Archive for February, 2015


Word: Wildcard replace transposes characters when track changes is on

February 26, 2015

A bug in Microsoft Word has had me baffled for several hours and at various times in the past. I thought it was me. But it’s not –it’s Word, and it’s a bug that’s been around since at least 2006. Microsoft have never bothered to fix it (I use Word 2010 and 2013 and it’s evident in both those versions).

What happens?

When you do a Wildcard find/replace in Word AND you have track changes turned on, the replace action transposes/reverses the items you want to replace!

For example, I have numeric values followed by their units of measure (e.g. 90 km) and I want to replace the normal space with a non-breaking space. To do this, I do a wildcard Find for ([0-9])( )(km) (i.e. any numeral followed by a space followed by km), and a Replace with \1^s\3 (i.e. replace the first part with itself, delete the normal space and replace it with a non-breaking space [the ^s bit], and replace the third part with itself).

If I have track changes on when I do the Replace, I get this: 5km<non-breaking space>, instead of 5<non-breaking space>km.

How to avoid it

Turn off track changes BEFORE you do the wildcard find/replace.


See these sites for information on how long this bug has been around, and other examples of it:

[Links last checked February 2015]


Webpage in Chrome won’t print in color on Brother MFC-9120CN

February 23, 2015

This information applies to Brother MFC-9120CN printers and Google Chrome, and a situation where no matter how many times you select to print in color via Chrome, the webpage only prints in black and white.

After some experimenting I figured out why my pages wouldn’t print in color.

I have my printer set to print in ‘mono’ (black and white/grayscale) by default to save on using expensive color cartridges when they aren’t required for many print jobs. If I need to print in color, I change that setting in the printer properties. But in Google Chrome, you can’t access your printer’s properties — you have to use the Chrome settings. No matter how many times I chose ‘Color’ in Chrome, the printout would be in black and white. The same webpage would print in color from Firefox and Internet Explorer, so I figured it was something that Chrome was doing.

But it was actually the printer that was dictating how the webpage would print — its ‘mono’ setting was overriding the ‘Color’ setting in Chrome.

Once I changed the printer default to ‘auto’, rebooted the printer, and rebooted my PC (just to make sure), and did another test print of a webpage from Chrome, the ‘Color’ option in Chrome and the ‘auto’ setting on the printer played nice together and I got a color printout.

As a further test, I kept the printer default set to ‘auto’ and selected the ‘Black and White’ option in Chrome… the webpage printed in color, completely ignoring my selection in Chrome. So my printer settings are overriding whatever I select in Chrome.

In summary:

  • If the default color setting for printer is set to mono, then choosing ‘Color’ in Chrome prints the page in grayscale (the ‘Black and White’ setting in Chrome appears to work, but as the printer is set to mono, that’s to be expected)
  • If the default color setting for printer is set to auto, then choosing ‘Black and White’ in Chrome prints the page in grayscale (‘Color’ setting in Chrome appears to work, but as the printer is set to auto, that’s to be expected)

At least I now know why.

Update later the same day: I had put in a support request to Brother on this late last week, but initially they denied it was an issue. After I did my tests and told them what I did, they’ve now confirmed they can replicate it. The support person at Brother also gave me this information:

I have also come across this link with people experiencing the same issue with other brands of printers as well:!topic/chrome/trn2QbAGjxI

I have found that when using the standard PCL driver, the setting will not work.

You can either use the Windows Printer Dialogue box by pressing Ctrl + Shift + P to print. This will allow you to change the setting through the driver.

Or, you can download and install the Br Script driver and use it when printing from Chrome:

[Links last checked February 2015]


Finding accurate bibliographic details for a References list

February 19, 2015

References. The bane of anyone writing a document that cites information from others. Gathering all the required bibliographic data for a reference can be painful, as well as formatting it according to the ‘house’ style.

However, one way to shortcut the process is to use a (free) internet service that searches out the information for you AND formats it to your house style, or close to your house style. All you need are a few words of the title, perhaps an author name, and the name of such a service.

The instructions below show how to use the WorldCat service to grab the complete bibliographic details of items in your References list. You won’t find everything in WorldCat, although with more than 2 billion catalog records from libraries around the world, you should find many. What you won’t find on WorldCat are your internal corporate documents and perhaps some of the more specialized documents from government departments etc. But if you’re looking to confirm the bibliographic details of published books, articles etc., then WorldCat is a good starting point.

  1. Go to
  2. Optional: Click the tab of the type of item you’re searching for (e.g. Articles); the default is Everything, but narrowing your search to a type of material will give you more targeted results.
  3. Type the title, or part of the title (try to include enough keywords so that you don’t get hundreds of results to skim). If it’s an article, you can add part of the journal’s name too, if you know it.
  1. Press the Enter key.
  2. Optional: On the results page, you can further refine your search by selecting options from the left sidebar or adding words to the search field (e.g. an author’s name).
  3. When you find your reference, click its title.
  4. Confirm that it’s the item you want, then click the Cite/Export link near the top of the page.
  1. A popup window opens allowing you to select the referencing format.
  2. Click the + sign for the formatting style you want to use. Check them all to find the one that most closely matches your house style.
  3. Select the details, then copy them (Ctrl+C) to the clipboard and paste them (Ctrl+V) into your References list in your document.

