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Who Are We?

Microworx is an IT Retailer specializing in discount software for Charities, Churches & Not-for-Profits. Through our direct negotiations with Vendors, we are able to offer you "charity" pricing on a huge range of software. Our job is to help you do your job - faster, easier, cheaper!

 

Tech Tip

We've all received emails that were sent in a hurry & with little care. Poor grammar, incorrect spelling & clumsy sentences can confuse the meaning & even give the wrong impression.

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Customer Testimonial

"Compassion Australia has used Microworx as our preferred Software supplier for many years now. I have found their team to be open and honest with their advice and guidance, and are always prompt with supply of the orders. Not only have Microworx provided massive cost savings for software over this time, but they have guided us easily through the quagmire of licensing as well. Of all of our business partners, Microworx stands out as our best partner without a doubt, and I do highly recommend them to others on a regular basis."
- Michael Macarther, IT Operations Manager, Compassion Australia

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Tech Tips

 

How to tell if an email is Fake, Spoofed or Spam

Nowadays, a lot of malware writers are attempting to use social engineering to dupe people into performing a task that will allow their malware to run. How do you tell the difference between malware & legitimate email?


In order to check if an email is authentic, we need to look at the information contained in the email header.


1. If you're using Gmail.

Open an email.

Below the sender’s name, click the Down arrow.

The message is authenticated if you see:

"Mailed by" header with the domain name, like google.com.

"Signed by" header with the sending domain.


2. If you're checking your email on another email client, you can check the message headers.

Open an email message.

Find the "Authentication-Results" header.

If the message was authenticated by SPF/DKIM, you'll see "spf=pass" or "dkim=pass."


Spreadsheet Tips - Change The Colour Of Worksheet Tabs

Colour coding worksheet tabs can make it easier to identify specific sheets. Simply right-click on the sheet tab, choose Tab Colour, & then select the colour for the tab.


Sign your documents without having to print them 

There is a huge trend towards the "paperless" office at the moment.  However, it raises the inevitable question, how do I sign an electronic document?


Adobe Acrobat has a lot a great features for handling digital documents.  It is the application I use most frequently everyday.  You may not be aware, but Acrobat gives you the ability to insert a signature by using the "Fill & Sign" feature.  In circumstances where you want to send out a document to be signed, consider using Adobe Sign to completely automate the process.  All the recipient needs to do is open the document in Acrobat & tab the the next position for a signature or initials. What was a cumbersome & slow process can be completed in a few minutes.


Spreadsheet Tips - Move to the edge of the data region

You can use Control + Arrow key (Command + Arrow key on a Mac) to move in any direction to the edge of the data range. The curser will jump to the next data range if there are empty cells, or the end of the spreadsheet if all the cells are filled.


Spreadsheet Tips - Adding or Deleting Rows or Columns

To insert a new row or column, simply highlight the entire row, then use the keyboard shortcut "Control" + "+". To delete a row, simply highlight the row, then type "Control" + "-".

Exactly the same procedure applies for adding or deleting columns.


Spreadsheet Tips - Jump to the First or the Last Cell

Navigating a large spreadsheet can be slow & tedious. Jump to the first cell by using the keyboard shortcut Control + Home, Command + Home on a Mac. To jump to the last cell use Control + End, Command + End on a Mac.


Free Adobe iOS App with some of the features of Photoshop

Adobe has released a new app for iPhones & iPads (& soon for Android) that allows you to edit photos on the fly.


Adobe Photoshop Fix allows you to:


1. Retouch and restore photos using tools that give you the exact look, structure and feel you want:

- Liquify — Push, pull, rotate, swell or reshape any area to create subtle or drastic effects.

- Heal and patch — Fix imperfections using content from surrounding areas and then blend the result.

- Smooth — Simply paint to smooth or sharpen skin, landscapes or other content..

- Lighten and darken — Add or remove light from specific parts of a photo.


2. Edit and adjust photos using a variety of essential tools:

- Colour — Desaturate to remove all colour or to create a mix of colour and black-and-white.

- Paint — Get precise effects with an eyedropper that lets you sample colours, an adjustable brush and an eraser.

- Adjust — Add vignettes and control exposure, contrast and saturation.

- Defocus — Blur part of a photo to draw attention to your key subject.


3. Send your images directly to Photoshop CC on the desktop so you can refine them and take them further. Fix converts all your edits to layers and packages your image as a PSD file.


Spreadsheet Tips - Use Control + Click to enter a formula argument

Whenever you enter a spreadsheet formula such as adding a series of values using: =SUM(A1, B11, C7:C17) you can simply enter "=SUM(" then Control-clicking each reference. By holding down Control (or Command on a Mac) as you click each reference, the spreadsheet will automatically enter commas necessary for the formula argument.


Protect yourself from Ransomware

One of the most common malware attacks nowadays is Ransomware. It differs from past attacks, which were a form of digital graffiti or vandalism. Instead, they are written by organised crime to extort money from the vulnerable. Ransomware encrypts files on an infected computer & can only be unlocked by paying the ransom.


Good security practices can protect you from Ransomware & minimise it's damage if you're infected.


1. Don't open email attachments or Web links from unfamiliar sources.


2. Make regular backups & archives, & keep copies that are disconnected from the network. Then you will have an uninfected copy that you can use to rebuild your files.


Spreadsheet Tips - How to copy cells without incrementing the value

When you copy cells in a spreadsheet, it will by default increment the value by one for each entry. For example, if you copy 100, the next entry will be 101, then 102, etc. To copy cells in excel without incrementing the value, add $ in front of the value in the cell.


How To Split Text into Different Cells

If you have a spreadsheet with a column of full names, you can split that column into separate first name and last name columns.


Firstly, add the extra column to the right of the names you want to split. This provides a column for the separated names to be added. Next, highlight the column of names you want to split. Go to the menu "Data" > "Text to Columns" & select the type of "Separator" between the words. Click OK & you're done.


Favourite Mac Apps - TypeIt4Me

TypeIt4Me is a text expander that speeds up typing by instantly replacing short abbreviations with longer saved “snippets of text”. It can be used to autofill commonly repeated phrases, boilerplate texts for more lengthy responses, as well favourite expressions & turns of phrase. Any expressions that you use repeatedly can by saved in TypeIt4Me.


Microsoft users have a similar capability built into Word & Outlook called AutoText, but it can only be used within those applications. TypeIt4Me runs at an operating system level & can be used across any application. You can expand expressions whilst browsing, filling in forms, replying to emails or typing in you word processor or spreadsheet. I find that TypeIt4Me has saved me an enormous amount of time. It also has an iPhone app that you can purchase separately, allowing you to use it on the go.


TypeIt4Me is under $10 & is available for download from www.ettoresoftware.com/mac-apps/typeit4me/


Create an Calendar Event using Google Search

You can add an event directly from a Google search page or your browsers omnibox. First, make sure your logged into gmail. Preface your event information with "make an appointment to" than add your appointment details such as "lunch with Joe from 1 to 2 tomorrow". Enter that into Google search, & at the top of your search results will be a "Create Event" box with your event details. Click that button to add your event to Google Calendar.


How to Customize Column Widths in Mac OSX Finder

Finder is a great tool for looking at your files, but having to resize columns to see a long file name can be inconvenient. The handle (two small vertical lines) at the bottom of the column allows you to resize the column. Double-clicking on the handle resizes the column to fit the widest file name. Holding Option while dragging a handle sets that custom width for every future Finder window.


Control (Right) click on a column handle and you'll see three options: Right Size This Column, Right Size All Columns Individually, and Right Size All Columns Equally. The first option makes that column the width of the longest name in only this column (the other columns remain unchanged). The second option does this same thing for each individual column that contains items (so each column will be a different size based on the length of names within each column). The third imposes the widest column length on all the columns.


How to move your Google Authenticator Credentials

When you set up two factor authentication, a code is generated that is entered into apps such as Google Authenticator to give you that second factor of authentication, ‘something you have'.


Given that many of us update phones every couple of years, migrating your Google Authenticator credentials is an important issue to consider when you set up your account. Here are some options that will avoid the pain & frustration:


1. Copy the authentication codes to a very safe & secure place. If you have a copy of the codes, they can be re-entered to provide access to the new device.


2. Use the 'Move authenticator to a different phone' feature. Access the 2-step verification page, click the Move to a different phone link, and scan the QR code or enter your credentials into a new phone. Your old authentication app will stop working. Other services that use Google Authenticator may not offer this feature, so you may need to disable and re-enable your account.


3. Disable & Re-enable Two-Step Authentication. To do so, click the Remove link on the 2-step verification page. This temporarily disables two-factor authentication. Once the app is set up on the new device, re-enable two-factor authentication & enter the codes on the new devices. Luckily, Google no longer resets your application-specific passwords – even if you disable and re-enable Google Authenticator, your application-specific passwords will remain valid.


How to find your Windows 10 Product Key

If you have upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8, the old product key will have changed during the upgrade process. If you need to reinstall Windows 10, the original key will not be valid.


To obtain the upgraded Windows 10 key, copy and paste the following into a Notepad window:




Set WshShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
MsgBox ConvertToKey(WshShell.RegRead("HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\DigitalProductId"))

Function ConvertToKey(Key)
Const KeyOffset = 52

i = 28
Chars = "BCDFGHJKMPQRTVWXY2346789"
Do
Cur = 0
x = 14
Do
Cur = Cur * 256
Cur = Key(x + KeyOffset) + Cur
Key(x + KeyOffset) = (Cur \ 24) And 255
Cur = Cur Mod 24
x = x -1
Loop While x >= 0
i = i -1
KeyOutput = Mid(Chars, Cur + 1, 1) & KeyOutput
If (((29 - i) Mod 6) = 0) And (i <> -1) Then
i = i -1
KeyOutput = "-" & KeyOutput
End If
Loop While i >= 0
ConvertToKey = KeyOutput
End Function




You'll need to use File -> Save As, change the 'Save as type' to 'All Files' and then name it productkey.vbs to a location such as desktop for easy access.


Once you've saved it, you can just double-click and the popup window will show you your product key.


Consider enabling Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication consists of something you know (like a password) and something you have, (such as a phone or security key). Once you enter your user name & password, you’ll be prompted for a second code that may be SMS’d to you, generated by an app such as Google Authenticator, or issued via a security token such as a yubikey, RSA, etc.


Two-factor authentication is more secure because a hacker can’t simply guess your password or use a brute force attack to access your account. Even if they hack your password, they would still need the component only you have such as your phone or security key to gain access.

Nowadays, a lot of services have enabled two-factor authentication to improve your security. These include Google/Gmail, LastPass, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, PayPal, LinkedIn, WordPress, Office 265, as well as others.


To understand how vulnerable you may be to hacking, read the story of Mat Honan, one of the writers for Wired.com, & how his accounts were hacked & his computers wiped. www.wired.com/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/all/


Windows 10 Free Upgrade Paths

Microsoft is offering free upgrades to Windows 10. The upgrade path for specific versions of Windows is:


Windows 8 Pro is eligible for an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 8 is eligible for an upgrade to Windows 10 Home.

Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate are eligible for an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows Home Premium are eligible for an upgrade to Window 10 Home.


Once you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 using the free upgrade offer, you will be able to reinstall , including a clean install, on the same device. You won’t need to purchase Windows 10 or go back to your prior version of Windows and upgrade again. You’ll also be able to create your own installation media like a USB drive or DVD, and use that to upgrade your device or reinstall after you've upgraded.


Speed up an Old Computer with Linux Mint 17

Just this past week, I re-imaged the software on some older computers for my family. The computers were becoming very slow & clunky running Windows, but perform quite well running the latest desktop edition of the Linux Operating System, Linux Mint 17.


If you’ve got old hardware that you’re considering tossing out or making a paper weight, you might like to consider Linux as an alternative. It’s light & fast, & comes with an inbuilt Office Suite. The interface is quite similar to Mac OS, & it is easy to learn. You can download Linux Mint 17 from www.linuxmint.com/download.php


Battery Conservation Tips for your Smartphone

Unless you need it at a particular time, turn off Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile data, & syncing. Keeping these communications options running continuously will drain your battery power due to the constant polling of the network. I have set up profiles on my phone using Elixir (there are similar Apps available), that control my settings throughout the day. When I’m at my desk I turn off all the unnecessary communications settings under a “Conserve” profile, as I only need the phone to make & receive calls.


Turn down your phone's brightness. While many smartphones have an “auto" setting, you might find it useful to disable this & manually keep the brightness down low, but to a level which is still readable. Be aware that setting the brightness down low may make it very difficult to read the phone if you move to a very sunny or bright area.


How to Paste without formatting by default in OSX

Have you ever pasted text into a document, only to have it formatted differently than all the text around it? The keystrokes Shift + Option + Command + V removes any formatting from the document you are pasting from. You can change the default behaviour in OS X by using System Preferences.


