Archive for January, 2012


Word: Multilevel Appendix headings

January 31, 2012

One of the challenges I got the other day was to add second and third levels to the existing Level 1 Appendix headings in the client’s template.

After some trial and error, I got it to work. These instructions are for Word 2007, but they should work similarly in Word 2010.

This is not a simple procedure and requires you to follow the steps exactly, so turn off all other distractions (Twitter, Facebook, emails) otherwise you might miss a step and that could well make it not work.

What my client wanted:

Appendix 1
Appendix 1.1
Appendix 1.1.1

Appendix 2
Appendix 2.1
Appendix 2.2
Appendix 2.2.1
Appendix 2.2.2 etc.

In other words, outline numbering similar to that we use in the main body of the template, but with the word ‘Appendix’ prefacing the numbering. Naturally, this was to be a separate numbering sequence to that used for Headings 1 to 5. They also wanted the three levels of Appendix numbering to display in the Table of Contents (TOC).

There are four broad steps in this procedure:

  1. Set up the Appendix heading styles.
  2. Set up the Appendix List style and the numbering settings for each of the levels.
  3. Test by applying the Appendix heading styles to some text.
  4. Optional: Modify the TOC to display the Appendix heading levels.

You can set this up for a single document, or, better, set it up in your template.

Step 1: Set up the Appendix heading styles

The following steps assume you already know how to create a new style in Word:

  1. Create three new styles for the Appendix headings (I called mine Appendix H1, Appendix H2, and Appendix H3).
  2. Apply some basic formatting to these styles — font family, font size, bold, paragraph alignment, left indentation (I used 0 cm), hanging indent (I used 3.5 cm to allow for the length of the word ‘Appendix’), tab (I set the left tab position to 3.5 cm).
  3. Set the following paragraph to the body text style you usually use.

Step 2: Set up the Appendix List style and the numbering settings for each of the levels

Now, here’s where you have to really concentrate and follow the instructions exactly as it’s here where it can all go pear-shaped:

  1. On the Home tab, go to the Paragraph group.
  2. Click the tiny drop-down arrow to the immediate right of the Multilevel List icon.
  3. Select Define New List Style.
  4. On the Define New List Style dialog box, enter a name for this list style set — I’ve called mine Appendix Headings.
  5. Notice that the default level is 1st level. Leave it at that, and set the formatting for the number (i.e. the Appendix x bit of the final heading). I used the same formatting as that for the Appendix H1 style. NOTE: This formatting ONLY applies to the number part of the heading, NOT the heading itself. Don’t set the numbering on this dialog box — you’ll do that in a minute.
  6. Click Format at the lower left of this dialog box, then select Numbering.
  7. On the Modify Multilevel List dialog box, click More before doing anything else. This shows all the available settings.

  8. Select 1 as the level to modify (it’s probably already selected).
  9. Link the level to the Appendix H1 style.
  10. Select the 1, 2, 3 number style.
  11. Type the word Appendix in front of the number in the long Number Format field and delete the closing parenthesis after the number in that field.
  12. Set the indentations and tab positions (I set the alignment at 0 cm, and the indentation and tab stops at 3.5 cm, following my Appendix H1 style’s settings). Don’t set any other settings.
  13. Click OK to return to the Define New List Style dialog box.
  14. On the Define New List Style dialog box, select 2nd level then select your formatting options for this level of numbering.
  15. Click Format at the lower left of this dialog box, then select Numbering to open the Modify Multilevel List dialog box.
  16. Select 2 as the level to modify.
  17. Link the level to the Appendix H2 style.
  18. Select the 1, 2, 3 number style.
  19. Type the word Appendix in front of the number in the long Number Format field and delete any punctuation after the number in that field.
  20. THIS BIT IS IMPORTANT: Put your cursor IN FRONT of the number in the Number Format field and type a period. Move your cursor IN FRONT of the period you just typed, then click the drop-down arrow for Include level number from and select Level 1. You should end up with Appendix 1.1 in the Number format field.
  21. Set the indentations and tab positions (I set the alignment at 0 cm, and the indentation and tab stops at 3.5 cm, following my Appendix H1 and H2 style’s settings). Don’t set any other settings.
  22. Click OK to return to the Define New List Style dialog box.
  23. On the Define New List Style dialog box, select 3rd level then select your formatting options for this level of numbering.
  24. Click Format at the lower left of this dialog box, then select Numbering to open the Modify Multilevel List dialog box.
  25. Select 3 as the level to modify.
  26. Link the level to the Appendix H3 style.
  27. Select the 1, 2, 3 number style.
  28. Type the word Appendix in front of the number in the long Number Format field and delete any punctuation after the number in that field.
  29. THIS BIT IS IMPORTANT: Put your cursor IN FRONT of the number in the Number Format field and type a period. Move your cursor IN FRONT of the period you just typed, then click the drop-down arrow for Include level number from and select Level 2. Now move your cursor IN FRONT of that number, click the drop-down arrow again for Include level number from and select Level 1. You should end up with Appendix 1.1.1 in the Number format field.
  30. Set the indentations and tab positions (I set the alignment at 0 cm, and the indentation and tab stops at 3.5 cm, following my Appendix H1, H2 and H3 style’s settings). Don’t set any other settings.
  31. Click OK to return to the Define New List Style dialog box.
  32. On the Define New List Style dialog box, check the preview box to make sure all the indenting is correct and aligned as you want it. (When I was setting this up, some of the indenting went out-of-whack.) To fix the indenting for any level, select that level from the Apply formatting to field, then click Format > Numbering and reapply the values to the indentation and tab fields. Repeat for any other levels that are out of alignment. That should sort it out.
  33. Finally, click OK to close the Define New List Style dialog box.

