Archive for September, 2012


I love my work colleagues!

September 27, 2012

This email (slightly modified to remove references to people, companies etc.) was sent to the entire team last week. I love working for these people!

Hi guys,

Just a quick reminder to not alter the formatting of the [ABC] document. This includes things like inserting new headers and footers (including for landscape pages), altering text styles and altering page numbers, etc. We have Rhonda as a great resource to make these changes and assist us with other formatting and authoring-based IT issues, not just the tech writing reviews she also does.

It’s not the best use of time as it takes us much longer to fiddle around in the formatting and styles than it will take Rhonda. Also often our best efforts to solve something in the document can cause more work for Rhonda to fix than the original issue.

Another way to think of it is, we have been hired for our technical expertise in environmental assessment, and Rhonda has been hired for her expertise in technical writing, document formatting and styles, etc.



A job ad that pulls no punches

September 26, 2012

From New Zealand:


Confusing sign

September 24, 2012

At a recent hotel stay in Australia I saw this sign below the air conditioning controls:

The bit that confused me was the ‘allow 40 minutes for changes in temperature’. This was a single hotel room, not an apartment, suite, or a house. It was maybe 30 square metres in area (perhaps a tad more, perhaps a tad less, but close enough).

What sort of inefficient air conditioning unit within the room takes 40 minutes to change the temperature in a 30 square metre room??? And how many complaints did they have about the air conditioning not working before they decided to get these signs printed and attached the the wall of all 200+ rooms in this hotel?

So I waited the requested 40 minutes, and you know what? I didn’t feel any change of temperature after setting it to the lowest cool option!


Signs and labels that make you go ‘Oops!’

September 21, 2012

I was in Bali recently. English is their third language, so I tried not to notice awkward English text and phrases or odd spellings. However, a couple of pieces of text made me whip out the camera and take a photo.

The first was on a menu at an Italian restaurant (no, I don’t know why we went to an Italian restaurant in Bali either!). Seven of the menus at the table listed ‘grilled aubergines’, but one had this:

The drinks menu where we were staying had this:

Signs seen along the road included these:

I’m still not sure how you can make ‘antique’ furniture to order!

And then there was this road sign of an exclamation point — I’ve never seen one before, and most of the ones I saw in Bali didn’t have any text below them like this one does — anyone know what this sign means? I assume it’s a danger or warning sign of some sort (‘pasar’ = ‘market’).


Word: Lesser known keyboard shortcuts

September 20, 2012

There are likely hundreds of keyboard shortcuts built into Word, most of which you’ll never need to know.

Committing a few keyboard shortcuts to memory will end up saving you a lot of time when you’re writing or reviewing documents. Keyboard shortcuts mean you just press two or more keys at the same time and the action is performed. You don’t have to hunt around on the ribbons with your mouse then click four or five times to do what you need to do. Over the life of a document, you can save many hours by using the keyboard instead of the mouse.

Many Microsoft Word keyboard shortcuts may be familiar to you (e.g. Ctrl+s to save, Ctrl+c to copy, Ctrl+v to paste, Ctrl+f to find, Ctrl+z to undo, etc.). But here’s a list of some that aren’t so familiar that you may find useful when writing or reviewing documents (NOTE: Don’t type the plus sign!).

Shortcut Does this
Ctrl+Shift+= Superscripts the selected text
Ctrl+= Subscripts the selected text
Ctrl+Alt+m Inserts a comment box
Ctrl+Shift+e Toggles track changes on and off
Ctrl+Tab Inserts a tab within a table cell
Ctrl+Shift+spacebar Inserts a nonbreaking space to keep things together that must stay together; e.g. to keep a value and its unit of measure together and stop them splitting at the end of a line
Alt+0150 (numeric keypad ONLY) Inserts an en dash
Alt+0151 (numeric keypad ONLY) Inserts an em dash
Shift+F3 Toggles the case of the selected text between upper, mixed, and lower case
F4 Repeats the IMMEDIATE last action


See also:

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


Word: Add more levels to a TOC

September 19, 2012

By default, Word inserts a Table of Contents (TOC) with three levels of headings. For most people, that’s usually more than enough. However, for very long complex reports, sometimes you need to report more levels — in the case of my client, the regulatory body they were reporting to needed to see five TOC levels. Or perhaps three levels is too many, and you need to just show the Heading 1s.

It’s easy enough to change the TOC levels, but there’s a good chance they won’t indent correctly below the other TOC levels if you’ve set up TOC 1, TOC 2 and TOC 3 styles to indent differently than the default.

Here are instructions for doing both.

Change the heading levels reported in the TOC

  1. Click anywhere inside the TOC.
  2. Go to the References tab > Table of Contents > Insert Table of Contents.
  3. On the Table of Contents window, change the Show levels setting from 3 to 4 or 5, depending on how deep you want to go. Change it to 1 or 2, if you want a much shorter TOC.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Say Yes to replace the existing TOC.

If you also have an automated List of Tables and/or List of Figures, the pagination for these will likely be incorrect as a result of increasing or decreasing the TOC levels, so update those two tables as well.

Modify the TOC 4 and TOC 5 styles

If you want your new TOC levels to be indented below the existing ones, then you may need to change some of the default settings for the TOC 4 and TOC 5 styles. These instructions assume you are comfortable with modifying a style. You’ll need to experiment a bit with the paragraph and indentation settings to get them right for you.

  1. Click anywhere inside the TOC.
  2. Go to the References tab > Table of Contents > Insert Table of Contents.
  3. Click the Modify button.
  4. Select the TOC level style you want to modify, then click the Modify button on the Style window.
  5. On the Modify Style window, clear the Automatically Update check box (optional), then click the Format button and select Paragraph.
  6. On the Paragraph window, consider changing any or all of these settings:
  7. If you need to change the tab settings, click the Tabs button and make the changes there (see
  8. Click OK several times to close these windows.
  9. Say Yes if you are asked to re-insert the TOC.
  10. Check that it’s all as you want — if not, repeat these steps changing the paragraph and tab settings until you get it looking how you want.

