Archive for November, 2020

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Attempting to combat a very sedentary lifestyle

November 26, 2020

A bit of backstory… Prior to 1992, my work as a teacher involved a lot of incidental walking and standing each day, and I rarely sat except when I got home from work. Between 1992 and 1998 I worked for a software development company, and was involved in training, installations, writing user manuals, and answering help desk calls. Training and installations required me to walk and stand, but I spent much of my time sitting on a chair at my desk and staring at a computer screen. I lived about 5 km from the office, so would ride my bike to work when the weather was suitable, and I attended a gym close to work for about 30 to 60 minutes most days. From 1999 to 2006 I worked for other software companies much further from home and with no nearby gyms, so riding the bike to work wasn’t possible, and except for walking to/from the carpark and popping out to the local lunch bar, most of my time was spent sitting at a computer, doing technical writing. In 2007, we moved out of the city to the country and I began working from home full-time, where my commute was about 10 steps! We lived at the top of a ‘heart attack’ hill in that town, so riding the bike was out, as was a lot of walking. I was still doing tech writing, but in late 2008, I segued into editing where I was still sitting in front of a computer all day. In 2010 we moved to another location in the country, some 9 km from the nearest shop and about 13 km to a gym. Again, we were on a hill, though nowhere nearly as steep. And I continued to work from home. Did I also mention that I’m the world’s biggest excuse-finder for avoiding exercise? It’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, too smoky, too many mosquitoes (we live in an area with Ross River and Barmah Forest virus-carrying mosquitoes), I’ve got to put on insecticide, wear special shoes/clothes, find the fly net, don’t feel like it now, will go later… Any excuse NOT to exercise is good enough! And yes, I know the horror stories of a sedentary lifestyle.

Fast forward to now… On an editors’ Facebook page and Twitter discussion group some people had mentioned using an under-desk cycle machine to keep their legs moving and their circulation flowing. Some had recommended the DeskCycle so I investigated it as an option. After all, my feet just tuck up under the chair or in front of me for hours at a time while I’m working—they may as well be doing something! But my under-desk height was less than they recommended, and so the unit wouldn’t fit under my desk without me hitting my knees on every rotation. I have a built-in desk in my home office, so changing the desk is not an option. However, I found that DeskCycle also have an under-desk elliptical machine, the DeskCycle Ellipse. It seemed to fit my situation, the minimum desk height was suitable, and the reviews were good. (I haven’t linked to their website as they seem to have different websites for purchasing from different countries; you can also purchase from Amazon etc.)

I purchased the DeskCycle Ellipse based on the reviews, the 30-day money back guarantee, and the free shipping. It’s not the cheapest or most expensive of the available machines—somewhere in the middle. It arrived about a week later, and I spent about 2 minutes putting it together. Actually, all I did was attach the foot pedals with the supplied tools, screws, and washers—everything else was done. It’s a heavy beast (about 10–15 kg), so it will likely stay under the desk. It’s also really well made and is as silent as they say it is. The only noise I hear occasionally is the creak of my chair as I’m ‘cycling’. I was concerned that the movement would push my wheeled chair away from the desk all the time, but this has never happened. However, if it did, there’s a carry handle/bar at the front you could loop a mesh strap through to tether your chair to the machine.

So, what’s it like? And has it made any difference to anything? Here are some observations from the first two weeks:

