Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Run, don’t walk to snag a copy of this.

I get to play with a lot of software all in the name of work. It’s a job ok!

This week I had a lucky encounter with a program called FaceFilter Xpress. Now you know that professional photographers touch up portraits don’t you? The fix things like zits and try and make you look as good as they can without Photoshopping Cameron Diaz face onto your head. So, when you take photos of folk you images will seldom look as good as those professionally photographed because you don’t use their fancy lighting and no one pays you $100+ an hour to make them look wonderful.

Ok.. stage is set… enter FaceFilter Xpress – it’s an instant half a dozen click solution to fixing portraits. It can put a smile on someone’s face, reduce a large chin, open eyes and generally apply fixes that will make anyone look younger and better guaranteed. It’s simple and quick enough to make a job that might take and hour in Photoshop take around 5 minutes. It’s also subtle and adjustable so you can make changes that improve but which don’t look obvious.

This program makes my top 10 tools list – it’s a must have if you photograph people and love to flatter.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Lorem Ipsum

You’ve seen it typed, you’ve read it and wondered what it is. The answer is: old Latin, very old Latin dating back to BC. Nowadays it’s plain old filler text that designers use to fill in places in sample documents to show what it will look like when it is complete. To avoid having to make words up and to ensure that the reader looks at the design and doesn’t focus on the words (on the assumption that most of us don’t understand Latin), designers use these made up pieces of text that are to their audience at least, total nonsense. Enter Lorem Ipsum – it’s one of those slabs of usable text which only Latin scholars can recognize.

If you need to get your hands on some Lorem Ipsum then visit the Lipsum site where you can grab yourself some paragraphs of the stuff so you too can fill your pages with dummy text.

Helen Bradley

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Don’t spell check this!

You know how it happens. You type something that is HTML or Javascript into a document or you type the famous “Lorem ipsum … ” text or a French phrase or two and suddenly your document is littered with red underlines. The Spell check can’t handle it all. Now I like my documents to be pristine and neat so I tell Word to bypass spell checking these words since I’m happy they are spelled just fine.

To do this, select the text you DON’T WANT to be spell checked. Choose Tools, Language, Set Language and click the Do not check spelling or grammar option and click Ok. Now Word spell checks all your document and just skips the stuff you don’t want checked.

Helen Bradley

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Outlook on a Go Slow route to nowhere

You gotta love and hate Outlook. It’s like the little girl with the curl – when it’s good its very good and when it’s bad it’s awful.

Of course, one of the biggest problems with Outlook is it’s “go slow” behaviour. Part of the problem is that it stores everything in a single .PST file – and I mean everything that really matters like your emails, attachments, contacts and appointments. If that’s not bad enough (read all your eggs are in one burgeoning basket), there’s an upper limit to the size this file can grow to before Outlook turns up its little toes and stops working. The upper file size limit is 2GB and while this sounds big, it’s not.

So, if Outlook is running slow, check your file size. Right click the Personal Folders link at the top of your Folders list, choose Properties for “Personal Folders” and click the Folder Size button. Wait as Outlook calculates the folder size. The closer it is to the magical 2GB limit, the more trouble you’re in.

The solution is to delete old and unwanted emails and to archive others to get it down to size.

Of course all this stupidity makes you hanker after a program that doesn’t store all the data in one place. Not unsurprisingly, most programs behave this way – Outlook is the exception to the rule.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Outlook 2003 Backup

No clue why this is the case but Microsoft didn’t include a backup routine in Outlook 2002 or 2003. What do you think they expect us to do if our computers crash? Do they think that email has no value to anyone? Well, it has value to me so I need to back my PST file regularly. Luckily there’s a free add-in you can use to do it. Since Microsoft created the add-in you have to wonder why they didn’t include the feature in Outlook!

Find it here Outlook PST file backup – download it, install it and then backup by selecting the new option which appears on your File menu.

So simple – just makes it all the more strange that Microsoft doesn’t do it all for you without making you jump through hoops to do it yourself.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

What style is that? Word

I use styles all the time to format my documents as it just makes such good sense to do so. When I get documents from others, however, often they haven’t used styles or haven’t been consistent (read: anally retentive) in their use. If I need to clean up the mess, I need to see what the problem is. Enter Normal view (choose View, Normal) and you see a Styles list down the left of the page. If not, choose Tools, Options, View tab and set the Style area width to around 1.5 inches (3.5cm). Now you can see the style names, identify which are misused and then fix them.

Instant order to sad, mixed up documents.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Excel Fill Options

You probably already know that you can fill a series of Excel cells by entering the first two numbers in a series and then select the two cells and drag on the marker in the bottom right corner of the selection. Excel fills the selected cells with the next numbers in the series. to find more fill options, including the ability to copy the series rather than filling it, select the cells but use the right mouse button to do the dragging. If you’re filling dates you’ll get options like Fill Weekdays and Fill Months – that let you control the fill series that Excel creates for you.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Align data in Excel

When you make an Excel row much deeper by dragging on the marker below the cell number you’ll often find the cell entry hugs the bottom of the cell. If you’d prefer to have it centered in the cell you won’t find the Center button works to do anything more than center the cell entry horizontally.

To center it vertically use the Format, Cell dialog and choose the Alignment tab. From the Vertical list choose Center and the entry will be aligned evenly between the top and bottom cell margins.

Helen Bradley

Monday, July 16th, 2007

A trip down memory lane – Word Perfect 5.1

I seriously think that the best ever word processor was Word Perfect 5.1. I loved that program and held onto it well after the awful (in my opinion) version 6 was launched. Only with the advent of Word 97 did I make the change.

Sometimes I like to recall the heady days of white text on a blue background and so I turn the Word 2003 screen into a faux Word Perfect 5.1 look. To do this, choose Tools, Options, General tab and select the Blue background, white text option. It’s a trip down memory lane. However, don’t expect to get an indent by pressing F4 or Bold type by pressing F6, the change is on the surface only. You still have to use Word key strokes but you can at least recall some of the greatness of this very cool word processor.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Don’t look now! WordArt in Word 2007

If you’ve tried the new WordArt tool in PowerPoint 2007 you’ve probably discovered how neat it is. No more bent words in putrid magenta colors and instead, theme aware text that looks great for headings and which will change color when you change the Theme.

Try the same thing in Word 2007 and you’re in for a ghastly surprise. WordArt missed out on getting a makeover in Word 2007 and, instead, it’s the same application it has always been – functional but requiring a lot of additional work on behalf of the user to make it look even half good.

Here’s hoping that the next implementation of Word, whenever that appears, finally does away with this and gives us WordArt that is usable and as functional as that in PowerPoint 2007 and Excel 2007.

Helen Bradley

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