Archive for November, 2009

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What is it about time pickers?

November 20, 2009

I’ve come across a couple of ‘interesting’ time pickers recently. I don’t know the best solution for one of these widgets, but I’m pretty sure none of the ones below are it.

Of course, one of the dilemmas with a time picker is catering for users familiar with either analog and digital time displays (or both), as well as AM/PM, 12 or 24-hour clocks, and perhaps time zones and daylight saving/summer time. And do you allow text entry, with the potential for typos and other human error? If you allow text entry, then what sort of validation do you have to have on the text entry fields?

Here are some of the interesting ones I’ve seen:

time_picker01The one above allows text entry as well as picking a time from an analog-type display. Personally, I find it very confusing, and the color shading just adds to the confusion. Instead of the hands that you would have on a normal analog display, there are just numbers, including all the minute numbers, with an AM and PM selection option in the middle.

time_picker02This next one (from http://www.kpao.org/blog/2009/10/steal-this-idea-time-picker-wi.html) is similar to the first, but I think the interface is a little clearer. It has the same information on it as the first, but the numbering for the hours and minutes, as well as the AM/PM selection options appear to be less confusing than the first example.

Finally, there’s this one (from http://haineault.com/media/examples/jquery-utils/demo/ui-timepickr.html):

time_picker03This one requires you to click in the text box or on the clock icon. Doing so displays the hours (1 to 12), then as you hover over each numbered box for an hour, you get the quarter hour minutes, and as you hover over one of those you get the AM/PM choices. It’s a solution that  requires good mouse hovering skills and, as far as I could tell, you can’t access the times without using the mouse. You can’t type in the time — when I tried it on that web page, it wanted to display the little boxes.

Finally, two free downloadable screensaver ‘word’ clocks with a difference, from http://www.simonheys.com/:

Word Clock screensaver

[Links last checked November 2009; thanks to AB for alerting me to these]

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Product labels: 2

November 19, 2009

I ranted a bit about the labeling on a tube of bath gel the other day. Today it’s the turn of labeling masquerading as marketing spin. Or is it marketing spin masquerading as product labeling?

Bring on the shampoo!

You’re standing in a supermarket aisle, looking at the vast array of shampoos. How do you choose? Do you always go for what you’ve used before, or is it time to try something new? Let’s assume you want to try something new. How do you go about determining which shampoo will be the best for your hair? For many people, the information on the product label becomes an important part of the decision making.

The problem is that labels for products such as shampoo are full of puffery and pseudo-chemical buzzwords, not substance. Here’s an example:

Front of shampoo bottle

Shampoo: Front label

The front isn’t too bad, though there are some confusing bits on it:

  • Moisture Therapy. I’m not sure what Moisture Therapy is, but I assume it’s associated with moisturizers, not with water.
  • Nourishes Daily Damaged Hair. Hmmm. Now what does that mean? Hair that’s damaged daily? Nourishes damaged hair, daily? And what does ‘damaged hair’ mean anyway? Broken or split ends? Dry, brittle hair? Overly colored hair? Overly permed hair? Teased hair?
  • Keratin. But what about keratin? Is it contained in the shampoo? If so, why not say ‘Contains keratin’?
  • With 4 moisturisers… to help lock in moisture and fight damage. We aren’t told what those moisturizers are, nor why there are four of them (Wow! Four moisturizers!) and if that’s significant. And we’re still not told what sort of (hair) damage we’re fighting with this product.

So you turn to the back to see if there’s more information that can help you decide whether this product might be suitable for you. And now you cop the full force of the marketing mumbo-jumbo!

shampoo_back

Shampoo: Back label

I’ll only touch on some of these:

  • Thirsty hair need some tender loving care? Hair gets thirsty? Hair may get dry, but it doesn’t have a mouth and it can’t drink.
  • Quench it with the TLC your hair craves… TLC is not explicitly defined (tender loving care), and ‘quench’ sounds like your hair is going to have a long cold drink on a hot summer’s day. And hair ‘craves’? Why not use the plainer word ‘needs’ or ‘wants’?
  • … help smooth your hair’s rough spots and bring back all the moisture it needs. Hair has rough spots? Gee, I wonder if mine does. Perhaps it does. Maybe this product will solve a problem I didn’t know existed and didn’t suspect I might have until now.
  • What to do: It’s simple TLC… Huh? Why not ‘Just lather and rinse’, or even ‘Lather and rinse’. What’s the purpose of the ‘simple TLC’ statement in an instruction?
  • What it is made of. Why are the ingredients listed in all upper case, in a narrow, closely-kerned font? Could it be that the manufacturer is complying with the regulations, while not making the ingredients readable to the consumer?

After reading this label, you still may not have any idea if this shampoo is the right one for your hair! So, you either grab what you’ve always used, or go for the cheapest price within the price range you find acceptable. All because the marketing spin on a label was so confusing, you don’t know if the product is of use to you or not.