  • I found it was really easy to get used to moving my legs on the machine—I didn’t expect that.
  • I can work just like normal even though I’m moving my legs constantly—I didn’t expect that either. I thought I’d be rocking from side to side, but that hasn’t been the case, and what little body movement there’s been hasn’t impeded my ability to work.
  • The amount of time you spend moving your legs mounts up quickly, and you don’t even know it. I regularly do 3 to 6 hours of ‘pedalling’ each day, with the most on days I have work to do.
  • As it’s early days, I still have the resistance level set to 1 (as they recommend). I’ll likely increase it to 2 next week (the maximum is 8). Higher resistance = more effort = more calories burned.
  • The monitor can sit in a holder on the machine, or there’s a supplied extension cable (a good length too, perhaps 1.5–2 metres?) and a desk mount unit you can fit it to. Mine sits comfortably on the desk mount just under one of my computer monitors, and I can see at a glance how many rotations, how much time, as well as the calories expended since I last reset the monitor.
  • The monitor is battery-powered—nothing plugs into electricity.
  • You can link the monitor to a Fitbit, but I haven’t done so. However, I did set up an account with DeskCycle for inputting my monitor readings each day.
  • The monitor only records up to 99,999 rotations, so I clear it at the end of each day (press the reset button on the front for 3 seconds) after I’ve recorded my progress online. 99,999 sounds like a lot, but is probably only about 3 to 5 days of rotations, depending how long you use it each day.
  • All measurements are in calories and not kilojoules, both on the monitor and in the online account. However, they do convert miles to kilometres in the online account.
  • The online account records and calculates quite a lot of info, based on your age, weight etc. and calculates calories expended using the machine as well as just sitting. It also records daily, weekly, monthly, and all time totals for various parameters (see the screenshots below). One thing I like is how it converts your rotations into equivalent steps if you were walking—I know the recommended daily step count is 10,000 steps so that has meaning for me.
  • The online account doesn’t have an option for you to put in your time zone, so if I forget to add my details after I finish work and add them the next morning (even though I say ‘yesterday’), that’s treated as though it’s today and they get added to today’s total, so some daily totals end up being twice what they should be. I think they are using North American time zones, and it does look weird to see that my day is a negative day!
  • My knees hurt a bit for several seconds after finishing for the day, but I haven’t felt any aches in my leg muscles at all, which I get when I walk after not walking for some time. The pain in my knees could be because the foot pedals are in a straight line, whereas I have a bit of a duck walk, with my knees turning out at a bit of an angle.
  • Speaking of the foot pedals, they are nice and big (length and width) and would suit any size foot. If you rotate with your feet positioned near the top of the foot pedals, you use different muscles and I need to remember to change it up every so often. (BTW, one of the complaints I read about the DeskCycle [not the DeskCycle Ellipse, which I have] was that people with big feet would ‘hit’ the floor while cycling—that’s not possible with the Ellipse).
  • You can rotate forwards or backwards—it all counts. I have to remember to go backwards every so often.
  • The instruction manual and stickers on the foot pedals clearly tell you NOT use this machine while standing. It is only for use while sitting, either under your desk while you’re working, or while you’re watching TV etc. (I’m tempted, but I would only do this if I was holding onto a wall! Actually, I’m a bit of a chicken, so likely wouldn’t try it at all.)
  • I haven’t been using it long enough (just under two weeks) to know if it’s made any difference to my weight, but any weight loss would be a bonus, and that isn’t my objective. The objective is to move more and get the circulation flowing to combat a couple of decades of sitting. I also haven’t felt the need to eat more, as sometimes happens when I’ve tried other forms of exercise.
  • I don’t feel tired after doing all those rotations each day, and my sleep patterns haven’t changed.

Would I recommend it? Yes! Assuming all this movement is helping to keep me healthy, it’s a no-brainer for me, and I wish I’d known about these machines sooner. NOTE: Any step totals are ONLY from the machine, and need to be added to any steps I take in normal day-to-day life.

Screenshots from my online account that show my progress (all taken today, 26 Nov 2020):

Today’s progress, a whopping 17,677 steps over 6 hours (26 Nov 2020)

Daily progress – you can see it’s not hard to get to 10,000 steps most days

Weekly progress – the 8,000 steps in the first week was only from one day

Monthly progress so far, starting on 13 Nov to today (26 Nov). Based on this, I would expect to do approximately 250,000 steps per month just on the machine, which is a big jump from maybe 40,000 in normal activity working from home

Update as at 31 December 2020: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/update-on-deskcycle-ellipse-usage/

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Word: How to make popups in Word, using Word

November 26, 2020

Add another to my list of ‘I didn’t know you could do this!’ Did you know you can add tooltip-style popups for certain text when you hover over it? However, my testing since I posted this video link shows there are several issues with this (I’ve documented these results after the second video).

Here’s a 90-second YouTube video that explains how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk-n4MZIwcs

Having now tested this method (above), which uses the AutoTextList field code (results below the next video), I can’t recommend it.

Instead, I found another method that uses bookmarks and hyperlinks and that seems to work much better and give you more options for adding quite an amount of text (about 1800 characters, instead of the 255 character limit of the field code method above). And it seems to work every time. The bookmark/hyperlink method I recommend is shown in this 9.5 minute YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvtO24e9gv4):

For those interested, here are the results from my testing of the field code method (first video above). I wanted to see if the popup text:

  • retains the style of the paragraph it is in — no, but the keyword does
  • has a word or character limit — yes, 255 characters, including spaces
  • works on a phrase, not just a keyword — couldn’t test as it deleted my next attempts and left a blank space
  • can be used several times — couldn’t test as stuff kept disappearing
  • translates into popup text when you save the Word doc as PDF — no
  • translates into popup text when you save the Word doc as HTML — no
  • prints — no (and the option to print AutoText entries only prints the AutoText entries you’ve defined using the AutoText function, NOT the tooltip AutoTextList field entries)
  • adds items to your AutoText entries — no.

