, some ISPs have given into customer-pressure and begun deleting all letters that appear to have been sent out as "bulk" mail. However, this can include legitimate newsletters that people have requested. A local Adelphia ISP recently began trashing all these newsletters its members had asked me to send them. After several complaining phone calls, Adelphia decided not to keep my newsletters on their torpedo list.

Using the Anti-Spam Tools that You Have

Something else we can do is check out the various anti-spam tools our email programs have available. Outlook Express users can go to Tools, Message Rules, Mail, and choose from a number of spam-interception options.

AOL and CompuServe users can go to their main screen name and click on Mail Center, Manage Your Mail, Mail Control, and Be In Control, where they'll be able to create settings for each of their screen names. Doing so also offers the chance to preclude all "bulk mail" (which a number of folks used inadvertently to block this newsletter). However, most have since tweaked their options to let these messages through again.

For what it's worth, I can tell you about my own spam experiences with some email services. Not too much arrives at my and mailboxes. And I practically never receive any via my main ISP, attbi/

AOL and Hotmail, on the other hand, continue to deliver truckloads of trash each day.

So have I activated any of their anti-spam options? Well, since there are no youngsters living here that need to be protected, I just use my Delete key. It's fast, easy, and works just fine.

By the way, if your ISP doesn't advise you of it's spam-fighting options, you can always go to their HELP menu - or call them on the phone and ask them.

May 20

Using Your Email Program to Save Web Page Material

Regarding a recent question about printing selected data found on the Internet, I suggested copying and pasting it into a word processing page, whereupon it can be easily edited before printing. Bob Wolf wrote to point out that this can also be done with your email program.

After mouse-selecting the target Web page material, you can capture it by going to Edit, Copy. Then start a new letter in your email program, and insert it all with Edit, Paste.

If you are using HTML-based email (as nearly everyone is nowadays) the insertion should appear just as it did on the Web page, complete with any pictures you may have selected.

When you go to File, Print, you'll notice that any background colors will have been omitted, thus saving on ink.

You can also go to File, Save As, to preserve this "email message" as a document. By default, it will normally be saved as an HTML file, and sent to your "My Documents" Folder. If you prefer, it can be saved as a Text Only file (with graphics and special formatting omitted) and sent to any folder of your choosing.

Crash Insurance for Outlook Express Users

If you're creating Outlook Express email, doing Ctrl+S periodically will save a copy of what you have written so far in your "Drafts" folder. This can be a life-saver if you're working on a long letter and suddenly have a system crash of some kind.

Doing a periodic Ctrl+S also saves your "up-to-this-point" work in other email programs and word processors - but the first time you do it you'll be prompted to give the document a name and location.

Red X in a Blank Box

Regarding the problem of sending email that arrives with a box containing a red X where there is supposed to be a picture, "EasyAces Jerry" wrote that Outlook Express users can do the following: Go to Tools, Options, and click the Send tab. Next choose HTML as the Mail Sending Format. Finally, open the HTML Settings window and click on "Send Pictures With Message."

"Inserted Picture" vs "Attached Picture"

Speaking of sending a picture, do you want it included in the body of your message, or do you want it to be an "attachment" that will have to be separately "downloaded" in order to be viewed?

Unfortunately, making choices regarding these procedures can be rather confusing. Outlook Express users, for instance, can choose "Insert Picture" or "Attach File" before browsing their way to the target image. No matter which choice they make, however, the images will appear in the body of the message when received by other OE users.

An AOL or CompuServe user who receives the same letter (along with users of most other email programs) will see the picture in the message's body if the OE sender had chosen "Insert" - but will have to download the image if the OE sender had opted for "Attach."

AOL and CS users who want to send a picture can "insert" it into the body of a letter by clicking the toolbar "Camera" or by right-clicking inside the message area and choosing Insert, Picture. To "attach" a picture, they need to click the "Attachments" button, followed by clicking the "Attach" button, and then must follow the remaining prompts.

No matter which "Insert/Attach" option has been used, OE recipients will normally receive pictures inside the body of a letter.

Recipients whose pictures arrive as "attachments" will normally have a "Download" or "Save" option, which will let them place the image on their hard drive. When a picture arrives inside the message area, however, it can normally be "downloaded/saved" by right-clicking it and choosing "Save Picture As" or "Save Target As."

If you're into photo-enhancing, you can right-click the image and choose "Copy," followed by choosing Edit, Paste in your image-editing program.

Word Processor Users Want to Start Typing "Near Upper Left Corner of Page"

A question I often hear from MSWord users is, "When I start a new document, why does my cursor appear so far down into the white area? I want to start typing as close to the upper left-hand corner as possible."

Well, Word (and other word processing programs) have a number of "View" options. Going to View, Normal lets you start typing in the far upper left corner - but offers no view of your page margins - whereas using View, Print Layout lets you see these areas represented around your typing, along with seeing the top and bottom edges of your pages.

Other Page "View" Options (depending on your word processor) are "Outline" and "Web Layout." If you switch from one view to another fairly often, Word users will find four tiny icons in the lower left corner of their work area, representing these views. I switch between "Normal" and "Print Layout" views (icons #1 and #3) fairly often.

May 18

Reducing the File Size of a Picture

More and more of the questions I hear lately have to do with sending and receiving photographs as email attachments. A number of folks have written to say they are told a picture's file size is too large when they try to send it. So how does one make the file size smaller? Let us count the ways…

One way is to reduce the physical dimensions of the photo; another is to "crop" the photo; and another is to change the photo's "format" so that it will consist of less "bytes."

The procedures for doing these things vary from one photo-editing program to another; so I'll explain how to do them with Windows Paint, since it's a program all Windows users have.

Paint can be launched by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint, whereupon you'll see a "canvas" area, with an assortment of editing tools down its left side and a color chart below.

Now you can go to File, Open, and "browse" your way to the target picture. When it's displayed on the screen, look to see if there are unimportant areas of the picture that could be cropped out. Most snapshots have someone in the center with things like excessive sky, or other background material, that could be trimmed.

Using Paint's "Selection" Tool

The dotted-line rectangle in the upper right corner of the Toolbox is a "Selection" tool, which lets you draw a "marquee" around the important part of a photo, using your mouse with its left button held down. Next go to Edit, Copy. Now go to File, New and then to Edit, Paste to insert the newly-cropped image.

Finally, go to File, Save As and give the image a new filename, using the JPG format, listed in the "Save As Type" box.

Resizing (Resampling) a Picture

If you have a photo which you feel should not be cropped, then you can "resize" it by going to Image, Stretch & Skew, and type a percentage number in the "Stretch" box. If you choose 50 percent, the image will actually be one quarter of its original size (half the width by half the height). Choosing 80 or 90 percent is often all that's needed to make the picture's file size acceptable.

Be sure to give each edited image a new filename when going to File, Save As. This will protect the original so that it can be used again, in case you are not satisfied with the edited results.

     The phrase "Stretch & Skew" is peculiar to Windows Paint. Most image-editors will use "Resize" or "Resample" for changing a picture's dimensions.

Changing a Picture's "File Format"

The remaining way to reduce a graphic's file size is to alter its "format." Generally speaking, JPG is the best choice for photos. So if your original picture's filename ends with TIF or BMP or PSD, choosing JPG can make your file size much smaller.

Although the GIF format was designed for drawings, it also works with photos -- but can only use 256 colors in its display. Nonetheless, it sometimes pays to make a GIF version, as well as a JPG version, of a photo, and then to compare their file sizes and picture quality.

Beyond all this, most image editors let you choose different file-size/image-quality ratios within the JPG format. However, Paint does not. It defaults to a "medium" standard, which is generally considered more than acceptable.

If your filenames don't display an "extension" such as JPG, you can go to for simple instructions on how to fix this.

Blank Box with a Red X in the Corner

Another problem I've been hearing recently is that of email arriving with a box containing a small red X where there was supposed to be a picture. Well, on a Web page this means that an image was supposed to appear in a certain place and that HTML instructions had been written describing its attributes; but that the actual picture was not uploaded.

I have not been able to recreate this situation in email, but would love to hear from anyone who can suggest a fix for those who have had the problem. In the meantime, I can only suggest that senders use the above suggestions for keeping file sizes under control and make sure that an image-bearing email actually has the image attached.

One final note: images sent from a Macintosh are not always Windows-compatible. Ask the Mac user to only send you JPGs, whenever possible.

May 13

Inexpensive Program Creates PDF Files

When I said recently that Adobe Acrobat, which costs about $500, was needed to create PDF files, Chuck Cannova wrote to say that he's been using Zeon DocuCom, from, which has given him satisfactory results for several years. Once the program is installed, it becomes a "printer option" when you go to File/Print. Just select it as you would any printer, and it will create a PDF version of whatever document you're in. The program is free to try, but $50 to buy.

Cropping a Picture with Free Irfanview Program

George Roberts wrote to ask how to "crop" a picture in Irfanview, the free image-editor from Well, it might be helpful to first explain why I find this program very useful - but why I also use it in conjunction with other programs.

Irfanview is mainly an image "viewer," which is great for quickly displaying a bitmap graphic, and letting you perform certain editing tasks. However, it is not meant for creating new images, nor does it have any "painting" tools of the type used to, say, draw shapes and fill them with various colors.

Additional Irfanview Editing Options

Among Irfanview's handiest features are that it will display an animated GIF file in full motion and it will display a "thumbnail" view of all the pictures in a selected folder. These features come automatically with Windows XP, but users of earlier versions may find these Irfanview options very useful.

Regarding George's question, a picture can be "cropped" by simply clicking where you would want the upper left corner of the cropped image to be, and dragging the pointer to the intended lower right corner. This will draw a dotted-line rectangle, which, when you go to Edit/Cut, will vanish. Going to Edit/Paste will replace the original picture with the newly-cropped picture.

To resize a picture, go to Image/Resize-Resample and type in a new height or width; or type in a percentage indicating the change you want. The dimensions will be shown in pixels, but you can choose inches or centimeters if you prefer. However, you must type in these measurements.

Once you have an image you're satisfied with, go to File, Save As, and give it a new filename. You can also choose a different "image format" at this point, such as GIF or JPG, but it's normally best to stay with the one seen on the original picture's filename. Exceptions would be changing a BMP or a TIF file to a JPG, so that the finished graphic will have a smaller file size.

Comparing File Sizes

How do you compare file sizes? Well, I find this easiest to do by going to the Details view in the folder which contains the target graphics. If you have three versions of the same picture named, say, PIC.BMP, PIC.TIF and PIC.JPG in your My Pictures folder, you would open the folder and choose View, Details. Assuming your files are listed alphabetically, these three files would be all together, making it easy to compare their sizes, listed in the Size column.

Free PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft

Speaking of filename extensions, I frequently hear from folks who say they've received an email attachment with a PPS or PPT extension, and that they can't open the file. Well, these are "presentation" files that can be opened by anyone with PowerPoint (which usually comes with MS-Office). However, those without PowerPoint can go to and type "Viewers" into a search box. You'll be asked which version of Windows you have and advised as to which free viewer you should download.

As for the filename extensions, PPS indicates a "show" that will play when double-clicked, while PPT will display the various "slides" in the show, along with options for editing them (which can only be done with PowerPoint - not with the free viewer).

To convert a PPT file to PPS, go to File, Save As and choose "PPS - PowerPoint Show" in the "Save As Type" box. Alternatively, you can change the extension from PPT to PPS by right-clicking the filename and choosing "Rename." Bear in mind, however, that this is one of the very few "exceptions to the rule" of "never renaming a file with a different extension."

I realize that much of the above refers to "filename extensions," and that many Windows users don't see these extensions appended to their filenames. This can easily be fixed by following my instructions at

May 11

Printing a "Selection" from Within a Document

Leonard Berlow wrote to say he does research on the Internet, and often wants to print just a certain section from within a large volume of data he might find. He went on to say that when he goes to print he is asked which page(s) he wants to print – but he points out that Internet data isn't always paginated.

Leonard's question: how can he select just a certain section for printing? He also asked how can he stop his printer if it’s in the middle of a print-out.

Printing a "Selection"

Regarding Leonard’s first question - most printers, when asked to print, will display a dialogue box asking if you want to print ALL, or a SELECTION, or just certain PAGES of a document. Leonard could mouse-select his target data and use the SELECTION option.

Printing Good Ol' COPY and PASTE

If, for some reason, "printing a selection" doesn’t work, Leonard could right-click the selected data and choose COPY. He could then open his word processor and right-click inside a blank page and choose PASTE, followed by using the text editor’s PRINT instructions.

Bringing a Printer to an Instant Stop

As for bringing a printer to an instant stop, the most reliable way is to simply remove all paper from its feed tray. Then you should click the printer icon displayed in your Taskbar’s System Tray (near the digital clock). A window will open showing that a print job is in process, and offer you options for canceling it. This display varies among different printers, but look for commands such as File, Cancel, or Print, Delete.

Speaking of text editors, the two used most nowadays are MSWord, and the word processing program in MSWorks. Here are some tips for making them easier to use.

Pruning Your Word Processor's Toolbar

When first installed, Word and Works both have toolbars that display way more icons than most of us ever use. Let’s start with Word.

You may see three or four rows of icons, many of which have little meaning to you. If you eliminate these excess icons, you can pick up an extra row or two of “white space,” thus seeing more of the document you’re working on. Also, having less icons on your toolbar makes it easier to find the ones you want.

To add or remove icons, go to Tools, Customize. After the Customize window opens, simply drag any unwanted icons into it. (You can always replace them later if you change your mind.)

Little Yellow Labels Can Tell You...

But how do we know what all these icons mean? Maybe we’d want to keep some if we knew what they did. Well, just let your mouse pointer rest on one for a second or two and a little yellow label will appear, bearing information about the icon.

To drag an icon from the Customize window onto your toolbar, find it in the Commands window under the Commands tab, and drag it onto the toolbar at a position of your choice. An icon I use constantly, for instance, but which does not appear on the initial toolbar setup is “Ruler.” Click on Commands, View and then drag the Ruler icon onto your toolbar. From then on you will be able to turn your Ruler on and off with one click.

Picking Up More "White Space"

Another way to pick up some extra “white space” is to eliminate the Status Bar at the bottom of your Word screen. This bar is useful to people writing a long document and who may need “page number” and other pertinent data displayed, but it is seldom used by folks writing one or two page letters. Go to Tools, Options, View, and uncheck Status Bar.

Older & Newer Versions of MSWorks Have Many Differences

As for customizing the toolbar in MSWorks - in earlier versions, you can go to Tools, Customize, and have similar options as those for Word. However, in recent versions this feature has been eliminated - so we’re stuck with whatever Microsoft decides to give us.

Ann Arnett wrote to say she receives a certain amount of email with a line running down the left side of the page, and asked how she could write letters with such a line displayed. Well, this line normally shows up in email which was sent as a “reply” to another letter. When you click Reply in Outlook Express, AOL, or CompuServe email, this line will appear. However, Ann can use this “reply” as a template for a new outgoing email by simply changing the name/address in the “To:” box.

May 6

Problems with Enlarging Scanned Pictures

I recently explained that a photograph scanned and copied into a computer is converted to a "bitmap" image consisting of tiny squares which, when viewed from a distance, give the illusion of being the same "smooth flowing" colors seen in the original photo. However, I continue to be asked why enlarging a bitmap photo makes it look "blocky."

"When my photos are enlarged at Kodak," I'm told, "the prints still looks smooth and natural."

Well, it's because of the those little squares. Colors captured on film by a camera are "continuous tone" images that continue to be smooth flowing when they are enlarged or reduced. However, computer images are broken down into tiny "bits" which must be "mapped" in a way that makes them appear to be smooth flowing at a given "dots per inch" resolution.

If a photo is scanned and subsequently printed at the same size as the original, using a high DPI on quality paper, the result can be an image that looks very much like a Kodak print. But a little arithmetic will explain why enlarging a bitmap can make it look "blocky."

Doing Some Math Might Make It Easier to Understand

Let's assume that the original photo is a sunset with vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red. Then let's zoom in on one of the tiny yellow squares, which is probably surrounded by squares in varying shades of yellow-orange. Well, if you ask your image-editing program to double the size of this picture, it will actually come out four times larger (double the height by double the width). This means that the number of tiny squares will need to be quadrupled.

Well, when all these new squares are added in, how does your computer know what color to make each one? Take the aforementioned yellow square, for instance. It needs to be supplemented by three new squares; and the most logical thing to do is make them all yellow.

Now, where you had one yellow square surrounded by others of various yellow-orange hues, you have a block of four yellow squares surrounded by blocks of yellow-orange shades, which are also four times larger than they were originally. These blocks are what make the enlargement look "blocky."

Yes, a professional graphic artist may be able to edit these colored blocks, one bit at a time, to compensate for all this - but your image-editing software is not likely to be quite that smart.

Can This Be Overcome?

So what can be done to keep a larger print from looking blocky? The best solution is to start with a larger photo to be scanned. If you don't have a larger copy of the picture, consider having it enlarged photographically before you scan it.

I recently explained all this to someone who replied, "Well, that may be the case with 'bitmaps' - but all my pictures are 'JPGs.'"

Well, JPGs are, in fact, bitmaps, as are BMPs, GIFs, TIFs and many, many other picture formats too numerous to list here.

Why Are There So Many Different Formats?

Well, in the early days of computer imaging, different programs were being written by different people - and the results were several different ways to accomplish, more or less, the same thing. So Is One of These Formats Better Than All the Others?

You may get varying opinions from computer technicians and graphic artists, but here's what most of us need to know: the JPG format (a.k.a. JPEG and JPE) has become the most popular for reproducing color photographs on Windows-based PCs. The GIF format is used most often for drawings seen on the Internet, and it is also used for animated graphics. However, GIFs are limited to 256 colors, while JPGs can display millions of colors.

