Archive for January, 2013


Windows: File path character limit

January 29, 2013

Based on a tip I recently wrote for my work colleagues.

I’ve substituted any identifying information with strings of x’s for the number of characters in the real examples from this workplace.


Long file paths are often the reason for getting an error message when you try to add a new file to a folder for which you have access permission.

Bottom line:

  • The total file path length in Windows cannot exceed 260 characters; it may be somewhere between 248 and 260 (see links below). This is a Windows limit and cannot be changed by you or anyone else.
  • The file path length includes the drive name (network or local), the folder name(s), PLUS the file name.
  • ‘Characters’ include spaces, punctuation marks, and underscores as well as letters and numbers.
  • Quick fact: You can’t use any of these characters in a file or folder name: \ / ? : * ” > < | Again, this is a Windows limitation.

Let’s take a look at an example of a long file path:

\\\share\xxxxxx xxxx\xxx\Regulatory Approvals\xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx\xxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx\ xx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxx\Rev 2 – Amendment 2\RO Brine Discharge EMMP_Rev 2, Amendment 2 (includes Amend 1 text) (draft).docx

There are 260 characters (including the \ separator) in this path, of which some 181 characters are used for the folder path (i.e. without the file name). Remember, every space is a character, every dot, letter, number, parentheses, underscore, is a character. I don’t think the \ separators are counted, but I’m not 100% sure. Without the \ separators, this path is still 251 characters long, so there’s not a lot of room for increasing the file name, changing the folder names, or adding a further folder level.

So how might you reduce the file name while keeping meaning and without compromising the folder names? The current file name ‘RO Brine Discharge EMMP_Rev 2, Amendment 2 (includes Amend 1 text) (draft).docx’ uses 79 characters; it could become any of these:

  • ‘RO Brine Discharge EMMP Rev 2 Amend 2 (incl Amend 1) (draft).docx’ (65 characters), or
  • ‘RO Brine Discharge EMMP Rev 2 Amend 2 (incl Amend 1).docx’ (57 characters), or
  • ‘RO Brine Discharge EMMP Rev 2 Amend 2.docx’ (42 characters, almost half the original file name).

To reduce the number of characters for ALL file paths in this folder, the folder name could be ‘Rev 2 Amend 2’ (13 characters) instead of ‘Rev 2 – Amendment 2’ (19 characters). NOTE: Only rename folders at the time you create the folder. DO NOT change existing folder names without consulting others – many people have shortcuts set to network folders and if you change the folder name in any way (add a space or underscore, fix a typo, etc.) then their links will break and they will not be happy with you.

More information:

(By the way, in case you were wondering… I didn’t count every character manually! I got character counts for each of these file paths by copying the file path into Word 2007, selecting the text, then clicking Word Count on the Review tab.)


Acts of Parliament: Italics or not

January 28, 2013

Based on recent writing tip I wrote for my work colleagues.

As the project I’m working on is subject to regulatory compliance to both state and federal government legislation and regulations, I wanted to remind the authors about our style guide’s rules for using italics, etc. when citing specific Acts of Parliament and associated regulations. Our corporate style guide follows the Australian Style Manual: For authors, editors and printers in most cases.


Some time back Joe asked about when/if Acts of Parliament and/or Regulations get italicised. While this is addressed in [our corporate style guide], here’s a summary:

  •  Titles of Acts are ALWAYS italicised when listed in full (e.g. Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999), but not when they are abbreviated (e.g. EPBC Act).
  • Titles of Regulations and all other documents are NOT italicised in the body of the document.
  • The jurisdiction before or after an Act’s title is NOT italicised (e.g. in Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (WA), the (WA) bit is not italicised). The abbreviation we use for ‘Commonwealth’ is ‘(Cth)’.
  • The year MUST be added to the full title of the Act and it is italicised (e.g. Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (WA) NOT Wildlife Conservation Act (WA))
  • You don’t list Acts or Regulations in the document’s References list.
  • You can abbreviate commonly used Acts, but you must list the Act in full in the first instance (with date and jurisdiction) and add the abbreviation you will use after it (e.g. EP Act, EPBC Act). These abbreviated forms are NOT italicised and there’s no need for the year or the jurisdiction. Make sure all these abbreviated forms are included in the Terms list.