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Install multiple free applications at once

November 18, 2009

You’ve had to reformat your computer, you’ve upgraded your existing one, or you’ve got a new one. Now you have to install all the applications (apps) you use on a daily basis, including downloading the latest and greatest of the freebies you use all the time, like Firefox, iTunes or Skype.

Be prepared to add several hours to your installation time — finding the apps’ websites, determining which is the latest version, waiting for them to download, installing them…

There has to be an easier way! And there is. Enter Ninite (http://www.ninite.com). You choose the freeware and open source apps you want to install from a single web page and Ninite does the rest while you go off and do something else.

Neat.

ninite

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Product labels: 1

November 17, 2009

I’ve always read pretty much everything in front of me, and that goes for labels on jars, bottles, tubes, etc. When I was a kid, I’d read every word on the cereal box and milk carton (I’m old enough to remember milk bottles but they didn’t have much in the way of writing on them, so when milk cartons came in, I was happy!).

So because I continue to read labels, I get exposed to all sorts of pseudo-chemical and marketing stuff in my daily life. Sometimes a product’s labeling really stands out, but not because it’s good — because it’s so bad or unintelligible.

Here’s an example:

Back of product

How many ways is this label wrong? Let me start the ball rolling with the list of ingredients :

  • ‘Aqua’. Why not use the more familiar ‘water’? Or, to follow the lead of the other ingredients, ‘Hydrogen Hydroxide’
  • ‘Sodium Chloride’. Isn’t that just common ‘salt’? Then why not say so?

Of course, those working in the cosmetic industry may beg to differ — I don’t hold myself up as someone who knows a lot about chemistry. But if the aim is to get people to understand the list of ingredients, then at least use plain language names for common things such as ‘water’ and ‘salt’, unless there is some real difference between ‘aqua’ and ‘water’.

Next, let’s look at the warning:

“Use only as directed. Excessive or prolonged exposure may cause irritation to skin and urinary tract. Discontinue use if rash, redness, or itching occurs. See Physician if irritation persists. Keep out of reach of children.”

Nothing wrong with that, you might think. But I see a few issues with it:

  • ‘Use only as directed’. I’d like to, but there are no instructions for use anywhere on this tube, and it didn’t come in a box (it was a freebie in a hotel room), so I couldn’t see if there were instructions on the box or a leaflet inside it.
  • ‘… may cause irritation to skin and urinary tract  … rash, redness, or itching’ There’s a problem! So what is this nasty product? It’s bath gel!!
  • ‘See Physician…’ Why not ‘See your doctor…’ or ‘Seek medical advice…’. This is a product made in Australia, found in an Australian hotel, and Australians rarely use the word ‘Physician’ for a medical doctor.
  • ‘Keep out of reach of children’. This would be difficult to achieve in a shared bathroom! Bath gels are a kids’ paradise — they’re goopy, squeezy, colorful,  smell nice, and they smear really well.

bath_gel_front

See also:

 

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Windows Help Viewer for Windows 7

November 16, 2009

Microsoft have made a Windows Help (WinHlp) viewer available for Windows 7.

You can download it from here:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=258AA5EC-E3D9-4228-8844-008E02B32A2C&displaylang=en

[Link last checked November 2009; thanks to Rob Cavicchio [Microsoft MVP] who alerted the Help authoring community of this new resource]

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Are you a grammar nerd?

November 15, 2009

If you are, then you might like these two resources.

The first is a set of stickers ready for you to add to signs, menus, etc. (available for purchase from here:
http://dylanmeconis.myshopify.com/products/grammar-nerd-corrective-label-pack):

grammar_nerd

The second is a useful comic-style ‘poster’ on ‘How to use an apostrophe’, from http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe.

apostrophe

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Typefaces laid out like a Periodic Table

November 14, 2009

The top 100 ‘popular, influential and notorious’ typefaces have been laid out like the Periodic Table of elements. Clever.

Click the image to see it in full size.

typefaces_periodic_table

 

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What makes you a professional?

November 13, 2009

The article — The 12 Qualities of True Business Professionals — spells it out… literally!

  • Proactive
  • Respect
  • Opportunities
  • Follow-up
  • Empathy
  • Self-confident
  • Sustainable
  • Integrity
  • Optimize all interactions
  • Nimble
  • Aware
  • Leadership

Read the full article for the context around each of these letters and words (http://www.businesspundit.com/the-12-qualities-of-true-business-professionals/).

[Link last checked July 2009]

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Fully uninstalling Trend Micro

November 12, 2009

I had to get an installation of Trend Micro off one of my computers so I could install the Pro version and apply an existing 3-user serial number to it. The Trend support person told me to uninstall it a different way — a way that gets rid of ALL the processes and little bits and pieces that hang around with you uninstall software using Windows’ Add/Remove Programs.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to the Run box (on XP, it’s available from the Start button).
  2. Type tistools then press Enter.
  3. You get a dialog box with several tabs on it. Click the Uninstall tab.
  4. Click the Uninstall button to fully uninstall Trend Micro.
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Word 2007: Using Table Styles

November 11, 2009

You have an existing table in a Word 2007 document. It’s pretty plain and you want to jazz it up a little. Here’s how to quickly change the styles applied to your table.