But an important feature regarding saving your picture as a JPG, about which many users are unaware, is the fact that you can choose from different "image quality" to "file size" ratios; high-quality/large-size, medium-quality/medium-size, and low-quality/small-size.

However, no-frills image-editing programs (such as Windows Paint) default to "medium quality" without offering the other choices. Graphics software by Adobe, Corel, Jasc PaintShop Pro and many others, do ask which quality/size ratio you want, when saving a picture.

So Which Ratio Is best to Use?

It pays to experiment - and you'll probably discover that very little difference can be seen between the high quality and medium quality images. In any case, keep in mind that smaller file sizes can be uploaded and downloaded faster, and that they take up less disk space. (However, in these times of high-speed cable connections and huge-capacity hard drives, this may not be quite the issue it was just a few years ago.)

One other thing you need to be aware of, though, is that once a JPG has been saved as a lower quality image, it can NOT be restored to a higher quality. So always save it with a different filename. This will preserve the original image, in case you later change you mind about which quality to use when saving.

May 4

Opening & Reading "PDF" Files

Barry Marco wrote to ask how to open a "PDF" file. Well, PDF means Portable Document File, and it refers to a document that is readable to anyone who has a computer. All one needs to open a PDF document is Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be freely downloaded at

PDF was created as a universal format which can be read by anyone, anywhere; and to insure that it will look the same to everyone who sees it. If a document is created in, say, WordPerfect, it may not look quite the same to users of other word processors. Even other WordPerfect users may see it differently if a special font was used that the reader does not have on his or her computer.

Besides insuring a universal "view" to all who see it, a PDF file offers certain benefits to its creator. For instance, a PDF file can not be easily "copied and pasted" in the usual way, as can a word-processing or HTML document. However, those who would create PDF files need Adobe Acrobat, a program which sells for about $500.

Why Not Just Use HTML?

So why not just do your document in HTML, which is readable by all browsers (such as Netscape, Opera, AOL, and Internet Explorer) and which requires no expensive software to create?

Well, like word processors, not all browsers are created equal, and how they display a document may vary from one computer to another. HTML is great for sending colorful email (such as this newsletter) and for those of us who create and maintain our own Web pages - but you'll find that more and more businesses are using PDF for their important documents.

Making Large Files Fit on a Small Disk

I promised recently to explain how files too large to fit on a 3-1/2" disk can be made to fit. One way is use a free program called "Splitter" which can be downloaded from This program breaks a file into smaller parts that can be spread over two or more floppies.

Using WinZip

Another way is to use WinZip to "compress" a file. WinZip is a shareware program available at Download the "evaluation" version at no charge, and pay for it later if you like it.

Once installed on your PC, you can right-click a file and choose WinZip. This will bring up various choices, such as "Add to Zip file." This lets you choose a filename to which the target document will be added, having first been compressed. The "zipped" (compressed) file or files may then fit on a small disk; but would later need to be "unzipped" with WinZip in order to be useable in the future.

Space here does not allow for a complete WinZip tutorial, but the program comes with very comprehensive Help files and examples.

If a word processing document such as a book manuscript is too large to fit on a small disk it can usually be broken down into groups of chapters that will fit. If the manuscript is ordinary text (with no fancy fonts, tables, or graphics) converting a word-processing document into "text only" will make it much smaller. This newsletter, for instance, takes up 29 kilobytes of disk space when saved as an MSWord file, but only 4 kilobytes when saved as Text Only.

"Plain Text" Files Are Always Smaller

To convert a word-processing file to plain text, go to File, Save As, and choose "Text Only" in the "Save As Type" box. The document will then have a .TXT extension, and, when double-clicked, will re-open in NotePad - or it can be easily re-opened as a Word or WordPerfect (or any other word processor) file.

Headers & Footers

Speaking of word-processing, I also promised to explain more about Headers and Footers. These are tops and bottoms of pages where items such as Chapter Names and Page Numbers can be placed and carried forward from one page to the next, with the latter being automatically incremented on each successive page.

Go to View, Header & Footer in MSWord or MSWorks to establish Headers and Footers in a document. Once Headers and Footers have been created, they will appear in light gray while you are working on a document. Clicking inside them will return them to their regular colors, and make them editable. Clicking back inside the body text will reverse these steps. For more comprehensive instructions on how to use Headers and Footers, press your F1 key.

Apr. 29

Changing Your Computer's Color Settings

Marron McDowell wrote to say she'd been given a game CD, but didn't understand its instructions to change her PC's color settings to 256. Well, there was a time when displaying 256 colors meant one had the latest in PC technology, but most computers have been able to display 16.7 million colors for several years now.

PC color theory is way too vast to be covered here, but it's worth knowing about a couple of options we have regarding screen display. Right-click anywhere on the Desktop and choose Display, Settings. Under "Color Display" you may find the older 256 option listed. If not, some vintage programs may not run properly on your machine.

Changing Other Display Settings

Also under "Settings" you'll find a sliding lever for adjusting "Screen Resolution," with 800x600 being the norm for most 15" monitors. Choosing higher numbers makes text and objects smaller, but gets more of them on the screen. Folks with vision limitations may prefer 640x480, which makes everything larger. You can experiment to find which suits you best. However, flat panel monitors may look best at a setting pre-determined by their manufacturers and appear somewhat "mushy" at other settings.

Right-clicking the Desktop and choosing Options also brings up choices for screen backgrounds, screensavers, and various types of Windows "Themes." Again, experiment to determine your favorites.

Printing Multiple Pictures on a Sheet of Paper

George Roberts wrote ask how to set up and print multiple pictures on a single sheet of paper. Well, this depends on which "painting" program you're using; but here's how to do it with "Windows Paint." Go to Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint to launch the program. Next go to Image, Attributes and set your overall image area, say, 8x10 inches for letter-size paper. If you're using paper other than 8.5"x11" letter-size, such as "A5" go to File, Page Setup, to choose your settings.

Now go to Edit, Paste From, and browse to a target picture. Double-click it to paste it onto your Paint page, where it can be moved to where you want it. Repeating these steps could put four 3x5-inch photos on a sheet. You can go to File, Print Preview to see how everything looks before printing. If a picture needs to be moved, use the Select tool to outline it, followed by Edit, Cut and then Edit, Paste to reposition it.

The main limitation of Windows Paint is its relatively low dot-per-inch print resolution, which looks fine on a monitor, but whose print-outs will not be as sharp as those produced by more sophisticated painting programs. However, George says he also has Irfanview, whose print resolutions can be set to match those of any printer.

In Paint, George can go to Edit, Select All, and do Edit, Copy. In Irfanview he can use Edit, Paste to insert the collage of pictures, and then use Image, Resize/Resample to set the print resolution.

I mention Paint and Irfanview here because the former always comes with Windows and the latter can be downloaded freely from However, if you've bought an inkjet printer, it will have probably come with a more full-featured image-editing program than Paint. Check it out and use its Help files when needed.

Using Your Word Processor to Print Pictures

Another simple way to place multiple images on a single sheet of paper is to use your word processing program. In MSWord or MSWorks, go to Insert, Text Box and draw a box the approximate size and shape of a target image. Next click inside the box and use Insert, Picture, From File to find and double-click a target graphic. Repeat as needed to insert additional pictures, and move the boxes around to wherever you want them.

Easy Way to Resize a Picture

Any picture can be resized by grabbing a corner "handle" and adjusting it. While doing so, hold down "Shift" to maintain the picture's proportions. Any picture's "Text Box Frame" can be resized to match its graphic by double-clicking it and choosing Size, Scale, 100%, from the popup options. Also, several useful image-editing options will be shown when a picture is double-clicked.

Making Text Stay Where You Want It

Speaking of using a word processor to print photos, a gentleman called to say he's been using MSWord so that he can type descriptive information at the bottom of each page. His question: "How can I make the typing stay a certain distance from the bottom edge? If I adjust the pictures in any way, the typing gets shifted and is sometimes pushed onto another page."

The answer is to create a "Footer" by going to View, Headers & Footers. More details on this next time.

Apr. 27

Differences Between "Painting" and "Drawing" Programs

I promised last time to explain the difference between "painting" and "drawing" programs. However, I realize most folks couldn't care less what the "technical" definition of a graphic is, just as long as they can use it as they see fit. So this will be brief.

The word "painting" normally refers to a "bitmap" image. This is a graphic that is made up of many tiny colored squares called "bits" which are "mapped" on a background to give the illusion of "continuous tone" shadings, such as those seen in a photo or an oil painting. More properly, these "bits" are called "pixels" (picture elements).

Photos taken with a digital camera are automatically displayed as bitmap images, while regular photos are converted to bitmaps when copied with a scanner. Bitmap images can also be created and/or edited with a "painting" program such as Adobe PhotoShop or Windows PaintBrush.

By contrast, pictures created with programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw tend to be flat, outlined "vectors" that are often filled with solid colors. A red heart or a green shamrock are examples of simple "vector drawings." Many of the cartoon-style "clipart" drawings found on the Web are other examples.

Whereas "bitmaps" are a collection of strategically mapped bits, a computer "drawing" is created by mathematically establishing a number of points which are connected by lines, such as the four corners and four edges of a square.

Who Cares?

Fine - but why should we care?

Well, sometimes we want to enlarge or reduce or even reshape our graphics. If you want to enlarge a bit-mapped image, additional little squares have to be created to make the enlargement possible. If you reduce one, some of the squares need to be removed. This means that, even though our paint programs may do these things for us automatically, enlargements and reductions don't look quite the same as the originals.

With a "drawing," however, a reduced or enlarged purple square is still a purple square. Even "reshaping" it will still result in a purple polygon. Yes, I realize that many graphics are actually combinations of vectors and bitmaps, but this is just intended as a brief overview of the basics.

If you still feel that this information is interesting, but of very little real value, may I suggest going to and checking out the prices of "vector" maps vs. "raster" maps. You might also want to read their explanation of the differences.

3-1/2 Inch "Floppy" Disk Drive Fast Becoming History

The demise of the 3-1/2 inch floppy disk drive is officially under way, now that more and more new computers are being sold without them. They are being replaced by CD and DVD burners, whose discs hold more data at less cost. Yet I continue to get questions about how to use these older diskettes, which have been the main source of backing up files since the early 1980s.

If you want to place a copy of, say, a word processing document you've created onto a floppy disk, there are several ways to do it.

Let's say you have a file named MyStory.doc in your My Documents folder. Place a blank disk in your PC's 3.5" drive slot and double-click My Documents so that your file can be seen. Double-click My Computer to display your PC's various drives. Finally, drag the target file onto the My Computer "A:" icon.

Alternatively, you can right-click a completed file's icon and choose "Send To: A: Drive." If your file is too big to fit on a floppy, I'll explain next time how this problem may be overcome.

In the meantime, if you have a floppy with one or more files you'd like to copy onto your hard drive, double-click the My Computer "A:" icon to display its files. Now use either of the above procedures to do the copying.

But a word of caution: 3.5" diskettes have been known to fail, which can make retrieving important data an expensive chore. For this reason, I've always made two floppy backups of everything important. Beyond that, the day may come when it will be difficult to find a PC with a floppy drive in it. Give some serious thought to copying your floppy data onto CDs or DVDs.

Apr. 22

Drawing Tools Available in MSWord & MSWorks

I wrote recently that Bob Tavano created a map with MSWord's drawing tools, but that he had trouble placing street names just the way he wanted them. Well, much of what is explained below also works in other Microsoft programs, such as Excel, PowerPoint and the various MSWorks applications.

As for Word, we don't normally think of it as being an "art" program, but if you click on View, Toolbars, Drawing, you'll find a fairly comprehensive set of drawing tools. On the toolbar you'll see a "line" tool and an "arrow" tool, along with "modifiers" to change things such as their widths, colors, and line styles. If you want to draw curved lines, click on AutoShapes, Lines.

These are what Bob used for drawing the streets on a map of Fallbrook, California. His problem, however, was inserting street names. Well, this can be done by going to Insert, Text Box and drawing a rectangle into which a street name can be typed. The Text Box can then be dragged to where it's needed; but the box's black "frame" will still be showing.

Double-clicking the box will bring up a dialogue window with several options, including "Colors & Lines, Line, No Line."

Well, this is fine for streets running left and right, but what about those running up and down? Here's the fix; first reshape the Text Box by grabbing a "handle" and making the box as tall as it is wide. Next, highlight the street name and go to Format, Text Direction and make your choice. Finally, reshape the box to fit the realigned text.

This works great for streets running north/south and east/west - but Word's Text Boxes can not be repositioned to angles other than 90 degrees. However, "WordArt" objects can be rotated.

WordArt Creations Can Be Rotated to Any Angle

Click on the tilted blue "A" in the Drawing Toolbar to launch WordArt. Click on one of the sample layouts, type in a street name and choose, say, 10-point Arial. The newly-created WordArt object can then be dragged and dropped into position just like a Text Box. However, the street name can be rotated to any desired angle by clicking on it and then clicking on the "Free Rotate" icon on the Drawing Toolbar or the one on the WordArt Toolbar.

If there is a down side to using WordArt for small text phrases, however, it would be that the utility was really intended for creating larger images, such as company logos or eye-catching headlines. Thus, WordArt "words" usually have an outline around each letter, which may be fine for large displays, but which looks weird on small text. You can fix this by clicking on the phrase and going to "Format, Borders & Shading" in the regular Word menu list, or on the "Format WordArt" icon on the WordArt Toolbar. Choose "No Border (i.e., "no outline").

Stars, Triangles, Diamonds, Arrows, Hearts, etc.

Back on the Drawing Toolbar, a variety of pre-designed geometric shapes, such as rectangles, ovals, stars, and arrows, can be found, complete with options for creating them with a "3-D" effect and/or with shadows. Most also have a "skew" handle for changing the "pitch" of a shape.

You can also double-click a Text Box or a WordArt object to bring up additional formatting tools, including "text flow" options. This means you can make text flow around the objects, or along one side of them, or even behind or in front of them .

If you want to add clipart or a scanned photo into the mix, a Text Box should first be created to hold the object. This is because you can re-position Text Boxes, while "unframed" objects don't offer this option. Go to Insert, Text Box and draw a box of the approximate size you need. Click inside the frame/box and go to Insert, Picture, from where you can browse your way to all kinds of objects, including, say, a chart created with Excel.

Is There a Difference Between a "Drawing" & a "Painting"??

The word processor in recent versions of MSWorks has the same "Text Box" and "WordArt" capabilities found in MSWord, but the MSWorks "drawing" tools tend to be different. Go to Insert, Picture, New Drawing and experiment. Under Insert, Picture, you'll also find "New Painting." So what's the difference between a "drawing" and a "painting?" - well, there are some major differences, which will be explained next time.

Apr. 20

Top of Page

Converting a Font-Created Logo into a JPG Graphic

Marvin Munster wrote to ask if there is a way to turn a company logo he created with MSWord into a JPG file. The logo consists of two words, Impulse Electronics, with the first word done in a fancy font and positioned above the second word.

Well, there are several ways to do this; and the logo could have been created with any word processor.

(1) Print It & Scan It

One obvious way would be to print the word-processing document on high quality paper with a high DPI (dots per inch) resolution, and then scan the printout, saving it as a high-resolution JPG file.

(2) Using Your "PrtScr" Key

Another method would be to place the word-processor-created logo in the center of Marvin's screen and to then press his PrtScr (Print Screen) key. This would "copy" everything displayed into the "invisible Windows Clipboard." Marvin could then launch "Windows Paint" (Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint) and do Ctrl+V to "paste" it all into this program as a new image.

Next, he would use Paint's "Select" tool to outline the logo and do Ctrl+C to copy it. Finally, he would go to File, New, and do Ctrl+V to paste in the cropped image for saving as a JPG file.

(3) Do It with "WordArt"

A third method involves using WordArt, which comes with MSWord and MSWorks. (WordPerfect users have a similar utility called TextArt.)

In Word or Works, you can go to Insert, Picture, WordArt, which will allow you to type in words or phrases and then to format them as individual "drawings." This means each word (or one-line phrase) can be manipulated as a "vector" graphic, in that it can be reshaped it by adjusting its edge and corner "handles." You can also choose various types of outlines and/or shadow effects, and the letters can be filled with solid colors or with various textures and patterns.

As for turning all this into a JPG, it can be done with the "Windows Paint" procedure described above - but I prefer to use "Irfanview." Click on the finished WordArt creation and do Ctrl+C to copy it. Launch Irfanview (which is a free download at and do Ctrl+V to paste in the image. Finally, go to File, Save As to choose a location, name, and JPG extension.

All the above procedures have been described in their simplest terms and, yes, there are other steps that may be needed, depending on the complexity of one's logo. These steps will be gladly explained via email or phone to anyone who asks.

"Screen Resolution" vs. "Print Resolution"

No matter which procedure is chosen, however, it's important to understand the concept of "screen resolution" vs. "DPI resolution" in order to end up with a sharp, stylish logo.

A logo that is to be printed on stationery or business cards should have a DPI of at least 300 (90,000 dots per square inch) with higher resolutions producing even sharper images. A logo that is going to be displayed only on a Web page, however, needn't have a DPI of more than 96, since that's about the maximum the average PC monitor is capable of displaying anyway.

This means that the "PrtScr" trick described above has a built-in DPI limitation that makes it fine for Web pages, but perhaps not sharp enough for business stationery. However, if the original logo is designed, say, twice as large as needed, and later reduced to 50 percent, this can make it much sharper than laying it out at its actual size.

Using MSWord's "Drawing" Tools

Another advantage of using WordArt with MSWord is that your artwork can be fine-tuned with Word's "drawing" tools. Going to View, Tools, Drawing, will display the Drawing Toolbar. As an example of its use; Marvin's two-word logo actually consists of two separate WordArt objects. However, they can be "tied" together to become a single object.

After aligning "Impulse" above "Electronics," the two objects can be clicked while holding down one's Shift key, causing them both to be "selected." Now, on the Drawing Toolbar, one would go to Draw, Group, to convert the two objects into a single unit.