Breathe. The worst is over.

Step 3: Test

  1. Add some text to your document — don’t wory if it’s in your template as you’ll delete it after you’ve done your testing and sorted out the TOC. Add some short paragraphs (just a few words) to represent short headings, and longer text to see how it wraps on to the next line.
  2. Apply Appendix H1 style to the paragraphs you want to be the main Appendix headings, Appendix H2 style to those you want to be sub-levels of the Appendix H1 heading, and Appendix H3 for those you want to be sub-levels of Appendix H1 and H2 headings.
  3. Mix them up a bit and apply different styles to see how the numbering changes accordingly.

Assuming everything is OK, you can now add these styles to your TOC if you want them to show there.

Step 4: Optional: Modify the TOC to display the Appendix heading levels

  1. Go to the References tab > Table of Contents group and click the icon for Table of Contents.
  2. Select Insert Table of Contents.
  3. On the Table of Contents dialog box, click Options.
  4. Type 1 in the empty box next to Appendix H1.
  5. Type 2 in the empty box next to Appendix H2.
  6. Type 3 in the empty box next to Appendix H3.
  7. Click OK twice to exit the Table of Contents dialog.
  8. Click OK when asked if you want to replace the existing Table of Contents.

If you were setting this up in a template, delete the paragraphs you added for testing.

See also:

[Links last checked January 2012]


Trust is an issue

January 30, 2012

I read about a handy little app in a computer magazine the other day. So I went to the website, where I watched a video of what it does.

I wanted to find out more about the company behind it, so I went to the About section (which told me NOTHING about the history of the company or the people behind it) and then I went to the Contact section expecting to see a street or postal address at least, perhaps a map, definitely one or more phone numbers for sales, support etc. All these things are the ‘trust’ cues I use to decide whether or not the company is legitimate and whether I can trust them with my details and my money.

But I got nothing except misspelled link text (highlighted in yellow in the screen shot below) and links that only went to generic email addresses. I decided not to download/buy this app as the lack of ‘trust’ cues meant that I felt uneasy about trusting them with my information.

If they’re a 15-year-old operating out of the family basement — and if they tell me that (i.e. give me the backstory) — then I’d be more likely to trust them than giving me nothing on their About/Contact pages.

How about you? Do you check out a company’s About/Contact page before trusting them with your details/money?


Better than winning Lotto

January 27, 2012

Wow. I work with a health, safety and environment team and we got these pictures from one of the safety guys. It seems this accident happened mid-December 2011 in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and it involved a truck driver delivering oil/gas pipeline casings to a storage area. While this accident happened at a different company than the one I work for, it could’ve happened to anyone driving this sort of cargo and shows the importance of inspecting a load and how it’s tied down before you move off with it.

Here’s the description that came with the photos (identifying information removed from the description and the truck):

This 9.5/8″ casing had just left [ABC company] yard following inspection/re-coating for storage by [XYZ company]. The truck wasn’t travelling fast by any means, but the driver had to stand on his brakes to give way at the intersection. The pictures tell the rest. Luckily, the driver was only bruised and in a bit of shock… he won his Lotto in this life.

