June 2006, V5#6: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Are you one of those folks who can’t seem to get the mouse clicking on the right button? Lots of times, it can be as simple as being left handed – yes, a mouse is by default right handed. Do you continually click the right button, instead of the left? If you don’t share your computer with many others, you can change your mouse to respond too your right clicks (just remember that if you do, all instructions to left click will be right, etc. instead):

(XP instructions) Access your computer’s control panel (double click the “my computer” icon on the desktop; in that window, click “control panel”  in “other places” from the left column). In the control panel, double click “mouse” – this will bring up a mouse dialog box. Under the buttons tab, click the check box for “switch primary and secondary buttons” – the graphic to the right will then change buttons. Don’t forget to click “Apply” (right button now) at the bottom of the box to close it. If you don’t click the Apply button, the buttons may not remember the switch.

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May 2006, V5#5: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

MS Word Templates

Do you have a file that you use over and over again – such as letterhead layout or basic query? If so, an easy way not to have to retype it all each time is to save a generic file. If there is changing information in the text, replace it with a line of symbols you eye is drawn to (*************). When you want to use the saved file, open it and automatically save as with the new file name, then compose. If you want to, a real template can be made, but they are opened differently then regular files. Get  the file ready, then when you save as, change the program type from “word document” to “document template” – save as usual but where the computer wants you to. Then, to use the template, from the pull down menus choose file, then new. This will bring up the right hand pane or a window. If the template you want isn’t shown in the right hand pane, choose general templates which will bring up the window – choose the template you wish to use and it will open as a new document.

(For reversal of mouse see June)

April 2006, V5#4: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Does your mouse never seem to do what the instructions say it is supposed to do? Double check to see if the instructions were for right or left click. Many times we can get the mouse to do something, even if we click the wrong button.

Mouse backwards? Do you have to right click even if it says left? Tune in next month or email us for the instructions…

February 2006, V5#2: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Organization – part 4

Do you have a lot of photos that have been given to you, you’ve taken, or scanned?  If so, they could be slowing your computer down.  Additionally, if the only copy of a photo you have is on your hard drive, we really don’t want to think what will happen if the computer crashes.  If you have the budget and don’t mind new hardware, there are several excellent back up systems you can purchase and install to take care of knowing your photos are safe.  But what about those of us with less than 40% hard drive space open?  It’s time to file your photos!  One of the easiest ways with today’s technology is with a USB drive (starting at $20).  Once you have tamed the photos and put them into file folders, simply plug the drive into your computer, open up its’ window and a window that shows your photos and drag and drop.  It is suggested that you keep the drive with a general table of contents to make retreval/enjoyment fairly easy.  Another excellent way to file photos is by CD. Once you have your photos on removable storage media (drives or disks), it is up to you whether to keep them on your computer.

While you can use this filing tactic with any type of files, currently photos are the universal memory hog.  If you do digital video; have your genealogy back to the 1600 (including lots of collateral lines) in GEDCOM, etc.; have all your audio collection in the hard drive; etc. all of these may be filed similar to the photo example above.

Old School Tip: Were you computing at home in the 1980s?  Still have those large floppy boxes?  If so, they make excellent CD storage – with or without the jewel cases!

Please Note: Due to the newness of digital storage, it is important to keep your storage up to date.  Some of us still have large floppy disks with data on them – and no where to use them!

January 2006, V5#1: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Organization – part 3

As you begin wholesale organization, you may find more than one copy of a file that is similar, if not apparently an exact duplicate.  There is no reason (other than personal preference and convenience) to have more than one file with the same information in it on your hard drive.  Back up copies may be made on any number of types of removable media (CDs, flash drives, memory cards or sticks, etc.) or even a dedicated back up hard drive.

So, how do you select what to keep and what to pitch without extensive proofing to be sure you don’t delete the best one?  Here are a few suggestions:

In Windows Explorer (or even just an “open” window), find the “Views” button near the top, just under the title bar.  This button will look similar to an index card with dots and/or dashes on it and may have a down arrow to the right of it.  Clicking the main button will “scroll” through the types of views the computer allows you to see for the contents of the file.  If a down arrow is showing, clicking it will give you a list of the views.  For this, select the “details” – it will show file name, save date, file size, etc. in columns.  Next, locate your apparently duplicate files – were they saved on the same date, are they the same size, etc.  Use this information to help you decide which may be the best to keep and what is outdated.

