Archive for January, 2008


Install Vista/Office 2007 fonts on Windows XP

January 31, 2008

Microsoft has done some nice work on their new fonts. However, these fonts only come with Vista (and the Office 2007 programs). But what if you’re using Windows XP and Office 2003 and want to install these fonts? Well, you can’t get them easily using the standard things you’d think of, like going to the Microsoft site and downloading and installing them. That won’t work as Vista fonts can’t be installed on Windows XP (i.e. you can’t get a copy of a font installed on Vista, then install it on XP using the usual XP font installation methods).

What WILL work is downloading and installing the free file format conversion application—the program that allows Office 2003 users to view documents, presentations etc. created in Office 2007. That install the converters AND the new fonts!

Here’s where you get it (this link is REALLY long so I’ve shortened it with TinyURL, but it goes direct to the download page on the Microsoft website):


Ten CSS tips

January 30, 2008

One of my RSS feeds alerted me to this Vitamin article from Jina Bolton:

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I already follow the first three pretty closely, and parts of most of the others. There’s some good advice here.

[Link last checked January 2008]


Spaces around slashes

January 29, 2008

Anne H (one of my newsletter readers) asked me this:

A while back I completed [an online course] in technical writing, to enhance my skills and abilities… One thing I took away from the course was the use of the ‘/’. The course taught us to put a space before and after the /, so; before / after.

I see it written soooo many different ways and I always correct material to ensure the spaces are applied. But the more I see it written without the spaces, the more I am questioning the practice taught in the course.

From your expertise and knowledge, is there a defined way for its use that is different to what I am doing?

So I consulted my ‘official’ style guides and gave this answer to Anne:

I just checked the Australian Style Manual—no spaces (p109, 6th edition), and The Chicago Manual of Style—also no spaces (rule 5.122, 14th edition).

So I think whoever taught you that was speaking of their personal style preference, or some other source, such as a university style manual.

Thanks for making me check—I didn’t know for sure, but have always written such word alternatives without spaces.


Date and time formats

January 28, 2008

Did you know there’s an international standard for date and time formats? It eliminates the confusion that arises when dates in one format are viewed by people in another country who use a different format. For example, to me (in Australia), 4/5/2008 is the 4th of May, 2008, but to someone in the US, this is the 5th of April, 2008—quite a different date.

In essence, the standard says to write dates and times from largest to smallest, so yyyy-mmm-dd for dates and hh:mm:ss for time.

The standard is ISO 8601 and you can find out more about it here:

In the December 2002 CyberText Newsletter, I also wrote about this standard for date formats. Here’s some additional information from that article:

For ease of use in sorting, filing and retrieving computer documents, [using this date format] is a preferred method. It is also simpler for calculating elapsed time, and combines naturally with the big-to-small convention used for hh mm ss when you need to be more specific about a date/time.

Because we should be writing in such a way that we don’t exclude parts of our audience, we should be using a date convention that is globally acceptable—we don’t have to say our dates this way, but we should be using this format in our professional communications, such as letters, faxes, and the like.

See also:


Naming files

January 27, 2008

Earlier this month, someone on one of my technical writing lists suggested that an error they found was caused by having spaces in the file name. Here’s my slightly edited advice:

Avoiding spaces in file names is good practice.

While Windows machines and servers can deal with spaces, other operating systems/platforms can’t. If you’re producing HTML files for loading on to a server, especially an external server, you may have no control over the platform used on that server. Most of the *x varieties (Unix, linux, etc.) either don’t deal well with spaces, or treat them differently. Some of these platforms also treat upper case differently from lower case. So, “filename.htm” in Windows works the same whether it is “FileName.htm”, “FILENAME.htm”, “fILeNAme.htm” etc., but on these other platforms these are treated as separate files. Result: Seemingly erratic and inconsistent behaviour which has little to do with the application that created them but a lot to do with the platform where the final files live.

My recommendations for naming files so they work on all (most?) platforms are:

  • no spaces – use underscores instead (e.g. use “file_name.ext” not “file name.ext”)
  • no characters that might not be understood by platforms other than Windows
  • all lower case (e.g. “file_name.ext”, not “File_Name.ext”)

The rising cost of gas

January 26, 2008

How much next week?

2008 WritersUA Conference

January 25, 2008

The 16th Annual WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance will be held in Portland, Oregon at the Hilton Portland, March 16-19, 2008.

The Conference offers the most comprehensive and timely information specifically designed for user assistance professionals. Attendance has surpassed 8,000 people in the 15 years of the conference’s existence.

Registration for the Conference is now open:

I’ll be speaking at this conference (topic: Techniques for Reviewing a User Interface) so if you’re attending, make yourself known! If you don’t attend my session, you might find me at the Author-it booth in the exhibition area. Oh, and I’ll be one of the few there with an Aussie accent!

[This article was first published in the December 2007 CyberText Newsletter; link last checked January 2008]

Update (29 Jan 3 Feb 2008): Registration discounts for the WritersUA Conference end this coming Saturday, February 2. All details for the 2008 WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance are now available, including information about topics, speakers, activities, exhibitors, and hotel and travel.


Word: Update fields in headers and footers

January 25, 2008

You’ve got a Word document with field codes in it (e.g. auto generated TOC, bookmarks and cross-references, file name in the footer etc.). But when you update the fields using F9, the fields in the headers and footers don’t get updated. Frustrated, you realize you have to go in to the header and footer separately, select all, then press F9.

But you don’t. There’s an easier way to update all fields at once, even those in the headers and footers.

Word 2003

  1. Switch from Print Layout mode to Normal Layout.
  2. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  3. Press F9 to update the fields.
  4. Switch back to Print Layout mode.

Word 2010 and later

Here’s how easy it is to do in Word 2010 and later: Go into Print Preview mode (File > Print, but DO NOT print), then return to the document. (Thanks to Greg Maxey on the Microsoft Office Discussion Forum for that trick!)

If not everything updates successfully with the Print Preview trick (some fields don’t appear to), you may need to try some of these options:

If you create one of these macros but don’t add it to the Quick Access Toolbar or to a keyboard shortcut, then you will need to run it manually (Developer tab, > Macros > select the macro name, then click Run). There’s probably a way to add them to the AutoOpen or AutoClose functions, but I haven’t checked that out. If anyone can alert me to a web page that discusses how to do this, I’d be most grateful (I’m a bit of a newbie with macros!)

[Updated with revised Word 2010 and later information, June 2009]


Compare software systems

January 24, 2008

If you’re in the market for certain types of software, then a matrix that compares most, if not all, the available applications should be your first port of call.

Here are some examples:

[Sites last checked December 2007]


So you want to go out on your own?

January 23, 2008

If you’re interested in throwing in your day job as a captive employee, and hanging out your shingle as a consultant, take a look at these resources:

  • Steve Friedl’s “So you want to be a consultant?“article and maxims as as relevant today as when he wrote them.
  • Pamela Slim has plenty of sound and practical advice in her “Escape from Cubicle Nation” blog.
  • Freelance Switch has both general information on working for yourself, and specific advice for web and graphic designers.
  • IttyBiz has lots of tips for working from home while remaining sane.

There are plenty more out there, so feel free to share your favourites!