Lucky we drive on the right!

Click on a small photo to see it full size.


To cap or not to cap, that is the question

January 26, 2012

One of the team I work with asked:

Please could you provide us with some guidance on when to use and not to use capital letters. I would expect to use capitals for proper nouns, defined terms in a legal document, position titles, acronyms, symbols for chemical elements and the first word of each sentence. In most of the reports I read, almost every noun is capitalised and a smattering of other parts of speech as well. It looks like German.


What is the shortcut key combination for converting text to lower case?

Let’s get the easy one out of the way first…

To toggle the case of a letter, word, sentence etc, select it, then press Shift+F3 once, twice, or three times. Word will toggle between lower case (‘cat’), upper case (‘CAT’), and title case (‘Cat’).

Now on to the trickier issue of when to use initial capital letters (initial caps) or not.

The guidelines are clear for some things, but more fuzzy for others, especially when it comes how to treat generic and specific terms. The Australian Style Manual’s* index lists 20 page references specifically on capitals, with another 31 page references for the 21 index subentries under ‘capital letters’! There’s no way I’ll reproduce those guidelines here, but I’ll attempt to summarise them.

The Australian Style Manual (p119) has these overarching principles:

  • Sentences should always start with a capital letter.
  • Initial capitals should be used for proper nouns and proper names (i.e. the names of people, places, and organisations).
  • When organisations’ names are reduced to a generic element, the capitals can usually be dispensed with; however, capitals are [kept] if the shortened version still carries a specific element. Thus, the Attorney-General’s Department becomes ‘Attorney-General’s’ [or] ‘the department’.

They also make the comment that ‘One of the few remaining widespread uses of capitals to distinguish an otherwise generic word is found in legal documents, where words that have been specifically defined (such as ‘Schedule’, ‘Party’, ‘Company’, ‘Owner’) are often capitalised wherever they appear.’

When in doubt, consult your corporate style guide, a published style guide (like the Australian Style Manual or the Chicago Manual of Style), or your dictionary.

Note: This summary was written for MY team and is based on the Australian Style Manual; your style guide may differ on some of these.