Still not sure what to keep?  Choose one to keep on the hard drive and make a backup media copy of all other versions – in case they are ever needed.

More next month…

December 2005, V4#12: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Organization – part 2

Once you have decided whether to have one main organization structure, or divide files by type and then organize, it’s time to do some serious directory making and/or “moving in”.

Don’t start moving your files until you have your main directory structure thought out.  For instance, don’t make “photo” and “graphic” file folders in My Documents/My Pictures and the move all your graphics, then decide to make folders in photo for subjects, dates, etc. – this would make you more work by having to move the same file every time you choose do divide it more.  First take a look at your overall structure you have decided, think about the type of files you have and/or may be making – plan a structure and file folders that will make items easy to find.  Once the structure is in place, you can start moving in.

One easy way to move files follows: click Start, then click My Documents.  From there, double click a file folder you wish to move into.  Continue double clicking into sub folders until you get to a folder you plan on moving files into.  Next go back and click Start then My Documents again.  If files need to be moved from here just place the mouse on the item, hold down the left mouse button and drag it to the other file folder window and release.

Continue repeating steps until files are in correct folders.  Don’t worry if you find as you move you need more folders, just make them :o)

Note – if you find you’ve placed a file folder in the wrong place, the whole folder can be moved just like a single file: drag and drop.

More next month…

November 2005, V4#11: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Organization – part 1

Having trouble finding anything on your computer?  Are you a “file dumper” into My Documents?  Consider that today’s hard drives have space to hold a room full of filing cabinet information.  Too many people don’t treat their hard drive like the filing system it is.  Many of those that do, start out with good intentions and then for some reason, over time, “just save it” with the intention of moving it later.  At best, this makes the file hard to find, at worst it results in different versions of the “same” files or even exact duplicate files (taking up usable space).

First thing to do when deciding on how your filing system should work is decide what level you (and others using the computer)  are at.  Realize that different types of software programs produce different types of computer files.  Can you look at an “open” directory and see the files you want to open and ignore the rest?  Example:  A novice is working in Word (word processor) and wishes to open a photo.  They will generally try File, Open – resulting in “gobilty gook”.  If this is your problem, I suggest start out segregating your types of files – in “My Documents” have a file for each type of program you use, i.e. Word, Works, Adobe Acrobat, Publisher, Draw, Family Tree Maker, Quark, Photoshop, etc.  From then on, never save a particular format file in a different programs area.  This cuts down on trying to open files the wrong way, but adds to your organization structure. 

One way to make all purpose files: click Start, from menu go to My Documents – this will open a window. From the left column you may choose “make a new folder”. If selection is not available, click in blank area to deselect any folders.  (If column is not there , click File, slide down to new, slide over and click Folder)  Name your folder next, and repeat as necessary.  When you are ready to build folders in any one of the folders you have made, double click it and begin.

More next month…

October 2005, V4#10: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Don’t neglect your anti-virus program.  When prompted to download, don’t put it off, but make it a priority to get it complete before doing a lot of work online (or installing new software).  Also, do full disk scans periodically.  This is in case a new virus slipped paste before the anti-virus could identify it.  The sweep will pick it up, hopefully before it does too much damage.

September 2005, V4#9: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Internet browser

Your Internet browser could be retaining too much data.  To make it “lean and mean”, start by opening the browser and selecting the “Tools” pull down menu.  Click Internet Options which brings up the “general” tab.  In the middle, under history, click the settings button.  Under temporary internet settings, you only need a fairly small amount of disk space used.  Some computers come set with this up to 40% of total disk space!

August 2005, V4#8: Computer Friday, Dec 26 2008 

Software: Maintenance

A computer is a wonderful thing, but unless you change computers yearly (sometimes even then), a little simple maintenance may head off problems in the future.  We’ll take the time this issue, and future months to mention some of the “high points”.

It’s always a good idea, to start with general hard disk cleaning (XP: Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Clean Up) and “defragging” (XP: Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Defragmenter).  Of the two, run Disk Clean Up first.  It will empty your Recycle bin, delete many temporary files, etc. – nothing you have actually saved into your files, and compress some into smaller space.  Think of all the data you have saved, deleted, moved, etc.  They are all little chunks of data that can dot your hard drive.  Large files may even be stuck here and there, taking quite a bit of system resources to even open it.  With defragmenting, you are allowing your computer to bring all your bits together and order them in a much smaller block on the hard drive.