Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

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Methods for converting a scanned image of text into text

February 7, 2017

A few years ago, I documented how to use Adobe Acrobat’s optical character recognition (OCR) function to convert an image of text into actual text you can edit. I’ve since found other (free) methods to do this; hopefully one of these may work for you. My preferred method is OneNote, because it’s quick and easy and secure (if you’re using Microsoft Office installed on your computer).

NOTES:

  • None of the methods I tried gave 100% perfect results (but then, paid-for OCR software isn’t 100% either), but all were much quicker and easier than retyping the text. You’ll need to compare the results against the original PDF/image and fix the (hopefully few) errors that didn’t convert.
  • Online services have the added risk that you don’t know what happens to the files you upload, so be aware that there may be a ‘cost’ for ‘free’.

Use online conversion software

A quick and free option is available from http://www.onlineocr.net. You can upload and convert up to 15 PDFs/images (up to 5 MB per file) per hour without registering; you have to register if you want to do more than that. Outputs include Microsoft Word, Excel, and plain text.

I found it quick and easy to use, and the results were acceptable.

Use Google Docs

If you have a Google account, use your Google Drive. Then follow these instructions: https://support.google.com/drive/answer/176692?hl=en. (If this link no longer works, do this: Upload your image file to your Google Drive, then right-click on the image and select Open with > Google Docs.)

Once you’ve converted the image to a document, you’ll see the original image at the top of the document and might assume nothing has happened. Scroll down — you’ll find the converted text below the original image.

Use Microsoft Office OneNote

Add the image into OneNote. Right-click on it and select Copy text from Picture. Then paste it into Microsoft Word, Notepad, or whatever text editing or word processing software you use (you can also post it into OneNote).

OneNote comes with Microsoft Office, so if you have Office, this is a really easy method — you don’t need a Google account, and you don’t need to use an online service where you have no idea what happens to the files you submit.

 

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Outlook: Lost the preview pane and minimized to the title bar only

January 16, 2017

Something went askew with my Outlook — I only had a title bar when minimized, so had to maximize the window to see my emails. And instead of getting a list of emails with a preview of each in the lower part of the screen as I clicked on each one, I could only get the list of emails OR the current email fully displayed, not how I had it before. I don’t know what happened or why, but I was able to solve both issues with a bit of Googling.

Resize the Outlook window

I could maximize the window fully, but when I restored the window size it went to just a title bar. I could drag a handle to make the title bar wider or narrower, but I couldn’t pull down the corners to display the window.

Solution: Drag the title bar to either the right or left edge of the window. You get a ghost outline of the new window dimensions, so release the mouse. You should now have a workable window you can resize to your requirements.

Restore the Preview pane

No matter what I set in Outlook’s View tab > Reading Pane settings, I could only get either ALL my emails listed (with the unread ones showing about 3 lines of the email) , or get a single email listed with the details of the sender in the lower half of the window. My usual way of viewing emails is a single line list on the right (whether read or not; #1 in the screenshot below), a preview of the email in the middle part of the screen (#2), and the sender’s details and other communications in the lower part of the screen (#3). No matter what I set, I couldn’t get my usual view back.

outlook preview pane

I found the solution that worked for me here: http://community.spiceworks.com/topic/198544-outlook-reading-pane-turns-off-each-time-outlook-is-closed

In case this webpage ever goes missing, here’s what to do:

  1. Close Outlook.
  2. From the Start button (I’m using Windows 7, so vary this for the version of Windows you’re running), type Run then click the Run program.
  3. In the Open field on the Run dialog box, type outlook.exe /cleanviews (Note: there’s a space after exe but no other spaces).
  4. Click OK.
  5. If this works for you as it did for me, Outlook should reopen with your preview pane back as it was. Adjust the heights of the preview pane elements to suit.

outlook_preview_pane02

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Word: Find and replace multiple spaces after punctuation

December 21, 2016

You receive a document that has multiple spaces after standard punctuation — periods, commas, semicolons, colons, question marks, and exclamation marks. Sometimes the author used two spaces, sometimes three, sometimes five!

How to fix it?

Well, you can run several find/replace routines but as the number of spaces is unknown and as there are many types of punctuation, that could take quite a lot of time. Instead, you can use a wildcard find/replace routine to find them all at once, keep the punctuation, and replace the unknown number of spaces with a single space. Here’s how (for your own peace of mind, test this on a COPY of your document first):

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button to show more find/replace options.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find what field, type: ([,.;:\?\!])( {2,9})
    NOTE: There’s a single space before the {2 — make sure you include that. To be safe, copy the ‘code’ in this step, and paste it into your Find what field.
  5. In the Replace with field, type: \1 followed immediately by a single space.
  6. Click Find Next to find the first instance, then Replace to replace the multiple spaces with a single space.
  7. Repeat step 6 as many times as you need to be confident that it’s finding the right things. Once you’re confident, click Replace All to run through the whole document and fix all instances.

Use wildcards to find and replace multiple spaces after defined punctation

Explanation for how this works:

  • ([,.;:\?\!]) looks for any of the listed punctuation characters. Question and exclamation marks are special cases and need to be ‘escaped’ with a \. Because you’re using wildcards, you need to surround the text you want to find in parentheses. This string defines the first section of the Find.
  • ( {2-9}) looks for a space followed by two or more spaces, up to 9 spaces (you can put whatever numbers you like inside the curly braces — if you think you might have some instances of punctuation followed by 15 spaces, then change these numbers to {2-20}, for example. Again, this section is surrounded by parentheses to define it as a separate section.
  • \1 replaces the first part of the wildcard string with itself. In other words, the punctuation character found is replaced with itself, so no change apparently occurs.
  • The space after \1 replaces the multiple spaces found in the second part of the wildcard string with a single space.
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Using Avidemux to split a video file

December 11, 2016

This blog post is for me, in case I forget how to do these steps! If it helps you, well and good, but it’s part of my brain dump for myself as it’s is only something I’ve done once before and had to relearn it for the second time I needed to use it.