Open 'System Preferences'


Select 'Keyboard'


Select tab 'Keyboard Shortcuts'


Select 'Application Shortcuts' from the left listbox Click '+' below right listbox


Select 'All Applications' for 'Application' input box Type 'Paste and Match Style' into the 'Menu Title' input box In the 'Keyboard Shortcut' input box, pretend that you are about to paste something by typing command-v. There should now be the cloverleaf command sign followed by a -v in this box. Click add.


If you would still like the standard Paste feature to be accessible via keyboard shortcut, simply follow the instructions for Paste and Match Style, substituting "Paste" for the Menu Title and whatever you want for the Keyboard Shortcut. I personally switched it to Command-Option-Shift-V. If you have problems pasting into a particular app, you can create an exception in the app shortcuts using the same method as above. Just select that particular app rather than 'all applications'.


Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office has been the default business application for nearly two decades, but times are changing, Nowadays there are viable options for those willing to be innovators.


LibreOffice is a free office suite that is stable, fast & easy to use. It has the feel of Office 2003, & is available for Windows, Mac & Linux. You can download LibreOffice from www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-fresh/

Google Apps is a suite of online applications that only require a browser for access. They have more limited functionality than the full desktop applications, but work well & perform all the functions that most people use.


Office 365 Web Apps are also online applications that you log in via a browser to use. They come bundled with some Office 365 subscriptions that are offered under the charity discount program.


Quip is a different approach to word processing. Quip formats your document for whatever device you are viewing it on, as opposed to MS Word which was initially designed for print as a typewriter alternative. Quip has some great collaboration features & is available from https://quip.com/


Malware writers get very creative

Virus writers are constantly adapting in an attempt to get around security measures. The threat landscape has changed from virus’s written by pimply teenagers as a form of digital graffiti, to organised crime approaching it as a business.


Social engineering has become a key attack vector. Phishing attacks where the writer entices you to click, download, or provide sensitive information, have been prolific for years. We’re now seeing new approaches! One cunning method employed by malware writers is to copy a virus onto a few USB flash drives & strategically drop them in the company carpark. Some unsuspecting staff member will pick them up & think “cool, I just found a free flash drive”! Once they plug it into the corporate network, the virus writer can launch their attack from within the firewall.


Another method is to target Mac users. Mac’s are growing in popularity amongst senior managers & virus writers realise it. Viruses are being written that lie dormant on the Mac host, but spread their infection when plugged in to the office network.


One key way to minimise problems is to use Network Access Control. Security products from vendors like Symantec will run checks on any device that connects to the network. Is it running the latest patches? Has it been scanned for any infections? Does the user have the correct permissions & appropriate access? By considering your IT security in a holistic manner, users can stay ahead of the game.


Cloud Computing - the Pros & Cons

I often get asked by clients about cloud computing. Is it the best option their needs? The answer depends upon your specific requirements & how you use the software.


PROS

1. Always up to date. Software that needs to updated regularly is often better via a cloud subscription service. That way you have the latest software as it’s released by the vendor.

2. Easy Budgeting. It’s easier to budget for the regular Operating Expense of an annual software subscription rather than a one-off Capital Expenditure when it’s time to update your software.

3. Ongoing Support. Most vendors include some type of tech support with their cloud service. This makes it easier to access help when you need it.

4. Platform Independent. Some cloud software is accessed via a web browser in a similar way to how you access your Netbank. Any operating system that uses a browser can use the cloud service, meaning you can run it on Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS as well as Windows.


CONS

1. Annual rather than one-off expense. An annual subscription can still be cheap in you need to keep you software up-to-date, but if you keep your software a long time & update infrequently, a perpetual one-off license is definitely cheaper.

2. Reliable Internet Access. Not all cloud offerings require internet access. Adobe Creative Cloud is a annual subscription that you download & run on your local computer, just like the perpetual licenses. However, certain cloud offerings such as the online accounting services like QuickBooks Online & Xero, are unusable with internet access.


How to Whitelist an Email Sender in Gmail

Have you ever had a situation where an important email you're expecting never made it to your Inbox? Instead, Gmail incorrectly classified that legitimate email as spam & moved into the spam folder. This can particularly be a problem with newsletters that you have subscribed to.


There are two ways to whitelist emails in Gmail.

1. Add the email address that is misdirected to spam to your Google Contacts list. Gmail will automatically deliver messages to your inbox when the sender is listed in your Google Contacts.


2. Create a manual whitelist in Gmail to ensure that email messages from certain senders are never ever marked as spam.

Click the gear in your Gmail's top right corner & select Settings. Go the the Filters Tab & select "Create a new filter". In the From: field, enter the email addresses, domain names or even actual names of people who you would like to whitelist. You can separate multiple entries using “OR”. Once your filter is ready, click Next and select “Never Send it to Spam.”


Turn off gridlines in Google Sheets

If you have a Google spreadsheet that you want to hide the gridlines, simply go to the View Menu, select Gridlines & toggle the checkmark to off. It’s that easy!


Using the spreadsheet in Google Apps

Recently I experimented with using the online spreadsheet available in Google Apps to manage our price list. I’ve been very surprised by the functionality & ease of use.

For many years I saw these online apps as merely viewing tools to open documents when on the road. But after using it for over a week I’ve found it does everything I needed as well as Excel, & some unique features like pasting spreadsheet elements into emails it did it better than Excel. Google Apps autosaves, has revision history so you can access earlier versions, & has the ability to share documents online.

If you’ve never tried Google Apps, you may find that it’s worth the look.


Consider editing Images in your browser using Sumo Paint

Sumo Paint is free & entirely browser based. There is nothing to install; just head to the website & sign in.

It is not as comprehensive as professional tools such as Photoshop, but it has a simple interface & enough tools to meet the needs of most casual users.

Sumo Paint is available at www.sumopaint.com/app/


Dropbox Tips - View History

Dropbox allows you to check your activity history to monitor the file additions & changes that have been made.

To access this feature, launch the Dropbox website, then go to the Events tab on the far left. Events gives you a timeline of changes made to your Dropbox folder.


Ways to extend your WiFi Coverage

With WiFi devices becoming ubiquitous nowadays, poor wifi coverage can be very frustrating. However there are practical solutions that can greatly improve your experience.

1. Move your router to a better location. Changing the physical position of your router can make a big difference to wifi coverage. Try & avoid large metal objects between your router & device, such as pipes, structural steel & appliances.

2. Select a different channel. If multiple devices are using the same channel, coverage is degraded. Choosing the least busy channel will boost performance.

3. Add a WiFi repeater or additional access points.

4. Install a higher gain external antennae.

5. Use a enterprise WiFi Access Point solution. Most routers are designed for domestic use & have very limited WiFi capabilities. A enterprise WiFi solution gives far superior antennaes & radio frequency management. It is possible to run multiple access points throughout a building & vasting improve signal strength, throughput & range.


Dropbox Tips - Selective Sync

Selective Sync is a feature that allows you to synchronise only specified files & folders to a particular computer. This can be particularly useful if you're travelling & connecting to Dropbox via a mobile data (3G or 4G) connection. Rather than use a lot of your data allowance syncing everything, you can specify just particular folders. Also, some of your Dropbox folders, such as music or photos, may be unnecessary & use a lot of hard-drive space on your notebook.

To set up Selective Sync, go to Preferences and then click on Advanced. Click the Change Settings button and then just uncheck the folders you don’t want to sync.


Dropbox Tips - Save a file to your mobile device

Marking a file as "favourite" on your Mobile Device downloads the file onto your device.

When you open a file in Dropbox, you can view the file then & there, but if you come back to it later you need to download it once again. By opening the Dropbox App on your mobile device, you can select the star icon "favourite" & the file will now be downloaded locally to your mobile device so you can view it anytime.

Marking a file as "favourite" gives you access even if you're out of mobile coverage or on an aircraft with your device in "flight mode".


Dropbox Tips - LAN Sync

LAN Sync is a feature of the Dropbox desktop app that speeds up syncing of files across your computers that are on the same Local Area Network. By default, Dropbox synchronizes a file to the server & then downloads that file onto the other computers from the Dropbox server. Unless your upload & download Internet speeds are super fast, this can take a long time for large files.

LAN Sync is an option that will automatically allow Dropbox to find other linked computers on the same network & synchronize the files directly over the LAN, which is way faster than uploading & then download it again.

LAN Sync can be activated by right clicking on the Dropbox Desktop icon, selecting Preferences, clicking the General Tab, then tick "Enable LAN sync".


Microsoft offers donations to churches

Microsoft has recently changed their policy regarding charities, & in certain circumstances churches can now obtain “donation” software. The donations are subject to a number of specific parameters. A somewhat lengthy application process needs to be completed, & the donation is limited to 50 licenses over a 2 year period. Currently, DonorTec is the company that Microsoft has outsourced its charitable giving program to globally. Their pricing is much cheaper because the software is donated free-of-charge to them, but they charge a per unit administration fee for facilitating the donation.


We are concerned for the best interests of our clients, so we were keen to bring this to your attention as soon as we were notified, even though it may have a possible negative impact upon Microworx. If there is anything that you would like us to add to our product range, please feel free to make suggestions! Also, we have a number of exciting new products that will become available shortly.


The changes are still in a state of flux, but I want to bring it to your attention in case the donation is worth pursuing. However, please note that we can still provide Microsoft licensing & products under the existing charity pricing arrangements.


Please feel free to call us if you have any questions.


How to use Gmail with an IMAP client such as Outlook

Delete Messages: To delete a message in a Gmail IMAP account, move the message to the [Gmail]/Trash folder.

Archive Messages: To archive an email or remove it from a folder (i.e. Gmail label), "delete" the message.

Mark Messages as Spam or Not Spam: To report an email as junk move the message to the [Gmail]/Spam folder. To rescue an email from the spam folder, go to the [Gmail]/Spam folder & move the message to the Inbox.

Add or Remove Labels from Messages: To label a message move the message to the corresponding [Gmail] folder. To remove a label from an email, simply move the message from the labelled folder to the Inbox.


How to Limit the number of messages visible per folder & speed up Outlook

1. Click the gear in your Gmail's top right corner & select Settings.

2. Go to the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.

3. Scroll down to Folder Size Limits & select Limit IMAP folders to contain no more than this many messages.

4. Click Save Changes.


How to configure Gmail Accounts in Outlook: www.slipstick.com/outlook/sync-outlook/synchronizing-outlook-google-accounts

Gmail’s recommended IMAP client settings:

https://support.google.com/mail/ answer/78892?hl=en


Learn Windows 8 in 4 minutes

Windows 8 has been a major overhaul of the desktop operating system we've been familiar with. Some people love it, whilst others are quite vocal how much they hate it!

Many of the new features & methods of performing tasks can be a little baffling for new users. Below is a link to a video by Scott Hanselman, outlining how to learn windows 8 in 4 minutes. Be aware that he also has a 25 minute version if you'd like it at a more manageable pace.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi8NpwiEuzc


Get the most out of Office with Microsoft Server Software

In simple terms, a server is a computer that provides a service to other computers (known as clients). Many of the new & high end functionalities of Office 2013 become available when they interact with Microsoft Server software. Products such Microsoft Lync Server provides unified messaging on the desktop. Think of it as Skype on steroids, with the ability to communicate via instant message, voice call or even video conference call, all from the one simple interface.

Microsoft SQL Server gives the database functionality used by many enterprises. The Server houses the powerful database software, & client computers can update or access that information at any time, sharing information simultaneously when necessary.

Microsoft Exchange Server adds many powerful features to your existing Outlook interface. With Exchange, you can now see other staff in your Outlook calendar & contacts. You can invite people to meetings, book resources, & check when they are available for appointments. Shared contact folders allow you a common address book that every staff member can access & update.

Microsoft Sharepoint Server provides an intranet, effectively an internal website that can house all sorts of information for your organizations internal use. Policy documents, reports, leave forms, rosters, anything you like can be located on your own intranet.


Dropbox Tips - Recover Deleted Files

Dropbox allows you to recover any deleted file up to 30 days old. To access this feature, launch the Dropbox website, then go to the folder where you want to recover the file. To view deleted files, just click on the trash icon at the top, which will toggle the “Show deleted files” option.

The deleted files are grey & listed in the “kind” column as a “deleted document”. By right clicking on the file you have the option to “Restore” or view “Previous Versions”. “Previous versions” will list the version history & allow you to restore the appropriate edition of the file.


Dropbox Tips - Restoring previous versions of files

Dropbox allows you to restore earlier versions of any file. The fee edition of Dropbox allows use of previous versions of files over the last 30 days, but the paid editions have an option known as “Packrat” that allows unlimited undo history.

To access this feature, launch the Dropbox website. Go to the folder where you want to see a previous version of a file and hover over the file to highlight it. Don’t click on the name of the file because that will open the file. Right click on the row to & select “previous versions”. A list of all the previous versions available over the past 30 days will appear. Select the relevant version the click “Restore”.