I also wanted to know what the \s, \t, and NoStyle items in the field code represent and if their order matters:

  • \s — ‘defines the content for the field’; this is the keyword you put into the ‘word seen’ bit of the field. It MUST go after AutoTetxtList and can either go before or after the keyword
  • \t — ‘defines the tip for the field’; this is the text you want to popup when you hover over the keyword. The order matters — this MUST go in front of the tooltip text
  • NoStyle — sets the style for the tooltip text to ‘NoStyle’. I changed this to Emphasis (a character style) and nothing happened to either the word or the tooltip text (I expected it to be styled with italics). I then set up a character style for red text and a para style for green text and tried those—nothing worked, so it looks like no matter what you set for the style, it will still be formatted as per the underlying text of the paragraph it is in. The order doesn’t matter, except that thiis MUST go after AutoTextList; I tried it in front of the ‘word seen’ bit, at the end of the field code, and the tooltip still worked.

While I got this to work a couple of times, I couldn’t get it to work consistently (I was testing with Word 365 for Windows). It has some severe limitations; for example:

  • If you change the ‘word seen’ bit at a later time, the original word you wrote remains and the new text doesn’t get recognised.
  • At times in my testing Word would delete my ‘word seen’ bit altogether and I don’t know why. I tried to add this as a field using the Quick Parts > Field options and entering the context work (keyword) and tooltip text there, but that disappeared too.
  • I found that using F9 would cause the keyword to disappear and therefore the popup didn’t work at all.
  • Without being able to style the keyword differently, this function isn’t very useful to the reader if they don’t have field shading turned on as they can’t tell which words have got tooltips associated with them except by hovering over every word.

Note: Alt+F9 toggles all the field codes on and off.

[Links last checked November 2020]

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WordPress.com: Classic editor

November 23, 2020

NOTE 1: The method below no longer works. As at the end of March 2021, it seems WordPress.com has forced us all into using the (hated by me) block editor, and I can’t see an easy way to get the Classic Editor back. However, I found out how to set up WordPress to allow you to follow the instructions below. You need to go to your profile, then change and save the dashboard appearance setting. Once you’ve done that, the information below should work. See https://wordpress.com/support/classic-editor-guide/ for further details.  

NOTE 2: Another method is to start a new post, then add ?classic-editor after the URL in the browser’s address line for the new post and press Enter. So, instead of https://YourBlogsName.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php, you get https://YourBlogsName.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?classic-editor. (I found this tip at https://anihilistabroad.com/2021/02/22/quickly-force-wordpress-classic-editor-permanently-prevent-block-editor/)

This blog and my personal blog are hosted on WordPress.com. Recently they forced everyone to use their new Block Editor for writing and editing posts. I (along with many others) HATED it. It prevented you from, you know, actually writing! Trying to figure out how to add a bullet list was an exercise in frustration, to put it mildly. Or even how to switch to HTML and write with tags. They added a Classic Editor plug-in/add-in, but you had to set it every time you wanted to write a post. It was clunky at best.

The negative reaction from users must have been so bad that they seem to have had a change of heart. Yes, the Block Editor is still the default when you select to add a new post from the dashboard, but if you go another way, you can select the Classic Editor and get the familiar interface you’ve used for years.

How to create a new post with the Classic Editor:

  1. From the Dashboard, hover over Posts and select All Posts. Do NOT select Add Post otherwise you get the Block Editor. You have to select All Posts.
    Select ALL Posts from the Posts options on the dashboard
  2. In the All Post view, click the drop-down arrow next to Add New (at the top), and choose Classic Editor.
    Select Classic Editor from the Add New drop-down list

How to edit a post with the Classic Editor:

  1. From the Dashboard, hover over Posts and select All Posts.
  2. Find the post you want to edit.
  3. Hover over its title to display the editing options.
  4. Click Classic Editor.
    Select Classic Editor from the editing options displayed when you hover over the post's title
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Word: Batch convert old DOC documents to DOCX

November 22, 2020

I was going through some folders and found quite a number of Word files in DOC format that I created before I started using Word 2007, which was when the DOCX format was introduced. While I can open each and save it as DOCX, that becomes very tedious if you have more than a few to do. Off to the internet to see if there was a macro or other way of batch converting DOC files to DOCX files.