[Links last checked September 2012]


Exchange Server connection on Android can delete ALL data

September 18, 2012

When I was on vacation in Bali last week, my phone did some weird things, notably unlocked the screen and randomly started entering letters and numbers for the PIN when there was no-one near it. I still have no idea why it did this and that may remain a mystery forever. The first time it did it, I caught it after 9 attempts (i.e. before the ’10 incorrect attempts will cause all the data to be deleted’ message came into play).

But the second time it happened, I couldn’t catch it quick enough and in front of my eyes, my phone deleted ALL its data and reset itself to the factory settings. That’s right — ALL my contacts (900+), mail, calendar appointments, all my downloaded apps, all my photos, all my audio books and ebooks, WiFi settings for various locations, all other settings and customizations (e.g. ring tones, display brightness, etc.), EVERYTHING!

That was very scary and made me very angry. I swore loudly at Android, HTC, and Telstra as I (incorrectly) assumed that one of them was the culprit.

But it wasn’t until I got back home and was setting up my Exchange Server sync settings again that I realized that the culprit was Exchange Server! When I set it up, I could connect to Exchange Server, but the emails etc. wouldn’t sync with my phone. I got a synchronization error message. However, you can’t deal with that message on the Exchange Server sync page — you have to go to the Notifications panel and click the link there to go to the permissions page for Exchange Server.

Well, my Exchange Server was probably set up with the defaults, which meant that it REQUIRED a PIN to unlock my phone, and the permissions screen also told me that activating the permissions meant that all data (I incorrectly assumed only Exchange Server data) could be wiped after 10 incorrect login attempts, etc. After I agreed to those draconian conditions, I could get my mail etc.

But as I’m the only person who has a phone linked to my Exchange Server, I called my PC Guru guys to see if they could change the settings so that a PIN wasn’t required when I unlocked the screen, plus a few other settings like the display time before the screen locked after a period of inactivity (mine was 5 minutes — it’s now 15 minutes).

So now my phone has no PIN for the SIM card and no PIN required for Exchange Server, which means that if it does weird stuff again, it won’t wipe ALL my data! Sure, this will make my phone vulnerable if I lose it, but I’m prepared to take that risk and not lose my phone. Losing all your data is no fun…

Fortunately, I had uploaded my Bali photos earlier in the day that the deletion occurred, and fortunately I had Exchange Server so all my contacts and calendar info was stored centrally. However, I still have to download all my apps again and reset my settings and customizations, and reconnect with several services like DropBox, TweetDeck, Facebook etc.

There goes another heap of hours…. (update: I plugged my phone into my PC and checked the hard drive on it — it looks like the photos and ebooks and audio books are still there [SD card?] but I can’t see the apps, so I still have to re-download them. Further update: Yay! When I’m logged in to Google, Google Play has a list of all the apps I previously downloaded and what’s currently on my phone [], so it’s pretty easy to download them again. Thank you, Google!)

There’s more info here:

[Links last checked September 2012]


SIM card not recognized

September 17, 2012

I had a scary situation happen to me last week while I was on vacation — my phone decided to delete all its data and reset itself back to the factory defaults (more on that in tomorrow’s blog post…).

After it reset itself, I couldn’t access the Access Point Name information or do anything that required mobile connection — I kept getting a message that my SIM card wasn’t recognized. I waited until I arrived back in Australia, and tried again. My Telstra SIM card still wasn’t recognized. I was a bit panicky at this stage and arranged to pop into my local Telstra Business Centre the next day to try to resolve the situation.

Later that evening, I fiddled with my phone again. Still the SIM wasn’t recognized (yes, I had taken it out and put it back in somewhere along the way). Then I noticed that Airplane Mode was still on, so I turned it off. And with that my SIM became active again!

I felt like such an idiot.

The reason I’m writing this blog post is in case this simple solution helps someone else (or me, if I’m ever in that situation again).


Word: TOC picks up Figure and Table captions and other oddities

September 14, 2012

I’ve seen normal text and images in an automated Table of Contents (TOC) and they’ve been easy to find and fix. Typically, a heading style has been applied to the paragraph containing the text or image, and thus it gets reported in the TOC where the TOC is set up to display text in several levels of headings. Changing the paragraph’s style back to a body text style then updating the TOC solves that problem.

However, a work colleague reported that the TOC in one of his documents was picking up some figure and table captions as well, plus some other weird stuff. I walked him through finding out what styles were applied to the paragraphs and all seemed to be OK (I work remotely, so all this was done over the phone). I also got him to re-insert the TOC — that didn’t work either. He said TOCs in other docs in the suite of docs that used the same template were working fine.

So he sent me links to two of the documents — one where the TOC was misbehaving and the other where it was working as it should.

I looked at the misbehaving TOC and there was nothing obvious I could see that was causing the problem.

However, I noticed a setting for Outline levels that was turned on in the Table of Contents Options window of the Table of Contents window (References tab > Table of Contents > Insert Table of Contents > Options button).

I wasn’t sure what it did, so I turned it off, re-inserted the TOC and voila! all the odd entries in the TOC disappeared and it was back to how it should be. My colleague was very happy.

The weird thing is that the other document, where the TOC worked fine, also had this setting turned on, but it wasn’t reporting these odd entries. I left the other document set as it was (‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’). I still don’t really know what that setting does and why it caused the TOC to misbehave in one doc where it was turned on, but not another that used the same template.

[Links last checked September 2012]