Multitasking on your Smartphone

Recent apps is a feature introduced in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that makes it very easy to switch between running apps on the phone. To access recent apps in order to multitask:

1. Press and hold the Home button for about two seconds.

2. A list of recent, running apps will be displayed.

3. Scroll up and down the list.

4. Touch on any of the recent apps to jump to that app.

5. To close the app simply swipe to the right.

If you're not running Android 4.0 or later, consider downloading some of the Multitasking Apps for the Playstore such as "Swapps".


To multitask on an iphone:

1. Double tap the home button.

2. A list of recent, running apps will be displayed in the bottom of the screen.

3. Scroll the list by flicking right.

4. Tap the app to open it.


Removing Tiles from the Windows 8 Start Screen

I like to customize my operating system & applications to best suit my workflow. The time spent thinking through my computer desktop has paid big dividends over time. As the saying goes, "one moment spent in planning saves two moments in execution".

Many articles have questioned the new tile interface in Windows 8, but it is possible to remove unnecessary tiles quite easily. Perhaps you don't want to see live tiles such as Bing, Finance, News, Photos, Sports, Travel, or Weather on your Start screen with their constantly-updated information from the Internet?

In order to remove a tile from the Start Screen, follow these steps:

1. Navigate to the tile that you want to remove & right click to select it.

2. On the bottom of the screen there will be an "Unpin from Start" button. Click on it to remove the selected tile/s.

3. Note that you can also turn off the auto update of tiles by clicking the "Turn live tile off" button.


Wireless Projector Display from your iPad

A couple of apps are available that enable you to wirelessly beam your Tablet or Smartphone screen content to a projector via a Mac or PC. This gives you the freedom to move around the room with your iPad in hand, controlling the content on the projector.

1.Download either Reflector (www.reflectorapp.com) or AirServer (www.airserverapp.com) to the computer that is connected to your projector. Both of these are less than $15 each.

2.Make sure your iPad and your computer are on the same wireless network.

3.Open Reflection or AirServer on your computer.

4.On the iPad:

- Double-click the home button.

- Swipe your finger across the bottom of the screen from left to right.

- Tap the AirPlay icon.

- Select your computer.

- Turn on Mirroring.

5. On Android Tablets or Smartphones download doubletwist from the app store in place of AirPlay.


My favourite PC Utilities

PC Utilities have had a bit of a bad reputation! Often they're a waste of time & money, & there are even cases where have even been associated with malware. However, I've found a couple of utilities to be quite handy.

My favourite utilities both come from Piriform & have freeware versions available. CCleaner is an optimization & cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. By selecting the appropriate check boxes, you can clean our temporary Internet files, cookies, history, & cache in both Internet Explorer & Firefox at the same time, as well as empty the Recycle Bin & rid your computer of Windows log files.

Defraggler helps speed up your computer by streamlining the computer storage. When a file is created, portions of the item are spread into free spaces throughout the hard drive. As more files accumulate the computer has to work harder to piece together the puzzle. This results in a slow computer. Defragmenting makes files contiguous by seeking out all these matching pieces & lining them up, making work easier & faster for the computer. A well regarded alternative to Defraggler is Auslogics Disk Defrag Free.

CCleaner is available from www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download

Degraggler is available from www.piriform.com/defraggler/download

Auslogics Disk Defrag Free is available from www.auslogics.com/en/software/disk-defrag/download/


Using Canned Responses in Gmail

If you use Gmail to access your email, you may like to activate a very handy feature called "Canned Responses", which is available under Google Labs. These are stock responses you can use for common requests, saving you having to retype it every time.

To activate Canned Responses:

1. Click the "Settings" link near the top-right of Gmail. This is available in the drop down menu from the icon that looks like a cog.

2. When the "Settings" page appears, click the "Labs" tab.

3. Next to "Canned Responses", click the "Enable" button.

4. Click the "Save Changes" button.

To create a Canned Response, simply type the text you wish to appear in an email. Click the "Canned responses" link underneath the message subject to show a pop-up menu. Underneath "Save", click "New canned response". When prompted, give your canned response a name so you can recognize it later & click "OK".


Phone scammers target computer users with phony virus reports

Last weekend I received a panicked phone call from a friend who suspected he'd fallen victim to a computer virus telemarketing scam. A con artist makes a phone call claiming to be a "tech support specialist" who warns that your computer is infected with a virus. To fix things, all you have to do is install software that gives the caller remote access to your computer & pay a support fee by credit card.

This form of social engineering has become the new front in malware attacks. Your antivirus solution is completely ineffective if the scammer can trick you into giving permission for the attack

Another friend, Brian, was phoned by the same telemarketing scam but was able to respond very differently. After playing along & pretending to start his computer & follow the caller's instructions, he was asked to read what was displaying on the computer screen. He said that the only thing coming up was a tracking screen from the Australian Federal Police! Just when he thought he had another sucker, the scammer freaked out and hung up. Brian definitely had the last laugh!


Using your Smartphone as a mobile WiFi Hotspot

Many modern smartphones allow you to connect to the mobile data network (3G) & then act as a WiFi router providing internet access to nearby devices.

Rather than carry an internet dongle with its own SIM & mobile data account, you can use the data plan on your existing mobile phone. Any WiFi enabled computer or tablet can connect to it, & since the Wi-Fi router is inside your phone, there's no extra stuff to carry with you & no other device to recharge. However, make sure you monitor your usage to avoid excess data charges.

Setting up a mobile hotspot is easy. Most smartphones come with an app that allows the phone to act as a WiFi hotspot. The details vary based on the phone in question, but after clicking a box to turn the hotspot on, you'll typically configure it for the first time by typing in a network name, choosing its encryption type and designating a security password.

Connecting to the hotspot is the same as connecting to your home or office Wi-Fi router. The network name shows up on the Wi-Fi connection screen, & you are required to type in the network's password the first time you connect. After that, you can set it up to connect automatically.


Use Dropbox to sync between computers & mobile devices

One of my favourite apps is Dropbox, because it allows me to synchronize my files between various devices. I no longer carry a usb or portable hard drive. Now I just download it from the cloud, as required. Using Dropbox allows everything I am working on to be available everywhere I work, without even thinking about it.

I've mapped Dropbox as a drive within my computer & automatically save files directly into it. I have noticed that files that require high speed access like Outlook or our Accounting package can be slowed down by the file indexing performed by Dropbox. These files I keep local on my "C" drive, then backup to my Dropbox folder every evening. The rest of my files are in my Dropbox folder, which keeps a local copy, then synchronizes the contents of that folder to the Dropbox cloud storage.

Dropbox is available free for 2GB of storage. Download the desktop app to sync your computer & the smartphone app to sync your phone. Once installed you can access the same virtual folder from either device.

A Dropbox 2GB account is free! Download from http://db.tt/UTJBpm4


Creating a QR Code

A QR Code is a 2 dimensional bar code (see below) that can be scanned & decoded as text by a smart phone. When scanned, the QR code can open a website, load an electronic business card, & more.

To read the code, simply download a barcode reading app from the Appstore. Point your phones camera at the code & the image is registered. To create a QR Code, browse to http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ or another similar site. Once generated, you can download it or just copy & paste it into a document or webpage. QR Codes can be read equally well from a computer screen or printed page.

Below is a QR Code with the URL of the microworx website.

qrcode

This QR Code contains my contact details like an electronic business card.

qrcode


Creating a favicion for your website

A Favicon (short for favourites icon) is a small graphic you can associate with your website for display in web browsers. The icon appears beside the URL in a browsers address bar, as well as next to the site's name in a bookmarks/favourites list & with the site's title in a tab. For example Facebook has the familiar blue F icon, whilst Google uses a colourful G icon.

These icons are really easy to create. Simply grab your organization artwork, or create a new image. Try & pick something that looks intelligible & attractive in a small size.

The convert the image into an icon file. I used http://www.favicon.co.uk/index.php

Finally simply upload the file, favicon.ico to the root web directory of your hosted website. Make sure your favicon file is named “favicon.ico.” When someone bookmarks your site with a browser that supports favicons, your favicon will appear.


Changing text size when web browsing

Occasionally, when web browsing, you might find the words on a particular website a little small to read clearly. The size & font of text can be permanently changed in the tools section of your web browser. However, web pages can often be inconsistent in the size of the text they use, & you may simply want to alter text size on a given page.

A simple solution is to use this easy keyboard shortcut. Depress the Control (Ctrl) key, then press the Plus (+) key at the same time & all the text gets larger. Repeating the process will increase the text size in increments. To reduce the size of the text, simply depress the Control (Ctrl) key, then press the Minus (-) key at the same time.

Note that this technique also works by depressing the Control (Ctrl) key & rotating the mouse scroll wheel at the same time.


Consider using Dropbox for cloud storage

One of the apps I have found especially handy is Dropbox. It is basically a cloud storage facility that allows you access your data from various devices such as desktops, notebooks & smartphones.

Dropbox is available free for 2GB of storage. Download the desktop app to sync your computer & the smartphone app to sync your phone. Once installed you can access the same virtual folder from either device.

1. Dropbox uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256 bit encryption.

2. Shared folders allow people to work together on the same documents.

3. They keep a one-month history of your work to enable recovery. Any changes can be undone, and files can be undeleted.

4. It works even when offline, so you always have your files, whether or not you have a connection..

5. Dropbox transfers just the parts of a file that change (not the whole thing).

6. A Dropbox 2GB account is free! Download from http://db.tt/UTJBpm4


Tiny URL

Ever come across a web address that is long & cumbersome? It can be tedious to copy it down correctly when sharing it with other people. An easy way to shorten a website address is by using a web tool called Tiny URL.


1. Browse to the website http://tinyurl.com/

2. Copy the long web address into the box.

3. Consider specifying your own alias to describe the link. You can pick something easy to remember.

4. Click "Make Tiny URL".

5. Copy the new tiny URL & use it in your communications.

6. Note that you don't need to use "http://", so you can simply write it down as tinyurl.com/YOUR CONVERTED URL


Consider promoting your organization on Facebook

Many of us are aware of the explosion of social networking sites such as Facebook, Linkedin & others. With huge numbers of people using social networking, it makes sense to have a presence for your organization on these networks.

Recently I viewed a webinar on setting up a Facebook business page that was very helpful. If you're interested in further information, you may find the following workbook from the webinar useful. It is available from Plankton Online Marketing for $25, & can be purchased using this link. Buy Now!


Our Microworx facebook page will be posting useful IT News & updates, with particular focus will be how they relate to charities & churches. If you'd like to follow our page just click on the Facebook link below.


Copy & Paste Special Characters

Have you ever needed a special character or symbol (such as ✔), but can't remember the key combination to create it? A convenient alternative is to navigate to the website www.copypastecharacter.com, & simply paste it into your document.


The steps to follow are:

1. Browse to: http://www.copypastecharacter.com/ for a list of the available characters.

2. Click the desired character. You don't need to CRTL C or right click. Just click to copy. Note that if you need to paste the symbol into a html document, select copy as html at the top of your screen.

3. Paste into your desired document. This can be email, Word documents, Google docs, blogs, Facebook, etc.


Consider a UPS to protect delicate equipment

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a battery backup unit that plugs in between your computer & the wall socket. If the power to your computer is suddenly cut, or drops significantly even for a moment, a UPS will cut in instantly & automatically supply power from its built-in battery. You then have time to safely save your documents & shut down properly. The time available to keep running on battery depends on the size of the UPS & the current drawn by the equipment. Usually it is rated for 5 to 15 minutes for a controlled shutdown, but can run much longer, if you’re prepared to pay for a higher rated unit.

UPS systems also provide protection against electricity spikes & surges that can damage circuitry. Usually, surge protection is provided on all sockets which have battery backup protection. A UPS may also have one or more sockets that provide surge protection only. This is useful for attaching devices that don’t specifically need a battery backup, such as printers, scanners & other computer accessories.

You don’t have to experience a blackout to get the benefit of having a UPS. If you’ve ever noticed all the lights suddenly dimming momentarily, you’ve probably experienced a ‘brownout’. That may be all that’s needed to make your computer suddenly turn off without warning — & without saving. These power fluctuations seem to be more common lately, & they can play havoc with delicate equipment. Personally I use a UPS on both our computer & entertainment equipment, & am glad to pay for the extra “peace of mind”!


Dealing with a dusty computer

A dusty room can lead to computer problems. Dust is easily sucked into the computer case. As the dust collects, it will restrict airflow throughout the computer. The restrictive airflow will cause computer components to overheat & shorten their lifespan.

Dust prevents cool air from reaching the components that need to be cooled in order to operate efficiently. If there is enough dust in the computer's vents it can completely disrupt the airflow needed to keep the parts cool, & will make the fans noisy due to the dust on the bearings of the fans. In a very bad situation dust can completely stop fans from working. When that happens the computer will overheat & will usually shutdown in order to prevent damage.

How to prevent your computer overheating from dusty components?

* Clean it out regularly. Once a year unplug the computer, pop off the case, & carefully use a vacuum on reverse cycle to blow out all of the dust.

* Keep your computer in an area that has little dust accumulation or build up. A room that is well ventilated will be less likely to allow dust to build up on your computer. When possible, get your computer off a dusty carpeted floor.