Note: You can view some articles etc. listed in WorldCat in their entirety if you need to check the reference further — these are indicated by a small orange circle with a white ‘e’ inside it.


There are other (free and paid) services available that also provide this sort of information (I’m aware of but feel that it has more limitations in its reference formats than WorldCat). If you use any other free services, let me know and I’ll add them to this post.

[Links last checked February 2015]


Dust — the enemy of computers

February 16, 2015

I had to take my server in for a RAM upgrade, which meant disconnecting it and preparing it for travel inside the car. One of the things I wanted the PC Guru guys to do was give the server a good clean too. But as I already had it disconnected on the bench, I figured I’d spend a bit of time getting rid of the excess dust so that their clean was targeted at all the inside bits that I either can’t reach or am not confident about cleaning.

One thing I discovered some time back is that the inside of my server stays remarkably dust free. Not so behind the door! The first time I took off the door, I got the shock of my life as it was almost entirely clogged with thick dust. I now know to clean that area regularly to prevent dust clogging up the intake air holes, and thus prevent the server from overheating and the fans from excessive work.

So, this is what ‘behind the door’ looked like when I opened it the other day. Not a huge amount of dust (compared to what I’ve seen before), but still enough to prevent it running as efficiently as possible, especially around the air intake holes at the base and the air holes around the four hard drives.


I cleaned the dust using an old artist’s paintbrush and a Tooltron Micro Applicator Brush, both of which I had wiped on a slightly damp cloth so that the very fine dust wouldn’t escape. Compressed air is no good as it would just blow the dust through those intake holes and into the housing.

Note: Even though the floor of my office is carpeted, the server (and all the PCs) is suspended under the desk, well off the floor. Carpet is a real problem for computers — there’s the dust from the atmosphere AND the carpet, and the potential static electricity.

See also:

[Links last checked February 2015]


Dealing with ‘Properties of Materials’

February 12, 2015

A few months ago ‘S’ asked about the heading ‘Properties of Materials’ and wondered if it should be ‘Material Properties’ or ‘Materials Properties’ instead. Her colleague had said both alternatives were incorrect (I agree), and should be either ‘Material Properties’ OR ‘Material’s Properties’ (if only one material; ‘Materials’ Properties’ if more than one). She also wondered about a related table caption: ‘Carbon Steel and Cladding Material Properties’.

My response

In my opinion, these heading variations sound awkward, so the original ‘Properties of Materials’ is likely the best (I couldn’t find any dictionary or style guide advice to support this opinion, just my gut feeling about the original phrase’s ‘understandability’). Usually, I’d avoid ‘XXX of YYY’ and change it to ‘YYY’s XXX’, but for S’s example I would keep the ‘XXX of YYY’ construction as it’s much clearer to the reader.

Another possibility is to avoid ‘Materials’ altogether and just use ‘Properties’, or be specific as to the type of properties (see the mini table of contents on this Wikipedia page for examples:, or use a synonym (however, don’t change it to ‘Materials’ Characteristics’ otherwise you’ll have a whole slew of sibilants your reader has to deal with).

As far as the table caption goes, consider deleting ‘Material’ from it; ‘Material’ is already implied based on the heading and the preceding text.

Bottom line: Ultimately you are writing for whomever is reading the document, so your aim is to keep your words as plain, simple, and—most importantly—as unambiguous as possible. Don’t force the reader into a situation where they have to stop reading to figure out the meaning.

(By the way, a Google search gave me 17 million hits for ‘Properties of Materials’ and only 300,000 for ‘Material Properties’, in case that matters.)

[Link last checked February 2015]


Word: Create a custom tab for your most-used tools

February 2, 2015

This comes under the category of ‘I didn’t realize I could do all that’!

What I’ve done is set up an Editing tab in Word, and put onto it all the main tools I use when I’m editing. Yes, I’ve still kept my Quick Access Toolbar, but now I’ve got all those main tools in one place. How I did it is based on this excellent article by Jack Lyons:

The image below shows how Word 2010 now looks every time I open ANY Word document in it, with my custom Editing tab on the far right (though I could have placed it anywhere):


And the second image shows my custom settings in the File > Options > Customize Ribbon dialog box:



  • You can call the tab and groups whatever you like, and can rename the original names for the tools. For example, I changed Header from Top to H from Top as I’ll understand that (especially as I put it in the Header/Footer group!), Cross-reference to X-refs, and Update Table (the one for the Table to Contents) to Update TOC.
  • These settings are computer-specific and apply to all documents you open on your computer – if you switch to another computer, you won’t have them unless you export them (there’s an Import/Export button at the bottom of the customization window) from your computer and import them into the other computer. Yes, you can export from Word 2010 and import into Word 2013.
  • This Customize Ribbon option is available in all Office programs I checked — Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, as well as Word of course.

The only difficulty I can see with this is helping other people once I get used to using this tab, as I may forget where these tools are on the default Word installation ;-)

See also:

[Links last checked February 2015]