Archive for May, 2022

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Word to PDF: Table of Contents not clickable

May 6, 2022

One of my clients had a situation where the table of contents (TOC) in their Word document did not become a clickable (linked) TOC in the PDF they created from it. By default, it should. because the standard settings for clickable links in a PDF are to include the usual Heading styles from Word. They had used standard Heading styles, so there was no reason why they shouldn’t be linked. Other elements such as cross-references to sections, appendices, tables, and figures all worked fine in the PDF, but not the TOC entries.

I checked their TOC settings and there I found the reason and the solution. NOTE: You can’t open these TOC settings if you’ve inserted a default (Microsoft-supplied) TOC from the References tab—you must have inserted a custom TOC.

  1. Open the Table of Contents window (References tab > Table of Contents > Custom Table of Contents).
  2. Make sure the Use hyperlinks… checkbox is selected. This checkbox is selected by default, so if it’s been turned off at some point, turn it on.
  3. Click OK.

Now, create your PDF—the TOC in the PDF should now be clickable.

Update June 2022: For a full discussion of the different PDF outputs when you Save as or Print to PDF from Word, see this excellent article: https://office-watch.com/2022/choices-make-a-pdf-file-save-or-print/

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Looking for a new password manager: Part 4: mSecure

May 4, 2022

I left testing mSecure until last, as I explained in Part 1. Because I have quite specific requirements, most of the main password managers I tested just didn’t fit the bill. LastPass was the main contender, followed by 1Password (now uninstalled), and Dashlane was out. Others that I’d seen reviews for in online articles, comparisons, and YouTube videos that showed how they worked, had eliminated themselves from contention because they didn’t offer the flexibility I’m familiar with (thank you to those who commented offering their suggestions). mSecure had been recommended by Dataviz, the makers of Passwords Plus (PP), and they had assured us that all our data would be imported seamlessly. Well, there were import problems for the early adopters, but the mSecure people sorted those out within a few days. I waited a week or so to let the teething troubles settle down, but today was the day.

It didn’t start well. You can only get the mSecure Windows app via the Microsoft Store, which I’ve never used before. I tried to download it via the Microsoft Store using my browser (Chrome), but my ‘device’ (PC) was not recognised, so I went in via that device (Start button, Store) to get it. This is a VERY convoluted way to get a product!!! especially if you have more than one Microsoft ID as I do, which is why I reverted to the Microsoft Store via my PC. Once it downloaded and installed itself, I tried to find it as I keep all my EXE files on my server—it seems it’s in a hidden folder on the C drive: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps. But once you get there, you’re locked out of seeing what’s in that folder even if you have hidden files turned on and have Admin privileges for your PC. As I said, not a good start. I like to have control of where an app is installed and where the executable is in case I have to reinstall etc. That’s likely a hangover from nearly 40 years of using computers, but it’s something I’ve always done (which is rather silly because I don’t worry about this stuff on my tablet or phone!).

So, to my mSecure review based on testing my exported PP CSV file and the things I want my new password manager to do. There’s no point in purchasing an app if I’m going to LOSE functionality, or an app where I have to have things in different places because there’s no flexibility in how the data is entered or stored.

Here are the results of my testing (no particular priority order):

