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


Backing up an SQL Express database to a file

February 22, 2008

Backing up an SQL Express database to a file is a simple process… once you know what to do.

  1. Open SQL Server Management Studio Express and connect to the SQL server.
  2. Expand Databases.
  3. Right-click on the database you want to back up, then select Tasks > Back up.
  4. On the Back Up Database window, make sure the Database field contains the name of the database you want to back up.
  5. Select the Backup Type. By default, it is Full – leave it set to that.
  6. Click Remove to remove the default/last backup file name.
  7. Click Add to open the Select Backup Destination window.
  8. Click […] next to the File Name field.
  9. On the Locate Database Files window, select the folder where you want to backup file to go. By default, it is ..\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\Backup.
  10. In the File Name field, type the name for this backup, with a .bak extension. For example, xyz_20080221.bak for a backup of the XYZ database created on 21 February 2008.
  11. Click OK to close the Locate Database Files window.
  12. Click OK to close the Select Backup Destination window.
  13. Click OK to start the backup. The progress icon displays in the lower left corner, and a ‘completed successfully’ message displays when its done.

See also:


Multiple users and locking in Author-it

February 21, 2008

I’ve only recently dipped my toes into a multiuser environment in Author-it—all my experience to now has been as a lone writer with complete control over everything related to Author-it in an organization. But no more. I’m now using it with my main client, the database is located there (other side of Australia), and my colleague and I are in and out of Author-it all day. So I’ve had to learn a lot about permissions and other security issues related to sharing a database.

One issue that my colleague and I came across a few weeks ago was what happens when she has a book open that I want to use too. So I asked Char, my fellow Author-it Certified Consultant and good friend. Here’s her response:

If one person opens the book, the book and the topics that that person has open are locked. However, someone else can open the book (they get a notice that the book is locked for editing, so it’s opened as read-only), and then they can open any unlocked topics. They just can’t make any changes to the book (like rearranging topics in the hierarchy).

And that’s exactly how it works. Thanks Char.


Word: Add a watermark

February 20, 2008

Adding a watermark in all versions of Word up to Word 2002 involved a complex set of steps. But from Word 2002, Microsoft made it much easier with a new dialog box called Printed Watermark.

You can add default watermark text (for example, DRAFT, CONFIDENTIAL, and so on), type your own text, or select a picture as the watermark.

The steps to add a text watermark to your document are slightly different in Word 2003 and Word 2007.

Word 2003

  1. From the Word 2002 or 2003 menu, select Format > Background > Printed Watermark.
  2. Select the Text watermark option, and then select or type the text that you want.
  3. Make other selections to change the font, font size and color, the layout (diagonal or horizontal) and the watermark transparency.
  4. Click OK.
  5. To view the watermark as it will appear on the printed page, switch to Print Layout view (View > Print Layout). Note: You cannot add a watermark in Web Layout view.

Watermark dialog box

Word 2007

  1. Go to the Page Layout tab > Page Background command group.
  2. Click Watermark. Some default watermarks are displayed (scroll down to see them all). If one of them suits you, click it and you’re done. If you want to define your own, continue with these steps.

To define your own watermark:

  1. Go to the Page Layout tab > Page Background command group.
  2. Click Watermark.
  3. At the bottom of the list, click Custom Watermark to open the Printed Watermark window, which is very similar to that showed for Word 2003 above.
  4. Select the Text watermark option, and then select or type the text that you want.
  5. Make other selections to change the font, font size and color, the layout (diagonal or horizontal) and the watermark transparency.
  6. Click OK.
  7. To view the watermark as it will appear on the printed page, switch to Print Layout view (View tab > Document Views command group > Print Layout button). Note: You cannot add a watermark in Web Layout view.

[This article was first published in the March 2004 CyberText newsletter; steps updated to incorporate Word 2007, 21 August 2008]