Archive for January, 2011


Captivate 5: Inserting a full-size image

January 28, 2011

In Captivate 3, if you inserted a full size image (i.e. the same size as the Captivate ‘slide’ — e.g. 800 x 600), it would immediately ‘snap’ to fit the slide’s dimensions. That made inserting images from the Captivate Library super easy.

However, in Captivate 5, images that are the same size as the slide, do not snap to fit. Instead, when you drag the image from the Library onto the slide, it goes where you drop it. Now for small images this is a good thing, but for an image that you want to take up the entire slide, it’s a pain as you have to drag the image and hope you get it right.

Here are two ways of getting a full size image to fit the slide’s dimensions:

  • Drag the image onto the slide, then click the two centering icons one after the other — this will center the image vertically and horizontally. The image will remain an object that you can set Properties for.
  • Insert the image using Ctrl+Shift+s (Insert > Image Slide on the menu). The image will become a slide in its own right, not an object, and its Properties cannot be changed. This results in behavior that’s similar to merging the image into the background.

Does anyone know if that ‘snap’ function that I remember as the default behavior in Captivate 3 is available at all in Captivate 5? If so, where can I set it?


How to use the Download Flash and Video add-on for Firefox

January 27, 2011

I wanted to download some quilting videos from YouTube so that I always had them available whenever I needed to remind myself how to do a particular technique. Searching on YouTube in the hope of finding something I viewed 3 months ago was getting painful — I was tired of trying to remember a video’s name or presenter, even if I knew in general what the content was about. It was time to find some software that would allow me to download a YouTube video and save it to my computer.

The problem was, when I did a Google search, there were many applications out there that profess to do just that. But what was a good one? Off to Twitter, where I asked my followers for a recommendation. Within minutes @mikestarrwriter got back to me recommending ‘Download Flash and Video’ add-on for Firefox ( I checked out the reviews, then decided to install it.

It works well, BUT there’s NO documentation. Nothing to tell you how it works and what to do when it doesn’t work (as happens occasionally). So here’s the ‘missing manual’ for the Download Flash and Video add-on for Firefox.

  1. After you’ve installed the add-on and restarted Firefox, you’ll see a small gray down arrow icon in the menu bar.
  2. Go to YouTube and find a video you want to download.
  3. Start the video.
  4. Watch the icon. When it changes to a blue arrow with a movie ‘clapperboard’ icon (typically 1 to 10 seconds after the video starts), the file is ready to download. You can pause the video at this stage — it will still download.
  5. Click the blue arrow/clapperboard icon in the menu bar to see the options.
  6. Select the video size and format from the drop-down list. If I don’t want high definition, I’ll just choose 720p MP4 (MP4 plays fine in Windows Media Player).
  7. The video will now download to the folder where your Firefox downloads are saved (as set in the Firefox menu: Options > Options > General).

[Steps updated September 2013; link last checked September 2013]


Pay your web developer on time

January 26, 2011

Why? Because he or she has control of your website, which is your public face to the world. If you don’t pay, your web developer might just do something like this (click the image to see it full size), and you wouldn’t want that, would you?

A week later, there was this (

And here’s another (which was from


Top 10 web design pet peeves

January 25, 2011

The January 2011 issue of Australian Personal Computer magazine listed the Top 10 Web Design Features that ‘drove the APC staff nuts!’ (p9):

  1. Autoplaying videos. Click on a news story and a video advert starts.
  2. Grey body text. Use grey instead of black for text, sending readers blind.
  3. Flash product info. You want product details, you get an uninformative Flash show.
  4. Mixing ads with editorial. Confuse readers as to what’s what and you destroy the content’s credibility.
  5. Multi-page articles. Get extra page impressions at the cost of annoying readers.
  6. Non-selectable text. Lame attempt at preventing copying; just annoys users.
  7. Auto refresh pages. You’re reading something and, oooops, you’ve lost your place.
  8. Linking to PDF files. How to exasperate 100% of web users.
  9. Non-site search. A search box that returns a Google web search.
  10. Unreadable Captcha. Using distorted letters not even a human can read.

Most of them drive me nuts too.

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to link to a PDF (#8). But you can dull the reader’s pain a little. Let them know that the link opens a PDF and tell them how big the file is by adding something like (PDF; 450 KB) after the link. It’s not a lot to add, but it means the reader can decide whether or not to click the link.



Word 2007: I lost my images!

January 24, 2011

My work colleague, Susan, called the other day with a problem. In a Word 2007 document she was working on, all the images had gone and were replaced by boxes where they had been. She checked her picture layout settings, and they were set to In line with text, which is her normal way (and mine) of working with images.

Susan sent me her document, but all the images showed fine on my computer. She thought it was only this document, but when she opened another, its pictures were missing too.

Her next thought was that she’d inadvertently hit some combination of keys that turned off the images, so we compared our Word Options settings — and there we found the culprit!

Her Show picture placeholders check box (under the Advanced > Show document content section) was selected. As soon as she unchecked the box and clicked OK, all her images displayed properly again.


Outlook 2007: Display an HTML file in an email message

January 21, 2011


A colleague wanted to know how to insert an HTML file into an Outlook 2007 email so that everything in the file was displayed in the body of the email. They did not want to send the HTML file as an attachment. The HTML file already existed and it was a basic form with a Submit button that linked to a person’s email address.

This is not my area of expertise, but I said I’d find out. I knew you could do something similar in earlier versions of Outlook. I also suspected they may have to use Word to create the HTML file, but I wasn’t really sure.