Word: Extracting original images from a document

January 23, 2013

It used to be that if you wanted to extract your graphics from a Word document in pretty much one step, you had to save the document as a web page. This created a folder containing the graphics. But the graphics were saved as — or converted to — fuzzy JPGs, crisp PNGs, or GIFs, depending on the original format of the images. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked — to a point.

I recently discovered that you can extract graphics in their original formats from any DOCX Word document (i.e. Word 2007, 2010, etc.) by changing the file extension to ZIP, then unzipping that ZIP file.

You end up with a whole slew of folders and XML files, and in amongst them is the word > media folder, in which you will find your original graphics, in their original sizes and format.

Very neat trick!

[Links last checked August 2018]



PDF: Corrupted image and lost links

January 16, 2013

A work colleague called me. She’d discovered that an image in the Word document she was creating a PDF from was corrupted in the resulting PDF. She tried creating the PDF using the PDF/A setting and that worked to a degree — the image was now OK, but she’d lost all her clickable links (Table of Contents, cross-references, etc.). She needed both an uncorrupted image AND clickable links, but couldn’t get both using the ‘save as PDF’ option in Word 2007.

I remembered this document — there were a couple of images in the document that weren’t really images; they were linked Visio objects. And the ‘corrupted’ image was one of these. I suspected that’s where the corruption was coming from, especially as she told me in her phone call that she’d saved the document to her desktop for the purposes of PDF’ing it (the document and the Visio diagram normally live in the client’s SharePoint site); that made me think that the link to the Visio diagram got broken in the process of creating the PDF.

I got her to save the document under a different name (just so she didn’t mess up the one she already had), then got her to copy the (Visio) image and paste it as a picture, then remove the original Visio image. Next I got her to try saving it as a PDF as normal (i.e. not PDF/A), and everything worked! The image was no longer corrupted and all her links worked.

Finally, I suggested that she speak to the author of the document to see if he really needed the linked Visio diagram — if it was unlikely to change, a static image (like the one she’d just created) would appear to be the same and wouldn’t corrupt in the PDF creation process; however, it wouldn’t be able to be edited from within the Word document.

As an aside, it’s likely she wouldn’t have had this issue if she had PDF’ed the document from within SharePoint as the links would have worked correctly. By copying the document to her desktop, it’s likely that those links got broken.


Wishy-washy words like ‘it’ and ‘this’

January 11, 2013

Based on a writing tip sent to my work colleagues. Some identifying content removed and replaced with […]. My colleagues and I work in the oil and gas industry, so the information about the potential to cost lives is very real for us.


In this writing tip, I look at wishy-washy words like ‘it’ and ‘this’, with some ‘we’, ‘our’, and ‘they’ rounding out the list of words that can take on more than one meaning, depending on context.

Bottom line:

  • Be specific. Be clear. Be unambiguous. If your sentence (or preceding sentence) refers to more than one subject or object, avoid ‘it’, ‘this’ etc. otherwise your reader has to stop to figure out what ‘it’ etc. refers to. If necessary, use the word/phrase a second time, reword the sentence, or split the sentence in two to avoid ambiguity and misinterpretation.
  • Hesitations and misinterpretations incur productivity losses and may cost lives.

Let’s look at some examples that have more than one possibility for ‘it’ etc. I’ve indicated the troublesome wishy-washy word in bold in the first column and have included the surrounding sentences to place the ‘it’ in context. In all cases, replacing ‘it’ etc. with the name of the thing being referred to would fix each sentence; some rewording may be required.

Example Comment
Before formally entering the finding into the tracking tool, the finding shall be communicated and agreed with the action party. If no agreement is reached, or if no communication is received from the action party, it shall be escalated to the action party’s manager. What is ‘it’ in this context? The finding? The lack of agreement? The lack of action from the action party? Something else?
The […] Risk Management Process describes key roles and responsibilities and establishes measurement and verification activities designed to monitor […] Risk Management and to promote a process of continual improvement. This includes quarterly reporting of leading and lagging indicators, annual review of process effectiveness, and periodic corporate auditing. What is ‘this’ in this context? The Risk Management Process? Monitoring? Promoting? Continual improvement?
Approval is requested through this Plan to potentially use treated water from the WWTP on site for non-potable construction purposes (e.g. dust suppression, compaction, washdown). This is in line with the waste management hierarchy and will result in a significant reduction in freshwater use on[…].

