Archive for January, 2010


What the?

January 31, 2010

I wrote a single sentence comment on an article on the Instructify website, clicked Submit, and got this:

What the??

[Link last checked January 2010]


Web design hell

January 30, 2010

Another great cartoon from Matthew Inman, over at The Oatmeal comics site, this time on how a web design project can descend into hell. Anybody would think he’d done this for a living…

Here’s a taste:

(Click the image to go to the full cartoon, or click this link:

[Links last checked January 2010]


Citing web pages that disappear

January 29, 2010

Are you concerned that web pages and references that you cite may disappear or change? You’re not alone. According to some sources, up to 13% of web pages change, disappear or become inactive within about two years. For casual viewers and readers, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But for researchers, academics, students and the like, it’s a huge problem. At least with a book or journal article, you could pretty much guarantee that someone (or some library), somewhere would have a copy.

So what’s the solution? Well, companies like Google and libraries around the world are  trying hard to digitize printed materials, but is anyone looking after the stuff published only on the internet? Yes — and one such group is

WebCite®, a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, is an on-demand archiving system for webreferences (cited webpages and websites, or other kinds of Internet-accessible digital objects), which can be used by authors, editors, and publishers of scholarly papers and books, to ensure that cited webmaterial will remain available to readers in the future. …

A WebCite®-enhanced reference is a reference which contains — in addition to the original live URL (which can and probably will disappear in the future, or its content may change) — a link to an archived copy of the material, exactly as the citing author saw it when he accessed the cited material.

Individual authors, scholars, students can use WebCite for free to create an archive of a web document; journal editors, publishers and libraries are asked to donate a fee (e.g. $1 for each web reference added). And for readers, it’s all free.

WebCite ensures that any page you refer people to will always be there.

[Links last checked January 2010; thanks to Monique S on the STC’s Consultants and Independent Contractors discussion list for alerting me to this resource]


Word: Remove unwanted styles quickly

January 28, 2010


You receive a Word document that’s been through many hands, maybe even several different companies. It is littered with unused styles (typically with weird style names!) and you want to get rid of these styles from your full list of styles once and for all.


There are several ways to get rid of unwanted styles. The method you choose depends on how many you need to get rid of, and the steps vary a little depending on whether you’re using Word 2003 or Word 2007.

Note: You cannot delete the default styles. Well, you can, but it requires some messing around. Check this Microsoft Knowledge Base article on how to do this in Word 2000 — it should apply to later versions too, though I haven’t tried any of their suggestions:

Method 1: Delete a few styles manually

If you only have a few styles to delete, it’s probably just as quick to do them one at a time:

  • Word 2003: Open the Styles and Formatting task pane (Format > Styles and Formatting), right-click on the style you want to delete, then select Delete.
  • Word 2007: Show the Styles window (click the dialog launcher at the lower right of the Styles group on the Home tab). right-click on the style you want to delete, then select Delete <style name>.

Method 2: Delete many styles simultaneously

Word 2003:

  1. Open the Styles and Formatting task pane (Format > Styles and Formatting) to display the styles (1).
  2. Go to the Show drop-down list at the bottom of the task pane and select  the Custom option (2).
  3. Click the Styles button (3) on the Format Settings window.
  4. Click the Organizer button (4) on the Style window.
  5. The Organizer window displays, listing the styles in your currently open document on the left. Select the styles you no longer want from the list on the left (use Ctrl+click or Shift+click to select multiples) [5], then click Delete (6).
  6. Confirm the deletion when asked.

Word 2007:

  1. Show the Styles window (click the dialog launcher at the lower right of the Styles group on the Home tab [1]). Note: I’ve highlighted the unwanted styles (2) in the screen shot below — you won’t see this highlighting in your list!
  2. Click the Manage Styles icon (3) at the bottom of the Styles window.
  3. Click Import/Export (4) on the Edit tab in the Manage Styles window (this is equivalent to the Organizer in Word 2003).
  4. The Organizer window displays, listing the styles in your currently open document on the left. Select the styles you no longer want from the list on the left (use Ctrl+click or Shift+click to select multiples) [5], then click Delete (6).
  5. Confirm the deletion when asked.