Off to the internet…

Possible solutions

I did a little digging and it seems that Microsoft changed things in Outlook 2007 regarding sending HTML emails (the first section of this article explains it: (Update Dec 2017: This site no longer exists — the workaround is detailed below)

There is a workaround (also from that article), but it DOESN’T work with forms, and that’s what this team wanted to do – put an HTML form into an email. I tried the workaround method and while it put in the text correctly, it broke all the form fields and the submit buttons. Here’s that method:

  1. Open the HTML file in Internet Explorer.
  2. In Internet Explorer, turn on the menu bar if it’s not already displayed (Tools > Menu bar)
  3. Go to File > Send > Page by Email.
  4. A new Outlook email message will open with the HTML file embedded in it.

So while this may work for an ordinary HTML file, it wasn’t a solution for a file with a form in it.

I also suggested these alternatives to my colleague:

[Links last checked January 2011]


Word: Field codes

January 20, 2011

According to this Microsoft office blog post, Microsoft have removed a lot of the detail about Word’s Field Codes from the Help:

… we hide them from search so that people who don’t want to use field codes don’t find those topics and feel disappointed because they actually wanted different instructions…

Thanks Microsoft — NOT! This is a real issue for intermediate, advanced and power users of Word. Where else can we find the details of all the switches available for a particular field code? Just because some people don’t use them, doesn’t mean you should remove all this reference information from your Help.

Fortunately, the same blog post provides links to all the field codes in Word 2007 and Word 2010, with further links to details for each, including instructions, examples, switches etc.:

[Links last checked January 2011]


Word 2007 and 2010: Aligning the punctuation of numbers in a numbered list

January 19, 2011

Here’s something I’ve never tried to figure out — how to align the punctuation (typically a period) at the end of each number in a numbered list!

Fortunately, I don’t have to figure it out because Ugur Akinci already has, and has documented the steps (with pictures) on how to do it for Word 2007 and Word 2010:

[Links last checked January 2011]


Humor and friendly chat in user documentation

January 18, 2011

Is there a place for humor and/or friendly chat in user documentation? While many would say ‘Never!’, I’ve always wondered if I should try it.

‘Why?’ you ask. Because MANY moons ago (actually 10+ years ago), I came across a software user manual that used humor well, and that spoke personally to you as though the writer was sitting next to you talking you through stuff. It was for a piece of 3D software (I was working for a software company that converted 2D movies into 3D), and it wasn’t even for software that I used. I can recall reading some of their doco and liking how they’d written it — and the passion of the technical writer for his product. In fact, I liked it so much, I think I read the entire manual (yes, I need to get a life!), and I emailed the author to congratulate him on writing such an accessible manual. From memory, he even replied.

Obviously I liked it so much that even today I still remember the name of the software. So, the other week I went hunting to see if the company is still around and if they still create documentation that I wanted to read. And the answer to both is a resounding ‘Yes’. (Update Nov 2018: No longer appears to exist)

The company was Electric Rain and they made a 3D rendering product called Swift.

I took a few screen shots (in 2011, when they were still operating) of various parts of the manual to show you how the technical writer approached his users when describing certain features and functions of the software (his step-by-step instructions are fairly typical of most technical writing).

For this software and its target audience, I would suspect that his style of writing would go over well. Here are a few examples (click on an image to show it full size):


Handy reference for finding height above sea level

January 17, 2011

With the recent horrors of the Queensland and eastern Australian floods, I thought I’d better check our house and contents insurance policy to see what coverage we have for flood damage. Why? We live close to an estuary, but some distance from it, and at a slight elevation from it.

Well, the bad news is that our insurance policy clearly says it doesn’t cover flood damage. Water damage from rainwater, pipe breaks, retaining wall collapses etc., but NOT floods. So before I called our insurance broker to find out how and whether to get flood insurance, I thought I’d better check how high we were above sea level. We don’t have any rivers near us, but there’s that estuary, and then over the sand dunes on the other side of the estuary, the Indian Ocean.

It’s not so easy to find your height above sea level. Neither Google Maps or Bing Maps has these details (Google Maps’ ‘Terrain’ view has contour lines, but no key to tell you what the lines are — 5 meters? 10 meters? 20 meters?), and some of the other websites I tried didn’t either — at least, not for our area. Some sites suggested downloading and installing Google Earth, searching for your address,  then looking at the details where you find the elevation. Problem: When I tried to install Google Earth, it crashed my computer!

However, I did find a website that seems to be reasonably accurate, at least based on my gut feeling of what our height above sea level is. It’s It’s a beta application so it may not be accurate for where you live — some of the comments indicate that some people aren’t getting accurate data from it.

I clicked on the road close to the estuary and it reported it as 2 m above sea level (that would be about right). I then clicked the location of the house at the bottom of our street, and got 8 m. Next, I clicked the top of hill at the end of our street and got 30 m. Our house was reported as somewhere between 15 and 20 m depending on where I clicked. I zoomed in much closer and clicked the western boundary of our property (closest to the estuary) and it was listed as 14.4 m; the eastern boundary was listed as 18 m. There is definitely a rise of about 3 meters on the property, so that looks pretty accurate to me.

I thought we might be somewhere between 10 and 20 meters above sea level, so the 14.4 to 18 meter elevation for our block would fit my gut feeling. Even though 14.4 m is the lowest elevation, the house is a good meter above the western boundary fence, so I’d put it at 15 to 16 meters above sea level.

I probably don’t need to talk to the insurance broker now, but I will — just to see what the story is with flood insurance.