Speaking of drawing with MSWord, Bob Tavano created a very comprehensive map with its "line" tools, but had trouble placing street names just the way he wanted them. I'll explain next time how this problem was overcome.

Apr. 15

IM (Instant Message) from a Stranger

I received an IM the other day from a lady named Nancy, who asked if IMs are automatically saved somewhere on one's hard drive, as are email messages. No, I replied, an IM will only be saved if one makes it a point to do so - normally, by going to File, Save (or Save As) and giving it a filename.

In case you're not familiar with IMs, they are real-time messages that are typed back and forth between people who see each other's names online in their "Buddy List" windows. AOL and CompuServe members have IM capabilities built-in, while others can sign up with free services such as Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, ICQ, or AIM. (I can usually be found on AIM under the name of MrPCChat.)

How Nancy Found Me

Since I didn't know Nancy, I was naturally curious as to how she found me. Well, she had gone to "Ask Jeeves" ( and typed in her question about IMs. The answer she received referred her to a North County Times column I'd written on December 24, 2002. So, being an AIM user, Nancy added MrPCChat to her Buddy List, and said hello when my name appeared on her screen.

After answering Nancy's question, we got to chatting and ended up having a very pleasant conversation that went for more than half an hour. (This is the sort of thing that can happen when you IM with an interesting person.)

Getting back to saving IMs, you'll normally be able to choose between a Text Only and HTML format, with AOL and CS offering something called RTX. Experiment to see which you prefer.

Other Ways to Save an IM (or Email)

Another way of saving a conversation is to click anywhere inside it and do Ctrl+A (Select ALL), right-click the selection and do Ctrl+C (Copy) and then paste it all somewhere with Ctrl+V. I paste my copied IMs into an MSWord document.

Keep in mind that emails can also be copied and pasted into a word processing document. If you have important emails you want to preserve, and you find that filename extensions such as HTML, RTX, DBX and EML tend to be confusing, just copy and paste your messages into a Word, Works, WordPerfect, or Notepad file. Save the files in your "My Documents" folder and then, if you want additional security, copy them onto an external floppy disk or CD.

Why Aren't the Flags Waving?

John Rannochio wrote to ask why the animated U.S. flags he downloaded from my Web site don't move when he displays them on his Win98 computer. This is a question I see a lot, so here's the story:

All the little animated "clipart" files you see online and in emails are "GIF" files, meaning they have a filename extension of .GIF. Yes, you also see high-tech animations such as "Flash" online, but GIF files are the ones the average PC user can manipulate.

However, these files appear as "animated" images only when seen in certain places.

WinXP users can double-click a GIF file and see it fully animated in their built-in "Windows Picture & Fax Viewer." Earlier versions of Windows do not have this feature.

Nonetheless, users of earlier versions should be able to right-click a GIF file while holding down their SHIFT key and choose Open With, Internet Explorer to see the file in action.

You can also click on "Choose Program" and "Always Use This Program to Open This Kind of File" to make this happen automatically in the future.

Animated GIFs can also be seen in full motion inside an HTML-based email (which most email is nowadays) by the message's recipient. Whether or not the sender can see the picture in motion, while using the "Insert/Picture" command, depends on his or her email program. In any case, first send yourself a copy of the animation-bearing message to know for sure.

Free Graphics Program is VERY Handy

Another way to see an animated GIF do its dance is to open it in Irfanview, which can be freely downloaded from

As for editing an animated GIF - doing so with your onboard image-editing software will probably kill its motions, as will converting it to another image format, such as JPG or BMP.

Free Online GIF-Editing Program is Also Very Handy

If you want to alter a GIF, go to, where you will find free online editing tools, along with instructions on how to use them. You'll also find all kinds of free downloadable GIFs that you can use in your email or upload to your personal Web site.

Apr. 13

About Animated GIF Files

Shelley Marler wrote to ask how to edit an animated GIF file. She had a waving U.S. flag that she wanted to change slightly, but found that it didn't wave after being edited.

Well, animated GIFs are actually a series of images, similar to movie frames, that give the illusion of motion when shown sequentially. Should you try to edit one in, say, Windows Paint, you will actually change only one image, while the others are lost altogether. Altering animations requires special software, which most image-editing programs don't have.

Anyway, I told Shelley I had several animated American flags, and she found one that was just right for her needs. These flags, along with other patriotic clipart, can be found on Don's Web site.

Speedy Opening & Conversion of Graphic Files

Speaking of image-editing, a gentleman called to ask if there is a program that opens graphic files and lets one re-save them to another format (i.e. BMP to JPG, etc.) faster than his version of Adobe PhotoShop. Yes, there are several - but my favorite is Irfanview, which can be freely downloaded from

Copying Documents Between Different Programs and Different Computer Platforms

I got a call from a long-time Macintosh user who said he had dozens of MSWord files stored on 3.5" disks that he'd now like to be able to be able to open on his Windows-based PC. Well, files created with MSWord-6 (or later) for the Mac can usually be read with any recent version of Word for Windows; however the caller's documents had been created in an older Mac version of Word.

I told him that if he would re-open the files on his Mac and re-save them as "simple text" they could be read by any Windows version of Word (or most any other text editor, for that matter). I cautioned, however, that any formatting beyond basic paragraph breaks and tab indents would be lost.

The lesson here is that, despite all the incompatibilities between different programs, between one version of a program and another, and between the Windows and Mac platforms, plain text can normally be copied from one to another with no problem.

If you create a document in, say, MSWord-2000, and want to send copies to several people who may all be using different word processors, just click on "Text Only" in the "Save As Type" box at the bottom of the Word window. The file will be saved with a .TXT extension, and, when later double-clicked, will open in Notepad on any Windows PC. Within any word processor, the user would go to File, Open, and choose "Text Files" in the "Files Of Type" box.

Beyond dealing with plain text, bear in mind that the "Files of Type" and "Save As Type" boxes offer all kinds of options regarding opening and saving files created in programs other than those you might have, such as MSWord vs. WordPerfect, Lotus-1-2-3 vs. Excel, and even between some DOS and Windows programs.

For the technical-minded, plain text is known as ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) and has been the basis for alpha/numeric text since the earliest days of desktop computers.

More About Using the "Forward" & "Reply" Buttons

When I wrote recently that clicking the "Forward" button in AOL does not display the message that is being forwarded, Gloria McCaffrey wrote to explain how to fix this. Simply mouse-select the text to be forwarded, then hold down the Ctrl key while clicking the Forward button. If you want to select the entire message, click anywhere in it and do Ctrl+A (Select ALL). These steps also work when choosing "Reply."

AOL "Carbon Copy" Peculiarities

Gloria also pointed out another peculiarity of AOL and CompuServe; if you want to forward a letter that arrived with a number of email addresses showing in the CC (carbon copy) box, they will be sent along with the forwarded message whether you use the Ctrl key or not. They should be manually deleted.

Another AOL peculiarity is that if you send a message to multiple recipients whose addresses have been dutifully entered as Blind Carbon Copies (i.e., enclosed in parentheses) the recipient whose address is first on the BCC list will be able to see all the others. The fix: always put your own address first on an AOL BCC list.

Apr. 8

Tips on "Forwarding" from Readers

One of the most gratifying parts of this job is the ongoing education I get from readers. When I said recently that I never use the "Forward" button to pass along email, MS-Outlook user John Rannochio wrote that he does hit this button, which then presents him with a copy he can edit before sending it on to others. Lacey Hood wrote to say she uses the Forward button to edit her Outlook Express email in a similar way.

In contrast, I had said I always "copy and paste" an email into a blank message in order to edit it.

"Forward" Button Does Not Work the Same in All Email Programs

Well, my "copy and paste" preference was based on years of using AOL and CompuServe, where hitting the Forward button simply brings up the "Send To" boxes and does not display a copy of the message to be forwarded. In any case, the suggestions from John and Lacey prompted me to check out Juno, where clicking "Forward" likewise presents one with an editable copy of a letter.

However, I still recommend that AOL and CS users Copy the entire contents of a letter they plan on passing along and then Paste it into a new message, where all the extraneous stuff can be edited out before sending it.

I recently explained how one's keyboard can be switched to a "Dvorak" layout with your built-in Windows software. Well, the same procedure can be used to transform a keyboard into a variety of foreign language layouts, which means certain keys will produce things like the upside-down question mark or exclamation point in Spanish.

If you missed the "keyboard switching" column, it can be found at (along with copies of all columns from 2001, 2002 and 2003) as well as a chart supplied by Emily Hanson showing how to generate specially-accented foreign language characters with a regular keyboard.

Overlays for Keyboard Keys

Back to Dvorak, if one decides to make the leap, how do you overcome the fact that the printed characters on your keys will be different than the symbols actually typed? Well, press-on overlays for keys can be found in a number of places, including at, where both the QWERTY and DVORAK characters are shown on each key. Furthermore, key overlays are available for a variety of foreign languages, and in a variety of colors. They also have Braille overlays.

Making an Alphabetized List

One of the things I am frequently asked is how to create an alphabetized list for items such as favorite books, or phonograph records, or CDs, or whatever. Well, using a spreadsheet is a popular way of doing this. Just list the items in a column of cells, and then go to Data, Sort in Excel or go to Tools, Sort in the MSWorks spreadsheet.

If you have MSWord, you can create a list by simply pressing Enter after each item, and then by going to Table, Sort. Beyond that, you can create an actual "Table" in Word by going to Table, Insert Table, and setting the number of columns and rows to be used. If you only need one column, there's not much advantage in creating a Table, but if you need additional columns, you'll be able to sort items in order of relevance from one column to another.

If you have MSWorks, using its DataBase function can be helpful beyond plain sorting. For instance, if you have a list of email addresses and want to sort them by ISP, as well as by user name, you can list them all in a Works DB field (column) and then click on Tools, Filters. Here you'll find a number of options, such as "Contains" and "Does Not Contain." If you were to choose "Contains" followed by typing "" you would end up with a list of only those email addresses that have in the name. This is a very handy feature in MSWorks and very easy to use. Try it - you'll like it!

Apr. 6

Problems with "Forwarding" Email

Bob Dickey wrote to ask why the pictures included in some of the email he receives don't appear. I asked Bob to send me a copy of one of the emails so I could take a look. Well, the pictures were there, but the answer to the problem has to do with the way some programs send and receive "forwarded" messages.

If an AOL or CompuServe users "forwards" a message to another AOL or CS user, the entire message appears inside a new message, complete with all the extraneous "computerese" often seen at the bottom of an email. If the recipient then forwards this to other AOL or CS members, the entire contents of the first two messages appear in the third email, and so on.

If, however, an AOL email is forwarded to an Outlook Express user, the message arrives as an "attachment," along with a note asking if the recipient wants to OPEN it or SAVE it. If the original message has been forwarded several times (as is often the case with jokes, recipes and inspirational messages) an Outlook Express user may find it's necessary to click on a series of these attachments before reaching the original letter.

This is what happened in Bob's case. After clicking the umpteenth attachment, and finding nothing but yet another attachment, he gave up and deleted the email. Now, however, he patiently clicks his way through to the last one, where he finds the pictures he'd been promised.

Why I Don't Use the "Forward" Button

This, by the way, is why I never use the "Forward" button. If I feel something I've received is worthy of sending on to others, I copy and paste it into a new, outgoing email. In doing so, I copy only the important part of letter, so that subsequent recipients don't have to wade through all the extraneous encrypted hieroglyphics.

Another reason I don't "forward" messages is that so many of them arrive with dozens of email addresses displayed in the CC (carbon copy) box. Of course, if we would all use "BCCs" (blind carbon copies) no recipient would see any address but his or her own.

I also routinely DELETE any incoming email that has "FW:" in the Subject Line. Let's review all this step by step. If you receive an email that you'd like to send to others, use your mouse to select just the part you want to pass on. Then go to Edit, Copy (or do Ctrl+C) to copy the highlighted section. Next, start a new blank email, click inside the message area, and do Ctrl+V (or Edit, Paste).

If you try to reverse this process, by highlighting the extraneous stuff and hitting your Delete key, you'll delete the whole letter.

If the message you copied and pasted contains a picture, it will normally transfer right along with the text. If in doubt, send the newly-created email to yourself first, as a test. If the picture doesn't appear, you have several options.

If you do a right-click on any picture found in an email, you can choose "Save As" to copy the picture to your hard drive. Pay attention to what the picture is named and where it is saved (usually in your My Pictures folder). In your new outgoing email use the Insert Picture command to include it with the message.

Alternatively, you can right-click a picture in a received email and choose COPY, followed by right-clicking in the message area of an outgoing email and choosing PASTE.

Always Use BLIND Carbon Copies

If you now want to send this to all your friends, please honor their privacy by NOT using regular Carbon Copies. Many email programs, such as Hotmail, make this easy by displaying a visible BCC box. AOL and CS display no such box, but addresses entered into their CC box can be turned into BCCs by simply enclosing the whole batch in one set of parentheses. (Illustrated instructions can be found here:

Outlook Express users need to start a new message and then click on View, All Headers to display the BCC box. (This only needs to be done once; the BBC options will appear on all future outgoing messages.) Netscape users will find BCC by clicking the little "down arrow" to the left of "To:"

Apr. 1

Accessing Old AOL Email After Cancelling the Service

Iris Peterson wrote to ask how she might be able to continue accessing years of accumulated AOL email, now that she is changing to a different ISP. Well, assuming the messages have been stored in AOL's PFC (Personal Filing Cabinet) system, all Iris has to do is maintain a copy of AOL on her hard drive after she cancels the service.

Let's take a closer look.

AOL and CS (CompuServe) users have the option of leaving copies of sent and read messages online for up to seven days, while unread messages can be left on the ISPs' servers indefinitely. Messages that users want to save, however, can be placed in PFC folders which are placed on their own hard drives. Once these folders have been installed, they will remain in perpetuity until someone deletes them.

The messages in the PFC folders, however, have been encrypted so that they can only be read using the program in which they were created. This is why keeping a copy of AOL or CS onboard is essential, if one wants have continued access to the stored messages.

But what if you want to transfer your AOL account to another computer - how would you access these messages? Well, the PFC files exist in a folder named ORGANIZE, which is inside the main AOL or CS folder. This folder can be copied onto an external disk or CD and then dragged into the other computer's C:\Program Files\America Online (or CS) folder. You'll get a warning that ORGANIZE already exists and asked if you want to replace it. In this instance, say YES.

Advantages of Free Web-based Email, Such As Hotmail, Yahoo & Netscape

Speaking of messages being held online, one of the advantages to using free Web-based services like Hotmail and Netscape-WebMail is that your email will always be accessible from any computer that can connect with the Internet. Users of email clients like Outlook Express, on the other hand, have their messages copied onto their machines and deleted from their ISPs' servers at the moment they are downloaded. Furthermore, they normally need to be at their own computers to access their Outlook Express email.

Maybe Not...

Well, not necessarily. Most ISPs make it possible to access one's email from any computer by going to their Web site. NCTimes members, for instance, can log onto and click the WebMail icon.

As for Outlook Express email being deleted from an ISP's server as it's downloaded -- this, too, can be overcome. Go to Tools, Accounts, Mail, Properties, Advanced and check off "Leave a copy of messages on server." You'll then be asked to type in how many days you want the messages left online. Bear in mind, however, that your ISP may have its own rules about how much data it will hold, and about how long it will do so.

The "Dvorak" Keyboard

Does anyone remember the Dvorak keyboard? If you're familiar with the history of the "QWERTY" keyboard we all use, you know the weird alpha arrangement was designed to slow us down.

Early typewriters often suffered from jammed keys when one typed fast - so our current keyboard was created to minimize this problem. Well, in the early 30s a Dr. August Dvorak designed a keyboard that put the most frequently used keys in a comfortable easy-to-reach pattern, making it possible to type much faster and with less fatigue.

Not surprisingly, typewriter manufacturers resisted building a whole other second line machines, and most touch-typists were not interested in relearning their craft.

However, today's computer users can switch to Dvorak anytime they want.

My old Hollywood high-school buddy, Carl Von Papp, who is a PC Instructor at Bellevue Community College in Washington state, has been teaching a Dvorak class for some time, and says his students have nothing but enthusiastic praise for the system.

If you'd like to make your keyboard switchable between the two modes, go to Control Panel and select Regional & Language Options. Next, choose Languages, Details, Add. Finally, select Keyboard Layout/IME, United States Dvorak and click Apply. Now you can select your preferred Keysettings.

You will then see a Keyboard Icon at the right side of your Taskbar. You can click this Icon to switch between keyboard layouts. You can also click "Show Language Bar" to place a bar on your desktop.

Mar. 30

More on Google Displaying a Map to Your Home

When I wrote recently that typing a phone number into a Google search bar will generate an address to go with it, along with an option for creating a map and driving directions, a number of people responded with additional information. Several wrote to say that this feature also works with all the other main search engines, except for the mapping option, which appears to be just on Google and Yahoo.

This phone/address feature is reputed to apply only to numbers listed in public phone books, where addresses are normally displayed anyway. However, one lady wrote to say that typing in her unlisted number on Google still displayed her address, along with the map option. Others wrote to say they tried using the "remove" option, found on Google's Web page, but that their addresses continue to be displayed.

Address, Phone, & Fax for Google Corporate Hq.

If you'd like to contact Google about any of this, their corporate address is: 2400 Bayshore Pkwy., Mountain View, CA 94043. They can be reached at 650-330-0100 or 408-363-0186 and their fax number is 650-618-1499. Other search engine's addresses and numbers can be found at

I had also mentioned that, personally, having my address displayed doesn't bother me; but was surprised to see all the other things that popped up when my number is typed in (949-646-8615). Since I've always posted my home phone at the bottom of my newspaper columns, a bunch of previous NCTimes articles were listed, as were several of my personal Web site pages.

