Archive for February, 2008


Copy an error message

February 29, 2008

Problem: Something goes wrong and a Windows error message box pops up. But the error text is long, perhaps full of cryptic characters, and you’ve forgotten how to capture it as a screen shot to send to Support.

Solution: Click anywhere on the error message, then press CTRL+C to copy the text to the clipboard. Paste this text into an email message or document.

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


Word 2003: Styles task pane

February 28, 2008

To quickly display the Styles and Formatting task pane in Word 2003, click the ‘AA’ icon to the left of the style drop-down in the toolbar.

Styles and Formatting task pane icon

[This article was first published in the June 2005 CyberText Newsletter.]


Financial survival advice to writers and other freelancers

February 27, 2008

John Scalzi wrote a ripper of a piece about surviving as a writer (or any other freelancer/creative type) earlier this month. Most of it is common sense—at least, it’s common sense to me, based on my upbringing. Some of his advice you may disagree with, but overall the principles he discusses with such passion and candour are a fabulous blueprint for surviving financially when you go out on your own.

Set aside 30 minutes to read the article and some of the responses (there are nearly 200!). Then read it again and think about how you can apply some of his good advice. In my opinion, it should be required reading for almost anybody.

John’s article is here:

If you don’t have time to read the article, here are his 10 main points:

  1. You’re a writer. Prepare to be broke.
  2. Don’t quit your day job.
  3. Marry someone sensible with money, who has a day job. [this one caused a lot of controversy!]
  4. You’re income is half what you think it is.
  5. Pay off your credit cards NOW and then use them like cash later.
  6. Don’t have the cash for it? You can’t have it.
  7. When you buy something, buy the best you can afford—then run it into the ground.
  8. Unless you have a truly compelling reason to be there, get the hell out of [big city of your choice].
  9. Know the entire writing market and place value on your own work.
  10. Writing is a business. Act like it.

Dial emergency in Australia

February 26, 2008

000 is Australia’s primary emergency service number and should be used to access emergency assistance from fixed, mobile and payphones in the first instance. 911 does NOT work in Australia.

112 is the standard emergency service number only for use with GSM digital mobile phones. It can be dialled:

  • in any area that your mobile service provider has GSM network coverage (but try 000 first)
  • in areas where you are out of your service provider’s coverage area but in another mobile carrier’s coverage area
  • from anywhere overseas where there is GSM digital coverage (the call will be automatically transferred to that country’s emergency number)
  • without having to unlock the phone, or key in a security-protection PIN; and it doesn’t require a SIM card to work.

There is no cost to make an emergency call from a mobile phone.

More information is available from:

[This article was first published in the September 2004 CyberText newsletter; web link updated December 2007]


Words to look for when changing spelling

February 25, 2008

Recently I had to change the user documentation for a software product line from US English to Australian English. While ‘find and replace’ in most word processing or help authoring applications will get these, it helps to know what you have to find!

Here’s a list of the words I had to check; no doubt many more exist, but these were the main ones used in these applications:

  • authoriz- ==> authoris-
  • organiz- ==> organis-
  • realiz- ==> realis-
  • customiz- ==> customis-
  • maximiz- ==> maximis-
  • minimiz- ==> minimis-
  • analyz- ==> analyse
  • synchroniz- ==> synchronis-
  • finaliz- ==> finalis-
  • recogniz- ==> recognis-
  • visualiz- ==> visualis-
  • optimiz- ==> optimis-
  • centraliz- ==> centralis-
  • initializ- ==> initialis-
  • emphasiz- ==> emphasis-
  • standardiz- ==> standardis-
  • color ==> colour (same for labour, endeavour, behaviour, etc.)
  • gray ==> grey
  • model- (e.g. modeler, modeling, modeled, etc.) ==> modeller, modelling, modelled
  • label- (e.g. labeled, labeling) ==> labelled, labelling
  • catalog- ==> catalogue
  • licens- (NOTE: Australian English has ‘licence’ for the noun, and ‘license’ for the verb and the adjectival form; so, it’s a ‘software licence’ and ‘drivers licence’ but a ‘licensing model’ or ‘licensed software’)
  • practis- (NOTE: Australian English has ‘practice’ for the noun, and ‘practise’ for the verb and adjectival form; so, it’s a ‘medical practice’ but ‘practising medicine’)
  • program remains as program!
  • center ==> centre
  • -meter ==> -metre

Even with ‘find and replace’, this is still a big job as you have to make sure you don’t get words that legitimately should be spelled a certain way (e.g. size, advertise).

Update (28 April 2008): Wikipedia has a good article on the fundamental differences between US and British spelling:

Update (29 September 2012): HUGE list of some 1800 UK/US spellings: This page describes the principal differences:

And more:

For Author-it users

I’ve tried variables, which work OK if there are only a few words, but changing the spellings for an entire library was painful… While variables may have helped, this was to be a permanent change, so I just made the changes directly.

However, Mike Levey from FundaMedia, another Author-it Certified Consultant, has come up with a good solution using variables that I’ll have to try I’ve just tried. It works really well and there’s really only about six variables to set up, each with two nested variable options. Here’s his information:

You can set up a series of nested variables that will enable you to cater for different spellings in English. I have an example (put together a while ago for a training example) that shows how, just by assigning a value of either EN or US to a variable, the required spelling is automatically selected throughout the document. It does require that you be aware of the different usage, and insert the variables as needed—but it’s a useful example of the power of Author-it and variables. The example is at: Not the best approach if you’re using the Localization Manager as well.


The Zen of CSS Design

February 24, 2008

The Zen of CSS Design by Dave Shea and Molly Holzschlag analyses some of the beautiful designs found on the CSS Zen Garden website ( They explain the philosophy behind the website and why the chosen designs ‘work’.

A beautiful book in its own right, and very useful for those involved in web design as it details how particular effects were achieved using only CSS.

[This article was first published in the June 2006 CyberText Newsletter; links last checked January 2008]


Meeting across time zones?

February 23, 2008

Do you work with colleagues scattered around the country or the world, or need to communicate with friends and family at an acceptable hour for all?

Then check out this website:

You select up to four cities, then the online software tries to find a convenient time for everyone. A colour-coded table of times shows you which are the best times.

I entered Perth, Boston, and San Diego and found that the most likely times that were mutually suitable were between 7 and 9am Perth time. Pretty neat.

(Thanks to Stuart B for this tip!; this article was first published in the June 2006 CyberText Newsletter; link last checked January 2008]

Update: Microsoft has a small Time Zone program you can download and install. You enter the locations and when you hover over the icon in the System Tray, the places and their current days and times are displayed. I find it very handy as my main client is in Brisbane, one of my client’s bosses is in Sydney, and I have a regular conference call with people in Auckland and Boston (NY time).

Microsoft Time Zone application