Archive for June, 2008

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Language resources

June 30, 2008

In my internet meanderings I’ve come across a few websites that you may find as interesting as I have:

[This article was first published in the December 2004 CyberText newsletter; links last checked and updated June 2010]

See also:

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Word: Synonyms

June 29, 2008

Looking for the right word? Trying to avoid repetition? Can’t think of the opposite word? Don’t have your Roget’s handy, and you’re not connected to the internet? Then check out Word’s Thesaurus feature, Mr Gates’ answer to Roget’s Thesaurus.

Select a word in your document, then press Shift+F7 to open the Research task pane window.

The word you selected is in the Search for field on the Research task pane, with similar meanings and their word form (noun, verb etc.) below it.

So now you’ve found a synonym, but it’s not quite what you were looking for. You can double-click on any of the items in the list to display that word as the Search for word. Continue double-clicking possible words until you find the one that’s just right, then click the drop-down arrow next to it and click Insert. You can always go back to where you were by clicking the Back button immediately above the results list.

You can open this task pane in other ways too:

  • Word 2003: It’s hidden under the Tools > Language > Thesaurus menu (yeah, it’s easy to find once you know it’s there!)
  • Word 2007: Review tab > Proofing panel > Thesaurus.
Research task pane showing thesaurus in Word 2003

[This article was first published in the September 2002 CyberText Newsletter; steps updated for Word 2003 in January 2008, and for Word 2007 in August 2008]

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Word: Remove excess characters

June 28, 2008

Whether you like it or not, Microsoft Word has the biggest share of the word processing software market. If you can get it to perform, you can save a lot of time and frustration.

Let’s start with text you copy from email messages. Often, you’ll get paragraph marks, line breaks, excess spaces, or ‘snip’ characters such as > scattered throughout the text, including in the middle of sentences. Some people ignore them; others spend ages removing them manually—a painful process.

So how do you get rid of them? You make Word’s Find/Replace earn its keep!

Before you start, turn on the show/hide formatting toolbar button by clicking Pilcrow button. You’ll now see all the paragraph breaks (¶), line breaks (↵), tabs (→) plus other formatting characters.

You’re going to make three passes of your document using Find/Replace. We’ll use excess paragraph marks in the example. The first pass will remove all double paragraph marks and replace them with some garbage characters that you’ll use as placeholders for where you want the real paragraph marks. On the second pass, you’ll find all the single paragraph marks and replace them with a space. Finally, you’ll find all the placeholders and replace them with the paragraph marks you do want.

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. In Find what, type ^p^p, then press the TAB key. (You get ^ by pressing Shift+6; you MUST use a lower case p.)
  3. In Replace with, type QQQ. (QQQ is the placeholder. Why QQQ? Because these letters are unlikely to be part of the text.)
  4. Click Replace All.
  5. In Find what, type ^p, press TAB, then in Replace with press the spacebar once.
  6. Click Replace All.
  7. In Find what, type QQQ, press TAB, then in Replace with type ^p.
  8. Click Replace All.

All the excess paragraph marks should now be gone and you should have a much cleaner document.

More:

  • If the text has line breaks, then substitute ^p with ^l (that’s lower case L for Larry).
  • To get rid of the > marks, type > in Find what, and then make sure there is nothing in Replace with before clicking Replace All.

Of course, if you have lots of documents with these excess formatting codes in them, then this trick quickly becomes tedious. You can harness the power of Word by creating a macro for this procedure and assigning it to a keyboard command. Then you’ll only have to press a key or two and all these changes are made automatically!

See also:

[This article was first published in the December 2001 CyberText Newsletter; steps last checked January 2008, and again in August 2008 for compatibility with Word 2007; links last checked January 2012]

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Outlook: Delay outbound mail

June 27, 2008

(adapted from the PC Guru newsletter, 20 Sept 2007 http://www.pcguru.com.au)

One of the risks of email is the inability to recall an email after it’s sent. However, in Outlook you can implement a safeguard by using the Defer rule to delay the sending of any email you’ve written. This rule pauses all message delivery for a few minutes after you click the Send button, thus giving you a chance to stop any email before it leaves your computer.

To create this rule in Outlook 2003:

  1. Select Tools > Rules and Alerts from the menu, and then click the New Rule button.
  2. Select the Start from a blank rule option, then select Check messages after sending. Click Next.
  3. Click Next again on the Which conditions do you want to check screen. Click Yes on the message box tells you the rule will apply to all messages.
  4. On the next screen (What do you want to do with the message), select the defer delivery by a number of minutes check box, then click the a number of link in the bottom section. Change the value to 5 minutes (or whatever number you like), then click OK.
  5. Click Next, then click Next again.
  6. Give the rule a name—preferably something memorable so you’ll recognize it in the list—then click Finish.

Now when you send messages, they’ll sit in the Outbox for the number of minutes you set. If you want to stop a message from going out, just delete it from the Outbox.

Of course, if you know a bit about Outlook’s rules, you can modify any of these settings so that you only delay certain messages, such as those to specific people—like your boss!

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

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Word: Select a column of text

June 26, 2008

In later versions of Word (2007, 2003, 2000?), you can select a ‘column’ of text that isn’t in a table. Very handy if you have lots of manually entered numbers or bullets that you want to remove!

Here’s how: Hold down the ALT key as you click and drag over the area you want to select. Once the area is selected, you can use Word’s usual commands to change the format or delete the selection.

[This article was first published in the September 2004 CyberText newsletter; steps checked in Word 2007, 21 August 2008]

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But is it really English?

June 25, 2008

This one has been around a while, but it’s worthwhile repeating as it continually confirms to me that so much of our learning is through pattern recognition and assumptions based on previous patterns:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

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

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Resize text

June 24, 2008

Did you know you can resize the screen fonts on a web page very quickly if you have a wheel mouse? Actually, you can use this trick to quickly resize the display in many applications.

Here’s how:

  1. Open any web page your browser window.
  2. Hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and roll the wheel away from you—the font sizes decrease with each roll. Now roll the wheel towards you—the font sizes increase.
  3. If you don’t see any change, or only a small change, it’s possible the site uses fixed font sizes. In Internet Explorer, you can override these by going to Tools > Internet Options (Internet Explorer) menu, then clicking the Accessibility button at the bottom right of the General tab. On the Accessibility window, select the Ignore font sizes… check box, then click OK. Click OK again to close the Internet Options window.
  4. Now try the CTRL+roll trick again—you should see quite a difference.

[This article was first published in the March 2004 CyberText newsletter.]