Backing Up Outlook Express Email

Jack Williams wrote to say he wanted to save some of his Outlook Express email messages to an external disk, but discovered that they are listed as "DBX" files and appear to be unreadable. Well, personally, I think Microsoft could have made this less complicated, but here's the way it works:

When an incoming email message is received via Outlook Express, it is automatically saved in a folder named "Inbox." If you drag one of these messages onto your Desktop, it will appear with an "envelope" icon and have a filename that matches the message's "subject line." The extension ".EML" will have been appended to this filename.

This file could then be copied onto a floppy disk, from whence it could be copied onto another PC's hard drive, whereupon it could be opened and read - but only if the target PC has Outlook Express installed.

This is normally not an issue, since Outlook Express is part of Internet Explorer, which automatically comes with Windows.

Back at the original PC, one could conceivably copy and save all his OE messages as described above. Doing so would list the messages alphabetically by their assigned "filenames." If, however, you have multiple emails with the same "subject-line/filename" you'll be asked if each new one should override the previous one. Answering "yes" would erase all but the most recent message. You'd have to individually rename all such messages to avoid this.

Microsoft's "Easier" Way

Well, Microsoft gives us an "easier" way to back up these messages. On your computer, buried several layers deep in a collection of cryptically named folders, there is a file named "INBOX.DBX." This file is a compressed encryption of all your Inbox messages, and is totally illegible outside of OE.

Nonetheless, this file can be copied onto another computer bearing OE, and made legible by simply replacing that computer's existing INBOX.DBX file.

But wouldn't doing so wipe out all the messages in the target INBOX.DBX file?

Yes, it would. This is why the target PC's existing INBOX.DBX file should be temporarily moved or renamed before importing the copied one.

So how does one find these INBOX.DBX files when they are so well hidden within multiple folders? Go to Start, Search or Find, Files & Folders, and type "INBOX.DBX" into the search box. Once the filename appears in the "Search Results" window, it can be right-clicked, with "Send To:" being chosen to designate a disk in the "A-Drive."

If you'd like to back up just certain messages, you could create a OE folder named, say, "Special," by right-clicking the Inbox and choosing "New Folder." Selected messages from either the "Inbox" or "Sent Items" folder could be dragged into the "Special" folder, which could later be backed up as described above. It may sound complicated, but it's really not all that hard to do.

Mar. 25

Don Edrington's PC Chat 03-25-03
Is Google Displaying a Map to Your Home?

Roman Krupczak and Wesley Weldon wrote to tell about a new Google feature which makes it possible to type a telephone number into their search bar and have a MapQuest page displayed as a result. Wesley wrote that any person wishing to discover the physical location of a phone number, be it a home or a business, could use this feature to locate a street address, and receive explicit directions on how to get there from anywhere in the country.

Wesley went on to opine that a positive use of this feature could be to determine the location of a friend for whom you may only have a phone number. On a negative note, however, it could also be used by an angry party to find out where you live.

Wesley also said, however, that Google has an option for removing your number from the MapQuest database. Type in your full number (complete with area code, and using dashes) to see if your address is listed. He says if your number appears in the mapping database, a telephone icon will appear next to the first or second entry on the results page. Clicking this icon should take you to a page containing a description of the service, along with a link to request your number be removed from the database.

Do They or Don't They?

However, Roman said he and a friend each tried the above procedure and found that their addresses were NOT removed.

In any case, people with unlisted phone numbers will NOT have their addresses displayed when their numbers are typed in. Regarding this feature, Google reportedly says that the only addresses displayed are the same ones that can be seen in your local white pages - and that displaying a map just makes finding them easier.

Personally, I don't have a problem with folks knowing where I live if they type in my number (949-646-8615) but I can see where some would consider this a major invasion of privacy. My suggestion is to check this out for yourself, and let me know what you learn so I can share the information in this newsletter. Also, if someone has a way of contacting Google's main office, I'd like to have that as well.

3rd Party "Character Map"

I've written previously about the Windows Character Map, a feature that lets us insert special text symbols not found on our keyboards, such as the "cents" or "degrees" sign, along with various foreign language characters. Well, many have written that going to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools to find the CharMap (Character Map) icon did not work for them, nor did going to Start, Run and typing in CHARMAP.

Well, this utility can be accidentally bypassed when Windows is first installed; but it can be included with a reinstallation. However, I've found a third-party "Char-Map" that can be installed even more easily. The main advantage to this version is that the special symbols are displayed in very large, legible type, as opposed to the hard-to-read characters found in pre-XP versions of Windows. This Char-Map utility can be freely downloaded from my Web site at

PC Plays Some Audio Files & Not Others

Teri Albert wrote to say that her computer is not able to play "MIDI" (musical instrument digital interface) files, but can play all her other music files. Other folks have written that their "WAVE" files won't play, but that their MIDIs work fine. If you have a similar problem, click on the "Speaker" icon in your System Tray (near the Digital Clock on your Taskbar).

A single-click on this icon displays a Volume Control with a movable bar and a "Mute" box. However, if you double-click this icon a "Master Volume" window will be displayed, with separate volume and balance controls for several audio devices. Look to see if any has its "Mute" box checked or volume setting near zero.

Missing Volume Control Icon

As for the icon on the Taskbar, a number of WinXP users tell me they don't see one there. Well, you can put it there by going to Start, Control Panel, and double-clicking "Sounds & Audio Devices." Finally, click the box saying "Place Volume Icon in the Taskbar."

If you're curious about what MIDI and/or WAVE files you may have on your PC, go to Start, Search/Find, Files & Folders and type *.MID or *.WAV into the search box. The asterisk (*) is a "wild card" that will find all files with the indicated filename extensions. Double-click any of the found files to hear what they sound like. You'll find that MIDIs are usually musical files that have been played on an electronic keyboard, while the WAVE sounds are likely to be the various "dings & dongs" your computer makes at various times.

Mar. 23

Merging Two Graphics into One

A lady named Erin with a property management service called and asked how she could reproduce some legal size documents (8½x14) when she only has a standard size scanner (8½x11). She said she only needed a "picture" of each document, rather than an "editable" copy, and added that she had scanned some of them in sections, but didn't know how to piece the sections together.

I explained how she could attach these sections using MSPaint (which comes with all versions of Windows). Here's how: Let's assume Erin has scanned a legal-sized page in two sections and named them "top.gif" and "bottom.gif." (More about "GIF" in a moment.)

Now she would open MSPaint by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint. Click on File, New to create a blank, white image. Next, click on Image, Attributes to choose a size for the graphic. In this example, click on "Inches" and type "Width 8.5" and "Height 11." Then choose "Black & White" (in the case of a scanned typewritten document).

Finally, go to File, Save As and name the document, say, "Legal-1" and choose ".gif" as the File Type.

Now Erin would go to File, Open and browse her way to the file named "top.gif." This would normally be found in her "My Pictures" folder. If you keep your graphics in another folder, such as "My Documents," you would browse accordingly.

Double-clicking this file would cause it to appear in the MSPaint window, floating on top of the white rectangle created earlier. Using the mouse pointer, "top.gif" can then be placed in position on the white rectangle.

Now go to File, Open and repeat the above steps to place "bottom.gif" in position. When the two sections are properly aligned, go to File, Save. The assembled pieces would now be a reproduction of the original document with the name "Legal-1.gif" and would print properly on an 8½x14 sheet of paper.

If the two pieces don't seem to overlap and line up the way you want them to, you can use the "Selection" tool (the dashed rectangle in the upper right corner of the Tool Box) to "crop" the sections and make them line up.

Creating a Simple Photo Montage

The above steps can also be used to do things like, say, taking four small photos and grouping them into one larger image.

If you should want to reduce the size of the finished image (so that more of it could be seen at once on your monitor) go to Image, Stretch/Skew and type in a number for the Horizontal and Vertical "Stretch" percentages. Experiment to see which percentage of reduction works best for you. If you want to save a copy of the reduction, go to File, Save As and give it a different name, so that the full-size original will be preserved.

Graphic Filename Extensions

Getting back to "GIF" - space here doesn't allow for a full tutorial on graphic filename extensions, but it's helpful to know that GIF is often used for plain black and white images, while JPG is generally preferred for color photos. However, a scanned document may not offer either of these extensions when asking you to type in a name for the image. You may find something like "PCX" as your only choice.

Well, MSPaint is not sophisticated enough to recognize PCX files, much less convert them to other formats. However, a free graphics viewer named Irfanview, available at, can do this conversion, and many others as well. I use the program all the time.

Computer users with programs like Adobe PhotoShop or PaintShopPro would probably prefer to do all of the things described above with their own high-end programs, where terms like "Resize" or "Resample" would be found, rather than "Stretch & Skew."

How to Make Your Filename Extensions Visible

As for all those various filename extensions, some users are probably not seeing them at all. This is because Windows, by default, hides them. Here's how to make them visible: Windows XP and ME users will double-click My Documents and go to Tools, Folder Options, View and UNcheck "Hide Extensions for Known File Types." Users of earlier Windows versions will go to View, Options, View to find this choice.

This will not only display all the various graphic extensions (such as BMP for BitMap Picture) it will also display others that can make your computing much easier. Some of them and what they mean are: EXE Executable file, TXT Plain Text document, DOC MSWord document, XLS MSExcel file, WPS MSWorks Word Processor file, and SYS System file.

Mar. 18

Hyperlinks in MSWord & Various Email Programs

Joe Martin wrote to ask why an Internet URL that he typed, using MSWord, did NOT turn into a clickable hyperlink, whereas it does when he types it into Outlook Express. Well, when MSWord is first installed, Web URLs and email addresses DO turn into blue underlined links because of the default settings under Tools, AutoCorrect. Apparently someone changed Joe's settings.

To adjust these settings, go to Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat and make your choice under "Internet & Network Paths with Hyperlinks." You then need to make the same adjustment under "AutoFormat as You Type."

As for Outlook Express, most email programs now automatically change one's typed "www" entries into underlined blue links, which makes it possible for an online reader to access these links with a single click. Likewise, clicking an underlined blue email address opens the reader's email program, starts a new, blank message, and puts the clicked address into the "TO:" box.

How to View a Web Page's or Email's HTML "Source" Coding

These clickable links are a result of most email now being sent as HTML documents. If you are curious about HTML (hypertext markup language) open any email message and go to File, Save As. Give the message a name, choose a location for it (I recommend "My Documents") and select "HTML" as the File Type.

Next, double-click "My Documents" and then double-click the saved message to open it. Finally, click on View, Source to see the underlying HTML coding.

If you use Outlook Express, open any email and click Reply. Now click "Source" at the bottom of the message window.

Learning More About HTML

If the HTML coding seems rather intimidating, it always is at first. However, if you plan on creating your own Web site, having a basic understanding of HTML will be very helpful. Once you get into it, it's not all that difficult to learn. And there are many free tutorials available on Web. Just type "html lessons" into any Search Engine.

Yes, you can create a Web site without knowing any coding (by using a program such as Microsoft Front Page) but your pages can look better and be faster-loading if you know how to tweak them with HTML.

Sending a Web Page via Email

Since most email messages are now HTML documents, they are essentially miniature Web pages. This means that an actual page found on the Internet can normally be included in the body of an outgoing email. You can click inside the page and do Ctrl+A to Select All of it, Ctrl+C to Copy it, and Ctrl+V to Paste it into an outgoing email.

But Internet Explorer makes this even easier. While viewing any page, click the "Envelope" icon and then click "Send Page." This will open your email program and place the page inside an outgoing message. In Netscape, this is done by clicking on File, Send Page.

OE users can also send a page by going to Create Mail, Web Page, and by then browsing their way to the target URL.

Depending on various factors, a page's graphics may or may not automatically be sent with the message. Send yourself a test letter first. If there is any doubt, just send the page's URL as a hyperlink. Right-click inside the Web Address box and do Ctrl+C to Copy it. Then use Ctrl+V to paste it into your outgoing message.

Deleting Unwanted Email

Juno user Robert Atilano wrote to ask if there is a way to delete all the junk mail he receives at one time, rather than message by message. Yes, in Juno, as in many other email services, you can click as many of the message boxes as you want, before clicking Delete. Some email programs, such as OE and AOL, don't use boxes - however, multiple messages can be clicked while holding down Ctrl. A group of contiguous messages can be selected by clicking the first in a group, and then by clicking the last one while holding down Shift.

2-Letter Foreign Country "ISO"Codes

When I said recently that I couldn't find a list of the two-letter codes used to identify foreign countries on the Internet, Guntis Kuskevics, Paul Gerard, Tom Inglesby, and Bill Bruinsma each sent a Web site address that lists this information. Thank you, gentlemen!

The URLs are as follows:

The reason I've listed all four sites here is that each one is a little different. I am also putting a list of these codes on my site at for future reference.

Thanks also to George Emerich and David Jones for sending me a list of these ISO (International Organization for Standardization) codes. Your help is appreciated!

Mar. 16

Russian Spam

Leroy Ross wrote to mention that he has been receiving spam from Russia, and asked if I've gotten any. No, I haven't - but I do occasionally run across links to Russian and other European Web sites. In fact, I have found some very interesting sites by doing a little global surfing. (As for avoiding Russian Spam - if you have any information you'd care to share about this, please let me know.)

Being a fan of humor, I once typed "funny" into a Google search box and landed on, which is a Slovakian site. No, I don't speak the language, but the site had enough interesting graphics to make it worth the visit.

Foreign Country "Codes"

If you've been to any foreign sites, you've discovered that their countries of origin are normally identified by a two-character code. Some of these codes can be easily identified by English-speakers, such as "ru" for Russia and "uk" for the United Kingdom.

If you've wondered which country a particular code stands for, I have yet to find a "directory listing" of them, but have found that they can be traced via a site called Search Engine Colossus, which is located at If, for instance, you want to know the code for Germany, you would look under "G" - but you could also find it listed as Alemania. In any case, the code is "de" for Deutschland.

What I have NOT found is a site that lets you type in the code, and then gives you the country's name. If you know of such a site, please send the info to, and I'll share it in this column.

Well, I was about to send this newsletter out, when I got an email from Guntis Kuskevics, who sent me the following link: Thank you, Guntis!

Missing DLL Files

Speaking of foreign sites, I once mentioned a Russian site that maintains a list of common .DLL files, for the benefit of those who may be told they need one to run a particular program. I have since located an American site that has these files, in case you find downloading from a Russian site to be worrisome. The US site is:

Left-Handed Mousing

Anyone who uses a mouse quickly learns that the device was designed for right-handers. References to a "left-click" assume that the mouse's left button will be pressed by the index finger of one's right hand. Although many south-paws compensate with agile fingering, the buttons' actions can be easily swapped by going to Control Panel, Mouse, Buttons.

If you have a 4-button rodent, like my Microsoft Optical Mouse, the two side buttons can be programmed to do things frequently required in your work. For instance, pressing my right side-button does Edit, Undo (Ctrl+Z) while the left-sider does Edit, Paste (Ctrl+V). With the amount of computer work I do, I find the extra buttons very useful, and wish they'd come out with a 6-button job.

Speaking of computers and mice, we know that CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome) can be an unfortunate result of their extended use. I am one of the blessed who has been using them for over two decades with no ill effects of any kind.

I am in no way qualified to offer medical advice, but have read that teaching one's self to be ambidextrous with a mouse (or other pointing device) can be very helpful in dividing up the work between both hands.

My good friend Barbara Quanbeck (another long-time computer-user) recently told me she had never suffered any problems until a few weeks ago, when the first joint of her right-hand forefinger had begun to swell and be very painful. I asked if she had thought of swapping mouse-buttons so that she could use her middle-finger to do "left-button" chores.

She hadn't, but gave it a try. I was delighted when she told me a few days later that this seemed to be helping considerably. However, don't let this be a substitute for seeking qualified medical advice.

Keyboard "Skin"

When I suggested recently turning one's keyboard upside-down to shake out accumulated dust and lint, Betty Lee wrote an enthusiastic letter about the Fellowes Anti-Static Custom Keyboard Guard she has been using for ages. This transparent "skin" is custom-formed to fit exactly over your keyboard and keep out not only lint and pet hairs - it also protects against spilled liquids.

You can buy a "kit" from any major office supplies store, which is actually an order form you mail in to the manufacturer, complete with your keyboard's make and model number. Betty is so enthused about these things that she's given several as gifts to friends. They cost about $20.

Mar. 11

Various Ways of Doing Paragraph "Indents"

Marshall Byer wrote to comment on a recent column that explained how to adjust the space between paragraphs in a document, as a way of making text "shrink to fit" into less space. Marshall pointed out that newspapers normally use no such spacing, but separate their paragraphs by indenting each one's first line.

Good point. Let's take a look at some different ways of indenting paragraphs.

What Is a "Paragraph"?

But first, let's understand the computer definition of "paragraph." When typing a document, pressing the Enter key ends one paragraph and subsequent typing begins the next paragraph. Thus, a paragraph can consist of numerous multiple sentences, or just one word.

The most obvious way of doing an indent is to hit your Tab key at the beginning of each new paragraph. By default, this will cause the first line to begin 1/2" from the left margin. However, this distance can be changed to any you prefer. In programs like MSWord and MSWorks, you can go to Format, Tab and change the Default setting.

Using Your Ruler

If you use a variety of Tab settings, employing your Horizontal Ruler makes this easier. If you don't see this Ruler, go to View, Ruler. In MSWord/MSWorks you will find three "sliders" at the left end of the ruler. The top one (which points down) can be used to change a paragraph's indent distance. Moving the middle one (which points up) will format the paragraph with a "hanging indent" (a.k.a. "outdent").

Moving the square bottom slider will indent an entire paragraph. Using any of these three sliders will cause the indentation to apply to whichever paragraph your cursor currently resides in. By mouse-selecting multiple paragraphs, they will all be indented in the same way.

Once an indent format has been established for a paragraph, pressing Enter will automatically cause the formatting to be carried forward to the next paragraph.

