Archive for March, 2009


Images not displaying in Firefox 3

March 21, 2009

I had some weird stuff happen recently on my Vista Ultimate laptop. Most websites would show images, but a Google image search would not display thumbnail pictures of the results. I thought it was Vista as Firefox 3 on my Windows XP machine has no trouble with Google image search results. So I Googled for an answer (as you do — what *did* we do before Google?) and found that it’s a known issue with some configurations.

The Mozilla website (Firefox’s parent) lists several options to try if you’re not seeing images or animations when you expect to, starting from changing settings in Firefox and clearing the cache, through to checking your antivirus and firewall settings. The first two in the list worked for me and now I can see thumbnails from a Google image search.

Details of all the options are here:
[Link last checked August 2012]


Word: About hidden text

March 20, 2009

Word has had a hidden text feature for many years. For example, teachers might use it to enter the answers to questions directly on to a test. The test can be printed out for students with just the questions, while the teacher can change the print settings to print both the questions and answers.

When the option to show hidden text is turned on, such text displays with a small dotted underline. Index entries are always formatted as hidden text — if the option to display hidden text is turned on, you’ll see things like { XE indexentryname } scattered throughout the document, which can be very confusing if you’ve never seen it before.

So, how do you hide text? And how do you display all hidden text in a document? And how do you print a document with and without the hidden text? The steps for Word 2003 and Word 2007 are very similar.

Hide selected text

  1. Select the text you want to hide, including the ending space (if there is one).
  2. Open the font dialog box: Word 2003: Format > Font; Word 2007: Go to the Home tab, then click the launch button Dialog launcher on the Font group.
  3. Select the Hidden check box, then click OK.
Font dialog box showing Hidden check box

Font dialog box showing Hidden check box

Display hidden text

As expected, you cannot see text you’ve hidden until you toggle the option to display it or not.

  • Word 2003: Open the Tools > Options menu, then go to the View tab. Select the Hidden Text check box, then click OK.
  • Word 2007: Click the Office  Office button button. Click the Word Options button, then select Display on the left. Select the Hidden Text check box, then click OK.

You should see the dotted line below the text that’s hidden:

Hiddent text displays with a dotted underline

Hidden text displays with a dotted underline

Print hidden text in a document

Unless you explicitly set Word to print hidden text, it will not print when you click the Print icon. You can set Word to always print hidden text (in the Word Options), or just set it at the time of printing. Below are the steps to set it at the time of printing:

  • Word 2003: Open the File > Print menu. On the Print dialog, click the Options button (bottom left). Select the Print Hidden Text check box, then click OK.
  • Word 2007: Click the Office  Office button button. Click Print on the left. On the Print dialog, click the Options button (bottom left). Select the Print Hidden Text check box, then click OK.

Vista: Find the program running a process

March 19, 2009

Here’s a neat Task Manager trick in Vista — you can find the location of a particular process and see what program is running it.

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del then select Start Task Manager.
  2. Go to the Processes tab.
  3. Right-click on a running process, then select Open File Location. This will show where the process has come from and typically what program is running it.

Windows XP: Event Logs

March 18, 2009

I needed to check my Windows XP event logs as I had an inexplicable shutdown the other week and I wanted to see what the System logs had to say. They’re not easy to find! Here’s how to get to them:

  1. Open the Control Panel (Start > Control Panel).
  2. Open Administrative Tools.
  3. Open Event Viewer.
  4. Check the Application, Security and System events around the time and date when the event happened. You may be able to identify something that was out of the ordinary.

If you’re familiar with the Run command, you may find that easier:

  1. Open Run (Start > Run).
  2. Enter eventvwr.

ColorPix: Find a color value

March 17, 2009

I recently wrote about how to find a color value using PaintShop Pro. Then I remembered that I had a really simple (and free) little utility program that also gave me color values — including CMYK — just by hovering over an area of color (1 pixel is enough!).

The utility is called ColorPix and you can get it from many download sites, or direct from the ColorSchemer people at You don’t have to install anything — just run it and it works.