Use an initial capital for… Example Notes/comments
The first word in a sentence All personnel must…
A risk assessment was…
The stakeholders agreed…
Only exceptions: names deliberately spelled in lower case; business names built on internet addresses; trade names with mid-word capitals such as ‘eBook’
Titles and honorific names Minister, Professor, Doctor  
Personal names Jim Jones, Mary Smith  
Nationalities and distinct groups of people, religions, languages and language groups Aboriginal, Chinese, American, Australian, Hindu Exceptions: common words derived from geographical locations (e.g. brussels sprouts, venetian blinds)
Official names of organisations (includes companies, government departments, states etc.) Department of Environment and Conservation, Shire of Ashburton, Government of Western Australia, XYZ Project No caps for the generic element of these names, e.g. the department, the shire council, the council
If some specificity remains (even if only implied), capitalise the specific elements, e.g. a matter for the Shire, a matter for the Department, a matter for the State government, Project-related
Always use the capitalisation, spelling, and punctuation that the organisation uses
Commonwealth   ALWAYS capped when referring to the Commonwealth of Australia
Note: p124–125 of the Style Manual deals specifically with all government terms and their capitalisation
Acts, Regulations, Agreements Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA)
National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Regulations, 2008
Republic of Korea–Australia Migratory Birds Agreement
All main words of these are capitalised (title case)
Acts are always italicised; Regulations are in normal text
Geographical locations (place names) Barrow Island, Dampier, Perth, Western Australia, Pilbara, Great Barrier Reef Exceptions: Descriptive, unofficial names for parts of a geographical entity usually don’t get capped, e.g. northern Australia; spelled out points of the compass, e.g. south-west
Note: The WA Geographic Names Committee recommends (Section 4.12) that apostrophes are not used in geographic names that are named after people (e.g. St Georges Tce, NOT St George’s Tce).
Months and days January, Monday Exception: names of seasons, e.g. summer, winter
Taxonomic groupings down to genus level Blattodea Blattidae, Blatta
Myrtles, Myrtaceae, Eucalyptus
Species, subspecies, varietal names are NOT capped
Note: Genus and species levels are italicised, as are subspecies and varietal names
Common names of specific species Humpback Whale, White-winged Fairy-wren, Spotted Dolphin, Silver Gull, Flatback Turtle Exceptions: common generic names of plants and animals are not capped, e.g. mammals, spiders, fish, corals, marine turtles
See the WA Museum nomenclature for correct hyphenation, capitalisation
Abbreviated chemical names CO2, H2S Not capitalised when written in full, e.g. carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide
Personal name element of cyclones tropical cyclone Carlos Note: The personal name is capped, but NOT the preceding generic element (‘cyclone’, ‘tropical cyclone’)
Registered trademarks, proprietary names, brand names, computer software and hardware Caterpillar, Toyota Land Cruiser, Microsoft Excel Follow the capitalisation, spelling, and punctuation used by the owner
Title of books, journals, articles Marine Ecology Progress Series Follow the capitalisation used for the publication. In some cases it will just be the first word; in others, title case will be used, where every main word is capped
References to certain elements in a publication Section 4.0, Figure 3.2, Chapter 9, Table 5.3 Don’t capitalise ‘pages’ (e.g. pages 23–56, NOT Pages 23–56)
Abbreviations, initialisms, and acronyms HDD, LNG, WA The spelled out version should obey the rules regarding proper nouns/names, so in many cases, the spelled out version is in lower case (e.g. horizontal directional drilling, liquefied natural gas, Western Australia)
Headings and captions Sea-finding Behaviour of Marine Turtle Hatchlings Use title case for all section headings, figure and table captions. Title case capitalises every main word, but not the ‘little’ words such as on, by, for, of, the, an, a, for, etc. Do not capitalise the second word in a hyphenated word
After colons Note: All deliverables… Only necessary where one or more full sentences or questions follow the colon. Otherwise, use lower case.
Exception: capitalise the first word after ‘Note:’
Items in a table   First letter of each item in a table cell is capped
Exception: units of measure, such as ‘metre’, that would not normally be capped
Units of measure C, J, kg, km, m Only some are capped; most are lower case, but there are some exceptions. See lists of SI Units for correct capitalisation
Time: ‘am’ and ‘pm’ are lower case and separated from the hours/minutes by a space (e.g. 10:00 am)
Bullet lists   Follow the rules for sentences – if ALL bullet points in the one list are full sentences, cap the first words of each; otherwise, lower case for the first word of a sentence fragment (unless it’s a proper noun/name)
Job titles Environmental Team Lead, Managing Director, Senior Engineer Generic job titles are not capped (e.g. fitters, plumbers, electricians, project managers, administrators, team leads), but specific job titles associated with an individual are capped (e.g. Environmental Team Lead, Managing Director, Project Manager). Hint: Is the title plural or singular? Plural usually indicates that it’s generic; singular indicates it’s specific to an individual
Hyphenated terms   Depends on whether it’s used as the first word in a sentence (cap first word only) or in a heading (cap first word only) or in the body of a sentence (don’t cap at all unless a proper noun/name). Second word of a compound hyphenated term is rarely, if ever, capped (unless a proper noun/name)
Names of buildings, structures, locations etc. Crib Room 3, Construction Village, accommodation buildings, utilities buildings Follow the general rules for place names; i.e. initial cap each word of the official name for a specific location (e.g. Construction Village); don’t cap generic terms (generic: crib rooms; specific: Crib Room 3)
Other Phase 2, Operations Phase Again, the rules re specific (capped) and generic (not capped) for terms such as ‘Operations Phase’ apply. If you’re referring to the specific phase in a particular process, then you cap it; if you’re referring to the time when operations are underway, you’d typically use lower case

[Links last checked January 2012; based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues]


The online world is global, right?

January 25, 2012

Another post on the inequities of Kindle books available on Amazon…

One of the list members of a tech writer discussion list I’m on, notified the group that The Yahoo! Style Guide: Writing for an Online Audience is only $1.99 in Kindle edition on Amazon. Nice.

Kindle is all about digital distribution of books, the book’s subject is to do with writing for an online audience, and the price was sweet.

So I click the link and prepare to part with $1.99 for this Kindle edition. After all, the online world can be anywhere, can’t it? It’s global, right?

Not so.

I’m confronted — yet again — with the ‘You live in Australia. You are not worthy.’ message that’s implied by the ‘Pricing information not available’ and a ‘This title is not available to customers from Australia’ message.

Guess that’s ANOTHER title I won’t be buying from Amazon, because of some stupid publishing restrictions on sale to countries outside the US. It’s a digital book, for heaven’s sake, written for a digital audience, but it’s not available to all online citizens of the world. Amazon happily sells its Kindles in Australia and makes available its Kindle reader to PCs and smartphones, but then restricts the titles we can purchase. There’s something wrong with that.