This will occur when the capacity of the WWTP to treat wastewater to the required specifications is achieved.

What is ‘this’ in these contexts? Approval? Use of  treated water?

While the first ‘this’ likely refers to the use of treated water, the second ‘this’ is very hard to figure out.

If the Contractor ‘adds value’ to a Company dataset, it shall be submitted to the Company Representative with an updated metadata record. What is ‘it’ in this context? The revised dataset? The added value part only? Specific metadata records? The Contractor??
However, the Core Project Team will work closely with this other project during Phase 3 to ensure we support early engagement with selected third-party Contractors to seek endorsement of our preferred alternatives for waste disposition equipment. Who is ‘we’ and ‘our’ in this context? Core Project team? [company name]? Some other entity?

(As an aside, avoid ‘we’, ‘our’ in all formal/business documentation – instead, use the entity’s formal name)

Note that when Reference Site […] was included in analyses, it showed this site was significantly different to all other sites, both during the […] Baseline Program and the […] Survey. What is ‘it’ in this context? The analyses? The results? Something else?
Should monitoring indicate that grazing is significantly impeding rehabilitation recovery, then the perimeter of rehabilitation areas may be fenced to exclude grazing fauna. If fenced, it will be maintained until the vegetation is sufficiently established to withstand grazing pressure. What is ‘it’ in this context? Rehabilitation areas? Perimeter fencing? Grazing?

Other examples where the meaning is unclear, though these examples don’t use ‘it’ etc.:

Example Comment
Findings shall be discussed prior to being raised with the person who facilitated the verification activity. Discussed with whom?
Additionally, the collection of all deck water for storage or treatment prior to discharge (e.g. through an oily water separator) is impracticable as this would require significant modifications in port to the vessels involved in the installation activities. Are the modifications to be made to the vessels or the port?

This example shows how misinterpretation can occur if you separate the thing (the vessels) being acted on (modified) and where those modifications are to take place (the port). Rewording this sentence would remove this ambiguity – for example: ‘… as this would require significant modifications to the installation vessels; such modifications would be carried out in port.’ OR : ‘… as this would require significant in-port modifications to the vessels involved in the installation activities.’

Finally, don’t eliminate all ‘it’ etc. words from your writing – they definitely have a place, but only where they reference a SINGLE thing and there’s no ambiguity as to what that thing is. (You may notice I used ‘they’ in the previous sentence – in this sentence, ‘they’ refers to ‘it’ etc. words, and can’t refer to anything else, so it’s perfectly acceptable to use.)

And to add some humor, there’s this:



Windows Media Player: Display album art at full size

January 8, 2013

I hate it when software wants to think for you and decides to display something the way IT wants to and not the way YOU want to. Windows Media Player (WMP) is a case in point — it displays album art at a reduced size and there’s no setting I could find to get it to display it at full size.

However, I was able to find a forum post (see the 06 August 2012 entry) that tells you how to change the Windows Registry to force WMP to display album art at full size. Unfortunately, that post left a few steps out, so here they are in full.


  • Before starting this process, make sure you are comfortable with editing the Registry; back up the Registry first in case you make a mistake.
  • These instructions are for Windows 7, but once you’re in the Registry of your Windows operating system they should work for earlier versions of WMP too; however, I haven’t tested these instructions on earlier Windows operating systems, so do this at your own risk.
  • Update May 2019: See the comments below before starting this task. It’s possible that these steps from 2013 no longer work.

Edit the Registry to display WMP album art at full size

  1. Close Windows Media Player if it is open.
  2. In Windows 7, click the Start button and type Run in the search box.
  3. Select Run from the Programs list. This opens the Run dialog box.
  4. Type regedit in the Open field, then click OK.
  5. If asked about allowing access, click Yes. The Registry Editor window opens.
  6. In the left pane, expand these nodes: Computer > HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Media Player > Preferences.
  7. Click on the Preferences node to display the settings in the right pane.
  8. In a blank area on the right pane, right-click and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value.
  9. New Value #1 is added at the end of the long list of settings.
  10. Change this name to PlayerModeAlbumArtSelected
  11. Double-click to open PlayerModeAlbumArtSelected.
  12. Type 0 (zero) as the Value data then click OK.
  13. Still in the settings list, find the entry for ShowAlbumArt. Double-click it to open it and set its value to 1. Click OK.
  14. You should now have two added/revised settings entries — one for PlayerModeAlbumArtSelected with a value set to 0 and one for ShowAlbumArt with its value set to 1 (see yellow highlighted lines in the screen shot below).
  15. Close the Registry Editor window.
  16. Re-open Windows Media Player — your album art should now show at full size.