* Cover any open peripheral slots to help keep the dust out. Be aware that some cooling slots are necessary to avoid overheating.

* Consider installing an additional fan into your computer. You should have one fan that circulates the air to keep your computer from overheating. The second fan should blow the air out of the computer to prevent dust from settling inside your computer.


Editing metadata tags within audio files

As we expand our music & audio media collections, many encounter the problem of inconsistent or incomplete metadata. A file's metadata is the tagged information that describe audio files such as MP3's. It usually describes parameters such as Title, Artist, Album, Genre, Track Number, Year, Picture, etc.

We’ve all ripped CDs that we have legitimately purchased which did not give accurate & complete metadata tags in the extracted tracks. You know, the ‘track 01' of album ‘Unknown’ conundrum. And it’s a tremendous problem when you are converting large numbers of CDs.

It can be a real pain when our audio collections display incorrect or incomplete metadata. Fortunately it's fairly easy to fix! There are many metadata editors on the market, but one of my favourites is a freeware product called EasyTAG. Simply run the program, locate your files & edit them individually or as batches.

Note that it is possible to tag media you create from messages & seminars in exactly the same manner.


My favourite Smartphone Apps

I’ve recently returned from a successful climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. After operating from overseas with nothing more than an android smartphone, I thought I’d give a quick review of what apps worked for me. (Note that the same or similar apps may be available on other platforms such as iphone.)

Inserty This is one of my personal favourites, as it allows me to craft standardized responses that I can send to people with little fuss. I use it for things I’m regularly asked for like commonly requested quotations, out of office replies, current location in Google Maps. In fact, any response that I may wish to send to people repeatedly.

Skype I never even knew that Skype had a smartphone app until my climbing buddy started using it in Nairobi. Using the hotel wifi connection we were able to phone home with quite a high quality connection for a very nominal charge.

Gmail I was using the gmail app constantly to stay in touch with family, friends & clients, as able. The world is a much smaller place when you can be in constant touch via email. We even made a game of seeing where we could get a wifi connection! I set the record when I was able to synchronize my mail when on the tarmac at Kilimanjaro airport.

Picasa Tool This one isn’t really a business app, but it did give the ability to allow family & friends to view photos whilst I was still travelling. There’s nothing like following the trip in real time. All I had to do was take photos on the phone then upload them whenever I had a connection.

ES File Explorer A file & application manager that allows you to view & manage files that are stored or your phone. These included my trip itinerary, travel documents, seminar material, etc.

Advanced Task Killer Smartphones can really chew through the power when running lots of apps. ATK lets you close any unnecessary apps quickly & easily.


Tips for Gmail users

Gmail has a number of useful features that many users are unfamiliar with. Not only can you access these features through your own Gmail account, but they are also available to you if you own your own domain, via Google Apps.

Some of my favourite features are:

1. Use filters to sort mail into prearranged labels (categories). These can act as a collection of common searches & allow a email to be in more than one label at a time.

2. Tell Gmail to use https always. Https encrypts traffic to and from Gmail servers. This mode uses SSL encryption & could protect you from potential Wi-fi snoops and data hijacking.

3. Search messages sent during a certain time interval. The after: & before: operators can be used to search for emails sent within a stipulated time period.

4. Activate Google Labs. These are additional features that allow you to customize your user experience. Some of my favourites include "Canned Responses", which allows standard responses to autofill your email. "Default Text Styling" allows the customization of the text used in your emails. "Nested Labels" allows you to manage your emails by sorting them into a hierarchy of labels. "Google Calendar Gadget" adds a box in the left column which displays your upcoming appointments.

5. A browser extension that I find particularly useful is Gmail Manager. It places a small button on your browser that can monitor you mail account, & clicking the button opens Gmail in a tab.


Consider accessing mail using a Web Browser (Webmail)

For years, many of us have accessed our email via an email client like Outlook, Thunderbird, Evolution, or Eudora. Whilst these programs are powerful, things get messy when you try & access mail from multiple devices. The proliferation of smartphones, notebooks, netbooks, tablets/ipads, & desktops makes it difficult to synchronize mail to all devices.

When a mail client communicates with the mail server, the way the mail is handled depends on the mail protocol being used. The two main alternatives are POP3 (Post Office Protocol) & IMAP (Instant Messaging Access Protocol).

POP3 works by reviewing the inbox on the mail server & downloading the new messages to your computer. IMAP downloads the headers of the new messages on the server, then retrieves the message you want to read when you click on it. When using POP3, your mail is stored on your PC. When using IMAP, the mail is stored on the mail server. Unless you copy a message to a “Local Folder” the messages are never copied to your PC. IMAP allows email to be manipulated by any device it is set up on, without the need to transfer files between devices. However, because IMAP is obtaining that information from the mail server every time you connect, it can be slower to respond.

Alternatively, by using a browser interface, you are viewing the mail directly on the server. Many webmail clients such as Gmail, Yahoo, Live, etc, offer many of the features of a dedicated mail client, with less overhead. You also have the advantage of being able to access your mail from any device that has an internet connection, no setup required.


Tethering your Smartphone

Tethering is the ability to use your cell phone as a modem for your notebook using either a USB or BlueTooth connection. It can be a great way to get extra “mileage” out of your phone’s data plan. It also eliminates having to purchase an extra mobile broadband USB dongle.

Another option with some phones is turning them into WiFi HotSpots. This enables you to use your SmartPhone just like your office ADSL modem with WiFi connectivity. There is no need for a physical connection between your notebook & your phone because it connects via the WiFi Protocol. Some of the latest SmartPhones even include the ability to tether or create a WiFi HotSpot natively from the Operating System. Other phones may have apps available to enable this functionality.

As with all mobile data plans, beware of the traps. Know what you’re paying for & what allowances you have. The devil is in the details! Be aware of what your download quota is, any additional fees for roaming onto other networks, & even study coverage in the places you need to use the device. A little planning can prevent nasty surprises, because the surcharges can be horrendous.


Trends in Computer Security

For years there has been an ongoing debate as to which computer platform is the most secure. Whilst there is a perception amongst both PC & Mac users that Macs are safer, apparently Mac users are victims of cybercrime just as regularly as PC users.

According to security vendors, Viruses and Trojans are no longer the purview of pimple-faced nerds. Malware has become a tool of the organized crime. A lot of attacks have to do with social engineering & that kind of attack is platform agnostic. Phishing attacks are equally effective on any operating system since they rely on tricking the user. Be cautious about what information you make available on social networking portals such as Facebook. Seemingly innocuous information can be used by criminals to pretend to be you, or to try & convince you that they are legitimate.

The gateways to your organizations network, particlaurly the internet browser & email client are sensible areas to focus electronic protection. However, the most critical area is the level of security awareness exhibited by staff. If you haphazardly visit every link & download every file sent to you in e-mail or posted to your social-networking pages, sooner or later you're going to be exposed. The easiest way for an attacker to compromise a system is by tricking the user to click, open, or run something they should not.


Principles for effective websites

Many organizations have found that a website is a great way to promote themselves & stay in touch with constituents. What are the key elements to a effective website?

1. Go for content over appearance. An attractive website is a real plus, but people won't keep returning to a website that just has the same old content.

2. Keep your domain name short & logical. Long domain names can be difficult to remember & clumsy to use. A short, easy to remember domain is like prime location real-estate.

3. Make a good impression! Nowadays, your website is the first place most people will look for you.

4. Pay for a professional. Consider paying a web developer to create your website template, then update the content yourself. Remember when liaising with your developer, that the clearer you can communicate your ideas, the better the outcome. With our Microworx website, we created a dummy website in Excel to show where content would be placed. This helps the developer understand what you expect, & minimizes the possibility of surprises with the final product.

5. Appropriately value your investment. We are used to spending considerable funds for print publication throughout the year, but a good website is an ongoing investment. A printed colour brochure might be used once, but your website will be available for years.

6. Buy the right tool for the job. Map out what you want to do with your website, then buy the appropriate software. Consider all the elements, not just the html editor. What about editing photos, video, audio, forms, logos, etc?


Consider switching your computer mouse to your left hand

A couple of years ago I strained the muscles in my right forearm & exacerbated the injury regularly cycling to keep fit. Operating my computer mouse with my right hand continued to irritate my forearm & wrist. Out of necessity I decided to try using my mouse with my left hand.

It took a few days to get used to, & maybe a couple of weeks to feel completely comfortable. Now I actually prefer operating the mouse with my left hand. To be more specific, I use an conventional optical mouse with my left hand & a gesture mouse (something like an iPad) with my right. I can operate a mouse with either hand if I'm drinking a cup of coffee, talking on the telephone or writing a note. I find that it's faster, more convenient, & less likely to repetitively strain the small muscles & tendons in my forearm.

It does take a little time & effort to retrain yourself, but the long-term benefits are well worth it.


Consider using Google Apps to sync your Computer with your Smartphone

We've been using Google Apps for a while to pre-filter our email for virus' & spam. However, after recently been given a Smartphone, I've found it very handy to be able to synchronize my calendar, contacts, email & task lists.

Cloud computing, as it is known in the industry, is a concept that has been around for a while. Rather than data existing only on your desktop, it is available in the "cloud" to be accessed via a variety of different devices. For years now, I have used my computer to manage my appointments, contacts etc. But invariably when out visiting friends, I would have to arrange a meeting subject to checking my computer. Now, by using "cloud" technology like Google Apps, I can view my Appointments on my Smartphone, & also update any entries made on that phone to my computer. Not only that, but your can read & reply to your emails, whilst on the move.

A description of Google Apps is available at www.google.com/apps. For those interested in the Premier edition with more enterprise features, contact Microworx.


Less is More with Computer Software

Just this past week, I spent the day rebuilding the computer my kids use for homework & entertainment. I was constantly barraged with complaints about it running slowly & occasionally crashing. Giving in to the family pressure, I initially tried to remove the various unnecessary programs they had downloaded over the years. This sped it up, but resulted in certain programs they did want to use (like itunes) not working properly.

In total frustration, & with much ill grace, I decided it was easier to reset the computer to its original state from the recovery disk, & then reinstall only the programs they actually required. A few hours later the computer works much faster & is more stable.

Many of us are caught by the allure of trialling new software, thinking that if we don't continue using it, there's no harm. However, what you install is never entirely removed from the computer. Those traces, particularly in the registry, are always part of the computers routine. An analogy I used to explain this to my kids is that whenever you install a new program, it's like adding a new book to your schoolbag. The trouble is, you have to carry it around everyday from then on. Uninstalling the software helps, but usually traces remain that slow down the system. In my experience, it's better to be very choosey about what you add to your system. A lean computer is a fast computer!


Improving the performance of your Computer hardware

When planning on upgrading your PC, you may think that upgrading your CPU speed is the only way to speed up your computer. However, there are two fairly cheap options that can render significant performance benefits.

1. Adding more RAM to your computer will usually speed it up, particularly if you multitask a lot. Be aware that Windows 32 bit will only access up to 4Gb, but the 64 bit version allows for access to much larger RAM.

2. Switching from IDE hard drives to SCSI or Solid State drives may give you a considerable increase in speed. One of the bottlenecks in computer speed is the communications speed to and from your hard drives. SCSI drives & Solid State drives reduce this bottleneck considerably.


How to remove the shortcut arrow from desktop icons

Here's how you can remove those shortcut arrows from your desktop icons in Windows XP.

1. Close all open programs, then click your "Start" button on bottom left of your screen.

2. Choose "Run", then type "Regedit" to open the Windows XP Registry Editor.

3. Go to to "HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT" \ "lnkfile" (spelt LNKFILE)

4. In the right window of regedit some options should have popped up. Merely right-click "IsShortcut" and hit rename. Type ".old" at the end of "IsShortcut", so that Windows ignores the file.

5. Close the registry editor.

6. Go to desktop, right click and hit REFRESH!


Consider running the 64 bit version of Windows 7

If your computer is less than a couple of years old, it probably has a 64 bit CPU, & you may like to consider running the 64 bit version of Windows. With 32 bit Windows, you're limited to 4 GB of RAM. With 64 bit, 4 GB of RAM is the new minimum, providing significant speed improvements if you multi-task a lot.

Pros & Cons of a 64 bit system:

* You can address much more than 4GB of memory. However, any 32 bit software you use will still be restricted to 4GB memory - you need a 64 bit CPU, OS & Applications to take full advantage of the extra RAM.

* Not all hardware is supported. If a gadget doesn't have 64-bit drivers, it won't work with your 64-bit OS, since 32-bit drivers aren't compatible. If you have older hardware you may find that it can no longer be used.

* Running some 32 bit applications on a 64 bit OS could actually be slower. The additional overheads in running 32 bit software in 64 bit mode could cause a slight degradation in performance.


Changing the Internet Time Update Synchronisation

If you find that your computer is not keeping accurate time throughout the day, it is possible to change the interval that Windows updates the time using the internet time servers.