(Interestingly, Amazon had no qualms about selling me the paperback of this book for $14.95. Add in about $10 postage, and now the cost of the book for me is close to $25, which is a far cry for the $2 Kindle edition. Why does selling me the paperback version not violate the publisher agreements, whereas selling me the Kindle edition does? In neither case are Australian booksellers or publishers getting any money. I also checked on Fishpond and I can buy it from there for around $25 with free shipping and it ‘Ships within 24 hours from UK supplier’ even though this is a US book. Crazy. Of course, I can only buy a Kindle edition from Amazon–and Amazon won’t sell it to me.)

See also:

[Links last checked January 2012]


Guess they don’t get many complaints

January 24, 2012

‘Snapped’ at a local restaurant:

Complaints sign, with mouse trap!


Just get a $2 throwaway SIM, they said

January 23, 2012

I’m heading off to the US in less than six weeks, and am taking my smartphone with me. I want to use it as my modem for my laptop where there isn’t free WiFi (yeah, I need to figure out how to do that…), so I need to get a SIM that is either a US SIM or a global SIM. I’m on a contract with Telstra in Australia and if I use their SIM plus international roaming, I could be up for thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars on my phone bill for just two weeks in the US.

I checked the Whirlpool forums online (a great source of Australian information on all things techie and geeky), and the general consensus is that I need to unlock my phone with Telstra and get another SIM. The suggestions included purchasing a $2 SIM card from another provider and testing that the phone is unlocked with that SIM before committing to purchase one that will work in the US without the exorbitant charges from Telstra. And to do this before I leave Australia. I also went into the local Telstra Business Centre and asked the lady I know there about it, and she said I shouldn’t have to pay a fee for unlocking, told me what I had to do (she couldn’t do it from there), and also suggested buying another carrier’s $2 SIM and testing that the unlocking had worked.

So, when I was in the supermarket the other day, I asked about SIM cards and was sent to the Customer Service counter where they have the cigarettes under lock and key and hidden from view, and from where they also sell SIM cards. In front of the Customer Service counter was a bin of $2 SIMs from Vodaphone, so I grabbed one and put it on the counter along with my $2.

But it wasn’t that simple. The lady behind the counter said she needed to fill in a form for me to buy the $2 SIM. A form? For a $2 purchase? You’ve got to be kidding! But no… a LONG official form from the Australian Government, on which she was required to fill in my name, address, drivers license number and other details. All for a $2 SIM.

The form had the Australian Government coat of arms on it followed by ‘Australian Communications and Media Authority‘ and a logo for the AMTA (Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association). On further investigation of the AMTA website I found this:, which says:

“Under Federal Government regulations, mobile service providers are required to collect, verify and store and, on lawful request, retrieve identity and address information about purchasers and users of pre-paid mobile phone services.”

There are copies of the official forms here:

In addition, the customer service lady had to hunt a list of handwritten numbers (how long did it take for someone in the supermarket to write that list?), then write my details next to the code number for the $2 SIM pack I was purchasing.

All up, the whole process of purchasing a $2 SIM took some 15+ minutes of her time and mine. That’s not counting the time taken for someone to hand write that list of codes (and hopefully not make a mistake — these codes are 10+ digits long), someone to collect the forms at the end of each day and mail them to Canberra. Unbelievable.

I still haven’t broken open the $2 SIM packet or unlocked my phone with Telstra, so I don’t know if/how it will work, but I’ll try that in the next day or so. What I did notice on the back of the $2 SIM packet was that there was no talk time/data time with the SIM — I’d have to purchase that separately from Vodafone, and, from their website, it looks as though the MINIMUM I can purchase is $29.

As of right now it’s cost me:

  • $2 for the SIM
  • 15 minutes getting the form filled in so I can purchase the $2 SIM

I expect further ‘costs’:

  • $29 for the minimum recharge amount to test out my $2 SIM
  • 15+ minutes on hold to Telstra to get my phone unlocked

Then once I’ve got that all sorted, I’ll need to order and pay for a US network-compatible SIM. And test using my phone as a modem when I’m on the road.

So much for a ‘throwaway $2 SIM card’!

What do the ordinary people who travel do? Just suck up the Telstra charges, or not use their phones for anything except an emergency? This is too hard.