  • mSecure has a Windows app, which is where I did my testing. I haven’t tested it on my Android tablet or phone as yet.
  • ALL my records from PP were imported in about 2 secs! Everything came through—all my notes, my custom fields, everything. All my existing categories from PP came in as tags. This is a HUGE win.
  • You can add fields and attachments to records, and there are numerous field types to choose from too. You can add/delete/edit fields from records based on templates too—once you’ve created the record, the fields are divorced from the template’s fields and any changes you make to the record are not reflected back in the template. You can change any field labels.
  • You can auto backup to a local file location after every 5 changes you make to your password manager file (under Settings).
  • You aren’t forced into using the company’s cloud storage for synching—you can keep your database just on your own machine (likely no synch with phone app, but not tested), in Dropbox, iCloud, or in their cloud. I chose their cloud, but you can change this setting at any time.
  • You can add your own templates (via Settings), and you can modify existing templates, including adding/deleting/editing fields and their labels, rearranging fields. There are many existing templates to choose from too.
  • Some of the icons are a bit confusing and some don’t have tooltips to tell you what they do, which is a bit disconcerting for those icons where the image doesn’t give any clue as to the function. I tested the circular icon with an arrow in it at the top of a record to see what it did—it opened a new email with all the contents of that record included in it.
  • On a record, you click the eye icon for the password field to show the password, but there’s also an eye icon at the top of the record to show any field that’s normally hidden on the record. And if you’re still in the same session, the show/hide eye icon persists across records so you don’t have to click it on every record.
  • You can set the time before the program logs you out and you have to enter your master password again. The default is 2 mins, but you can make it shorter or longer. You can also tell the system to lock you out totally if more than x failed attempts are made for the master password—and you can set it to never locking you out too.
  • You can add multiple tags to any record.
  • You can apply an existing template to an existing record—the existing fields are kept and the fields in the template that aren’t already used are added. However, check things like expiry date for things like the credit card template as that may take the date the records were imported. See further info on dates below.
  • You can change field labels, even after applying a different template to an existing record.
  • Check everything! (this would apply to any import of critical information such as that kept in a password manager). I noticed that one credit card record got the fields mixed up (e.g. I had 4 Mastercard records—some had the same PINs across each that weren’t applicable, along with the correct PIN). NOTE: If I went with one of the other programs I tested, I would’ve had to do all the data entry via copy/paste, so checking is a much simpler process in mSecure, though it will take time for nearly 500 records. In the first batch of 30 or so records I’ve checked so far, I’ve found no errors. (Update 10 May 2022: I’ve now checked all ~500 records and less than 2% had errors, and these were minor.)
  • More on dates:
    • Because it’s a Windows app, it correctly uses the same date format as your Windows settings (i.e. dd/mm/yyyy for me).
    • When you’re editing a record, especially an imported one, check any date fields as the date you entered in PP may not hold in Edit mode—to solve this, I opened PP next to mSecure and manually re-entered the dates.
    • Also, be aware that you cannot type a date—you have to use the date picker. This is no problem for recent additions, but at first I thought you couldn’t easily go back via years (e.g. to select a date in 2000, I thought you’d have to go back 22 (years) x 12 (months) clicks to get to it). But then I found that if you click the year in the top of the date picker, you get a list of years to choose from, and if you click the month, you get a list of months to choose from.
  • You can give each record an icon to help you identify similar things in the long lists (e.g. a house icon for things to do with your house), where an icon hasn’t been found on the internet for the thing (e.g. an Airbnb record will show the Airbnb icon without you having to do anything, but you could change it to a generic travel icon if you wished).

My overall assessment after a couple of hours of testing—mSecure is the one for me! I’m on day 1 of a 30-day trial, so I’ll continue checking my records and cleaning them up as I go (something I should have done in PP a while back), then once I’m happy with my database, I’ll try linking to the Android app on my phone and tablet and report back.

Update (5 May 2022): The CSV export from mSecure exports EVERYTHING, including all notes. I’m up to Day 2 of my trial and up to ‘F’ in checking the entries against PP, and so far NOTHING has been lost or mixed up.

Update (10 May 2022): I’ve now checked EVERY entry against those in PP, and of the ~500 passwords I imported, only 2 were missing (no idea why), another 2 had mixed up info (possibly because one record was duplicated from another in PP?) and a further 4 didn’t have their notes. So, some 8 (let’s be generous and say 10) records were either missing, had missing info, or had mixed up info, which is 2%, so 98% of records came through without error. Not bad. My next checks will be installing mSecure on my laptop and accessing the database from there, and also on my Android tablet and phone. Assuming that all works well, I’ll be purchasing this software before the trial is over.

Update (21 May 2022): Today I bit the bullet and installed mSecure on my laptop and signed in (you will need your username, password, AND the QR code or [incredibly long] authentication key you got and printed out when you set up your account to sign into another device). Everything synched beautifully. Then I installed the mSecure app on my Android tablet and Android phone—again, everything synched beautifully once I’d signed in and authenticated myself with the camera on these devices reading the printed QR code. You only have to do this authentication thing once on each device—after that, you can just sign in with your username and password. And because my testing was so successful and I’m now using the mSecure app instead of PP, I also purchased an annual subscription (with the bonus of a 25% discount for previous Dataviz PP clients).