Using "Wingdings"


Leonard Kaminsky wrote to ask about correlating the symbols in the "Wingdings" font with one's regular alpha-numeric fonts. For instance, the Wingdings Smiley Face is equivalent to a capital J in a regular font. But how would we know this?

Well, one way to make these correlations is to type out the entire alphabet in both capital and lower case letters. (Leaving a space between each character will make the correlating easier to do.)

Next, type out all your other keyboard characters with and without the Shift key depressed - again, with spacing between each one.

Now mouse-select all the typing and do Ctrl+C to Copy it. Press Enter and then do Ctrl+V to Paste a second copy of your typing under the original.

Finally, mouse-select the bottom copy and choose Wingdings from your Fonts list. This will cause all the selected alpha-numerics to change into their Wingdings equivalents and to be lined up (more or less) under their corresponding regular characters. It should look something like this:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I   J

You can also use this procedure to correlate the special characters in all those other "symbol" fonts, such as Wingdings 2, etc. This will let you establish a list of favorite symbols which you can type from your keyboard, and then change by highlighting the keyboard entry and choosing the special font.

Using the Windows "Character Map" (CHARMAP)

The more traditional way of inserting a Wingding into your text is to get from the Windows Character Map. Go to Start, Run and type in CHARMAP (capital letters optional). When the chart appears, choose Wingdings and find the symbol you want. Use the "Select" button to place the symbol in the "Characters to Copy" window. Click the "Copy" button and then jump back into your document, where you can do Ctrl+V to Paste the symbol in where needed.

MSWord has its own built-in Character Map, which can be found by clicking on Insert, Symbol.

More Free Image-Editing Software

John Rudell wrote recently about a number of free photo-editing programs whose links can be found at Another one John mentioned is called Xnview, which is similar to Irfanview. Well, I found that Xnview has some features that Irfanview doesn't have, such as the ability to rotate images to a specified angle, rather than just in 90 degree increments. All these programs are free, and are definitely worth your trying out. And these programs do NOT contain any spyware or other malicious coding.

Spam & Pop-Ups

The thing I get asked most nowadays is if I know of any programs that will eliminate spam and pop-up ads.

Well, all the major ISPs (such as AOL and MSN) are now advertising that they have anti-spam options available, along with Parental Control options. And all the search engines abound with programs which claim to kill pop-ups.

All I know is that I rarely receive spam on my cable connection with ATT, and users of the cable ISP have told me they also receive little or no spam. I have no explanation for this, since I do get spam on my Hotmail and AOL accounts.

Anyway, we Outlook Express users do have a number of helpful options available under Tools, Message Rules. But I don't use any of these option because, as I said, I'm not getting spammed on my cable service. Beyond that, I just use my Delete key.

I realize that's little consolation to people with children who are trying to protect them from undersireable spam, so all I can suggest is that you check with your ISP for help in this area. I, sadly, have no magic wand.

Mar. 9

Making Text "Shrink to Fit"

Donald Jackson wrote to say that a feature he often used in WordPerfect, called "Shrink to Fit," does not appear in MSWorks, which came with his new PC. True; this feature comes with MSWord, but not with MSWorks (unless you have a recent version of MSWorks that uses MSWord as its word processor). In any case, text can still be "shrunk to fit" where needed.

Let's say you've created a document that's about pages in length, and that you'd like it to fit on just two pages. In MSWord you can go to File, Print Preview, to see what the finished printout will look like. Here you'll find the "Shrink to Fit" button, which will reduce the font sizes to make everything fit on two pages. WordPerfect users do this with under the Format menu.

But what if you find the smaller fonts harder to read? Well, you can make the page margins narrower (in all word processors) by going to File, Page Setup, Margins. You may even find that using a narrower version of your main font will do the trick. Try Arial Narrow instead of regular Arial.

Beyond that, you are NOT limited to the font heights shown in the drop-down "Size" menus. If you think 16 points would be too big for a headline font, and that 14 would be too small, you can type 15 into the Size window and press Enter. You can even type 14.5 if you want the text height to be 14½ points.

How to Use "Paragraph Spacing"

Another way to shrink a document's size is to adjust the space between paragraphs. Most folks hit Enter twice after completing a paragraph, which puts a full line height between it and the next paragraph.

Try this instead: hit Enter just once after each paragraph. Next, mouse-select all paragraphs (or do Ctrl+A to Select ALL). Now, in MSWord, go to Format, Paragraph, Indents & Spacing, Spacing and type 6 into the Before box or the After box. This will put six points between each paragraph. If your body text is in 12 points, spacing between paragraphs would then be equivalent to 1/2 line. Try numbers other than 6 to see what looks best to you.

In MSWorks 4.0/4.5, you will highlight all paragraphs as explained above, but the "line spacing" is done differently. Go to Format, Paragraph, Spacing, Before/After. Here you can type in any number that will represent the point size (or fraction thereof) of the font currently being used; i.e., typing .5 would make the paragraph spacing equal to six points if you are using a 12-point font.

As for MSWorks 2000, oddly, paragraph spacing options were eliminated altogether. Go figure.

Making Text Fill Up More Space

All of the above is in regard to making a document take up less space. If you want to make a short message fill up more of a page, just do the reverse of any of the above steps, or change your "Line Spacing." In MSWord and MSWorks, line spacing can be changed from "single" to "double" by clicking anywhere inside a paragraph and pressing Ctrl+2. Pressing Ctrl+1 will return the line spacing to "single" (regular) and pressing Ctrl+5 will change the paragraph to "" line spacing.

Note that this affects only the paragraph where your cursor currently resides. To change line spacing in multiple contiguous paragraphs, mouse-select them, or do Ctrl+A to select ALL paragraphs.

Some Formatting Options Not Directly Available in OE

Regarding these advanced paragraph formatting features, Outlook Express users will find that many of them are NOT available in email creation. For instance, "10-point" and "12-point" fonts are available, but "11-points" is not an option; nor can you type "11" into the font size window. Nonetheless, if you create your message in MSWord (or another word processor) using an 11-point font, you can then copy and paste it into OE with the special formatting kept intact.

Beyond all the above, MSWord users can go to Format, Font, Character Spacing, and adjust the horizontal spaces between characters and words. WordPerfect users have similar fine-tuning options available - but the use of these features is generally of interest only to professional typesetters.

More Free Image-Editing Software

John Rudell wrote recently about the amazing free photo-editing program called Pixia. Well, John wrote again about some other great photo-editing tools: Digital Camera Enhancer, JPG Cleaner, and XnView, whose free programs can be found at the following sites:
Digital Camera Enhancer (
JPEG Cleaner (
XnView (

Here's what John has to say about these programs:

Digital Camera Enhancer is a very fast way to tune-up your digital camera images that are not just right (such as photos taken beyond the flash distance).

JPEG Cleaner is a simple but powerful utility for cleaning up JPG files from anything that is not picture data. Commonly used programs such as Adobe Photoshop are writing additional information into JPG file that are not needed for correctly displaying the picture.

XnView is a French image viewer available in many languages, and operating systems; similar to Irfanview but with a better icon. It reads more than 360 file formats, and converts to more than 40 file formats. Multiple manipulation tools. The help file is downloaded separately. 23 awards listed for this freeware. For example, a "5 cow" rating from Tucows. (2 million plus visitors have already been to this site.)

Thank you, John, for all this great information!

Mar. 4

How to Maintain Control While Selecting a Large Area of Text

Suzanne Fischer wrote to ask how to slow down her mouse, since she tends to lose control of it when trying to select a large body of text. Well, the speed of a mouse's functions can be changed by getting into Control Panel and making one's choices under Pointer Options and Activities.

However, the best way to select a large area of text is to use your mouse to click on the beginning point of the selection, and then hold down the Shift key while you use the Arrow keys and/or the PageDown key to continue highlighting the rest of it. Using these keys, rather than your mouse, will allow you to end the selection exactly where you want it.

Alternatively, you can mouse-click the beginning point of a target area, hold down Shift, and then mouse-click the target area's ending point. This will cause everything in between to be highlighted/selected.
Putting a Smiley Face in Email or in a Text Document J

William Wedell called to ask how to put a "smiley face" in his email messages. Well, AOL and Incredimail users have lots of cute graphics available, but these items are not built into Netscape or Outlook Express email. Nonetheless, a "smiley face" can be created in most any kind of a text document by typing a capital J, highlighting it, and then choosing Wingdings from the Font menu. Doing this with a capital K and L will produce a "poker face" and a "sad face," respectively.
Netscape Mail Losing Out to Outlook Express & Hotmail

However, William uses Netscape as his email program. Well, the "Wingdings" Font is available in earlier versions of Netscape (such as 4.5) but, strangely, it is not available in Netscape 7.2. This most recent version of Netscape limits its users to just four fonts. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the once popular Netscape Messenger is now being generally shunned in favor of Outlook Express.

As for the free Web-based version of Netscape Mail, only one font is allowed, whereas competitors such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail have all the regular Windows fonts available.

Getting back to Wingdings, if you're not familiar with this "font," it consists of all kinds of symbols such as scissors, a mailbox, and all kinds of "bullets." Most Windows-based computers nowadays also have Wingdings 2 and Wingdings 3, as well as Webdings. It's worth experimenting with these "symbol fonts" to see if they contain something you can use.

More Tips on Using the Free Irfanview Program

I recently gave some tips on how to use "Irfanview," the free picture-editor available at The program also has "slide-show" capabilities. Clicking the Left and Right Arrows in the Toolbar will sequentially display all the pictures inside a folder. If you open an "animated GIF" file in Irfanview, you will see it in motion.

Images can be rotated in Irfanview at 90 degree angles, by clicking on Image, Rotate, and choosing Clockwise or Counterclockwise. Going to Image, Flip will let you choose between vertical and horizontal "flipping."

(XP users have these features available in the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.)

An Even More Powerful (Yet Totally Free) Photo-Editing Program: PIXIA

Speaking of free picture-editing programs, John Ruddell wrote to tell about one called Pixia. This program has all kinds of special features used in the creation of bitmap pictures (whereas Irfanview was designed mainly to manipulate existing images). Pixia can be downloaded from this site:

Pixia is an extremely full-featured program that has "layer" capabilities similar to those found in Adobe PhotoShop, Corel PhotoPaint, and PaintShop Pro. It also has manuals in several different languages that can be freely downloaded. It is really quite an amazing package, considering that it's a totally free program.

Another Couple of Virus Tricks to Be on the Lookout For...

A new virus trick to be on the lookout for is that of receiving a "Mailer Daemon" message that says an email you sent could not be delivered, and that it is being returned to you as an attachment. If the name of the "intended recipient" is one you don't recognize, delete the email immediately. The attachment carries a virus.

Another virus trick is an email that "warns" you about a dangerous virus, and tells you that more helpful information can be found in the attached message. Delete this one, too - for the same reason.

Mar. 2

Basic Photo Editing Made Easy

One of the things computers are used most for nowadays is handling photographs. We take pictures with a digital camera or digitize snapshots with a scanner and view the results on our computer screens. We can then attach the images to outgoing emails or post them on the Internet for all the world to see.

This brings up the subject of "editing" the photos we want to display. Anyone who buys a scanner or digital camera normally gets some photo-editing software with the hardware. However, these programs tend to vary considerably in their terminology and procedures, which makes it difficult to offer tips on their use in this column. Beyond that, new users are often bewildered by all the options these programs offer and usually settle for viewing and/or printing a photo just as it comes from the scanner or camera. Irfanview

In the past I've given tips on using Windows Paint, only because it's a program that all users have. But its bitmap editing features are severely limited. For this reason, I'd like to offer tips on using a much more robust program, which can be freely downloaded from

Picture Formats

While downloading this software you'll be asked which graphic formats you'd like to have associated with the program. I definitely recommend checking off JPG, BMP, GIF, TIF, and EPS. This means that a picture with any of these extensions will immediately appear in Irfanview when double-clicked.

Since this program does not come with a manual, I don't pretend to be an expert on using all its fancy features. However, I can explain how to use some of the features most often needed by the average computer user. Others more familiar with the program are invited to send me tips, which I'll gladly share in these newsletters.

Picture "Size"

Let's start with picture "size." It's important to understand that the "screen view" size and "actual" size are two different things. The former can be adjusted to make things easier to see and edit on your monitor, while the latter is the actual finished size that your printer will put on paper.

Double-clicking a picture's icon will cause it to appear in Irfanview at a 100% screen view, which, in theory, will be the same size of an actual printout. However, since monitors come in many sizes, the theory doesn't always hold true.

If you want to increase or decrease the screen view, clicking on the Plus (+) or Minus (-) icons in the Toolbar will make the image change in 10% increments. If you want to increase or decrease the print size, go to Image, Resize/Resample and type in the appropriate numbers, keeping in mind that a size of 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels in height will take up most of an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. By having "Preserve Aspect Ratio" checked, you need only change the width or height to have the other dimension adjust itself accordingly.

Which DPI to Use

The default DPI (dots per inch) will be 72, which is fine for being viewed on one's screen; but changing this to 300 will produce a much sharper print image.

If you do change the print size, be sure to go to File, Save As and give the resized picture a different name. This will preserve the original, in case you need to use it again with its original properties.

Selecting a Portion of a Picture

If you want to crop a portion of a picture, Irfanview comes up in the "Select" mode by default. This means you can draw a rectangle around the part of an image you want keep by moving your mouse with the left button held down. Next click on Edit, Copy (or do Ctrl+C), followed by doing Edit, Paste (or Ctrl+V). This will cause the section you just cropped to appear in a new window by itself.

Color Enhancement

If you want to adjust the colors of your picture go to Image, Enhance Colors. This will give you two small copies of the picture -- one showing the colors as they currently appear, while the other shows the results of using the sliding adjustment levers that change the Red, Green and Blue values along with the Brightness, Gamma and Contrast factors. You can always undo things by clicking on Set Default Values, in case the options seem to be getting out of control. This free program is definitely worth experimenting with.

Feb. 25

Printing Emails with Evenly Spaced Margins

Bill Jones wrote to ask if there is any way to format the print layout of email received via Outlook Express, so that the page margins will be spaced evenly. Well, my answer to that question is the same one I've always given to questions such as, "How can I get rid of all the extraneous 'header' information when I print an email?" or "How can I make the text larger when I print an email?" Copy & Paste

The answer that covers all these issues is: COPY and PASTE the email into a word processing document, where you can edit the message in any way you like.

Click anywhere in the body of the email, do Ctrl+A to SELECT ALL, do Ctrl+C to COPY it, and then do Ctrl+V in a blank word processing page to PASTE it all in.

(Why Ctrl+V for Paste? Because it comes right after X [cut] and C [copy] which makes these keyboard shortcuts faster and easier. Besides, Ctrl+P is reserved for Print.)

Another Method

If, however, you don't care to use your word processor, here's an alternative: With the original email open, click on File, Save As, and give the message a name, using HTML (or HTM) as the filename extension. This will save the email as an HTML document, and will place it in your My Documents folder (unless you tell it to go somewhere else).

Double-click My Documents to open the folder, find the file, and double-click it. This will cause it to open as a standard "Web page" in Internet Explorer.

Regarding Bill's question about the margins, this procedure will set the margins at 3/4" all the way around. If you want to change the margins, go to File, Page Setup and type in your preferences. To see how it will look when printed, go to File, Print Preview. Now when you click the Printer icon (or go to File, Print) you know the margins will be just the way you want them.

However, these steps won't give you the text-editing options available with your word processor - but there's a way to overcome this as well.

Text-Editing in "Reply" Mode

Back at the original email, click on Reply. This will normally cause the entire body of the message to be displayed on a Reply page. Here you can delete extraneous text, change the font style of the text you plan to keep, and make other formatting adjustments just as you would with your word processor. Finally, go to File, Save As, and follow the steps described above to turn the letter into an HTML document.

AOL and CompuServe users can do the same with incoming email. The main difference is that they would do Ctrl+A before clicking the Reply button. This will keep the entire original message intact for doing the desired text-editing, prior to going to File, Save As. Sending Music with Your Email

A Juno user wrote to ask if there is a way send a music file with an outgoing message that will automatically play when the recipient opens the email. No, I can find no way to do this with Juno - however I found a way to do it with Outlook Express.

After creating an OE email, click on Format, Background, Audio, and browse your way to the desired audio file. Not only will the music begin automatically when the recipient opens the email, the audio file will not show up as an attachment, because it has been "embedded" in the file. However, this is true only if the recipient is another Outlook Express user. Users of other email programs will still need to download and play the file separately. Sending A Voice Message with Your Email

By the way, you can attach a voice message to any outgoing email by recording your own .WAV file. After plugging a microphone into your computer's audio-in jack, you can activate the Windows Sound Recorder by double-clicking My Documents, and going to File, New, Wave Sound. This will initiate a "recording session" that lets you type in a name for the WAV you're about to record. After naming the WAV, press Enter. Next, right-click the WAV icon and choose Record.

Now a miniature "Record & Playback Console" will appear on your screen. Click the Red Circle to begin recording. When you're finished, click the Black Rectangle to stop recording. Click the "Rewind" and "Play" symbols to hear the results.

Finally, right-clicking the finished WAV file and choosing Send To, Mail Recipient, will begin a new email for you and attach the file to it.

PS: I uninstalled HotBar, the utility I mentioned in my last newsletter. It is way too invasive and is actually a form of "spyware/ad-ware." The program can be easily uninstalled by going to your Control Panel and choosing Add/Remove Programs.

Feb. 23

More on Customizing Email "Appearance"

When I explained recently how to create "special backgrounds" for Outlook Express email, Lenora Anderson wrote to say there is a free program available from that lets you do this more easily. In addition, the program provides dozens of colorful "emoticons" and other clipart graphics, many of which are animated, along with a variety of sounds.

