Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Basics: Function Keys.

Back in DOS days, the function keys were essential; now that we're using windows, they are an afterthought.  But they still can be useful; if you're typing something, it's usually faster to use them than to find the mouse and move it where it you want it.

Here is a brief listing of some useful function keys in Office:

To do this Press
Get Help or visit Microsoft Office Online. F1
Repeat the last action. This is especially useful in Excel; I use it to delete non-contiguous columns multiple times. F4
Choose the Go To command to let your find and replace. F5
Go to the next pane or frame. F6
Choose the Spelling and begin a spell check. F7
Extend a selection. If you've selected a character, this will select a word.  Pressing it again will select the paragraph. F8
Show KeyTips. You can then press the indicated key to activate items on the ribbon. F10
Choose the Save As command F12

One of my favorite and most useful features of MS Word has been something that's been unchanged as part of the program since DOS days, but which is poorly documented: The Case Toggle.  It switches characters from upper case to lower case and vice versa.  It also capitalizes words.  So if you have your caps lock on and end up typing a whole sentence, you don't have to retype it all.

To change the case, highlight the text and then hold down the Shift key and press the F3 key.  The text will change case, changing UPPER CASE to lower case; lower case to Capitalizing Each Word; and Capitalized Words to UPPER CASE.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wireless vs. Wired

Everyone loves wireless, and it's certainly convenient. But it does have drawbacks.

The main one is security.  Wireless signals are sent out for anyone to intercept. For general web surfing, this doesn't matter, but if you're sending personal information over a wireless card, it can be concern.  Be careful when using wireless to make sure you have a secure connection when sending any personal data. This can still be intercepted and read, but the data is encrypted and difficult to decrypt.* If you're dealing with highly sensitive information, it's safer to use a wired connection if possible.  The chance of interception is not high, but the consequences could be disastrous.

A second issue is speed. Wireless connections often aren't as fast as a wired ones. This is especially true of older wireless cards.  The new 802.11n standard is rated as being faster than many wired connections, but often doesn't work at its rated speed, and wireless slows down as more people use the same access point (like here at Siena).  You may notice slower download times or choppy video and audio playback. Switching to a wired connection will fix this.

For general use, wireless is a good feature.  But there are specific areas where it's better to have a wired connection that get better speed and security.


*Not impossible, given enough time, but a hacker is more likely not to bother and look for easier pickings.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Basics: Faster Scrolling

I'm always looking for ways to work faster, and sometimes I discover that people don't know about some simple tricks I've used for years.

image For instance, suppose you're on a window with a scroll bar (the bar at the right side). Most people will click on the arrow at the bottom (red arrow). But that only scrolls down a line at a time.  You either have to click quite a few times, or hold down and wait.

It's much better to click on the scroll bar (green arrow).  This moves down a screen at a time.  Another quick way is to click and drag the slider (at the top of the scroll bar). Another advantage of these two methods is that the spot is a much easier target to click on than the down arrow.  These also work moving up, of course.

And here's another tip when your browsing the web:  use your spacebar.  This will scroll down a page at a time, much faster and easier than using the scroll wheel on your mouse or the scroll bar.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Setting up your Smartphone E-mail

Siena's e-mail system does support a connection with a smartphone like a Palm, Blackberry, or iPhone. While we can't give detailed instructions, setup is generally easy. 

Most phones have a setup utility to help with setup. They ask you for your e-mail address and password and can figure out the setting from that. 

If that doesn't work, you can do it manually.  Here are a few tips:

  • If there's a "Microsoft Exchange Server" option, use that.
  • If there's no "Microsoft Exchange Server" option, select "POP3" as the protocol.
  • The incoming mail server is ""
  • The outgoing mail server is ""
  • The connection should be using SSL security. There is generally a check box for that.
  • If a log-in name is asked, don't include ""

It may take some fiddling with manual information to get things to work. You may have to contact your phone provider to find out what you need to do.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Basics: Installing a font

Windows comes with some nice fonts, but, if you're like me, you sometimes need something different. Luckily, it's easy to find new fonts and install them on your computer.

First, of course, you have to find them.  There are many free font sites on the web; a search on "Free fonts" will find many of them.  But there are several things you need to know:

  • Watch out for viruses.  Font files have a .ttf extension or they may be within a zip file. You should be wary of other extensions.
  • Make sure all characters are there.  Some fonts only have the alphanumeric characters and a handful of punctuation marks. These may do the job for you, but if you need something other than the basic characters, they aren't going to be useful.

When you find a font you like, download the file.  If it's in a zip file, double click to open the file and then save it. It's usually easier if you avoid the desktop; the font installer doesn't always recognize "desktop" as a location and you need to figure out the path.  A folder named "fonts" on your hard drive is ideal.

The next step is to add the font. 

For Windows XP:

  • Click on "Start."
  • Click on "Control Panel."
  • Click on "Appearances and Themes" (if it doesn't display, go on to the next step).
  • Click on "Fonts."
  • Click on "File."
  • Click on "Install New Fonts."
  • Navigate to the folder where you downloaded the font.  Find the font, click on it, and click OK.

For Windows Vista:

  • Click on "Start."
  • Click on "Control Panel."
  • Click on "Appearances and Personalization."
  • Click on "Install or remove a font" under "Fonts."
  • Right click and select "Install New Fonts."
  • Navigate to the folder where you downloaded the font.  Find the font, click on it, and click OK.

The font will be installed.

One rule for the proper use of fonts in a document:  Never use too many. Generally stick with two fonts, one for the main text and a different font for headings and titles.  Use fancy display fonts sparingly; what looks good in a six-word headline can be unreadable if used for a paragraph of text.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wireless Project Completed

Siena now has upgraded its wireless availability in residence halls and throughout campus. We now have wireless in Hennepin, Hines, Padua, Plassmann, and Ryan Halls.  This is in addition to existing coverage in Serra Hall, the Sarazen Student Center, Standish Library, Roger Bacon and Morell.  A map of the current coverage is at the SienaAir web page. (Note -- in the map, red and blue designates wireless areas).

The system is features new 802.11n access points. This means that you can connect at the highest possible speed.  If you have an older wireless card, it will work fine, but at lower speeds.

We are planning to add wireless to Siena, Foy, Kiernan, MAC, and the Townhouses in 2010.  The Townhouses will have high priority in that project.