You can find out more about mSecure here: https://www.msecure.com/ (if you want to use the Windows app, it may be easier to get it via the Microsoft Store in Windows—just search for mSecure; use Google Play to get it for Android devices)

NOTE: This is MY assessment based on MY needs. Your needs may be very different to mine, so your choice of a password manager will likely be different too.

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Looking for a new password manager: Part 3: Dashlane

May 3, 2022

In Part 1 of this series of posts, I told you what I was looking for in a password manager, and documented some of the failings of the first one I tested—1Password. I haven’t ruled out 1Password yet as it does have a Windows app, and that’s what I’m used to. I’m a bit wary of web-based apps only. In Part 2 I tested LastPass, and despite it being web-based only, I haven’t ruled it out entirely yet either as it has some compelling customisation features.

My next test was Dashlane (limit of 50 passwords for the free version). As for the others, I didn’t download the Android app for it (I’m only doing initial testing so far), but I did install the browser extension as it was required. My first tests were to see how easy the interface was to use (very), whether I could import my Passwords Plus (PP) data (no), what sort of template/categories it used (limited and not customisable), whether I could customise fields/field labels to suit my data (not at all) etc.

Here are the results of my testing (no particular priority order):

  • No separate Windows app. As for LastPass, this might be a showstopper* for me. The browser app (I use Chrome) was easy to use and navigate.
  • I tried to import my exported Password plus (PP) CSV file that contains ~500 records, but wouldn’t import as it said it was incompatible and ‘contained formatting errors’. It also wouldn’t import the converted 1Password 1PIF file I had successfully imported into LastPass but couldn’t import into 1Password. All records would have to be entered manually, not a task I relish. There didn’t seem to be any paths for importing data from other password managers, but I only investigated these two.
  • As part of my testing, I exported the few records I added for testing purposes. There are two export options—one to a DASH file for reimport into Dashlane, and one for CSV. I chose CSV export, and a ZIP file was created that contained about 5 or so CSV files, one for each type of record. NONE of the CSV files contained any of the notes I’d added. Notes are critical for me.
  • Record types: As for most password managers, Dashlane has several broad types of records you can create, some with subtypes. I could see no options to create new types or subtypes, new categories (for those where categories was an option), or to add new fields to an existing record. This is a major requirement of mine, and the lack of this functionality eliminates Dashlane from contention. For anyone still considering Dashlane, I’ve added the notes I took when checking out the record types and ease of data entry:
    • Passwords: Has categories (Business, Email, Entertainment, Finance, Games, News, Other, Shopping, Social Media, Sports, Tech, Travel, Utilities), but no option to add new categories. Has a Notes field, but no option to add other fields, such as the date you set up the password. The Notes field is minuscule in the display, only about 25 characters width (see screenshot below), so if you have extensive notes (as I do), it resizes the length to adapt, but you can’t resize the width for easier reading and navigation.
    • IDs:
      • ID card: Year fields for the issue and expiry dates are in ascending chronological order starting from 1922 and going to 2122, so you’ve got a LONG way to scroll to get to anything recent. You can’t type in the field either, only scroll. And there’s no calendar date picker either. When I did enter a year (I didn’t have day and month information), it added the CURRENT day and month automatically, and I can’t change that to just a year with no day or month. Also, the day and month were in Month/Day order, which is not the date format I’m familiar with. There is no option or setting that I could find to change that.
      • Social Security Number is not called that in Australia, yet Australia was the default country when I tried to add one of these. We call it something else, but you can’t change the label from Social Security Number to Centrelink Number, for example. Again, no Notes field or other fields for adding further details about this info such as when you applied, when it was approved, URL/email/phone number for contacting them etc.
      • Tax number, drivers license, and passport: No Notes field, and for passport, no field for country of citizenship or place of birth or gender identity, which is part of a standard passport.
    • Payments:
      • Debit and credit cards: There is a Notes field available when adding debit/credit card details, and a seemingly useless option to pick a colour of the credit card from a drop-down list. I have no idea why that would be needed, nor what you would do if your credit card’s colour isn’t one of the 9 colours listed?
      • Bank account: There is NO Notes field for bank account details, which means you can’t store all info about your bank details in one place (e.g. I might want to keep a record of previous passwords used, or the phone number of the bank if calling from overseas). This means you have to have ANOTHER record for the bank under Secure Notes—you can’t keep all that information together. Interestingly, the empty bank form defaulted to ‘Australia’ as my country, but the field labels (which CANNOT be changed) do not reflect those used by the Australian banking system, so there was a BIC/SWIFT code field and an IBAN field, but no field for BSB or Account Number. Even if these are equivalents, the average Australian would have no clue about BIC/SWIFT and IBAN numbers. Again, there is no option to add notes or add fields.
    • Personal information:
      • Email: You can only add very basic information—the email address, the type of email (Personal or Business only), and you can name the email (by default, Email 1). You have to add separate entries for each email address and cannot add notes such as when you set up the email or where you use it (e.g. you may have some email addresses that you use as ‘throwaways’ on websites you’re not sure of).
      • Same for phone number information etc. Separate records for each phone number.
      • One nice thing for the address subtype is that if you change the country, the relevant states for that country get populated in the State field (by default it opens with US/Alabama, but change it to Australia and you get the Australian states and territories listed. Address also has a ‘Phone’ field with a drop-down where the ONLY option is ‘Other’—there’s no facility to add a phone number of any type to an address.
      • The display of all these is with large icons for each record and I couldn’t see any way to list them with smaller (or no) icons to fit far more on the visible page.
    • Secure Notes has some categories: Databases, Finance, Legal documents, Membership, Other, Application passwords, Personal, Server, Software licenses, WiFi passwords, Work related, but I couldn’t find any way to add a new category. Categories appear to be just like a tag—they don’t do anything, such as offer a template of relevant fields for entering the type of data. But they do display as a (sortable?) column on the page that shows a list of all Secure Notes. A Secure Note seems to just be a notepad for everything else. There are NO fields and no opportunity for adding fields (e.g. date field, password field, email field etc.). You can change categories for any entered record at any time, and colour code the secure note according to how you work. Colour codes are NOT associated with type of category, so you could have one colour for Person A’s info and another for Person B’s info in the same category of ‘Personal’. Again, the display has largish icons for each note, so for my potentially 500 records, there’s a LOT of scrolling to go through the list (yes, there’s a search facility but I didn’t check if words within the notes were searchable—I have assumed they are).