Well, I downloaded and installed the software, and must confess that I have mixed feelings. The program installs toolbars of brightly-colored icons on your OE email creation page, and includes this toolbar on all your outgoing messages. Here's a picture of one of the toolbars:


Furthermore, this "Hotbar" is added to all the Web pages you visit (including your own "Home Page," if you happen to have one). This icon bar has been cleverly designed to read text in the email messages you create, as well as the main text on whatever Web page you might be visiting. The various icons then morph themselves into phrases that offer links to other sites which writing or your surfing suggests you might be interested in.

For instance, if you happen to be looking at the page on my site that tells about the screen printing business I owned for 40+ years, the icons will offer to take you to sites where signs are sold, sites that sell business cards, and a listing of commercial printing establishments, along with a number of other business-related sites.

Mixed Feelings

The reason I have mixed feelings about this "Hotbar" is that some of its icons have lead me to places I found to be informative and useful; however their omnipresence on every Web page I visit, and on each email I write, tends to be invasive and annoying. In any case, the software can always be uninstalled; so if you're looking for ways to dress up your email, it can't hurt to give it a try.

NOTE: I finally uninstalled Hotbar because it is way too invasive. It can be uninstalled by going to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs.

Pictures in Juno Backgrounds

Getting back to using a favorite picture as your "email background," Juno users can do this by clicking in the body of an outgoing message and going to Edit, Message, Insert, Image. Next, use the Browse button to find the target image (usually in the My Pictures folder) whereupon it can be double-clicked to have it "tiled" across the entire face of the outgoing message. Finally, choose a contrasting color for your typing.


Those who are really into sending ultra-fancy email might prefer Incredimail, which can be freely downloaded at The program will import all your Outlook, OE or Netscape folders and messages, making the program behave pretty much like whatever you're used to. Like Hotbar, Incredimail has dozens of sounds and animations from which to choose.

Incredimail is free, if you don't mind its advertising itself on each letter you send. Buying the program eliminates the ads.

"PopuUp Killer"

Although I have found "pop-up ad-stoppers" to be generally unreliable, a number of people have written to recommend "Panicware." It can be freely downloaded from However, before deciding on any of these free programs, I'd look at the user reviews on sites such as,, and The above-mentioned programs all received very high approval percentages, but it's worth checking out some of the negative reviews as well.

".ART" Files from AOL

When I recently mentioned converting .ART files to .JPG or .GIF files, I was unaware that AOL is the main provider of graphics with the .ART extension. Barbara Quanbeck wrote to explain that AOL, by default, compresses picture files into the .ART format so that they can be downloaded more quickly. However, thus compressed, these pictures are not as sharp and clear as they were before the conversion.

AOL and CompuServe users can get around this by going to Keyword: Preferences, Organization, Internet Properties WWW, and choosing "Never Compress Graphics." It may take a little bit longer to download a picture, but the improved image quality is worth the wait.

Quick Fix for Misbehaving Keyboard

I hear from folks periodically who tell me their keyboard is malfunctioning. In almost every case, the problem can be fixed by cleaning the keyboard with a can of compressed air (which can be obtained from any office-supply or electronics store). If you don't have one of these cans on hand, you can still fix most problems by lifting your keyboard, turning it over and shaking it vigorously. You might be surprised at the amount of dust, lint and pet hairs that come tumbling out.

Hoaxes & Urban Legends

Sharon Younker wrote to mention a very useful Web site named This site is the place to go if you have questions about being told you have a virus and should delete a certain file, or that Microsoft is going to pay you to forward "an important email" (among many other hoaxes being spread throughout the Web).

Feb. 18

Customizing Your Email "Background"

Kathleen Buchanan wrote to ask how use a favorite picture as her Outlook Express "Stationery." First, let's discuss just what "Stationery" is. It's an image used as an email "background" and OE comes with several from which to choose. They can be accessed by going to Message, New Message Using, or by clicking the "down arrow" alongside the "Create Mail" button.

How to Do It in AOL & CompuServe

Before explaining how to insert one's own favorite picture, let's look at AOL's much simpler approach. AOL and CompuServe users can right-click inside the body of an email and choose "Background Picture," after which they can "browse" their way to a favorite graphic. Alternatively, they can choose this option by clicking the little "Camera" icon (to the left of the little red heart).

If the chosen picture doesn't fill the body of the email, it will be "tiled" to do so, whereupon any typed message will be on top of the image.

How to Do It in Outlook Express

Outlook Express, on the other hand, uses "Web pages" for its background designs. These are HTML documents, which normally refer to a bitmap picture, along with a special background color and, possibly, a special font style.

In fact, if you're into writing HTML, you can edit an existing page by clicking the above-mentioned "down arrow" and choosing Select Stationery, Edit. If you want to be really adventurous, you can choose "Create New" instead of "Edit."

Helpful OE Wizard

But OE makes all this easier by offering a Stationery "Wizard" for those not familiar with HTML. To activate the Wizard go to Tools, Options, Compose, Create New. You will be prompted each step of the way, including in the choice of a favorite picture. Unlike AOL's "fill-the-whole-letter" approach, the Wizard will let you position the picture anywhere you want on your email page, with "tiling" being one of the options.

A copy of the original picture should be placed inside the Outlook Express "Stationery" folder, where your finished HTML page will also reside. You can find this folder by going to Start, Search/Find, All Files & Folders, and typing in STATIONERY. If you find more than one folder by this name, double-click each one till you find the one containing the Outlook Express background pages.

Finally, you'll be asked to "name" your page. Giving it the same name as your graphic can be helpful. If, for instance, your picture is called ROSES.JPG, the Web page could be named ROSES.HTM (or ROSES.HTML, with capital letters used here for emphasis only).

Having Your Special OE Background Come Up by Default

If you have a page you want used by default each time you launch Outlook Express, go to Tools, Options, check off "When composing new HTML messages, use the following Stationery:" and make your choice. This is also where you'll go if you decide to change or stop using the page.

If you happen to receive an email with a Background you find attractive, you can copy it by going to File, Save As Stationery. However, this only works if you also save any images seen on the email. This can be done by right-clicking an image, choosing "Save As," and telling it to be saved in the OE "Stationery" folder.

Copying Graphics for Use in Email

Right-clicking and saving an image also works with "animated GIFs" (along with just about any other Web graphic). Bear in mind, however, that animated images might not "move" as you place them into an email, but they will be seen in motion by the recipient. When in doubt, first send yourself a copy of the email.

What is "NORMAL.DOT"?

Leroy Ross wrote to ask the purpose of the "NORMAL.DOT" file in MSWord. We'll come back to "NORMAL" in a moment, but first it's helpful to know that Word comes with a number of pre-designed "templates" for items such as business letters, faxes and resumes. All these templates have a ".DOT" extension and they are written in a way that lets you overtype their "dummy" text with your own personal information.

When finished with such a document, you can go to File, Save As and give it a name with Word's traditional ".DOC" extension. These templates can be found by going to File, New, from within Word.

As for "NORMAL.DOT," it's Word's default "page layout" file and it changes whenever you customize Word to suit yourself. Beyond that, it's a file that is usually better left alone to do its work in the background. If, however, Word flakes out altogether (which has happened to me many times over the years) you can usually restore the program back to its default settings by simply deleting NORMAL.DOT. The next time you launch Word, the file will be recreated with its original settings in place.

Feb. 16

More on Anti-Spyware

Regarding a free "anti-spyware" program called "Ad-Aware" I recently mentioned, several people wrote to say how pleased they are with it. Larry Hayden went on to say it identified a program named "Stop-Sign," which told him he had a virus (so he would buy the upgrade) as being a phony since his Norton Anti-Virus told confirmed that he had none.

Phillip Craven and others wrote to say "Spybot - Search & Destroy" is another free "anti-spyware" program which also does an outstanding job. Ad-Aware and Spybot are both freely available from

Working with "ART" Files

A lady called to say she had downloaded some free clipart from, but that all the images had ".ART" extensions and would not display themselves. Well, files with an .ART extension can only be seen inside of Internet Explorer (or inside the AOL and CompuServe browsers, since they are based on IE). Nonetheless, an .ART file can be converted to a more universally readable format by doing this: Double-click the .ART file to make it open itself in IE. Then go to File, Save As and choose .BMP in the "Save As Type" box.

Well, .BMP files are compatible with any Windows-based PC, but they tend to be rather large. Nonetheless, they can be converted to smaller .JPG or .GIF files. Double-clicking a .BMP file will normally launch the Windows Paint program, inside of which you can go to File, Save As, and choose one of the more compact formats.

".CGM" & ".WMF" Files

Speaking of graphic file formats, I'm often asked about .CGM and .WMF files. These are older "clipart" formats that are seldom used nowadays, but you may still have a lot of them on your hard drive. To find out, go to Start, Find or Search, All Files & Folders and type in *.CGM or *.WMF. WMF files are bitmaps that normally open within Windows Paint (or any bitmap-editing program) and which can easily be inserted into a word processing document or into an email. .CGM are "vector" graphics that display themselves inside of Microsoft programs such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Inserting Pictures in Email & Word Processing Documents

From within MSWord or MSWorks, for instance, go to Insert, Picture, From File, and browse your way to the target image. Easier yet, you can drag a bitmap image directly into an open MSWord document. If you first create a "Text Box" (Insert, Text Box) you can place the graphic inside of it. The framed graphic can then be easily repositioned on the page.

You can also drag a bitmap directly into an outgoing AOL or Outlook Express email. In AOL the image will be displayed inside the body of the letter, whereas in OE the dragged-in image will be listed as an "attached" file.

All the above "graphics-manipulation" instructions may vary, however, depending on the vintage of the programs being used. It pays to experiment.

Outlook Express Error Message

Speaking of Outlook Express, a gentleman called to say every time he launches the program he gets an error message saying that "An outgoing letter has an invalid email address." He went on to say that he is always able to "hide" the message, but wondered how to stop it from coming up each time he gets into OE.

Well, a reference to an "outgoing letter" normally means there is an unsent message in the OE "Drafts" folder. This folder can be opened with a double-click, from whence the letter can be sent. In this particular case, however, the email address needed to first be fixed; most likely by making sure there were no blank spaces in it and/or that the "@" symbol was proerly in place.

MSWord Printer Options

A complaint I hear periodically is that clicking the Printer icon in MSWord will immediately set the attached printer in motion, without giving the user any opportunity to set his or her own parameters. This can be overcome by first going to File, Print or by pressing Ctrl+P.

Beyond this, it's possible to put a second Printer icon on the Word Toolbar that will bring up the "print options" window. Go to Tools, Customize and click on the Commands tab. Then, under Categories, choose File. Next, under Commands, choose "Print..." Finally, drag this icon onto your Toolbar. The three dots after the word "Print..." means that the printer won't start until you first choose your parameters.

Using "Print Preview"

Speaking of printing, before doing so it's always a good idea to go to File, Print Preview. This also applies to printing Web pages with Internet Explorer or Netscape.

Feb. 11

Deleting Multiple Files

A number of folks have written to ask if there is a way to delete old email messages in a group, rather than one at a time. Yes, but the procedure varies from one email program to another. Outlook Express and AOL users can hold down their Ctrl key while clicking on individual messages. All the selected items can then be deleted as a group. If the target messages happen to be contiguous, you can click on the top item and then hold down your Shift key as you click the bottom message. This will select the top and bottom items and everything in between.

Hotmail and other Web-based email programs don't allow for either of the above group tricks; however, multiple message boxes can be checked before clicking Delete.

The Shift+click and Ctrl+click procedures also work in many other areas of Windows. On the Desktop, for instance, any combination of files and folders can be group-selected by clicking them with Ctrl held down, while using "Shift+click" will select a collection of contiguous icons. Selecting a Group with a "Marquee"

Another way to select a bunch of contiguous icons is to draw a "marquee" around them. This is done by holding down the left mouse button while moving your mouse. Once a group of contiguous icons is selected, individual icons can be added to the selection by using Ctrl+click.

Inside Windows Explorer (after right-clicking Start and choosing Explore) multiple files found in the right-hand window pane can be selected by any of the above methods. However, multiple folders seen in the left-hand window can NOT be group-selected. Nonetheless, multiple folders found inside any other folder CAN be group-selected by "marqueeing" them or by using the above "Ctrl" or "Shift" options.

"Inverting" a Selection

If you want to delete all the files in a given folder except for, say, just two or three, you can select the ones to be preserved and then go to Edit, Invert Selection. Finally, go to Edit, Delete.

"Drag & Drop" or "Send To"

What else can be done with a group of selected items? Well, they can be sent to another location, by dragging and dropping them or by right-clicking the selection and choosing "Send To." As for the destination of such a selection, bear in mind that files sent from one folder to another are physically "moved," whereas files sent to another disk drive are "copied."

However, there are exceptions to the rule about folders. For instance, if you want to drag some Outlook Express messages into a special folder you've created on the Desktop, they will be "copied," leaving the originals in place. When in doubt, check to see if the originals have been left intact.

Recovering Deleted Files

As for retrieving deletions, most email programs have a "Deleted Items" folder from which they can be recovered. AOL users can get there by clicking Mail, Recently Deleted Mail. As for the Windows "Recycle Bin," double-click it and then select the target items. Finally, click on File, Restore.

Bypassing the Recycle Bin

If you want to permanently delete files without first sending them to the Recycle Bin, you can hold down Shift while choosing Edit Delete (or while hitting your Delete key). This will mean the deletion can NOT be reversed.

Deleting Temporary Internet Files

Some folks like to delete all the items in their "Temporary Internet Files" folder periodically. This collection can be found by going to Start, Find or Search, All Files & Folders, and typing in the folder's name. Windows XP often has multiple folders by this name, so you may need to double-click each one to see where the target files are located.

In case you're unsure of what "Temporary Internet Files" are, they are copies of items you've touched upon while on the Web, and they're placed on your hard drive with the idea that they can be re-accessed more quickly by having them there.

Using the Temp. Internet Files Folder to Capture Music Files

Something I use this folder for is to retrieve music files I occasionally stumble upon. If you access a Web page whose music you like, there may or may not be a "Download" button available. Well, you can check your Temporary Internet Files folder for items with a .MID or .WAV extension and then drag them onto your Desktop. Double-clicking any of these files will bring up the Windows Media Player (or, perhaps, another player) and cause them to be played.

Feb. 9

Changing a Document's Text Size on Your Monitor

We all know it's important to have an anti-virus program installed on our computers, but those of us using a cable connection also need the protection of a "firewall." Without such protection, it's possible for "hackers" to access our computers and do all kinds of mischief. "ZoneAlarm" is a free firewall that I've used for the past couple of years.

ZA can be tailored to your own preferences in terms of what you allow to be sent from or received on your computer, and these settings tend to be simple and straightforward. Nonetheless, using a firewall can have its own set of problems. I've had occasions where I found myself unable to access the Internet in ways previously used (such as uploading files to my Web site). A quick re-setting of my ZA preferences would usually solve the problem; but on one occasion the problem was fixed by simply reinstalling the program.

Another Free Utility

I also recently downloaded a free supplement to ZA called VisualZone, which monitors and reports back on hacker activity that ZA encounters. I'll let you know more about this program after it's been in use for a while.

Besides being victims of hackers and virus-writers, we all seem to be receiving more spam and seeing more popup ads lately. Much of this appears to be happening because of "spyware" or "adware" concealed in programs we download. Well, there are plenty of "anti-popup" programs available, but my experience has been that they are generally unreliable and can even defeat certain things we actually want to see online.

Free Anti-Spyware Program

Furthermore, these programs operate in the background and may cause your computer to run more slowly by using system resources. Well, I've found a free program named Ad-Aware that can remove the devious spyware from your PC, and it only runs when you ask it to.

There are other "anti-spyware" programs which advertise themselves as being "free to try for 30 days." However, there's usually a catch; these programs will FIND the spyware for free, but won't remove it until you BUY the program. Ad-Aware finds and removes the malicious software at no cost.

All the above-mentioned free programs are available from, which is where you can also find a number of "anti-popup" programs, along with a collection of user reviews on each product. A variety of user opinions can also be found at and I find these reviews to be invaluable in deciding what freeware to download and which to ignore.

More on Backing Up Favorites & Bookmarks

My recent column on backing up Favorites and Bookmarks brought a goodly response from readers with additional tips. Nicholas Roberti and Dionne Blaha wrote to say that Internet Explorer Favorites are stored in a folder named "Favorites," which can be found in the C:\Windows folder.

Well, this is true for users of Win98; but WinXP was designed to accommodate multiple users, which means PCs using this OS have multiple folders with that name. Going to Start, Search, All Files & Folders and typing in FAVORITES will display the whole lot. Next, double-clicking each one will display its contents.

When you find the one containing your personal favs, you can right-click the folder and choose "Send To" which will let you copy it to another location, such as a disk in your A: Drive.

A couple of readers wrote to say that Netscape Bookmarks can be found in a file named "Bookmarks.html." Again, this file can be found by going to Start, Find, whereupon it can be copied to another location with the "Send To" command.

More on Backing Up AOL Items

Regarding my saying that AOL users have all their Favorites and Personal Filing Cabinet Folders in their "C:\Program Files\America Online\Organize" folder, Barbara Quanbeck wrote to point out that inside "Organize" there are individual files bearing the names of one's special folders, and that they can be selectively copied and saved as backups. However, these files are only legible when accessed through AOL.

Well, that's not entirely true. These files can be turned into "plain text" by changing their extensions to .TXT (or by adding .TXT to ones that have no extension). Doing so will display a file full of mostly illegible gibberish, but with enough areas of understandable English to make this a useful trick.

Feb. 4

Backing Up Favorites & Bookmarks

A number of people have asked how to back up their Internet Explorer and AOL "Favorites" as well as their "Bookmarks" in Netscape Navigator. First, let's look at just what an Internet "Bookmark" or "Favorite" actually is.

It is a hyperlink that take us to a specific location on the World Wide Web. Such an "address" is known technically as a "URL" (Uniform Resource Locator) and it often begins with "http://www."