1. Go to "Start", "Run", & type "regedit"

2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ ControlSet001 \ Services \ W32Time \ TimeProviders \ NtpClient

3. Select "SpecialPollInterval"

4. Change decimal value from 604800 to a different value in seconds. For example, 86400 is 1 day, 3600 is 1 hour.

5. Exit "regedit" & reboot your computer.


Automatically sorting email into folders

Most of us have email newsletters or subscriptions that we want to automatically sort into folders, as well as regular emails from friends that we want to keep but not clutter our Inbox.

Go to "Tools" / "Rules & Alerts" & click on the "New Rule" button which opens the "Rules Wizard". Select the Action that you want performed. You may wish to move messages to a folder based upon the senders email address, specific words in the email subject, or some other critieria.

The Rule Description box will outline the rule you've just established, & will have hyperlinks (blue underlined text). Use these to customize the email addresses you want to sort by & the folder you want to move these messages to. It's a good idea to give this new message rule a descriptive name for future reference. Finish the process by clicking on the "OK" buttons and your new message rule is created & Outlook is now configured to sort emails automatically and move them to the designated folder.


How to Disable Smart Tags

When Word 2003 recognizes a date, name, or other piece of information, it creates a "Smart Tag", underlining the text in red. Hovering your cursor over the text brings up an "i" button. Clicking the button brings up a menu where you can perform tasks such as looking at a particular date in your Outlook Calendar, or adding a phone number to your Outlook Contacts.

While some find Smart Tags useful, others may find them annoying, plus it takes computer resources to analyse a document & create Smart Tags.

To disable Smart Tags:

1. Select "Tools" then "AutoCorrect Options", & select the "Smart Tags" tab.

2. Uncheck "Label text with smart tags". & "Show Smart Tag Action Buttons", then click "OK" to close the dialog box.

3. Select "Tools" then "Options".

4. When the multi-tabbed dialog-box "Options" appears, click the "View" tab.

5. Uncheck "Smart tags", & then click "OK" to close the dialog box.


Boot Defragment your hard drive

One way to speed up the time it takes to boot your computer is to do a boot defragment. This basically means that all boot files are placed next to each other on the disk drive to allow for faster booting. Normally this option is enabled in Windows XP, but reports by some upgrade users state that it isn't on their setup.

1. Go to "Start", "Run", & type "regedit"

2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\

Microsoft\Dfrg\BootOptimizeFunction

3. Select Enable from the list on the right.

4. Right click on it and select Modify.

5. Change the value to Y to enable boot optimization.

6. Reboot your computer.


Adding Notepad to the Send to options

- By Ian Krigsman, Discovery Systems (& author of Presenter).

Occasionally, you may wish to view or edit a file that you know is text, but doesn't have a TXT extension. You can always open Notepad & drag the file into it, but there is an easier way.

On WinXP, navigate to “C: drive” using windows explorer, then drill down into “\Documents & Settings\\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories“. Select the “Notepad” (short cut) icon & copy it (Ctrl-C). Then navigate to ”\Documents and Settings\\Send To” & paste (Ctrl-V) to add “Notepad”.

Now whenever you right click on a particular file, Notepad will be an option under the Send To menu. This also works on Vista but the above locations will vary & might be hidden from view. Try typing %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Microsoft\Windows into the location field as a starting point.


Help with navigating the Office 2007 user interface

As clients migrate to MS Office 2007, many feel disorientated by the new “ribbon” user interface. I recall recently helping my daughter with a project on her school laptop, which runs Office 2007. I sat down, confident I could show her what to do, but was confronted with a very unfamiliar display. The menus were not where I was expecting them! I floundered around unsuccessfully for 15 minutes, before deciding to make a tactical retreat, handing back the notebook & skulking away.

If you’re like me, & are somewhat disorientated by the Office 2007 user interface, then help is at hand. You can view an interactive guide on where your favourite Office 2003 commands are located in Office 2007. Alternatively, mapping workbooks are available which list of all Office 2003 menu & toolbar commands & their locations in the 2007 Office system.

To view the interactive guide or browse the mapping workbooks, go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/training/HA102295841033.aspx#2


Keeping in touch with members of the congregation

- By Chris Aiton, Senior Pastor, Gateway Church, Brisbane.

"As a pastor, I find it is extremely important to maintain regular contact with the people in my church. Personal interaction & snail mail has been used for this purpose over the years. Recently, the internet has made it possible to send out personal as well as mass emails.

Technology has continued to develop! With so many Australians having mobile phones, text messaging has given us the ability to maintain contact with people anywhere at any time from almost anywhere in the world. It is even possible to send out mass personalised messages to church members via bulk SMS. This has been a very cost effective way of staying connected to those in my church. I use Clickatell as my SMS gateway www.clickatell.com.

I find technology is a great way to enhance my ability to stay in touch with those who I serve."


Backing up to a USB Flash Drive

In a home or small office environment, backing up to a USB Flash Drive can be a cheap & convenient option. USB Drives often cost less than $10 per Gb, & can offer you portability, convenience & redundancy if managed correctly.

To automate the process of copying files, create a BAT file that will copy to your USB Drive. Simply make it an icon on the desktop and rapidly backup with a double-click on that icon.

Use Word to write one line similar to this: xcopy "C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\My Documents" E:\My_Backup /S /D /I /Y where E is the drive letter of the USB Drive. Save it in the Windows folder as MyBackup.bat, making sure that the Save as type is selected as Plain Text (*.txt).

Now, all you have to do is to right-click on this new BAT file, & create a shortcut to the desktop. This method will create a new folder called My_Backup and subsequently copy only new or changed files. As with all backups, remember to test that the backup has worked correctly, rotate media, archive media, & take copies offsite.


Viewing formatting in Microsoft Word

There are times when we cut & paste information from different sources, but the original formatting gets pasted along with the text. To view the formatting of a particular block of text, highlight the text and press SHIFT-F1. There is the option to tick the check box “Show all formatting marks” in order to see the spaces & carriage returns in the document. You can compare formatting to another selection in the document by ticking the appropriate check box.

If you wish to use the same formatting throughout the document, a quick solution is to use the format painter. Format Painter is the paintbrush icon on the Standard Toolbar in Word.

1. Select the text or graphic that has the formatting that you want to copy.

2. On the Standard toolbar, click Format Painter. The pointer changes to a paintbrush icon.

3. To apply formatting to more than one block of text or graphic, double-click Format Painter.

4. Click the text that you want to format.


Consider switching your Web Browser to Firefox

If you’ve been an Internet Explorer user for a while, you may like to consider some of the new FREE competitive options that are available.

Firefox is a viable alternative that loads pages much more quickly, & has more sophisticated security features than its main competitors.

One of the key advantages for Firefox users is the fine control users have over cookies. Cookies are small text files created by a website to identify a user & store their preferences. Some cookies are necessary & useful, others can be malicious. Cookies can contain malware such as Spyware & Trojans that can steal information from your computer or perform harmful tasks.

With Firefox, you can delete all cookies at the end of a browsing session, minimizing your security risks. It also has some very sophisticated search capabilities, as well as the ability to save open tabs, & other useful features.

Firefox is available for FREE download from www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/firefox/


Configuring Windows to automatically close unresponsive programs

Normally, unresponsive programs need to be closed manually by using Windows Task Manager. This is accessed using the “CTRL + ALT +DELETE” command, then highlighting the relevant application & clicking “End Task”. However, you can configure your computer to close the unresponsive program automatically.

Follow these steps to configure windows registry to autoend unresponsive tasks:

1. Close all open programs, then click your "Start" button on bottom left of your screen.

2. Choose "Run", then type "Regedit" to open the Windows XP Registry Editor.

3. Go to "Hkey_Current_User" \ "Control Panel" \ "Desktop".

4. In right side panel, double click on "AutoEndTasks". Its default value is 0. Now change it to 1.

5. Close the registry editor & restart your computer.


Tweak the performance of Windows XP by limiting which visual effects are displayed

It's possible to improve your systems performance by adjusting the graphic & screen effects in XP. These fancy effects can be attractive, but they do use up extra memory and slow Windows XP down. By switching them off, you should notice an improvement in your computers performance while still keeping the same look and feel of your Windows applications.

Follow these steps to alter your visual effects for best performance:

1. Click your "Start" button on bottom left of your screen.

2. Choose "Control Panel", "System", "Advanced".

3. Under 'Performance' click "Settings" and select "Adjust for best performance".

4. Apply the change.


How to get Internet Explorer 7 to search Google by default

When you use the search engine at the top right corner of IE7, it will search Windows Live by default. If you'd rather use another search engine such as Google, do the following:

1. Click on the down-arrow next to the magnifying glass & choose "Find More Providers".

2. Select a search provider from those listed by clicking its link. Note that "Create Your Own" is available as an option on the right of the page.

3. You will be prompted if you wish to add a search provider to Internet Explorer. Check the box "Make this my default search provider".

4. Click the "Add Provider" button to confirm your selection.


Batch renaming of files

If you have ever archived files, updated a website, or sorted through collections of music or pictures, you’ve probably spent hours renaming hundreds of files.

Batch renaming utilities are useful for renaming large groups of files with just a few clicks. You can add, remove, or replace parts of the filename with ease. Insert date-stamps, replace numbers, insert strings, convert case, add incremental-numbers, as well as process folders & subfolders.

"Rename Master" & "Bulk Rename Utility" are a couple of FREE batch renaming utilities available at:

www.joejoesoft.com

www.bulkrenameutility.co.uk


Why return receipts don't always arrive

Some email clients, such as Microsoft Outlook, allow you to attach read & delivery receipt requests to your email. The rationale is that once your email is delivered or read, you’ll get a notification that the email reached the recipient. Whilst these requests can be useful, their return is not always guaranteed.

1. Some email clients don’t support return receipt requests.

2. Some people view their email via webmail, & those systems often won’t honour such requests.

3. If someone reads an email using software that honours return receipt requests, they can still choose not to send the receipt when queried.

While receipt requests can be helpful, remember that there is no way to force the recipient to provide a receipt.


Consider creating a Standard Operating Environment for your organization

A Standard Operating Environment (SOE) specifies the software that is to be consistently used on all computers within an organisation. It is common practice for large organizations to use a SOE because it reduces their total cost of setting up, managing & supporting their computer infrastructure.

An SOE simplifies technical support by minimising the number of permutations of what can go wrong. Also, an SOE makes it much easier for staff to share computers when necessary, as the computers will have the same “feel’ if they’re running the same operating systems & applications.

One of the advantages of purchasing software as a license is the allowance to “downgrade” to earlier versions. As an example, your organization could standardize on Office 2003 & Windows XP Pro even though the current versions available are Office 2007 & Windows Vista.


Consider creating a Software Asset Register

Many of our clients struggle to keep track of what software they have purchased & which computer it has been installed upon. The trick employed by IT professionals to track their IT procurement & deployment is to run a Software Asset Register.

In its simplest form, the register is just a spreadsheet with headings listing the following information:

1. Software Description

2. When was the Software Purchased

3. Reseller & Invoice Number

4. Number of copies/licenses purchased

5. Computer where software is assigned


How to disable Reading Layout in Word

When a Microsoft Word 2003 document is opened, Word automatically displays it in the default "Reading Layout". This layout is supposed to make the documents easier to view as it repaginates them to better fit your screen. However, many people dislike this feature as it can mess up lists, tables, & long paragraphs.

To disable this feature & open documents in the "Print Layout":

1. Click the "Tools" menu & choose "Options".

2. When the "Options" multi-tabbed dialog box appears, click "General".

3. Uncheck "Allow starting in Reading Layout".

4. Click "OK" to close the dialog box.


Consider using the computer calculator

Many of us use a desk calculator regularly. For years I've had a calculator on my desk, right next to my computer, for those times I need to do arithmetic quickly.

Nowadays, I just call up the calculator on my computer & use that instead. You can find the MS Windows Calculator under the Start Menu / Accessories. I’ve even created a shortcut on my desktop to access it quickly.

For those of us that like a more customized calculator, you may like to download one of the freeware versions that are available. My favourite is Excalibur32, which is an RPN calculator (like HP’s financial & engineering calculators). It’s a bit of a carryover from my engineering days, but I prefer RPN, where you enter the numbers then perform the function. It makes chain calculations much simpler. You can download Excalibur 32 from www.geocities.com/dbergis/freeware.htm


Take time to proof read your email

We've all received emails that were sent in a hurry & with little care. Poor grammar, incorrect spelling & clumsy sentences can confuse the meaning & even give the wrong impression.

A few “tricks of the trade” can help you minimize problems with your emails:

1. Briefly proof read everything before you send it. That quick email that you sent in a hurry could be taken the wrong way or come across poorly to the recipient. Something sent with little thought could be “on the record” for a very long time, & even forwarded to a great many people!2. Use a spell & grammar checker. Microsoft Outlook allows you to use Word to edit email messages, along with all its powerful editing features.3. Consider using the AutoText feature. This is one of my favourite features in Outlook, as it allows me to insert commonly used phrases with just a couple of keystrokes. Over time, build up a library of these phrases, & use them as necessary in your emails.


