Archive for January, 2011

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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]

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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):

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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 http://www.daftlogic.com/sandbox-google-maps-find-altitude.htm. 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.

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Word: Repagination horror

January 14, 2011

So there I was, finishing up editing a Word 2007 document. One of my last tasks was to update the Table of Contents (TOC). So I clicked the relevant Update Table button and off Word went…

I watched this train wreck as it happened and could do nothing about it — all I had on screen was the ‘spinning circle of death’ that Office 2007 documents display when they are processing something.

After seeing the information displayed in the status bar (below), Word finally gave me a message that it couldn’t deal with a document with that many pages (I presume the 2780 pages, not the 214 pages) and then stopped.

I’ve seen this happen before (not often), and have no idea what causes it, how to fix it etc. In this case, I did a ‘Save As’ on the document and saved it with a new file name. After doing that, the TOC updated without a problem.

Anyone got any ideas why Word spits it occasionally like this?

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2010 blog statistics

January 13, 2011

It’s a little late, but here are my blog stats/summary for 2010.

Sometime during 2010, this blog cracked the half million mark for total views of my posts since I started blogging in 2008. Wow! I can’t even comprehend that number. Sure, some people read more than one post, and a few may have read every one, but there were an awful lot of ‘hit and run’ readers — those who have a problem with Word or whatever, find one of my posts via Google etc., read the post, get what they came for (or not), and leave without checking out anything else. As at today (13 January 2011), the total view count is 595,141, which doesn’t include any of my views. And some 325,000 of those views occurred in 2010.

My average views per day are hovering around the 900 mark, with very obvious patterns such as fewer readers around US holidays, during traditional holiday seasons such as Christmas/New Year, and on weekends. From this, I can summise that most of my readers need to find out stuff while they are at work.

To 4 January 2011, I’ve written 1187 posts, of which more than 200 are about Microsoft Word. Not surprisingly, my Word posts have had the greatest number of views.

Summary:

  • Total number of posts written (from Dec 2009 to Dec 31 2010): approx 350 (just under one a day)
  • Average views per month for 2010: Ranged from ~21,000 to ~34,000 (average 27,062)
  • Average views per day (including weekend days) for 2010: Ranged from ~700 to ~1100 (average 890)

I analysed the posts receiving the most views for 2010 and compared them to the top posts for all time (2008 to 2010).

The top 10 in each list were almost the same, though the order changed a little. I didn’t include home page views in these statistics, and I only looked at posts that had more than 5000 views in 2010 and more than 10,000 views for all time (2008 to 2010). Only one post made it to the ‘over 10,000 views’ list for all time that didn’t make it to the over 5,000 views for 2010 list (Restoring an SQL Express database on another computer). Two posts had more than 5000 views in 2010 that weren’t on the 10,000+ all time views (Word: Add/remove highlighting with the keyboard [posted Feb 2009] and Word 2007: Citation and bibliography styles [posted Jan 2010])

Links to the top 10 posts:

See also:

[Links last checked January 2011]

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Word: How to remove a page break without removing the following heading style

January 12, 2011

Scenario

Your document uses multi-level numbered Heading styles, many of which are referred to as automated cross-references in other parts of the document (e.g. Section 3.2). However, the author has inserted a hard page breaks immediately before a heading. If you delete the hard page break, the heading becomes normal text and the cross-reference to it gets broken. Unfortunately, you don’t realize this until you update the fields in your document and find you have a whole lot of ‘Error! Reference Source Not found.’ messages.

Solution

Force a ‘page break before’ the heading BEFORE you remove the manually inserted page break.

Here’s how:

  1. Place your cursor anywhere in the heading.
  2. In the Paragraph settings dialog box, go to the Line and Page Breaks tab and select the Page break before check box. Click OK.
  3. Delete the manually inserted page break.
  4. Optional: Clear the Page break before check box if you really don’t want this section to start on a new page.

Your heading retains its style and any information used by cross-references that refer to it.

Easy.

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Where did you live again?

January 11, 2011

The 2011 version of Family Tree Maker software has quite a good ‘Places’ feature. I spent quite a bit of my time off work over the Christmas/New Year break doing some database cleaning, resolving many of the place names I have in my family tree for births, deaths, marriages etc. My 2005 version of the software didn’t allow me to easily resolve geographic name inconsistencies — and with over 6000 people in my family tree, there were a LOT of inconsistencies.

The 2011 version also uses maps from Microsoft’s Bing, not Google Maps. However, I keep Google Maps (and Wikipedia) open in my browser to confirm place names where they aren’t clear (e.g. some place names in the UK occur more than once, but in different counties).

I’ve always been fairly trusting of Google Maps — it’s helped me get to addresses where I’ve never been before when I’ve traveled in the US or traveled to an unfamiliar city such as Sydney in Australia. I had no reason to doubt the veracity of its information. Until now.

Some of my family (including my paternal grandmother) were born and lived in a town in Western Australia called Kanowna. It’s a ghost town now; it had its heyday in the late 1890s and early 1900s until the gold ran out.

I’ve been to Kanowna and there’s not a lot to see — just some markers where the streets and some of the main buildings were. All the buildings and the railway are long gone, and the streets are little more than dusty tracks. But the town did exist and there are plenty of maps and photographs to record that fact.

So I was surprised when I saw that Google Maps showed this for it:

According to Google Maps, every street is called Yarri Rd (including the main street into town), some streets cut through house lots, and the road ends at Kanowna.

Bing’s map, on the other hand, had this:

According to early 1900s electoral rolls I’ve consulted, I had family who lived in Nemesis and Isabella Streets, so I know they are correct. Bing also showed that the road into town is called Kanowna Rd, and shows the road continuing on, which is correct as I’ve been on that road.

So my faith in Google Maps has been shaken a little. If they got this tiny place wrong, what else have they got wrong?

Anyone else had any weird experiences with Google Maps?

BTW, the alluvial gold may have run out in Kanowna in the early 1900s, but modern mining techniques have built up quite an industry around Kanowna, as shown by this photographic view from Bing:

That open pit (gold?) mine on the left and its evaporation ponds (rectangular areas at the top left) are each bigger than the entire town of Kanowna was in its prime!