Update 23 January 2012: I called the Telstra ‘unlocking team’ (125 111) today to unlock my HTC Sensation phone. After going through the voice prompts and feeling like a dill for answering Yes, No, Unlock, etc. into an empty room, I got shunted and shoved between three Indian call center personnel, before finally getting one who told me that my HTC Sensation with Telstra doesn’t need to be unlocked because it already is! So why isn’t that on the Telstra website? And why did it take three lots of ‘on hold’ music and three voices I found hard to understand before I was told this??

If you’re reading this and are also on a Telstra contract, it seems the only phone you need to unlock is the iPhone. The phone number for unlocking that I called was 125 111, and one of the people I spoke to said the direct number was 1300 720 179, just in case it’s useful to you.

Next step: Swap out the SIM and activate the phone with Vodaphone…


Adobe pricing sucks

January 20, 2012

Back in 2008 I had a little rant about Adobe’s pricing model for countries outside the US, specifically Australia. Since then I’ve spoken to several Adobe employees at conferences in the US about this, but have received no satisfactory answer as to why there is such a discrepancy between the prices I see on the US website and the prices Adobe insists I pay because I live in Australia. Those employees were as baffled as me, and I got feedback that the pricing in other countries, such as the UK, was just as confusing when compared to the US pricing.

So why bring this up again? Because someone from Adobe called me the other day and offered to look into the pricing situation. She called me back yesterday and said that the reason she was given for the price discrepancies was ‘taxes’. Well, to put not too fine a point on it, that’s just bullsh*t.

Here’s why: Australia has the GST, which is a flat 10% tax on ALL goods and services. If you buy something from a store here, there are no state taxes, county taxes, city taxes, other sales taxes and levies like in the US. In Australia you pay the ticketed price on the item, which invariably includes the GST (e.g. a $99 item is actually $90 retail price + $9 GST). That’s it. Very simple.

The GST applies to most goods and services purchased within Australia, including software. It applies to goods purchased from outside Australia if the cost of the item exceeds $1000, otherwise the item is GST-free.

So with that information, let’s look at how Adobe prices its software in Australia and the US. I’ve used Adobe Captivate 5.5 and the eLearning Suite in my examples, both the upgrade prices and the full price (for Captivate 5.5 only), and have used for converting the prices from Australian dollars (AU$) to US dollars (US$) and vice versa. All price conversions were done on the same day within about an hour, so currency fluctuations aren’t an issue.


For ease of comparison, I’ve converted all Australian dollar prices to US dollars — see below for screen shots of conversion values.

Product Adobe
US store
AU store
Price difference
Captivate 5.5 Upgrade $149 $265 $116 (~80%) more in Aust
Captivate 5.5 New $799 $1389 $590 (~75%) more in Aust
eLearning Suite Upgrade $399 $695 $296 (~75%) more in Aust

Bottom line: Adobe charges its Australian customers nearly double the price it charges for its US customers. A 10% tax is neither here nor there with that sort of price gouging, which is why I said that the explanation of ‘taxes’ was bullsh*t. Besides, the Australian prices I found on the Adobe store already INCLUDE the 10% GST, so those 75–80% increases are on top of the tax.

Buying from the US Adobe store is NOT an option — while I can provide a US address as I have family there, I need a US credit card too. So I either don’t buy upgrades regularly (thus doing Adobe out of a revenue stream), or I find other ways to buy the product without going through Adobe at all (still doing Adobe out of a revenue stream!).

Would anyone from Adobe like to explain why we get screwed on the prices we pay for a DOWNLOADABLE product, which most likely comes from US servers no matter where we live and pay for it?

And I’d be happy for those from other countries outside the US to comment on the prices they pay (converted to US dollars for a fair comparison).

Screen shots

US prices: $149 to upgrade to Captivate 5.5 from Captivate 5 (which I have) and $399 to upgrade to the eLearning Suite.

US prices for upgrading Captivate and the eLearning Suite

Those US upgrade prices in Australian currency:

US$149 converted to Australian currency

US$399 converted to Australian currency Australian prices: $255 for the Captivate upgrade, $669 for the eLearning Suite upgrade

Australian pricing, which includes the GST
Those upgrade prices in US currency:

AU$255 converted to US currency

AU$699 converted to US currency

To buy Captivate 5.5 without an upgrade (i.e. new), the prices are US$799 in the US and AU$1337 in Australia:

Update 13 February 2013: According to one news report, it’s cheaper to fly to the US to buy some Adobe products than buy them in Australia!