These links usually have "shortcut names" written in plain, understandable text. An example might be "North County Times" printed in blue and underscored. The underlying URL would actually be "" and clicking on the link would take you the North County Times home page.

Netscape users can save a link to a Web page by clicking on Bookmarks, "Bookmark this Page" or "Add Bookmark," while Internet Explorer users would click on Favorites, "Add to Favorites." IE users can also drag the blue "E" symbol from the URL box onto the word "Favorites."

AOL users can double-click the little red heart in the upper right corner of a Web page and choose "Add to Favorites," and then continue by choosing a folder from a displayed list. (A new folder can also be created at this point.)

Okay, so much for saving these URLs in the first place - how can they be backed up on another disk?

IE users can go to Favorites, Organize Favorites and then click on "Create Folder." Name the folder and then click on each item to be backed up, followed by clicking "Move to Folder." To save this folder to another location, right-click it and choose Copy. Finally, right-click the target location (say, the A:Drive in My Computer) and choose Paste.

Netscape 7 users can go to Bookmarks, Manage Bookmarks, where they can select multiple items by holding down Shift while clicking on the top and bottom items in the list. Right-click the selection and choose COPY, whereupon the collection of URLs can be PASTED into an open word processing document or into an outgoing email. (Right-click inside the target document and choose Paste.) The email can then be sent and/or it can be saved as an HTML document by going to File, Save As.

Netscape 4.7 users can do the same by clicking on Bookmarks, Edit Bookmarks.

Import & Export Options in Netscape 7

Netscape 7 users, while in "Manage Bookmarks" can also opt to click on Tools, Import, where they'll find options for, say, importing a list of IE Favorites. They can also go to Tools, Export and elect to send a collection of URLs to another location as an HTML document.

AOL users can click on "My Favorites" and then click on "Write" to begin a new email. Now the Favorites can be dragged into the body of the letter. Next, go to File, Save As and save the letter as an .RTX file. If the purpose of the backup is to use these Favorites on another computer, go ahead and SEND the letter to the target email address. Either way, the saved .RTX file can later have its extension changed to .HTM (or .HTML) whereby the enclosed URLs will be seen as clickable hyperlinks in non-AOL programs. Beyond this, AOL and CompuServe users will always be able to read an .RTX file as is. AOL Users Can Save Their Favorites and Personal Folders in One Fell Swoop

AOL and CompuServe users can also copy all their Favorites and the contents of their Personal Filing Cabinets by going to C:\Program Files\America Online, right-clicking the "Organize" folder and choosing COPY. This can be followed by PASTING the folder into another location.

The "Organize" folder contains a lot of cryptic files that can only be read within AOL. The advantage to having this folder backed up is that if you install AOL on another computer (or if your existing AOL happens to crash) you can drag this "Organize" folder into a newly created AOL main folder. However, the list of Favorites and the contents of your PFCs will only be as current as your last save - so dedicated AOL users should consider backing up this folder fairly often.

All the above AOL instructions also apply to CompuServe. The only difference is that CS uses a "little red check mark" on Web pages, rather than a "little red heart." Note: Anyone who knows of an easier way to do any of the above is invited to send the information to Mary Hanson at, whereupon it will be gladly shared in future newsletters, as well as on this Web site.

Resizing & Saving Just the Part of a Photo that You Really Want

Bob Birk called to ask how to edit the "excess sky" out of a photo of a building site. I told Bob that, in lieu of any other image-editor, he could launch Windows Paint by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint. Bob then went to File, Open and browsed his way to the photo.

However, when he clicked "Open" the photo that appeared was way too large to fit in the Paint "canvas" area. Well, most image editors have the option of displaying a larger or smaller "view" of a picture, but Paint (oddly enough) only has a collection of larger views available.

So I suggested that Bob go to Image, Stretch/Skew and to change the Horizontal and Vertical "stretch" numbers to 90%, to see if the picture would fit.

It didn't.

So Bob tried lower percentages until he found one that displayed the whole picture. Now he was able to use the "Select" tool (the dashed rectangle in the upper right corner of the Tool Bar) to outline the portion of the picture he wanted. Then he went to Edit, Copy to COPY the selection. Next, by going to File, New, and then clicking Edit, Paste, Bob was able to PASTE the selection in as a new picture. Finally, by going to File, Save As, he SAVED the revised picture with a new filename.

Feb. 2

Using the "Thumbnail" View in Windows XP

One of the things I like best about Windows XP is being able to view files and folders as "Thumbnails." As an example, double-click the "My Documents" folder and go to View, Thumbnails. This will display a "Thumbnail" graphic of every file in the folder, thus making it easier to see which one is which. If you have other folders inside My Documents, some of their contents will be graphically superimposed over the yellow icons to give a visual idea of what they contain.

However, have you noticed that no such "View/Thumbnails" option exists for your Desktop? I don't know about you, but the Desktop is my favorite place to store frequently accessed files and folders. But most of the yellow folders look alike, and the files have pre-assigned icons that also tend to look very similar.

Viewing Your Desktop as a "Folder"

Nonetheless, you can have Thumbnail graphics on your Desktop because the Desktop is actually just another "folder." In previous versions of Windows, Desktop was found at C:\Windows\Desktop. However, WinXP was designed to accommodate multiple users who can each have his or her own Desktop.

To find yours, go to Start, Search, All Files & Folders and type in DESKTOP. Double-click each Desktop folder that appears until you locate the one you recognize as containing what you see when you boot up your computer. Right-click this folder and choose Create Shortcut.

You'll be told that shortcuts can't be created here (in the Search area) and asked if you'd like one on the Desktop. Click YES.

Finally, double-click the newly-created "Desktop Shortcut" icon on your Desktop, whereupon its contents will be displayed just like those in any other folder. You can make this folder fill the screen by clicking the Maximize square in its upper right corner.

Putting a Thumbnail on a Folder

But it gets even better. You can opt to superimpose a favorite picture over a yellow folder (rather than letting randomly chosen images appear there). Drag your picture into the target folder if it's not already inside. Now right-click the folder and go to Properties, Customize, Choose Picture. Double-click the target picture to adhere it to the front of the folder.

Now that your Desktop is being displayed as a folder, you can take advantage of all the other "View" options that were unavailable on the traditional "Desktop." Choosing "List" will reduce the size of icons and filenames to have more of them displayed.

Choosing "Details" will add information such as each file's size and when it was last accessed. Going to "View, Choose Details" will let you pick which details are important to you. Going to "View, Arrange Icons By" will let you choose parameters such as Name, Size and Type.

Choosing a "Background" Picture

Speaking of choosing a picture, you can choose one to be your traditional Desktop's "Background" (a.k.a. "Wallpaper") by right-clicking it and choosing "Set As Desktop Background." You can also choose to have it "centered" or "tiled" or "stretched to fill the screen" by right-clicking your Desktop and choosing Properties, Desktop. This is also where you go to choose your favorite Screen Saver.

Thumbnails in Windows 98

Getting back to "Thumbnails," Win98 users do have some options. They can right-click a folder containing graphics and choose "Enable Thumbnails" and then go to "View, Thumbnails" inside the folder.

Using "OLE"

After my recent description of how to insert a spreadsheet page into a PowerPoint presentation, by first converting it into a "bitmap picture," Kathleen McKeen wrote with an even more comprehensive method: OLE.

"Object Linking & Embedding" is a procedure for inserting data from one program into another, and then having the inserted data change if and when the original data changes.

Using the "Excel/PowerPoint" example, a spreadsheet can be mouse-selected and copied with Ctrl+C. Then, on the target PowerPoint slide, go to Edit, Paste Special, Paste Link, and choose "Microsoft Excel Worksheet Object." (To insert a spreadsheet whose data will NOT be changed, just use "Edit, Paste.")

The spreadsheet will then appear in the slide much like a "picture" with "sizing handles" on its sides and corners. From then on, whenever a change is made in the original spreadsheet, the data in the embedded "object" will change accordingly (assuming Excel and PowerPoint are on the same drive or on networked drives).

Jan. 28

Changing a Document's Text Size on Your Monitor

Lenora Anderson used the trick of "holding down Ctrl while moving the mouse-wheel" I recently mentioned for changing the size of the text in an email message she received. However, she wrote to say she can't get the text display back to its normal size. Well, holding down Ctrl and moving the mouse wheel in the opposite direction will fix this, as will going to View, Text Size and choosing Medium.

In any case, I've learned a little more about this trick. If you change the text size of incoming Outlook Express email, the size of some Web page text will change accordingly when viewed via Internet Explorer. Likewise, changing a Web page's text size while in IE (by using View, Text Size or Ctrl+mouse-wheel) will effect the text size of incoming OE email. Well, since OE is actually part of IE, I guess this should come as no surprise.

Where It Works & Where It Doesn't

What is surprising, however, is that this Ctrl+mouse-wheel trick works fine with AOL email, but does NOT work with Netscape email, nor does it work with any version of Netscape Navigator. Netscape is owned by AOL and is the chief rival of Microsoft's Internet Explorer -- but the AOL browser has always been built on Internet Explorer. Go figure.

Anyway, a reminder to AOL users: You are NOT restricted to using AOL's step-child version of Internet Explorer. While connected with AOL, just click on the OE icon to make the switch. You can likewise switch to any other browser you may happen to have installed.

Don Eddy wrote to ask where to find "Create Mail" in Outlook Express, so that he can click on View, All Headers to bring up the BCC (blind carbon copy) box. Well, "Create Mail" is found in the upper left corner when OE6 is launched. Alternatively, one can click on Message, New Message or press Ctrl+N.

Another Way to Save the Outlook Express Address Book

Regarding a recent column that described how to back up Name, Address and Phone data of OE email contacts, Nicholas Roberti wrote with an interesting alternative. A file named "wab.exe" can be found in the C:\Program Files\Outlook Express folder. Right-click this filename and choose Copy. Finally, right-click the target backup medium, such as the A: 3.5" Floppy Drive, and choose Paste. The complete OE Address Book will then be saved onto the inserted floppy, and can be opened by double-clicking the filename. It can also be printed, so that a hard copy is always available.

Speaking of printing out one's email contact list, Margaret Fowler wrote to mention that AOL has a "Print" button in the middle of its Address Book window.

Changing Your Screen View Text Size

Marianne Young wrote to ask how to place a spreadsheet in a PowerPoint presentation. Well, PowerPoint was designed for creating and displaying "slideshow presentations," using text and graphics, along with optional sound and animations. However, a "spreadsheet" is often a set of calculations that don't necessarily lend themselves well to being inserted into a presentation.

Nonetheless, if the "results" of the calculations are converted into a "chart" of some kind (which is one of the main features of any spreadsheet program) the graph can be inserted just like any other picture. Well, you can also take a "picture" of the original spreadsheet and insert it into a presentation just as easily.

Start by opening your spreadsheet and mouse-selecting the portion that you want to use as a picture. (You may have to do this in sections if a whole sheet won't fit comfortably.)

Now go to Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint, to launch the Windows "Paint" program. Then click on Edit, Paste. The selected area of your spreadsheet will now appear as an image, whereupon you can go to File, Save As, and give the picture a name.

Here is where you will also choose a bitmap format, such as BMP, JPG or GIF. For "plain text pictures" the GIF format usually offers the smallest file size. Here is where you will also choose a destination folder for the graphic, with "My Pictures" normally being the default.

I suggest using "Paint" only because this "no frills" bitmap-editor is available to all Windows users. Owners of programs like Adobe PhotoShop or Paint-Shop-Pro will very likely prefer using their own favorites.

Jan. 26

Backing up Email Address Books

Rock Wattson wrote to ask how to back up an email Address Book. Well, it varies from one email program to another.

Outlook Express users can go to File, Export, Address Book and click on "Text File (Comma Separated Values)." Next, click the Export button and give the file a name in the "Save Exported File As" box. Click on Browse to choose a location for the file, say, your "My Documents" folder.

You'll be asked to choose from a list of "fields" (Name, Email, Phone, etc.) which items you want saved. The finished document will have a CSV extension, which can be opened as an Excel file (with each field in a separate column) or as a Notepad file (with commas separating the fields). In fact, the CSV extension can be changed to TXT, to insure that the document will be read as a "plain text" file. The advantage is that all computers can read TXT files; but not all computers have Excel onboard.

Netscape 7 users can go to Window, Address Book, Tools, Export, where they'll be offered three file types from which to choose. Again, I recommend TXT. "My Documents" will normally be the suggested storage folder.

AOL users have no "Export" options, but can do this: Click on Write. Then click on Mail, Address Book. Next, while holding down the Shift key, click on the first and last names in the Address Book. This will select all names. Next click the "Send To" button. This will cause all the "screen names" to appear in the Send To box, with each name separated by a comma.

Now click inside the Send To box and do Ctrl+A to "Select All" and then do Ctrl+C to "Copy" all the screen names. Now you can launch any word processor (including Notepad) and do Ctrl+V to "Paste" the data into a page. Lastly, save the page as a TXT file.

Juno users can back up their name list by clicking on Email, Address Book, followed by mouse-selecting all the names and addresses. Next right-click anywhere in the selection and choose Copy. Finally, do Ctrl+V to Paste the data into any word processor and save the page as a TXT file.

As an alternative to the "Export" procedure, Outlook Express users can click on "Addresses" to display all the Names and Email Addresses in their list. The entire list can then be selected by holding down Shift and clicking on the first and last entries. Right-click anywhere in the selection and do Ctrl+C to Copy, and then Ctrl+V to Paste the list somewhere.

"Somewhere," by the way, doesn't have to be a word processing page -- it can be an outgoing email. This is especially handy if your reason for saving an Address Book is to copy the data onto another computer.

In addition to the Address Book "Export" procedures explained above, Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and Netscape have "Import" options. Outlook users can go to File, Import/Export and follow the prompts. In Outlook Express, go to File, Import, Other Address Book and follow the prompts. Netscape users can go to Window, Address Book, Tools, Import, while Eudora users can go to File, Import.

Some of these Import/Export options may be limited by which program "versions" you're using, in which case upgrades can often be downloaded from a program author's Web site. It pays to investigate.

Sending CCs (Carbon Copies) & BCCs (Blind Carbon Copies)

Gary Phillips wrote to say he uses Outlook Express and wants to know if he can send a specific email to everyone in his Address Book, without typing in all the names.

Well, the main purpose of an Address Book is to allow us to point and click names into the "Send To" or "Carbon Copy To" boxes. However, even this procedure can be speeded up in OE, by creating a "Group" and then putting all the target names and addresses into the group.

When doing this, however, I only put my own email address in the "Send To" box and then put the entire "Group" into the "BCC" (blind carbon copy) box. This way each recipient sees only his or her own name on the incoming email, rather than letting dozens of people see dozens of other email addresses.

Please protect your recipients' privacy by always using BCCs. If you don't know how to insert email addresses as BCCs, please click here for instructions.

Jan. 21

Backing up Outlook Express Emails

Tim Smith wrote ask how to back up his Outlook Express emails onto another disk. Well, there are different ways, but let's look at the easiest one first. If you have just a few emails you need backed up, do this: Create an empty folder on your Desktop by right-clicking it and choosing New, Folder. Type over "New Folder" and change it something like "Special Email."

Back in Outlook Express, find the target emails and drag them into the newly created folder, where they will be listed alphabetically by the text in their Subject Lines. These letters will have been "copied," leaving the originals in their OE folders.

To save this new folder onto a 3-1/2" disk, double-click My Computer and drag the folder onto the "A: Drive" icon, where it will be likewise "copied" (rather than "moved"). An email thus backed-up can later be opened at any time by double-clicking it, assuming OE is installed on the hard drive where it is to be read.

More on Backing Up OE Email - the "DBX" Files

Another way to save Outlook Express email is to back up ALL your folders and the letters they contain. When using OE, this is done automatically in the background as new data is continually being converted into "DBX" files (which can normally be found in a folder named "Outlook Express"). However, this folder is usually nested deep inside a collection of cryptically named other folders, making it difficult to find and to work with.

Here's how to make it easier. In OE go to Tools, Options, Maintenance. Clicking on "Store Folder" gives you the opportunity to place the DBX folder anywhere you want it. I suggest your "Desktop" for ease of accessibility. You can even create a folder there first (as described above) so it will be ready to receive the DBX files.

Having this folder on the Desktop makes it easier to drag onto the "A:" drive or a Zip disk, or onto your "CD-Burner" drive (if you have your CD-Burner configured for "dragging and dropping"). Roxio CD Creator 5 makes this easy to do.

Decoding DBX Files

But how does one make these coded DBX files readable later on? Well, this type of automatic back-up is designed to replace the files in an existing "DBX folder" and is done by simply copying the files into the target folder. You'll get a message saying that some or all of the folders already exist and you'll be asked if you're sure you want to replace them. Click YES.

Here's How This Worked for Me:

I recently got a new PC and installed OE as my default email client. However, I have hundreds of emails on my older PC that I wanted to transfer. I simply copied all my old DBX files onto a CD and then from the CD into the Outlook Express DBX folder on the new machine. All my correspondence became instantly accessible when I launched OE on the new PC, complete with all the old emails being in their respective folders.

Automatic Adding of Names to Address Book in AOL 8.0 & in OE

Speaking of OE, a default setting that irritates a lot of people is one that automatically adds all email addresses of letters to which you reply into the Address Book. This can be defeated by going to Tools, Options, Send, and UNchecking "Automatically put people I reply to in my Address Book."

In AOL 8.0 this same feature has been added, but can be defeated by going Settings, Preferences, Address Book and UNchecking the similar message. Click SAVE to make your choice stick.

Are Deleted Files Really Gone Forever?

A question I'm frequently asked is, "When I DELETE a file and then EMPTY the Recycle Bin, is the file gone forever -- or can it somehow be recovered?" Well, a technician's answer to this can be long and complicated, but here's the bottom line: Generally speaking, the only time a file is completely obliterated is when it is "overwritten" with another file of the same name. Other "deleted" files can often be recovered -- but the process can be time-consuming and expensive. There are "Data Recovery" specialists listed in the Yellow Pages who can tell you more about this.