After I finished testing, I deleted my Dashlane account as it is not at all suitable for my purposes. In addition to adding ~500 records manually, I’d have to add many twice, with a separate Secure Note record required to capture all the information that isn’t able to be stored with the main details—that just doesn’t seem efficient to me and would mean I’d have to look in two places to get all the details. But not being able to create templates, customise categories, add fields etc. is also a deal breaker for me.

My final test will be of mSecure, the one PP recommends as a good substitute.

Note: One of the early commenters on this series of posts recommended Roboform Everywhere. I looked at their website and some reviews and comparison articles, as well as YouTube videos on how to use it, but I could see it wouldn’t suit me so I haven’t tested it.

* Note: ‘Showstopper’ is a common term in the software industry and refers to a bug that prevents the system from working, or a piece of functionality that doesn’t work as it should and prevents the user from going further, either because the function is broken or because it is deemed essential *for that user*.

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Lost Facebook feed

May 3, 2022

A few days ago I lost my Facebook (FB) feed on my Chrome browser on my PC. I could see all the framework of the Facebook page, could see that notifications had come in, but when I opened those pages, they were blank too. This is what I saw for hours on end:

Neither rebooting the browser or my PC worked. I figured I’d wait for 24 hours to see if FB sorted itself out, as has happened before when FB goes awry. I knew that members of the various groups I’m in had complained the day or so before that their feeds had reverted to show quite old posts first, so I figured this may be related.

But then I opened FB on Chrome in my tablet (I do NOT use the FB app at all as I hate it), and it worked fine. Hmmm… something was different in Windows/Chrome compared to Android/Chrome. I have FB Purity and AdBlock Plus on my PC but there aren’t versions for Chrome on Android. I tried the easiest one first—I turned off AdBlock Plus for the FB page in Chrome on my PC and suddenly my feed came back!

I figured I’d wait a couple of days before trying AdBlock Plus on FB again to see if it still killed the feed, or if they’d fixed the incompatibility—it’s now fixed for the moment.

According to this blog post from AdBlock Plus, this back-and-forth between them and FB has been going on a while: https://blog.adblockplus.org/blog/ping-pong-with-facebook