[Links last checked January 2013]


2012 blog statistics

January 7, 2013

In August 2012, this blog broke through the two million views mark since I started blogging in 2008. By 31 December 2012, it had had more than 2.55 million views. Some 1.29 million views (more than half) occurred just in 2012. These figures don’t include any visits I made to my own blog (yes, I use my own blog for stuff I can’t remember!).

I wrote far fewer blog posts in 2012, so many of these visits were to posts I’ve written in previous years. I’ve written a total of 1525 blog posts since 2008, of which only 122 were written in 2012.

Surprisingly, I only have 187 followers who have signed up to receive email alerts each time I post a new article, so I have to assume most readers are ‘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.

Here are some graphs and tables for the 2012 statistics for this blog, as well as some comparative ones for ‘all time’ (‘all time’ is actually 2008 to 2012 — I started this blog very late in 2007, but didn’t really start posting until January 2008, so the 2007 statistics are so low as to be insignificant).

Total views by month/year



Average daily views


The average views per day has nearly doubled since 2011 (from 1867 in 2011 to 3527 in 2012). The graphs above and below are for the full seven days per week, though most views occur on business days.


As I mentioned above, most views are during the five business days, probably as a reflection of the need to find answers to Word questions and the like when people are stuck with a problem at work. The weekends and major public holidays (particularly in the US) see a notable drop in views.

Top 20 posts


Some posts are just more popular than others! Those highlighted in blue appear in both lists — the top 20 posts of all time (2008-2012) and 2012 only. Those without highlighting only appear in one of the top 20 lists. The numbers on the right are the number of total views for that post in the time period.

Long tail


As expected, there’s a significant ‘long tail’ for this blog’s views. I can only extract stats for the top 499 posts from WordPress, but even for those posts the long tail is very evident. In the graphs above and below, the top 50 posts, and especially the top 20, gained the most views. Everything else was a poor cousin to these top posts.

When I extracted out the views just for the top 30 posts for 2008-2012 and 2012 only (both below), the long tail was still evident, though not as pronounced. Again, the top 10 posts garnered the most views, with posts 11 through to 30 tailing off and flattening out.



So, there you have it. Five years of blogging, 1525 blog posts published, 2.5 million views (with more than half in the past 12 months).

I guess I must be doing something right, even though the monetary return is close to zero. One other change this year was removing all the individual links to the donate option from each ‘how to’ post and putting a new link at the top of the right sidebar. I did this as a result of a bizarre mix-up with my PayPal Donate button code being used by someone else. Since then I’ve received the princely sum of $1.99 in donations… So I guess moving that Donate button away from the bottom of a helpful post has not been very successful. I use that money to pay my annual bill to WordPress to keep this blog free of ads and to have the convenience of adjusting the style of this blog.

As in 2012, I’ll be writing posts more sporadically in 2013, and NOT ‘almost every day’ as I did in 2008-2011. I still have a day job that I’m committed to, and paid work always comes before unpaid work.

See also:

[Links last checked January 2013]


Strange error message

January 3, 2013

The other day a retailer gave me a web address ( to check for a product. I entered it into Firefox–without the ‘www’–and got this strange (almost rude) error message:


Nothing on the page was clickable and there was no indication that I needed to type the ‘www’. So, because I’m a determined little bunny, I then added the ‘www’ bit ( and this time I got the correct site.

These days, browsers like Firefox etc. normally resolve the ‘www’ bit and add it automatically, but not in this instance. Back in the day, it used to be that an address without the ‘www’ and one with the ‘www’ had to be linked (by the domain host?) so that they would resolve correctly, no matter what the user entered. Obviously that didn’t happen in this case, but the web developer did take the time to write this error message — I think that time would have been better spent making sure that the non-www URL resolved correctly.

[Links last checked January 2013]