The two that offered the most promise were a macro from the makers of Kutools (https://www.extendoffice.com/documents/word/5601-word-batch-convert-doc-to-docx.html) and a converter program (http://www.multidoc-converter.com/en/index.html). I thought I’d try the macro first, and as it worked fine for what I wanted, I didn’t download and test the converter program.

Notes about the macro:

  • When testing, put the DOC files into a temporary folder and run the macro on that folder. You can copy the resulting DOCX files to the correct folder later. Once you are confident it works as expected, you could run the macro on the original folder.
  • Subfolders are ignored. The macro only works on the selected folder.
  • All the DOC files are opened briefly, then saved as DOCX, without your intervention. Let the macro run until it finishes.
  • All the new DOCX files will have the current date as the date of creation. All original date creation and modification information will be lost, and also possibly original author information (I didn’t check this).
  • If there are already DOCX files of the same name in the folder, this process will overwrite them automatically. This isn’t usually an issue, but if at some point you manually saved a DOC file as DOCX, then modified it, the converted DOCX file will overwrite that modified file. This is why it’s advisable to do these conversions in a separate folder to the original, then copy back once done.
  • If some of the DOC files are quite old, you may get a message that it cannot save Word 95 binary files (or similar), and the macro will not run. To include these documents in the conversion, got to File > Options in Word, then select Trust Center. Click Trust Center Settings, then go to File Block Settings. Uncheck the boxes for relevant file types that the macro got hung up on. Don’t forget to change this back later!

And in case that macro ever goes missing from the website linked above, I’ve pasted it here, with some additional comments. If you use this one, copy it all—do not retype it as several lines go off the page:

Sub ConvertDocToDocx()
' Opens all DOC files in a folder and saves as DOCX files
' Asks for the folder location of the DOC files when you run the macro
' If DOCX files of the same name exist in the folder, it will overwrite them
' Recommendation: Put DOC files into a separate folder and run there
' NOTE: Converted files will have today's date---original file date is lost forever

' From: by ExtendOffice 20181128
' From (22 Nov 2020): https://www.extendoffice.com/documents/word/5601-word-batch-convert-doc-to-docx.html

    Dim xDlg As FileDialog
    Dim xFolder As Variant
    Dim xFileName As String
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    Set xDlg = Application.FileDialog(msoFileDialogFolderPicker)
    If xDlg.Show <> -1 Then Exit Sub
    xFolder = xDlg.SelectedItems(1) + "\"
    xFileName = Dir(xFolder & "*.doc", vbNormal)
    While xFileName <> ""
        Documents.Open FileName:=xFolder & xFileName, _
            ConfirmConversions:=False, ReadOnly:=False, AddToRecentFiles:=False, _
            PasswordDocument:="", PasswordTemplate:="", Revert:=False, _
            WritePasswordDocument:="", WritePasswordTemplate:="", Format:= _
            wdOpenFormatAuto, XMLTransform:=""
        ActiveDocument.SaveAs xFolder & Replace(xFileName, "doc", "docx"), wdFormatDocumentDefault
        ActiveDocument.Close
        xFileName = Dir()
    Wend
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

[Links last checked 22 November 2020]

 

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Word: Add parentheses around a footnote number

November 20, 2020

Warning: I don’t use footnotes, and my authors rarely use them so footnotes and endnotes are not something I’m familiar with in Word.

M contacted me and asked how he could change the footnote numbers in his dissertation from unadorned superscripted numbers to those same numbers but with parentheses around them. He’d done some testing and had found a Quora post (https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-remove-all-the-brackets-around-the-numbering-of-the-footnotes-in-a-Word-Document) that detailed how to get rid of them, but couldn’t figure out how to add them automatically. Doing it manually in the body of the document and in the footnote area wasn’t going to work as there were hundreds of them.

The Quora post alerted me to something I wasn’t aware of—there’s a special wildcard symbol for footnotes: ^2. Armed with that information, I opened a new Word document, added some text and inserted some footnotes into it. Then I did a find and replace using wildcards and was able to automatically insert parentheses around all the superscripted footnotes, both in the body of the document and in the footnote area.

Wildcards must be on and you must have the cursor in the main body of the document, NOT the footnotes area, then:

  • Find: (^2)
  • Replace: (\1)

What this does is find a footnote number (the ^2 bit), but so that I could reference that in the replace, I surrounded it in parentheses, thus (^2).

The replace adds an opening and closing parenthesis either side of the found number (that’s the \1 bit).