Small changes that yield big benefits

When upgrading a computer, many of us think that a faster CPU is the only way to improve performance! However, adding more RAM (Random Access Memory) to your computer will usually improve its performance markedly.

In simple terms, the RAM is the computers primary workspace. Increasing RAM increases the amount of information the computer can hold in its memory rather than having to refer to further information on the hard drive. Windows XP will easily handle 1 Gb of RAM, & I know of power users running 4 Gb. The more you multi-task, the more significant an improvement you’ll find from additional RAM.


Save your work early & often

Many of us create a new document, spend considerable time & effort updating it, but only save our work at the very end. A system crash or other computer problem can render our hours of work lost forever.

A simple trick employed by the pro’s is to save your work early & often. As soon as you start, save it to the appropriate folder using a logical file name. If you’re creating multiple drafts, consider using the date at the end, such as 010607. You can separate different versions on the same day by using letters, such as 010607A, & 010607B. Then, when you’ve completed the final draft you can save if without the date & delete all earlier drafts. Remember Murphy’s Law when it comes to saving your data; “If it can go wrong, it probably will!”


Renaming a group of Files

When you download files from a scanner, digital camera, or other peripheral device, they often have meaningless names. You can rename several similar files at once with the following procedure.

1.Open the folder containing files that you want to rename.

2.Select the files you want to rename. If the files you want are not adjacent in the file list, press and hold CTRL, and then click each item to select it.

3.Right Click & select Rename.

4.Type the new name, and then press ENTER.

All of the files in the series will be named in sequence using the new name you type. To specify a starting number for the series, type the starting number in brackets after the new file name. The files in the series will be numbered in sequence starting with the number you type. For example, if you type Christmas 2006 (1), the other files will be named Christmas 2006 (2), Christmas 2006 (3), and so on


Two Monitors are better are One!

Gone are the days when a computer monitor the size of a large microwave sat on your desk. Today, flat screens are the product of choice. Because they have a much smaller footprint, options become available that we may have never considered before. Extra large monitors (which can be expensive), or even two computer monitors become an option. Windows allows you to stretch your desktop across two, or even three screens, providing you with much more screen real estate. I personally use two monitors, with one positioned in portrait for displaying websites, & the other in landscape for spreadsheets & the like. It can be a tremendous time saver not having to constantly switch between windows!


Recording a Podcast can be easy

The internet has become commonplace in our everyday interactions, whether it be for research, shopping, advertising or entertainment. One technology that is exploding is Podcasting. Podcasting is the posting of audio files to the internet. They can be music, messages, lectures - any sound file that you want to share with others. People can download the file to play on their computer, or commonly they play it on their iPod (hence the term Podcast).

To create a Podcast you'll need software that will record the sound, allow it to be edited & export it to an appropriate format. There are a number of options available, but two worth considering are Adobe Audition (available through Microworx at special pricing for charities) & Audacity, which is free, open source software.

Audacity lacks the sofistication & professional features of Audition, but may be fine for your needs. Audacity is available for Sourceforge at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. A useful guide for using Audacity is available from http://www.geeks.com/techtips/2007/techtips-07Jan07.htm


Upgrading to Windows Vista

If you're considering upgrading to Windows Vista, you can access a couple of websites that will clarify hardware & software compatability issues with Windows Vista.

The first website to checkout is the Microsoft Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor located at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/buyorupgrade/upgradeadvisor.mspx. Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor is a downloadable web application that helps Windows XP users identify which edition of Windows Vista meets their needs, whether their PCs are ready for an upgrade to Windows Vista, and which features of Windows Vista will be able to run on their PCs. The end result is a report that explains which edition of Windows Vista to buy and provides suggestions about what, if any, hardware updates may be necessary to install and run the appropriate edition and features of Windows Vista. Running Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor is a great first step for anyone considering whether to install Windows Vista on a PC they already own.

http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3672_7-6671810.html. This service from CNET and System Requirements Lab looks at your computer's hardware and system software, to determine whether or not your current system's components are robust enough to adequately run Microsoft Windows Vista. Each of your computer's components is evaluated against the recommended Vista requirements, & suggestions are provided on how to update or upgrade each component that does not meet the recommended specs.


Future Trends in IT; Hosted Services

Hosted Services seems to be a concept that is starting to come to the fore. Rather than purchase the software & hardware outright, you “rent” the service from someone else. In certain circumstances, particularly organizations with small to medium networks, it can be very cost effective.

Hosted services include technologies such as hosted anti-virus & anti-spam as well as hosted Microsoft Exchange (email & collaboration server).

A hosted exchange server, like SureExchange, gives all the collaboration functionality of an exchange server, & is particularly useful for people who travel.

A technology we’ve just started to trial at Microworx is Trend Micro Email Security Services. Rather than run a multi-thousand dollar security solution on your email gateway, you can rent the solution from a company that specializes in IT security. We’ve been using it for 2 weeks & have been very impressed! Spam has reduced from over 80 to about 5, with no false positives. Seventy five percent of our spam was removed by the real time blacklist technology that stops mail from the IP address of known spammers. All the headaches of filtering are dealt with before it even hits your network. For those clients that are looking for a top-shelf solution to dealing with their spam problems, this is certainly one to consider.


Future Trends in IT; Virtualization

Virtualization is a technology that has been around for years, but it's application is now filtering down to the everyday computer user. It is the creation of a virtual, rather than actual, version of something, such as an desktop computer, a server, a storage device or network resources.

By creating a virtual environment we can separate our software from the hardware it resides on. This allows great flexibility in the management, deployment, & recovery of computers.

Some common applications of virtualization are:

Virtual machines can be used to consolidate the workloads of several under-utilized servers to fewer machines.

Virtual machines can be used to run multiple operating systems simultaneously, allowing the use of applications running in entirely different environments.

Virtualization can make tasks such as system migration, backup, & recovery easier and more manageable. Using Virtualization, it is possible to create a standard image that can roll out to PC's across an organization. Policies & permissions can be set & locked down, greatly enhansing security & minimising maintenance from IT technical staff.


Backing Up your Windows Registry

Your registry controls many of the basic functions of your computer. It can be a good idea to back-up the registry in case of some catastrophe.

Steps to backup your Registry:

Click 'Start', select 'Run' & type 'Regedit'. Select 'File', 'Export Directory', & save the file to a folder that you currently backup.

In case of major computer failure (from a virus or hardware problem) you’ll have the option of recovering the registry.


Inserting the Filename & Path into a Word document

Often we may like to know the Filename & Path of a document that we have printed. A common way to do this is to place the filename & path of the document in the document footer.

Go to the ‘View’ Menu & select ‘Headers & Footers’. Click on the footer & place the cursor where you want the filename to go.

From the ‘Insert’ menu, select ‘Field’. In the ‘Field’ dialog box select ‘FileName’ from the field names available, & check ‘Add path to filename’ under the field options.

This technique can also be used to add other useful categories such as ‘Author’, ‘Date’, ‘Page Number’, etc.


Windows Hard-Drive Error Checking Utility

Over time, your hard-drive can develop bad sectors which can lead to data corruption & files being lost. The Error Checking utility checks the integrity of the files stored on your hard-drive & repairs the error where possible. Here's how to run the Error Checking utility:

Close all files & folders prior to beginning.

Go to Start, My Computer, Right click the hard-drive that you would like to check. Click Properties from the resulting menu, Click the Tools tab, Select Error Checking & click Check Now. Select Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors, then click Start.


Windows XP Backup Utility

If you use Windows XP Professional, you can use the built-in Backup utility to help you make copies of files, settings, or everything on your computer. You can even use the utility to back up certain files on a schedule that you specify. Here's how to start using the Backup utility:

Click Start; select All Programs; select Accessories; System Tools; select Backup.

Run the Backup or Restore Wizard & follow the prompts. Note that you can schedule a regular backup to automate the process. For a step by step guide to usings Windows Backup Utility see http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/setup/learnmore/bott_03july14.mspx

If your using Windows XP Home, you'll find that the Backup Utility is not normally installed. You can add it, however, from the original Windows XP Home CD that came with your computer.

Insert the Windows XP Home CD into your drive; on the Welcome to Windows XP screen select Perform Additional Tasks; select Browse this CD; double-click the ValueAdd folder, then Msft, & then Ntbackup; double-click to install the Backup utility.


Ways to Organize Your E-Mail

With the high volume of email most of us receive each day, it's easy for your inbox to get cluttered. An unorganized Inbox can make it difficult to find what important email needs your attention. However, this messy situation can be remedied by applying a few simple procedures.

Sort your email when it arrives.

Actions for email in your Inbox: 1. Do it now 2. Discard / Delete 3. Date activate for future action 4. Delegate

Route mail automatically using mailbox rules.

By creating Outlook rules you can automatically perform actions on incoming and outgoing messages based on the criteria you establish. It can save time and make it easier to organize your e-mail. Consider filing email into sub-folders based on common subject classifications that will help you to find them later. Use them like manilla folders in a filing cabinet.

Reduce unwanted email with a spam filter.

Keep unwanted messages out of your Inbox by using a spam filter. Options include Microsoft's Junk Filter, Spambayes, Mailwasher, & many other programs. Automate the process of filtering the distracting & unwanted emails. Be sure to regularly check your junk email lists for the few legitimate emails that sometimes get captured unintentionally.

Customize Search Folders to find common searches.

Search Folders are virtual folders that offer a view of all your messages stored in the folders of your Inbox. You can find messages based on their content or some other attribute, such as who they're from or whether you want to follow-up.

Use flags & message colours to classify your mail.

Flags & message colours allow you to sort your mail into categories that help to identify the essential from the insignificant. Message colours can be set to automatically be applied to say mail from a particular person. Message flags can be used to track the progress of email correspondence or highlight tasks that need your attention. A useful article on customizing email flags is available at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA011168451033.aspx.


Handy Keyboard Shortcuts

Keys Action
F2 Rename
F3 Find
F5 Refresh
F6 Switch between panes in Windows Explorer
ALT+ENTER Properties
CTRL+X, C, or V Cut, Copy, or Paste
CTRL+Z Undo
CTRL+A Select All
CTRL+drag a file or folder Copy a file or folder to new location
CTRL+SHIFT+drag a file to the desktop or folder Create a shortcut

Managing your emails

A common issue for Microsoft Outlook users is an ever growing & unmanageable inbox. Sorting through large numbers of emails can make it difficult to find what you're looking for. Also, if Outlook grows very large the file can become unstable & work poorly or crash.

I've found two techniques particularly useful to managing email. Firstly, sort your inbox into useful categories, rather than one large & daunting folder. I use subfolders such as 'Personal Correspondence', 'Follow-up", 'IT News', 'Slush File', etc. The 'Slush File' is a handy little catch-all folder that takes anything that doesn't fit an important category, but that I may need later. Another trick is to drag the email to the tasks folder where you can assign a time & date for it to be actioned.

Archiving your Outlook folder regularly is another key way to keep your Inbox manageable. Right click on the folder in question, click on properties, then select the tab ÁutoArchive'. You can set individual settings for each folder. Then, all that you need to do is go to the File Menu, select AutoArchive, & then check 'Archive all folders according to their AutoArchive Settings'. Run AutoArchive regularly & you'll keep your inbox trim, taut & terrific.


Options for backing up your data

We're all aware of the importance of regularly backing up our date, but what are the options for small organizations or individuals.

  • Copy files to another computer on the network. This will give you a duplicate of important files in case of hardware failure or data corruption (perhaps because of a virus), but will not protect from fire or theft.
  • Use a CD or DVD writer. This is a great method to backup data, in particular for archiving purposes. CD's can be read on most computers & they are cheap to purchase. The downside is that the backups can be slow to write.
  • Use an external hard-drive. These can be quite cheap to purchase & provide lots of storage. Consider using them along with another method such as CD's to provide an archiving capabiltiy.
  • Buy a USB Flash drive. These drives are extremely small & convenient, but only store relatively small amounts of data (usually less than 2Gb). They have the advantage of being very portable so you can easily take them offsite. A viable option if you're not needing large backups.

The solution that's best for you may be one of those listed above, or even a combination. Consider regaularly backing up all your files. I'd suggest at the end of every day using an incremental backup utility (see earlier tech tip). Regularly take copies of all your important data offsite in case of fire or theft. And lastly, consider a method such as CD/DVD for creating archives of your data so that you can check on files from a particular date. Remember that a maintaining a regular backup routine can save you from a potential disaster & the loss of thousands of hours of work.


Consider creating your own internet domain & website

Purchasing your own internet domain name (such as www.microworx.com.au) can be cheaper & simpler than you may expect.

A domain name is the internet equivalent of prime real estate, & is the first step in creating your own web presence. It gives you the ability to create email addresses at your own domain, such as paul@microworx.com.au. By purchasing a web hosting package from one of the many providers, & using a product like Macromedia Studio 8 to design your web pages, you can set up a simple brochure style website relatively inexpensively.