Going from "ALL CAPS" to "all lower case" to "Traditional sentence structure."

A lady wrote that she copies recipes from the Internet, but complains that they are often written in ALL CAPS, and asked if there is an easy way to convert them to lower case. Well, in MSWord you can select a phrase and press F3 while holding down Shift. The phrase can then be cycled through ALL CAPS to all lower case to Traditional sentence structure (with the first letter of the phrase capitalized).

Jan. 19

Info from Readers re: Film Negative & Slide Scanner

When I recently asked folks to send information about scanners for film negatives and slides, Art McCullough and a lady named Patty both said how pleased they are with one called the 1800u Prime Film Scanner. They each paid about $230 for the super-high resolution scanner, complete with USB connectivity, but said it now sells for somewhat less.

Displaying Photos Online

Art went on to demonstrate how he displays his photos online with a service called and how he finds editing the pics easy to do with software from I was very impressed with the shots he'd taken in Venice, Italy some 50 years ago.

MSCONFIG Startup List - What to Keep - What Can Be Left Off

Regarding another Web site I had mentioned that purportedly tells us what items to keep and to omit, using MSCONFIG, Bob Crabtree wrote to say he didn't quite agree. Bob fortified his views by sending an .EXE file that he said contains a more accurate list of which items should be kept and which should be scuttled. Having examined the data he sent, I'm inclined to agree, and have made the file available for downloading here.

MSN & Outlook Express May Be Deleting .EXE Attachments

Before attaching this file to the email he sent, Bob wisely changed the filename extension from EXE to XEX. Why? Because some email "filters" (including MSN and Outlook Express) are sometimes deleting incoming attachments that have certain extensions, since the chances of such an attachment containing a virus can be pretty high. Anyway, all I had to do was change the extension back to EXE to make the file work.

Speaking of which, any filename can be edited by right-clicking it and choosing Rename. Or you can click a filename and press F2 to make it editable. I rename files all the time for a variety of reasons -- but a filename's 3-character extension should NEVER be changed, except under certain special circumstances. Call me if in doubt.


Getting back to MSCONFIG options, Win95, WinNT, and Win2000 do NOT have this utility for regulating those "startup" programs that eat up system resources and slow down a computer. However, oddly enough, MSCONFIG for WinXP can be downloaded and installed in these versions of Windows.
For Win95 and Win2000 users, whose operating systems do NOT have the MSCONFIG feature, information on how to import MSCONFIG can found here and here.

Easy Way to Type in Web Site Addresses

John Hanlon wrote to tell of a tip that everyone should find very useful. If you need to type a Web address into your browser's URL box, try typing just the actual site name, such as NCTimes or Escondido. Press Enter while holding down Ctrl and all the other "http" and "www" stuff will be filled in automatically and log you onto the site.

The other ideal way to insert a Web address (short of having a link to simply click on) is to Copy and Paste. Mouse-select the target URL and do Ctrl+C to Copy it. Click inside your browser's URL box and do Ctrl+V to Paste it in. Click Go or press Enter to log onto the site.

Searching for Lost Files

"Betty S" wrote to ask if I could tell her what happened to some photo files that had apparently disappeared from her hard drive. I replied that there are many ways that files can disappear and suggested she do the following: First, look in the Recycle Bin to see if they are there.

If not, click on Start, Search/Find, Files & Folders, and type in the name of one of the files. If unsure of a file's full name, type in part of a name. For instance, typing STONE would find files named LIVINGSTONE.JPG and STONEWALL.DOC.

If you can't remember any of the names, but know that the pictures are, say, .JPG files, type in *.JPG (or *.JPEG or even *.JP*). The asterisk is a "wild card" that will look for all files on the computer that have the indicated extension. Since .JPG is the most common photo file extension, there's a good chance of finding the pictures if they still exist on the hard drive.

If the wanted files show up in the search, click on View, Details to see the "paths" to wherever they are. Just make sure that the "Look in" box is set for the entire C: drive (not just a particular folder).

Jan. 14

Anti-Virus Protection

Technician Gerri Jellison wrote to suggest reminding everyone of the importance of having an updated anti-virus program operational at all times, since she's recently had to restore more than one system that was disabled by a virus. I couldn't agree more. In the past I've felt relatively immune by just deleting any email attachment that I hadn't asked for. Well, I got a virus last week from an email that had no attachment.

However, my Norton Anti-virus program caught it and I was able to delete the infection immediately.

Although I had heard that a virus can be included directly inside an email, this is the first one I have ever received -- and I'm now a believer.

Another virus I received recently was also very sneaky, but easier to spot. It was attached to a "Mailer Daemon" message that said an email was being returned, whose recipient couldn't be found. Well, since this little demon arrived at an email account from which I never send letters, I could tell it was a virus even without Norton. Nonetheless, it pays to be constantly vigilant. This one looked deceptively legitimate.

The bottom line is: it's cheaper to buy an AV program than it is to have a computer repaired.

Which Program to Use

Which program do I recommend, and do the free ones such as's AVG work as well? Well, I'm not in the testing business and can only tell you that I've had some problems with McAfee, but have never had a problem with Norton's anti-virus software. However, I do steer clear of Norton's "utility" programs, since they appear to be designed for use by a technician, which I am not.

Using Windows' Built-In Maintenance Utilities

I've found that Windows' built-in utility programs, such as ScanDisk (CheckDisk in WinXP), Defrag, and Disk Cleanup provide all the ongoing maintenance I need. If you're not familiar with these programs -- or have had trouble getting them to run successfully, click here for detailed help.

Using MSConfig to Manage Startup Programs

Another important thing to help improve Windows performance is to disable all the unnecessary "start-up shortcuts" found in the System Tray. The icons seen near the digital clock in the Windows Taskbar are "shortcuts" which have told various programs to start running when your computer is booted (on the theory that you'll be able to get into them more quickly when you need them).

But what if you don't need them? Should they be running in the background and using system resources? Why not turn them off and just launch them when you need them (except for your AV program, as mentioned above).

Click on Start, Run and type in MSCONFIG (upper or lower case letters optional). Click OK and then click on the Startup tab. Finally, UNcheck all the shortcuts you don't need.

So how do we know which ones are needed when so many have such strange, cryptic names? Well, I found a Web site that has the ultimate listing of what's needed and what's not. Click here to check it out.

Scanning Film Negatives & Slides

Maria Bauer wrote to ask if I could recommend a "film negative scanner." Again, I'm not in the product testing business and generally rely on for such comparisons. In case you're not familiar with these scanners, they are built to scan 35mm negatives and color slides, among other things, and can now be found for as little as $200. If anyone would like to tell me of his or her experiences with these machines, I'll be glad to write about them here.

Beware of Bonzi!

I've heard a lot of negative comments recently about something called Bonzi Buddy. I frequently find myself confronted with an invitation to download this free software, but I always ignore it and move on. Anyway, I'm told that the program has a cutesy talking monkey that gives computer tips and tells jokes, and that it constantly nags one to buy the "upgraded version" for about $50. I'm also told that Bonzi offers no "uninstallation" procedure and can only be deleted by removing it from the Windows registry. size=3 face=verdana color=black> In any case, I've no personal experience with Bonzi, but recommend reading user reviews which can be found at

Editing the Windows Registry

Well, getting into this registry is easy enough, but making an editing mistake there can really mess up a computer. A "registry backup" should always be made first. This can be a complex procedure which I'll not try to describe here; however, some instructional sites can be found by typing in REGEDIT or WINDOWS REGISTRY at Google or any other search engine.

Jan. 12

Questions about "Burning" CDs

Bob Whitegiver wrote to ask the difference between "CD-R" and "CD-RW" regarding a CD recorder he acquired, with the idea of having larger storage capacity than provided by the "floppy" disks he's used in the past.

Well, these terms refer to the actual CDs (compact discs) with "CD-R" meaning "CD-Recordable." These are "WORM" (Write Once, Read Multiple times) discs that can be played just like regular CDs on any standard CD player. The disadvantage is that you can't re-record them.

"CD-RW" (CD-ReWritable) discs can be erased and reused, but CD-RWs don't work in all players. However, they will work in all CD-RW recorders ("burners).

All CD recorders can read CDs and CD-ROMs, just like any standard CD-ROM drive, and Bob's CD-Rewritable drive is able to write to both CD-R and CD-RW discs.

However, you cannot re-record "pre-pressed" discs -- so you might as well trash all those AOL CDs that have been accumulating. And don't ask me why floppy disks are spelled with a "k" and compact discs are spelled with a "c" -- I have no idea.

In any case, with a CD burner you can create both audio and data CDs from files on your hard drive, and you can create new audio CDs from anything you can record into a WAV or AIFF sound file.

The data CDs you produce will work in ordinary CD-ROM drives, and the audio CDs you create will work in your home or car CD player.

Can a CD burner be used to copy other CDs?

Yes, both audio and data CDs can be duplicated. You can even create audio CDs that are compilations of other audio CDs (perhaps a personal "best of" disc). Keep in mind, however, that most CDs are protected by copyrights.

How much information do the discs hold? Some CD blanks hold about 74 minutes of audio or 650 MB of data, while others can hold 80 minutes of audio or 700 MB of data.

Is it possible to "drag" files onto a CD-R just like it's done with a floppy or a Zip disk?

Well, sort of. The process can be a bit more involved, and requires special software.

I use Roxio Easy CD-Creator 5, which asks if I'd like to format a blank CD so that files can be dragged onto it, just like they can be with a floppy. I click YES - but there is more to it. What appears to happen is that the files are dragged into a buffer of some kind, where they undergo some kind of an electronic "priming" before they are actually copied onto the CD. However, the steps are easy to follow.

If you use a program that's easier, let me know and I'll write about it here.

Burning DVDs

Beyond all this, is the recent arrival of DVD recorders, which are said to be able to do all of the above, plus copy and/or create super-high-capacity DVDs (digital video discs). I'll write more about this when I've learned more.

Recording Music CDs Directly from a Stereo System

Another CD-creation option is the "audio-only" CD-Recorder, which connects to your stereo system instead of your computer, and with which you can record sound directly from CDs, LPs, cassettes, radio, TV or whatever.

Reading a Totally Illegible Text File

I recently received an email attachment from Don Kruthaup, which was written with MSWorks and whose filename had a .WPS extension. However, when I tried to open the file in MSWord, using the "Files of Type" box to choose various versions of MSWorks, all I got was illegible gibberish.

Odd, I thought, but moved the file to another computer that has both Works 4.5 and Works 2000. Guess what - I still got gibberish. I have no idea why this WPS file can't be read by any of these programs, but I was able to make the file legible, anyway.

How? I simply changed the WPS extension to TXT. The result was another page full of gibberish, but mixed in with it were a couple of paragraphs of legible text.

The lesson here is that nearly any file can have its extension changed (temporarily) to TXT in order to display some legible English somewhere within it. Just don't forget to change it back.

Jan. 7

Free Spell Checker

A lady named Shauna wrote to say she uses WordPad and that she'd like to find a free spell-checker to use with it. All the major word-processing programs have built-in spell-checkers; but WordPad, the no-frills text-editor that comes with Windows, has no such tool. My suggestion? Pick up a free AOL CD at any computer store. Installing the program doesn't mean you need to sign up for the service.

Once installed, the AOL "Write" function lets you compose a document just as you would with any other text-editor. And you don't have to be online to do it.

Type in your text -- or copy and paste it in from another source, such as WordPad -- and then click the ABC spell-check icon. AOL's spelling tool is very comprehensive and allows for being fine-tuned to one's own specifications, including the addition of one's own personal dictionary. You can also highlight a word or a phrase for selective spell-checking.

Furthermore, you can opt to begin your document by clicking on File, New, whereupon your workspace will look more like a regular word processing area (i.e. without the "Send To" and "Copy To" boxes displayed). Your creation can be given a filename by clicking on File, Save As and choosing to save it as "plain text" or as an "RTX" (Rich Text Format) document. If you choose the latter, you can later change the RTX extension to HTM or HTML, which will make it readable by any browser.

If you do choose to save it as an RTX/HTML file, you can use all kinds of fancy formatting, such as different font sizes and colors, along with inserting a picture and/or choosing a special background color or image. You can even copy and paste your colorful creation into an outgoing Outlook Express email.

Yes, you can also do this fancy formatting directly into OE, but OE doesn't come with a spell-checker -- it uses the one that comes with MSWord/Office. No MS programs, no OE spell-checking!

As for changing the RTX extension to HTM or HTML, right-click the filename, choose RENAME, and then edit it as needed. Normally, filename extensions should NOT be changed, since doing so can make a file unusable. This is one of the few exceptions to the rule.

Alphabetizing a List

Pat Williams wrote to ask how to alphabetize a list of some kind. Well, all the major word-processors have a built-in "Sort" command. In MSWord go to Table, Sort and follow the prompts. If the text to be sorted is a simple one-column list, the options will just be "Ascending" or "Descending." If you have a multi-column list you'll want to start by creating a Word "Table."

Go to Table, Insert Table and type in the number of rows and columns needed. Normally, it's known how many columns are needed (First Name, Last Name, Address, etc.) but the number of rows is often indeterminate. So just guess at the number -- more rows can be easily added at any time.

Once you have the data typed in, click on Table, Sort. You'll be asked which column should be sorted first (often "Last Name" or "Company Name"). Then you'll be asked if any other columns need to be "sub-sorted" relative to the main column. You'll also be asked if the top row should be a "Header" row.

The end result should look very much like a spreadsheet, but without the alpha/numeric headings along the top and left edges.

Speaking of spreadsheets, they are great for sorting. Use columns and rows as described above to enter your data, using Row #1 as a Header Row. When ready to sort, Excel users will go to Data, Sort, while MSWorks spreadsheet users will click on Tools, Sort. You'll then be prompted through the other options.

If you want to sort a list created with the MSWorks word processor, simply copy and paste it into an MSWorks spreadsheet. After it's been sorted, copy and paste it back into the word processor. It's easy.

Converting a Foreign Language Webpage into English

Regarding the free online language translation service I recently mentioned, Flo Gates wrote to say she uses it to translate foreign-language Web pages into English. The translation is not 100% perfect, of course, but Flo says it's accurate enough for the genealogy work she does.

Jan. 5

Outlook Express Deleting Attachments

A number of Outlook Express users have written to say that many incoming email attachments are being flagged as suspected virus-carriers and being arbitrarily deleted, even though they are legitimate files the recipient is expecting. This can be fixed by going to Tools, Options, Security, and UNchecking "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus." Having done this, however, one should always have an updated anti-virus program operational.

Free Anti-Virus Services

Paul LeCocq wrote to say he uses the free anti-virus service available at Another free online virus-checker is available at and I have been very pleased with the way it works.

Adjusting Your Mouse to Work Better for You

"Bill" wrote to say he has a new optical mouse and wants to know how to set it so he can use a "single-click" where a "double-click" is normally needed. Well, my Microsoft optical has four buttons which can be programmed in many different ways. I've allowed the regular left and right buttons to remain unchanged, but programmed the left and right "side" buttons to do one-click COPY and PASTE. These settings can be found under Control Panel, Mouse, which Win98 users can get to via Start, Settings and which WinXP users can normally get to by just clicking Start.

This is also where options for changing a mouse's double-click and/or scrolling speed can be found, along with a variety of pointer shapes from which to choose.

Speaking of mice, once you've tried an "optical" rodent you'll never go back to the lint-collecting roller type. I chose Microsoft because, for me, it has a much better "grip" for periodically raising it above desk-level as needed.

Single-Click vs Double-Click

Speaking of single and double clicks, a frequent question from new PC users is, "How do I know which one to use?" Well, generally speaking, if the mouse pointer has an "arrow" shape a double-click is needed to activate an icon, while a "pointing finger" shape says that a single-click will imitate an action.

If you'd prefer to activate Desktop icons with a single-click, then double-click My Documents (this time) to open the folder. Win98 users will then go to View, Folder Options, General and choose the "Change to Single-Click" option. WinXP users will find this under Tools, Folder Options, General.

Other options for those having "click" or other physically-challenging problems can be found under Start, Programs, Accessories, Accessibility. WinXP has an "Accessibility Wizard" to help lead a user through all the various options. Win98 users will choose the options from a list that includes "Sticky Keys," "Keyboard Click Sounds," and "Screen Magnifier."

Another way to magnify Desktop text and icons is to right-click the Desktop and choose Properties, Settings. Changing the Screen Resolution to lower numbers, such as 640x480, will accomplish this. Conversely, changing to higher numbers will make things smaller, but let you see more text and graphics on each screen view.

Inserting Special Symbols in Your Email (or anywhere) ( ¢ © ² ® ¾ ¿ º ñ é ± £ )

"Kae" wrote to ask how to put the "degrees" sign (°) in her email. Well, all kinds of special symbols and foreign language characters can be found by going to Start, Run, and typing in CHARMAP (Character Map). After clicking a symbol, it can be copied and pasted into any kind of a document.

For those who use these symbols a lot, a shortcut to this utility can be created by right-clicking Start, Explore, Windows (System32 for WinXP users) and looking for CHARMAP.EXE. Right-click the Character Map icon and choose Create Shortcut. Drag the Shortcut onto the Desktop, where it will always be available for supplying the special characters needed.

MSWord and WordPerfect users have these options under Insert, Symbol.

Free Online Translator

I got a lot of response to the online translator I mentioned in the last newsletter. In case you missed it, the free service lets you type a phrase in English, which will then be translated into any of a number of different tongues. Conversely, you can enter the phrase in one of the selected languages and have it translated into English or one of the other languages. Like any translator, it has its limitations and imperfections, but I was surprised by how well it worked when I used it to go from English to Spanish and vice versa. It will also translate an entire web page for you. Here's a link if you want to try it out.
The entire URL is:

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