[Links last checked December 2009]


Periodic tables seem to be all the rage

January 27, 2010

Everyone seems to be getting on the ‘periodic table as a diagram’ act, including the agile learning people. Here’s a snippet of theirs:

You can see their full diagram here:

Other periodic table examples:

And for a REAL periodic table of elements done in a very informative, visual way, take a look at this one (or click the image below to see it in full):

Click the image to see the entire table

[Links last checked January 2010]


Focus, focus, focus

January 26, 2010

Got a looming deadline? Then try these tips from Matthew Stibbe at the Bad Language blog:

  1. Switch off email.
  2. Isolate yourself.
  3. Remind yourself how much money you’re getting paid for this work.
  4. Switch off all social media.
  5. Get up early.
  6. Bribe yourself.
  7. Chunk the work into manageable time slots.
  8. Go full screen.
  9. Separate the writing and editing phases.
  10. Change location.

Full details:

[Link last checked January 2010]


Word: Find highlighted text

January 25, 2010

Someone sends you a long Word document and asks you to check only the changes, which they’ve highlighted. You have limited time so you need to find those highlighted passages quickly.

Here are two ways you can quickly find highlighted text — use the one that best suits your way of working

Zoom in/out

Zoom out the view of the document and look for pages that contain highlighting, then click on a page and zoom back in again to view and edit the highlighted text.

You can go down to about 10 or 20% to see as many pages as possible without losing the ability to see the pages containing highlights.

To zoom in/out:

  • Word 2003: Select View > Zoom from the menu, then select or enter the percentage zoom you want.
  • Word 2007 and later: Use the zoom slider at the bottom right of the Word window.

Here’s a few pages at 20% zoom — you can see the highlighted section easily:

A highlighted section shows easily at 20% zoom


The other way to find highlighted text is to use the Find function. Find is particularly handy if there’s a lot of highlighting, and you think you might miss some using the zoom function. It’s also handy for finding highlights you can’t see, such as those hiding behind empty paragraph marks or graphics. Both Word 2003 and 2007 work the same way, as do later versions of Word for Windows, such as 365:

  1. Press Ctrl+h to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More.
  3. Click Format.
  4. Select Highlight.
  5. Highlight should be the only ‘find’ option. Click Find Next to find the next highlighted passage.

Creating your own cartoons — for free

January 24, 2010

At the 2009 WritersUA Conference, Scott McCloud, the guy who created the Google Chrome system documentation in cartoon form, spoke about the challenges of creating documentation in this way (see my summary of his opening session of the conference).

Since then, I’ve become more aware of what seems to be a (slowly?) growing move by some people and organizations towards using cartoons to provide some technical documentation.

Which is all very fine if you happen to be a cartoonist, or even a halfway decent artist. But what about those of us who aren’t either of those things? How can we leverage the value of cartoons when we can’t even draw a straight or curved line?

Well, you could spend a small fortune hiring someone to do your drawings for you, or you try out a couple of free cartoon drawing applications to see if they might be useful:

  • Pixton: “Pixton is the #1 website for making comics online, with unrivalled expressive possibilities and an ever-expanding library of props and character attributes.” You can sign up for a free account, but if you’re in a business and need to create posters and the like, take a look at the very cheap [from $2.95 per comic] business options:
  • ToonDoo: Originally designed for kids, but can be used by anyone.

[Links last checked January 2010]


Panoramic image stitching software from Microsoft

January 23, 2010

From the bowels of the Microsoft Research labs comes Image Composite Editor, an:

…advanced panoramic image stitcher [that] takes a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location and creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all the source images at full resolution. The stitched panorama can be saved in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

Image Composite Editor is free, but because it’s from the research labs, it’s not officially supported; however, there is a user forum. It comes in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors.

You can download it from here:

[Links last checked January 2010]


Bug tracking software

January 22, 2010

Here’s a short list of links to some bug tracking software:

Wikipedia has a comparison chart of even more:

[Links last checked January 2010; thanks to Alan B on the STC’s Consultants and Independent Contractors discussion list for many of these suggestions]