Some domain name registration & web hosting providers (that I'm aware of) are:

  • Trinity Digital Solutions: http://www.trinitydigital.com.au/trinityWEB.php
  • Australian Church Web Hosting: http://auschurch.com.au/prices.php
  • Aust Domains: http://www.austdomains.com.au/
  • Day3: http://www.day3.com.au
  • InfoXchange: http://www.infoxchange.net.au/index.html

How to tell which programs that automatically load on start-up are really necessary?

In a previous article we discussed how to disable programs that automatically load on start-up using the “MSCONFIG” command (see earlier Tech-Tip). This is often an effective way of improving your computers performance & reliability.

But how do you tell which programs are useful, & which programs are non-essential? A website called Startup Application Knowledge Base has over 6000 programs files listed for you to browse. They list the filename, a rating as to the files usefulness, & then comments describing what the program does. By using this list in conjunction with the MSCONFIG utility, you’ll be able to examine each of your startup programs & choose which ones you want to load automatically.

You can find the Startup Application Knowledge Base at

http://www.windowsstartup.com/wso/browse.php


Policies that can protect your organization from Viruses, Worms & Internet Scams

Viruses & Worms are small but destructive programs that are commonly spread by e-mail. They come in the form of cleverly disguised attachments to messages that trick unsuspecting users into clicking on them. Once installed, viruses infect programs & files and can destroy your data. They can self-replicate across your network & spread by e-mailing themself to people in your address book.

A common internet scam is known as Phishing (yes, it is spelt correctly). Some e-mail messages ask for credit card numbers, network passwords or account numbers. Links in these messages actually take you to websites that, whilst legitimate looking, are in fact run by internet thieves. If you enter your data, you give those thieves the information they need to access your computers or bank accounts.

Security Policy Recommendations:

  • Never open suspicious or unexpected email attachments.
  • Use extreme caution when responding to messages that ask for passwords or account information. If there is any doubts about the validity of the e-mail, contact the sender by phone and verify the legitimacy of the request.
  • In the event a virus-infected attachment is opened, make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date & that you’ve installed security updates for your operating system & other software.

Turning off Microsoft's adaptive menus

Adaptive menus are a function available in recent editions of Microsoft products. They display only your most commonly used commands in the drop-down menu, while the rest of the commands are hidden from view. It can seem an appealing feature until you start searching the menu system trying to find a command that's been hidden by the intuitive software.

If you'd prefer to turn off adaptive menus, go to the Tools menu / Customize / Options / then check the "Always show the full menus" box.


Choosing the right Broadband Internet Service Provider

Broadband Internet has recently become much cheaper & more readily available. For those people who are considering migrating from dialup, or are looking at upgrading their existing broadband internet account, there are a plethora of cost effective options available.

Choosing the best option can be complicated & confusing. However, there are tools available to make your decision easier. A free service called Broadband Choice gives an excellent comparison between the various Internet Service Providers. By entering your telephone number you can get a list of the ISPs which service your area. Then you can compare ISPs to determine the plan that best suits you. Note that many of the cheaper plans have a monthly download limit. Once this limit is reached the broadband connection is shaped (speed restricted to about dialup speeds), or an additional charge is allocated per megabyte. Be aware that the additional charge once your download limit is reached can become very expensive if your not careful.

Consider taking out a fairly short-term contract where possible, as ADSL broadband seems to be getting faster & cheaper all the time.

The URL for Broadband Choice is: http://bc.whirlpool.net.au/


How to test the effectiveness of your firewall?

A good firewall should be protecting your computer from hackers & automated programs that are looking for computers with vulnerabilites. These vulnerabilites are open ports that act as doorways allowing unwanted intruders access to your computer system. You can test how effective your firewall is by visiting www.grc.com & running a free ultility caled Shields Up! It will provide information on what ports are open & how to fix firewall breaches. Note that it is not essential to get a completely stealthed PC providing that all the ports are closed.

https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2


How to tell if your copy of Windows is genuine?

A "Certificate of Authenticity" (COA) is a label to help you identify genuine Microsoft software. For preinstalled Windows operating systems, the COA label should be affixed to the PC chassis and should not be removed from the PC. The COA label also includes the Product Key needed in the event the operating system needs to be reinstalled. When the Windows is purchased separately from the PC the COA will be glued to the top of the product box.

Genuine Microsoft software comes with an Edge-to-Edge Hologram CD. An Edge-to-Edge Hologram CD features a three-dimensional holographic image over the entire surface of the CD. This holographic image is part of the CD itself, rather than a sticker on the CD's surface.

One of the many benefits of owning genuine Microsoft software is gaining access to Microsoft Windows Updates. Below is a link to help you determine whether your version of Windows is genuine.

http://www.microsoft.com/resources/howtotell/ww/windows/default.msp


Creating more secure passwords

Strong passwords are usually at least eight characters, include a combination of letters, numbers, & symbols and is easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess.  The easiest way to create a strong password that you won't have to write down is to come up with a passphrase.  A passphrase is a sentence that you can remember, like "My daughters have two Guinea Pigs called Sunshine and Moonlight."  You can make a pretty strong password by using the first letter of each word of the sentence.  For example, mdhtgpcsam.  However, you can make this password even stronger by using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters that look like letters, to produce; Mdh2GPc$&M.

The safest password technique is to create a new, strong password for every Web site or login that requests one.  This is almost as impractical as remembering a long string of random characters.  An easier solution is to create a handful of strong passwords and use those at sites you want to keep most secure, such as bank or bill paying websites.  Then create another small set of easier to remember passwords that you can use everywhere else.


The quest for the paperless office

Many of us have filing cabinets full of paper we’d either rather not have to store, or experienced times when we’re unable to find a particular document when we want it.  What are some of the ways that we can save paper & reduce the clutter in our lives?

Saving documents electronically can be a great solution.  However, we need to make sure that we can still open them at some unspecified future date.  Most of the Microsoft products such as Word or Excel, are fairly “industry standard” & create files that can usually be opened by later versions. 

Another option, if you have Microsoft Office, is to use a printer driver called Microsoft Office Document Image Writer. Instead of printing to a printer using the File / Print menu, it prints to an image file in the .MDI format.

However, the most elegant solution is to archive your information using pdf (portable document format).  It has become industry standard for archiving & distributing electronic documents, it has a reader that is widely distributed for free & it is likely to be around for many years to come.  There are a number of pdf creation tools available, some even for free, that vary in ease of use, functionality, & quality of output.  Two of the most popular pdf creation tools are Macromedia Contribute (available at discount pricing), & Adobe Acrobat (the creators of the pdf format).


Spyware & Adware cause problems for most computer users

Various computer surveys have estimated that the majority of computer users have become infected by Spyware or Adware.  The programs can range from unwanted pop-up-ads to key-stroke loggers that can transmit sensitive information such as passwords.  You can become infected by downloading software from certain websites, or even by visiting particular URL’s.

There are a number of programs that will protect you & remove adware from your computer, some of which are free.  The general consensus is that it is safest to install a couple of programs & run them all for maximum protection.

Some antiadware programs are listed below:

Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta is available for free at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx

SpyBot is available for free (voluntary donation) at http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/

Webroot SpyAudit http://www.webroot.com/services/spyaudit_03.htm?WRSID=36248217d5d21e70187629e55accf0a7

SpyBlaster is freeware & available at http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html

IE-SPYAD is a list of websites that are known to do things like install adware.  It is available at https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/ehowes/www/resource.htm

Lavasoft’s free version of Adaware is available at http://www.download.com/Ad-Aware-SE-Personal-Edition/3000-8022_4-10045910.html?part=dl-ad-aware&subj=dl&tag=top5


Email appointments using Outlook

Microsoft Outlook will let you setup appointments with nothing more than Outlook and an email account.  All you need to do in create an appointment in the “Calendar” section of Outlook, then click “Invite Attendees” to select who you wish to email the invitation to.  The invited attendees can respond simply by clicking a button, to “accept, decline, tentative or propose new time”. 


Search Tool for Microsoft Outlook

Lookout is a FREE utility for searching Microsoft Outlook, available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=09b835ee-16e5-4961-91b8-2200ba31ea37&displaylang=en

It operates entirely within Outlook, adding a toolbar to your Outlook views. Lookout has the option to fine-tune the indexing (including an option to totally rebuild the index after a set number of days) as well as a word stemming option (so a search for house will also return houses and housing).

Search results appear in a separate normal Windows dialog box with one line for each result. If you hover your mouse over a line there's a tooltip that shows more details. The column headings can be clicked on to re-sort the results and the 'Restrict to ' option lets you quickly narrow down the search by date, location or whatever else you like.


Resize your digital images!

If you find that your digital photos are too large to email, then consider downloading the FREE Image Resizer from the Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP webpage. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx

Once you’ve installed Image Resizer, simply right click on the image files you wish to resize. The Resize Pictures option will appear from the context menu. The wizard lets you choose Small, Medium & Large sizes, as well as a Custom option under the advanced menu.  With practice, you’ll be able to determine what screen size corresponds to an appropriate file size that is suitable for emailing.


Out of date antivirus is worse than no antivirus at all

Sometimes we get asked the question, “How could I have got a virus when I have antivirus protection installed?”  Most people have taken the precaution of installing antivirus software, or perhaps had it preinstalled when they purchased their computer.  A common problem, however, is that they may not have kept the product up-to-date, or perhaps their operating system & browser have not had the latest "patches" installed.  Also, new viruses are appearing all the time, & may infect some computers before a "fix" is written for them.  To be effective, antivirus software should be updated regularly.  Personally, we like to set our antivirus to automatically check for updates as frequently as possible, which are 3 hourly in our case. 

One particular danger with out-of-date antivirus is that it lulls you into a false sense of security.  Your antivirus vendor is constantly posting updates as new threats become known.  Download and install the latest update when it becomes available, then regularly do a full scan of your system.


Removing Pop-up Ads, Spyware, Trojans & other Parasites

Often computers become “infected” by unwanted programs such as Pop-up Ads, Spyware, Trojans & other Parasites.  These may be unsolicited commercial software or even malicious programs that may have wormed their way onto your computer.  A properly configured firewall & antivirus will prevent infection, but software such SbyBot (which is available for a voluntary donation), or Ad-aware (which is commercially available) will help remove these unwanted programs.

SpyBot is available at http://spybot.eon.net.au/en/download/index.html


Disabling some of the unnecessary programs that automatically load on start-up

The "Microsoft System Configuration Utility" is a utility built into Windows 98, 98SE, ME & XP, designed to help you troubleshoot problems with your computer.  “MSCONFIG” can also be used to ensure that your computer boots faster and crashes less.

Many of us are aware that the more programs you have running on your computer at once, the more likely it is to run slowly or perhaps even crash.  In general, whenever you startup your computer a number of programs load in the background.  Often these programs are installed as non-essential components of legitimate software that are always running even though you use them occasionally.  Some of these programs are necessary, but many aren't.  Turning off some of these non-essential programs can significantly increase your computer's performance and reliability.

Here is how to use MSCONFIG on Windows 98, 98SE, ME, and XP to disable some of the unnecessary programs that automatically load on start-up.

Click Start

Select Run

Type msconfig in the text box

The "System Configuration Utility" window will open.  

Clicking Startup (the tab at the far right) shows you all the programs that are capable of being executed during the windows boot process.  Clicking on the check box in front of the program enables that program so it automatically loads during boot.  Unchecking the box (so it is blank) removes that program from the startup sequence so it does not load automatically.  Remember, disable only those programs that you recognize and don't need to have running all the time.  When in doubt, leave it on.

When you finish with the changes click the OK button to close the window.  A message will pop up telling you that you must restart your computer before these changes will take effect. Click on "Yes" and your computer will automatically reboot.


How to write your own incremental backup utility!

Most of us have learnt by now the necessity of regularly backing up our important data.  However copying the "My Documents" folder to a network drive or removable media can be slow & tedious.  Only a small amount of the data changes from day to day, yet we are recopying everything every time we make a backup.

In order to automatically copy just the new or modified files, you can create a BAT file that will copy to your existing backup directory just the required changes to files.  Then you can easily make it an icon on the desktop and rapidly backup with a double-click on that icon.

Use Word to write one line similar to this: xcopy "C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\My Documents" Z:\My_Backup /S /D /I /Y where Z is the drive letter of the Backup drive.  Save it in the Windows folder as MyBackup.bat, making sure that the Save as type is selected as Plain Text (*.txt). Now, all you have to do is to right-click on this new BAT file, & create a shortcut to the desktop. This method will create a new folder called My_Backup and subsequently copy only new or changed files. 


Taking the pain out of setting up a new computer

Getting a new computer often requires repeating much of the same setup configuration you originally did with your old computer.  Locating this data and figuring our how to move it to your new PC can be difficult & painful.  However, users of Windows XP can streamline this process with the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.

Migrated setting groups include Internet Explorer settings & Favourites folder, Outlook settings and data, Dial-Up connections, Phone and modem options, Taskbar settings, Mouse and keyboard settings, Regional options, Office settings, Network drives and printers & My Documents folder.