ColorPix displaying the values for a blue in the Search icon

ColorPix displaying the values for a blue in the Search icon


Author-it: Variants and searching

March 16, 2009

If you’re delving into Author-it 5.1 or later, be aware that child variants don’t show in the Quick Search folders — only the parent objects are listed. And because the Quick Search folder view looks quite similar to the main Author-it window, it’s easy to think you’ve lost your variants, when you haven’t.

Also, when you right-click on a parent object in the Quick Search results and select Show Relationships, you’ll see the child variants listed in the top section, but double-clicking won’t open them and right-clicking and selecting Locate will give you an error message “Could not locate object!”.


Close or minimise the Quick Search window and you’ll see your variants in their folders again.


User experience basics

March 15, 2009

If you want an introduction to user experience, what it is, what are some of the things the field covers, and job descriptions of careers in the field, then take a look at User Experience 101: How to create a great online experience.

The author’s emphasis is on websites, but the principles apply to pretty much any product design.

And if you want to read an excellent book on all this, you can’t go past Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think!

[Links last checked March 2009]


You or users?

March 14, 2009

Anne, a work colleague, asked:

Is it better to use ‘you’ or ‘users’ when referring to how a product can help a customer perform certain tasks etc? ‘This product provides the user….’ OR ‘This product provides you…’

My response:

It depends.  It depends on your audience and the rest of the document.

If the document is for a specific user (such as a user manual with step-by-step instructions – ‘do this’, ‘do that’, etc.) then ‘you’ is implied or explicit (‘you do this then you do that’). When I write such material, I’m in the mental frame of talking to a specific person.

If the document is all written in the third person (e.g. ‘the company is’), then you’d refer to users of the product as ‘users’. However, ‘users’ has other nastier connotations outside the software domain, so I’d err on either using ‘you’ or rewording altogether to avoid either one or the other. That said, whichever way you go, be consistent! Sometimes that’s really hard to do when writing about ‘the company’ and also using ‘our’.

Personal preference: I much prefer ‘you’ (explicit or implicit) as I believe it personalizes it for the reader. Remember, when someone reads your material, they’re only one person reading it, even though you may have produced thousands of copies. My preference is to ‘speak to the reader’ by using ‘you’.

But that’s not hard and fast…

More:  Scott over at Communications from DMN recently wrote about how he hates using the term ‘user’ as it reminds him of a junkie. His blog post — The word “user” — is here:


PaintShop Pro: Find a color value

March 13, 2009

You find this great image and want to find out what colors have been used in it. There are several ways you can go about this — in this post I’ll describe one way to do it in PaintShop Pro X. Other graphics programs will have similar tools to the Eyedropper Tool in PaintShop Pro.

  1. Open the image in PaintShop Pro X.
  2. Zoom in to make it bigger, if applicable — this helps you see the individual colors better.
  3. Click the Eyedropper Tool in the toolbar then move the eyedropper tool over the image.
  4. As you move the eyedropper, a little box displays the RGB color values of the pixel at the tip of the eyedropper.

    The eyedropper tool shows the RGB value of a pixel

    The eyedropper tool shows the RGB value of a pixel

  5. If you click on a pixel, that color is put into the Materials swatch.

    Color swatch

    Color swatch

  6. Click on the swatch and you get more detail about the color —  the RGB values (1 on the image below), the HSL values (2), and the Hex value (HTML field) (3).
Material Properties window showing color values

Material Properties window showing color values

Unfortunately, PaintShop Pro doesn’t display Pantone or CMYK colors, but at least you should have something to work on with the values it does have.


Even the gurus see the value in Help

March 12, 2009

Jakob Nielsen did a usability review of the Kindle 2 ebook reader a day ago. While he’s more enamoured of ebook readers this time round, he did have this to say about the lack of any form of usable or helpful user assistance:

Help is nothing more than a link to an Web page that’s optimized for PC display, thus violating a key guideline for designing good mobile user interfaces. Would it have been too much to hire a [technical] writer for a week to create a dedicated set of user assistance docs that display within the application itself?

Yes! It’s nice to see that even the gurus of usability understand the need for Help of some sort.