NOTES:

  • You should only run this once, once you have all footnotes in place. If there are already parentheses around some footnote numbers, you will end up with two parentheses.
  • Any new footnotes you add will NOT have the parentheses. This does NOT change how Word auto numbers footnotes.
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Word: Convert voice to text

November 10, 2020

In my previous post, I showed you how I extracted the audio (voiceover) from an MP4 Zoom presentation. Once I had the audio track as an MP3 file, I now had to look at how to convert that to text as automatically as possible. Yes, there are many tools out there that do this, but I thought I’d start with something I already had—Microsoft Word.

According to various internet sites, you just have to upload the audio file and click ‘Transcribe’. The problem was that I couldn’t find this option in my Word for Windows (Office 365). On reading closer and looking at the screenshots I found on the internet, I realised that while I didn’t have this option available in my installed copy of Word, it WAS available in the online version of Word available from my Office online account, which I rarely use.

Some of these instructions may vary for you, depending on how you have your One Drive / Office online account set up. Also, I couldn’t get this transcribe function to work in Chrome, but it did work in Firefox.

  1. Log in to your OneDrive / Office online account.
  2. Click the icon that shows the list of Office apps.
  3. Select Word then open a new (blank) document.
  4. Click Dictate button on the far right of the ribbon, then select Transcribe from the available options. 
  5. Click Upload Audio, then navigate to and select the audio file you want to transcribe.
  6. Wait. It can take about an hour to transcribe an hour-long audio file of speech; the progress bar shows how much has been done. 
  7. Once the audio file is converted, the transcribed text will either be in the Word document or ready to paste into the Word document.
  8. Save this document as you would normally (Optional: download it to your computer).
  9. Edit the file, as required.

[Links last checked November 2020]

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How to extract the audio from an MP4 file

November 10, 2020

I had a Zoom recording of a presentation I’d done for a webinar. I was really happy with the audio that accompanied the slides and I wanted to extract it, delete the parts that were specific to that webinar, and then re-use it. In the end, however, I ended up just extracting the audio and transcribing it with Word, then editing that transcription and using it as the basis of a script for another recording.

This post is about getting the audio out of the MP4 recording. I’ve done another on using Word to automatically convert it into text (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/11/10/word-convert-voice-to-text/).

I used the Windows version of Avidemux (free; available here: http://avidemux.sourceforge.net/download.html), and it took less than 2 minutes to save the audio track from an hour-long presentation.

  1. Open Avidemux.
  2. Open the MP4 file you want to extract the audio from (File > Open, navigate to and select the MP4 file).
  3. Select the Audio Output type from the drop-down list on the left (I chose MP3).
  4. Select Audio > Save Audio from the menu. 
  5. Navigate to where you want to save the audio, give the file a name, then click Save.

Once you have the audio track, you can do other things with it. For example, you might want to keep it intact, but cut bits from the beginning or end, or anywhere within the recording (Audacity is good for this). Or you might want to cut it up into separate audio files, one for each slide (again, I’d look at using Audacity for this; it’s not something I’ve done, but I expect it’s possible). Or you might want to import the audio track into Word and get Word to automatically convert it into text to use as a script (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/11/10/word-convert-voice-to-text/). 

[Links last checked November 2020]

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Word: How to find the Organizer window

November 10, 2020

It’s been 10 years since I last wrote specifically about the Organizer in Word, so it’s time for an update. What triggered this post was someone lamenting on a editors’ Facebook group that the Organizer window was really hard to find in later versions of Word.

Well, yes it is, but that’s always been the case. It was never something that you could find on a ribbon or on a menu (pre ribbon days). So this post details all the ways you can access the Organizer in Word for Windows (Office 365), and even some tips on how to make it more readily accessible if you use it often.

(For those not familiar with the Organizer, it’s a quick way to copy styles and macros from one Word document to another.)

Paths to open the Organizer window:

  • Templates and Add-ins window: Developer tab > Document template > Templates tab — bottom left corner of the window has the Organizer button, which opens the Organizer window (how to add the Developer tab: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/word-2010-developer-tab/)
  • Manage Styles window: Styles pane (Alt+Ctrl+Shift+s) > Manage Styles icon to the immediate left of the Options button at the bottom of the Styles pane — bottom left corner of the window has the Import/Export button, which opens the Organizer window
  • Macros window: Alt+F8 to open the Macros window (or View tab > Macros) — Organizer button on the right at the bottom opens the Organizer window.

In addition to these paths, you could also assign a keyboard shortcut to open the Organizer window, or add it as a Quick Access Toolbar icon, or add it as a button on one of your ribbons (or a customised ribbon):

[Links last checked November 2020]