A more detailed guide is available from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/deploy/mgrtfset.mspx


If your Operating System ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

A number of our clients ask if they should upgrade the old computers running Windows 98 SE.  Our recommendation is that if your operating system is reasonably stable, then you do not need to upgrade it.  Also, some old hardware (say Pentium 3 400Mhz or slower) will usually not run Windows XP very well.  Upgrading may in fact create more problems than solve them.  

Microsoft has recently announced it will now support Windows 98, 98 SE and ME until June 2006.  Even after this date the knowledge base will not be removed from the web.  Our general advice is keep these old computers running the original operating system until you replace the whole computer.  


Good office ergonomics

Recently a friend of mine developed repetitive strain injury.  His work of developing written language for a people group in Cambodia requires extensive use of a computer keyboard.  This constant keyboard work exacerbates his injury & requires significant changes to resolve it.  Like most things in life, prevention is better than cure.

What are the key elements for good office ergonomics? 

Place your monitor & keyboard in the correct position.  Further information is available at websites such as http://www.healthycomputing.com

  • Maintain good seating position, & if need be, get a better seat.  Good posture is vital for good ergonomics.
  • Consider using a headset with your telephone, particularly if you’re on the phone regularly.  This can be a cheap yet very effective solution.
  • In serious cases, look at options such as zero pressure keyboard & mouse.  Although expensive, they are revolutionary & offer genuine alternatives to RSI sufferers.
  • Move around, stretch, & get some exercise throughout the day.

Configuring your Antivirus solution

  • Most of us are aware of the need to purchase antivirus software, but in many cases we may not have configured it correctly. 
  • Make sure you antivirus subscription is up-to-date.  This includes the antivirus engine, as well as the new definitions that are regularly downloaded.  In my opinion, out of date protection is worse than no protection at all, as it provides a false sense of security.  Note that the licensing with software maintenance is a great way to get & keep this current.
  • Consider checking for updates more regularly.  Most antivirus solutions have facility to set how often it automatically checks for updates.  The shorter the time between a virus outbreak & when you download the update, the greater the level of protection.
  • Use some form of firewall, even the “Internet Connection Firewall” supplied in Windows XP.  A firewall can be configured to lock down open ports, & prevent mass mailing that is often a feature of modern viruses.
  • Make a habit of not opening suspicious attachments without contacting the sender beforehand.

Defragmenting your hard-drive

Because Microsoft Windows stores new data in whatever free space is available, data files become spread out across the Hard-drive as they are updated.  Large files may be broken into thousands of fragments, causing the read/write head to move back and forth numerous extra times to read the data.  Defragmenting your hard-drive rewrites all the files and stores them in adjacent sectors.

Windows comes with a Defragmenting utility, which can be activated in Windows XP via Control Panel / Performance & Maintenance / Rearrange items on your hard disk to make programs run faster.  Other versions of Windows have it under System Tools.

Defragmenting your hard-drive regularly is good practice because it makes programs run faster, & will reduce wear and tear on the drive mechanism. 


Good computer “housekeeping”

With the holidays rapidly approaching, now is an opportune time to put in place some good computing habits.  

If you haven’t done so already, back-up all of your data files to some form of removable media (such as CD or tape).  In earlier tech tips we have discussed how to gather all of your data, including Outlook files, Autotext files, Internet favourites & so on.  I would suggest locating each of these files & copying them to your “My Documents” folder so that they are all backed up from one place. 

It’s a good habit to archive a copy at a remote location in case your office is ever burgled or in the event of fire.  Make sure you check that the back-up was successful by opening files on your back-up & checking that the data is readable.  Also, it’s helpful to note on the cover what the disk contains & the date it was made.

By employing a few of these simple steps, you can face the holiday season assured that you’re prepared for any computing disaster which might come your way.


The importance of regular back-up

Recently a client lost 100 Gb of data when a hard drive failed.  With no effective back-up for much of the data, thousands of hours of work were lost.  Are you able to cope with such a disaster?  Many of us go through life hoping that it will never happen to me!

What are your options for back-up regimes? These will vary depending upon the amount of information you need to back-up, whether you have a network, & the degree of automation that you want.

Use a CD or DVD burner.

A cheap & convenient method for back-up of up to 700 Mb of data for CD & around 4.7 Gb of data for DVD.

Back-up to another computer on a peer to peer network.

This is a good solution if you're able to get access to a shared hard-drive, but will not protect you against fire or theft. Perhaps it can be coupled with back-up to a CD / DVD burner. Remember to take a disk offsite for added security.

Back-up your network server using Win back-up (ships free with Windows Server), or use a totally automated solution like Back-up Exec.

Common Traps for the Unwary. sp; The IT industry abounds with stories of people who have made back-ups for years, then learn after some computer disaster that they were recording onto the cleaning tape.

Rotate your recording media regularly.

Archive back-ups at regular intervals so that, if need be, you can rollback files to a particular date.

REMEMBER - neglect to back-up at your peril.


Want to protect your computer from Internet intruders? Then consider a Firewall!

Many of us think surfing the Internet is a one-way experience like watching television.  However, just as the Internet enables you to connect with websites all across the world, other computers are also able to connect to you!  This two-way connection can be used by "hackers" to look at your personal information, delete important files or even control of your computer.

We all lock the front door of our home when we go out. Likewise, it's important to use a firewall to protect your computer from unauthorized access!  Firewalls can be implemented in both hardware and software, or a combination of both.

You may be aware that a limited "Internet Connection Firewall" is included in Windows XP.  For information on its setup & the pro's & con's of using it, you may like to refer to a useful article on the website Practically Networked. http://www.practicallynetworked.com/sharing/xp/ic_firewall.htm

For those who want more comprehensive protection from spyware, Trojan horses, or other hacker tools, a commercial firewall product is worth considering.  (Spyware is a component of some free software that tracks your Web browsing habits, whilst Trojan horses are programs disguised to appear desirable, but perform some malicious function, such as recording your passwords or deleting files.)

Zone Alarm Pro, one of the premier software firewalls for small networks & home users, is now available at a discount for charities & churches.


Want To Copy Files Faster? Then Use the Send To Feature

Right click on a file in Windows explorer or any file open window for that matter and you will notice the “Send To” option about half way down the drop down window. How would you like to add your own locations? It’s easy. I have added several.

First of all you need to find your “Send To Folder”. Open up windows explorer and go to the “Documents and Settings Folder”.  Locate “your user name” folder and open it.  Then the “Send To” folder.  Open it up and here you will find the current places you have in your send to folder.  Now all you have to do is add some new ones. It is that easy.

Go to file, new, and create a shortcut.  Once you have created the shortcut you can rename it and change the target location to suit your needs. To do this right click on the short cut and then click on properties.  You can even change the icon to give you a graphic representation of the place you are sending the file.

Remember that the send to folder is just like any other folder structure on your computer. So you can add folders and subfolders with shortcuts for any location you like on your computer or computer network. So get creative and make it work for you today.

- Russell Drowley


Backup of key files

For many of us, computer upgrades (& sadly sometimes system recovery) is a fairly regular occurrence.  Yet most of us don’t plan for such eventualities!

You will be familiar with the folder called “My Documents” which contains your office files such as Word & Excel documents. Unfortunately, many other useful files such as your MS Outlook files, AutoText, Internet Explorer Favourites, etc., are stored all over the place.  By copying these files to your “My Documents” folder, (or better still having the program use the data from “My Documents”), you only need to backup your “My Documents” folder & all your useful information will be saved in one place.

How then do you move these files to “My Documents”?  First, you will need to determine the file type that you are dealing with. Outlook files have the extension “.pst”, Template files (refer last Newsletter) have the extension “.dot”. You can even run your Outlook file from the “My Documents” folder. Simply open Outlook, then select File / Open / Personal Folders File, then browse to “My Documents” & select your “.pst” file.  The simplest way to find where your internet favourites are is simply to save any web page with an unusual name, then search for that name by using the search functions found at the “Start” Menu.  Then simply go to that location & copy the whole folder to “My Documents”.

Once you have saved all your useful files to “My Documents”, & get into the habit of backing them up regularly, you’re able to face planned upgrades or the unfortunate system disaster with a degree of poise & good humour.


AutoText

You may have noticed that Microsoft Word has the ability to fill in commonly used words & phrases. What you may not be aware of is that these can be customized to suit your work habits. Any frequently used signature, expression, statement can be recorded as AutoText for Microsoft Word to fill in as you need it.

You can wait for AutoText to prompt you for the rest of the phrase, or you can select it from the AutoText menu, which is under the Insert Menu (see earlier newsletter for instructions on customizing your desktop so that you can access the AutoText menu more easily).  It is even possible to save these changes to a template file called Normal.dot for use when you upgrade your computer or recover from a system disaster. You can access Normal.dot via Tools / Templates & Add-ins / Organizer.

Be aware that if you are using Outlook as your email client, you can specify it to use Word as the email editor.  This way you can access all the spell checking & AutoText features that are available in Microsoft Word


Quick Launch Toolbar

The Quick Launch Toolbar is a group of small icons next to the Start button. If you can’t see yours, right-click on an empty spot down at the bottom of your screen in the Windows Taskbar. Choose Toolbars | Quick Launch.

To put your applications on the Quick Launch Toolbar, click Start / Programs, right-click on an application, and drag it down to the Quick Launch Toolbar. Pick a location, release the right mouse button, and choose Create Shortcut Here.

In Windows 98, ME and 2000 it’s easy to make the Quick Launch Toolbar taller - just click and drag the little dividing line.  (This also increases the height of the bottom band that registers what programs are running. By increasing the size of this bottom band, you can access these programs more easily.)  In Windows XP, though, you have to right-click on a blank part of the Toolbar and uncheck the line that says Lock the Toolbar. When you have the Quick Launch Toolbar re-organized the way you want it, right-click and check the line again. 

Note that if you don’t want a particular icon on your Quick Launch Toolbar, right-click on it and pick Delete. 


Customizing your desktop in MS Outlook, Word & Excel

Are there tasks that you perform regularly in your favourite applications & find that you are constantly going to the pull down menu’s at the top of your screen to find them?

There is a much faster solution! Simply go to TOOLS / CUSTOMIZE / COMMANDS, select the menu category that you want to use, & then paste the icon for the function you want on the toolbars at the top of your screen.  It’s that easy!

Some functions you may like to consider are

  • Changing the printer icon default to prompt you for which printer you wish to use. Great if you have more than one printer, or frequently change the print settings on your document.
  • Change font size 1 point at a time.
  • Change Case (from capitals to lower case or visa versa).
  • Line spacing.
  • Insert Columns.
  • Insert page break.
  • The list is endless. Note that you can delete unwanted items from your toolbars if you wish.

Paste Unformatted Text

How many times do you copy a section of a document, paste it into your own file & discover its also copied the font & formatting of the original (much to your chagrin)?

There is a way around it.  When you’re about to paste, simply go to the edit menu at the top of your screen, click on paste special & select paste unformatted text.

Creating a Macro to Paste Unformatted Text automatically.

If you want to change the behaviour of the Word paste shortcut key combination, Ctrl+V

Start Word.

Bring up Visual Basic for Applications by clicking Tools | Macro | Macros. Type a good macro name in the box - say, PasteUnformatted - and click Create.

VBA comes to life, and writes a little program for you that looks something like this:

Sub PasteUnformatted()

  ' PasteUnformatted Macro

  ' Macro created 07/10/2001 by Paul Zarb

End Sub

Immediately before that "End Sub" line, you need to type one short line of VBA code. When you're done, the macro should look like this:

  Sub PasteUnformatted()

  ' PasteUnformatted Macro

  ' Macro created 07/10/2001 by Paul Zarb

   Selection.PasteSpecial DataType:=wdPasteText

  End Sub

You're done with the programming part of the exercise. In VBA, click File | Close and return to Microsoft Word.

Now you need to tell Word to run that macro every time you press Ctrl+V. That's easy, too. Click Tools | Customize. Make sure "Save in" shows normal.dot and click the Keyboard button.

In the Categories box, pick Macros. In the Macros box, pick PasteUnformatted. Click inside the Press New Shortcut Key box and hit Ctrl+V. Click Assign.

You're done. From that point on, every time you press Ctrl+V, Word will paste the contents of the clipboard, and ignore any formatting.


American English vs Australian English

Ever wondered how to change the default spell checker from American English to the real thing, Australian English? You have tried all the tricks in Word and nothing has changed next time you launch it. How annoying!

In XP go to control panel and check out the Regional and Language Settings Icon. Two settings need to be looked at; Regional Options and Advanced. Now you will see the culprit. Change them both to Australian English and you have solved that problem.

In 95, 98, 2000 & ME go to control panel and check out the Keyboard Properties. The language setting must be on Australian English. You may have to add this language. (I hope you have your original disks that came with your machine. Tut, tut if you borrowed them from someone else.)

- Russell Drowley