Applying a table style to an existing table

  1. Select the table. The Design and Layout tabs for Table Tools are added to the ribbon (A).
  2. Select the Design tab.
  3. In the Table Style group (on the left [B]), select the check boxes for the effects you want. For example, if this table has a header row, select that check box; if you want banded rows, select that check box; if you have a Totals row, select that one, etc. (See also: Tips for using built-in table styles.)
  4. In the Table Styles group (C), click the drop-down arrow to the right of the example styles to see ‘thumbnail’ views of various table styles; scroll down to see all the variations.
  5. Hover over various thumbnails (D) to see how each one looks when applied to your table.
  6. Click on the thumbnail for the style you want to apply.

word2007_tables_toolbar

Modifying an existing table style

NOTE: Modifying a table style will change it for the future – at least for this document and possibly for all new documents based on this document’s template. Be certain you want to do this before you start.

  1. Select the table. The Design and Layout tabs for Table Tools are added to the ribbon.
  2. Select the Design tab.
  3. In the Table Styles group, the style applied to the table is shown with a faint orange border around its thumbnail.
  4. Right-click on the thumbnail, then select Modify Table Style.
    word2007_tables_styles_modify
  5. The Modify Style dialog box displays, showing the overall table settings (Apply formatting to is set to Whole table by default).
    word2007_tables_styles_modify02
  6. To change settings that apply to the entire table, use the icons and drop-down lists in the Formatting section of this dialog box, as well as the settings under the Format button.
  7. To change settings that apply to various parts of the table (e.g. the header row, odd or even row banding, etc.), select that element from the Apply formatting to drop-down list, then use the icons and drop-down lists in the Formatting section of this dialog box, as well as the available settings under the Format button. Note: Not all settings are available. You can see some of the changes in the preview window.
  8. Select whether you want your table style changes to apply Only in this document or to New documents based on this template.
  9. Click OK.
  10. When you save your document, you will be asked to save the changes to the template if you selected that option in step 8.

Creating a new table style

  1. Insert a new table (Insert tab, Table icon).
  2. Select the table. The Design and Layout tabs for Table Tools are added to the ribbon.
  3. Select the Design tab.
  4. In the Table Styles group, click the drop-down arrow to the right of the example styles then select New Table Style (below the thumbnails). The Modify Style dialog box displays.
  5. Give your new style a Name.
  6. Leave the Style type set to Table.
  7. The default Style based on is set to Table Normal. While you can set up a table ‘from scratch’ using this, you will save quite a bit of time if you click the drop-down arrow for the Style based on field and work your way through the long list of existing table styles. As you select each, it displays in the preview window. When you find one that most closely matches the style you want, select it.
  8. Select an element from the Apply formatting to drop-down list, then use the icons and drop-down lists in the Formatting section of this dialog box, as well as the available settings under the Format button to style that element. Note: Not all formatting settings are available for all elements. You can see some of the changes in the preview window.
  9. Select whether you want your new table style to apply Only in this document or to New documents based on this template.
  10. Click OK.
  11. When you save your document, you will be asked to save the changes to the template if you selected that in step 9.

Setting a table style as the default for new tables

You’ve styled your table perfectly! Now you want that style to be applied to every table you create. Well, you can do it the slow way – insert a new table, then apply your table style to it. But it’s much easier to set your table style as the default. That way, whenever you insert a new table, it will be styled just the way you want. (Hint: If you only want the table style applied to some – not all – of your tables, add it to the Quick Tables list.)

  1. Select the table. The Design and Layout tabs for Table Tools are added to the ribbon.
  2. Select the Design tab.
  3. In the Table Styles group, the style applied to the table is shown with a faint orange border around its thumbnail.
  4. Right-click on the thumbnail of the style you want as the default, then select Set as Default.
  5. You are asked if you want to set it as the default table just for This document only or for All documents based on the (this document’s) template. Select an option, then click OK.
  6. To test that it’s now the default, go to the Insert tab and click the Table icon.
  7. As you drag your cursor over the rows and cells, a preview of the table shows in the document. It should look like the table style you selected as the default.

word2007_tables_styles_default

Warning

Applying table styles to an existing table can be problematic and may not work as expected, depending on the paragraph styles used in the existing table. No-one seems to have documented exactly how table styles and settings are meant to work and how conflicts are resolved. Better people than me (e.g. Microsoft MVPs) have tried to get them to work, but have failed. See these comments/discussions that apply to table styles from Word 2002 to 2007. Bottom line: There are issues…. Seemed like a good idea, but no-one appears to have got them to work as I had hoped.

[Links last checked September 2009]