Fun with road safety signs

January 17, 2012

Long-time blog reader, client, and good guy, J, shared these photos with me that he took while driving through South Australia on his way back to Perth, Western Australia.

It seems they’re part of a road safety campaign, though it’s a concern that ‘political correctness’ (a oxymoron if ever there was one!) has resulted in ‘rooster’ being substituted for ‘cock’ in the press releases.

Clever. To the point. And they get the message across to the target audience — young Aussie male country drivers. I love how they targeted their intended audience so well. Typically, these young guys don’t read newspapers or watch TV news etc., so traditional ads never really get to them. But a billboard on a country road that they’re likely to be speeding on? Priceless.

Don't drive like a knob

Don't drive like a wanker

Don't drive like a cock

Update: Complaints about these signs rejected:

[Links last checked January 2012; thanks for sharing the photos, J]


Would you condense your knowledge into a single email — for free?

January 16, 2012

I helped someone out on this blog a while ago. Because I couldn’t easily diagnose her Word 2003 problem based on the comments on the post, I asked her to email the document to me so I could see what was going on (I rarely do this, but it was very hard to diagnose based on what she said). I was able to quickly determine the issue — she was trying to create an automatic Table of Contents and despite my instructions on that blog post to the contrary, she hadn’t used ANY styles other than ‘Normal’ in her document.

Anyhow, I took each of her seven Chapter titles and made them into Heading 1s, and generated the TOC. This took me about five minutes. I sent her back the document, with a very brief explanatory email in which I had included this:

If you wanted this [document] properly formatted and edited, then I could do this, but I’d charge you for that work.

I got an email back from her within hours. I won’t try to paraphrase it — you can read it yourself (my highlighting):

Now, I like being appreciated as much as the next person, so I was glad I could help her, and she did thank me profusely at the beginning and end of her email.

But am I being overly sensitive? On reading and re-reading this email, I just felt angry and demeaned. This is my job. This is how I earn a living and pay my bills. I share tips and hints on this blog for free, but I won’t do jobs such as this for free. I thought I’d made that clear in my email to her. It’s taken me 20 years of working with — and fighting — Word to gain the knowledge and reputation that I have, so my immediate reaction to ‘just email me the steps to properly format my book’ was ‘You’ve GOT to be kidding!’, followed by anger and disappointment…

I was angry and disappointed that someone could even assume that a person who has gained a lot of knowledge in a field would give that knowledge away for free to someone they didn’t know (or even someone they did know). You wouldn’t ask a dentist, medical practitioner, engineer, plumber or any other professional or tradesperson to do a job for free (‘I can’t pay you. Would you just email me the steps for building a bridge across my river?’, ‘I can’t pay you. Would you just email me the steps for extracting my rotten tooth?’, ‘I can’t pay you. Would you just email me the steps for giving myself a shot of antibiotics?’, ‘I can’t pay you. Would you just email me the steps to unblock the toilet?’). So why ask me to do the same?

If I *choose* to provide hints and tips via this blog and if I *choose* to do that for free, that’s my choice. But that’s a lot different to taking on a job of editing and formatting a stranger’s (or a friend’s) book for free.

So many people think that this writing and editing stuff is easy just because they learned to write at school — and that includes those employers who think that everyone can write so why would they need a writer/editor on staff.

A good practitioner and someone who has honed their profession or craft by working at it every day for years, can make that profession or craft look easy — but it’s not. It comes from many years of hard work, frustration, testing, trial and error, and thousands of hours of going down different paths to find the answer, then applying that knowledge to each job that they do, and building on their previous knowledge. It also comes from attending conferences, workshops, training courses, seminars, and buying and reading books, etc. often on their own dime and in their own time.

When you pay me to do a job for you, you’re not just paying me for the number of hours I put in to do the work — you’re also paying me for my 20 years of accumulated knowledge in this field, and the shortcuts and workarounds I’ve discovered along the way to make the process of writing or editing your document as efficient and as quick and accurate as possible. My rate reflects that. You might think that I make it look easy, but that’s because I’ve learned a lot and I apply that knowledge to every job that I do.

But to ask me to give you that for free is just insulting. And demeaning. And it makes me angry.

What do you think? Am I being over-sensitive about this?

(BTW, I replied by sending her a link to the Microsoft Word training website.)


[Links last checked March 2019]