Problem

My Samsung TV is from 2010, so it isn’t a ‘smart’ TV. Occasionally, we watch videos from an external hard drive. However, I think my TV has problems with large files (anything much over 2GB). No matter the format of the files (MP4, MKV, AVI etc.) they won’t even show on the TV as existing, if they’re over ~2GB (I’m not sure what the magic number is but it’s a tad more than 2GB but substantially less than 3GB). I did some Google searches and found that it could be the format of the hard drive — so I tried reformatting a spare hard drive as exFAT, FAT32, and NTFS, as recommended in various forums. Nothing worked. Still the >2GB files wouldn’t show.

What I needed to do was split the video files into smaller chunks, each less than 2Gb in size. Enter Avidemux.

Solution

I used Avidemux because I already had it and had used it once before for something quite some time ago. I had to relearn what to do, so for my future self, here’s how to split a large video file into smaller chunks.

Environment: Windows 7, Avidemux 2.6.8 – 64 bit

  1. Load the file into Avidemux (either drag and drop from the folder or use File > Open).
  2. If displayed, wait a minute or two until the two progress bar screens are finished.
  3. Check the settings on the left side of the Avidemux screen: Video and Audio Output – Copy; Output Format – select the same as the original file (e.g. MP4, MKV)

    avidemux01

  4. Use the slider or playback controls to get to the starting point of the new clip.
  5. Click A.
    avidemux02
  6. Use the slider or playback controls to get to the end point of the new clip.
  7. Click B. The new clip is bounded by a blue box in the slider area.
    avidemux03
  8. Go to File > Save, then navigate to where you want to save your new clip.
  9. Give it a file name, then click Save. The recording will start and take a few minutes.
  10. When finished, you can either create another clip (as you would if you’re splitting a large file), or close the file. To create another clip, click A again then repeat steps 6 to 9.

 

 

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Word: Cross-Reference Manager add-in: Review

August 26, 2016

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post pleading with Microsoft to fix/enhance the cross-reference functionality in Word. Others commented on that post, offering their own suggestions and venting their frustrations with it as well.

Well, someone did see that post and has done something about it, though they aren’t from Microsoft. Lene Fredborg from DocTools (and a Microsoft Word MVP) has written a Cross-reference Manager (CRM) add-in to Word that addresses all my woes, and more. It costs just under US$50 per license for 1 to 4 licenses, and the price per license goes down the more licenses you buy.

Several months ago, Lene asked me to beta test the add-in and make suggestions. Anyone who’s done beta testing knows that process takes longer than expected with the to-ing and fro-ing over time. My tests were done on a 200+ page, 73,000-word document that had more than 350 cross-references, so I really put it through its paces! Lene released the final version in July.

In the interests of transparency, yes, because of my contribution via beta testing I have a free license for my copy of the add-in, but I was not asked to do this review, nor do I receive any financial benefit from it. My aim is to let my readers know that it exists and to test it out for themselves (there’s a 15-day free trial period).

So, on to the review…

Who is the add-in for?

This add-in is for anyone using Microsoft Word on a PC (NOT Mac or tablet versions), from Word 2007 onwards. For those of us who work with long complex Word documents where we use automated caption numbering, outline heading numbering, and the like, and need to insert multiple automated cross-references (to tables, figures, sections, appendices, references etc.) into our documents, CRM is a major improvement on Microsoft’s Cross-reference dialog box.

However, if you don’t use cross-references, or only do a few per document, CRM is probably not for you.

What happens to my ribbon?

Once installed, CRM doesn’t replace the in-built Cross-reference dialog box; instead, it lives on a new DocTools tab (Manage Cross-references group) on the ribbon. You can use whichever you prefer — you aren’t forced to use one or the other.

You can add the functions on the DocTools ribbon to the Quick Access Toolbar by right-clicking on the function and selecting Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Note: DocTools makes other Word add-ins, which get added to the same ribbon but in different groups.

What does it do?

CRM adds a huge amount of functionality to cross-referencing in Word. Essentially, it’s cross-referencing on steroids! It addresses most (all?) of the issues I raised in that post from 2010, and issues raised in several of the comments on that post, as well as other issues that frustrated Lene.

There are three icons in the Manage Cross-references group of the DocTools tab:

  • Insert Cross-references:
    • Use this instead of the standard Microsoft dialog box.
    • Has a filter function to just show items with the character you type (e.g. type ‘3’ to see all Headings with a ‘3’ in their outline numbering, such as 2.3, 2.13, 3.1, 3.2, etc.)
    • Can resize the dialog box and increase the number of items displayed at once.
    • Can set your cross-reference defaults from this screen (as well as via Tools).
    • Target types don’t separate Figures, Tables, Equations — the more sensible Captions is used, and then you select the type of caption.
    • Your most recent settings are retained for the next cross-reference you add.
  • Cross-reference Tools:
    • All sorts of functions to identify and fix broken cross-references. (Note: Any highlighting you add/remove via the tools will NOT change any existing highlighting you’ve added to the document for other purposes.)
    • Set defaults for the Insert Cross-references dialog box.
    • Set custom text to go in front of a cross-reference (e.g. ‘See Section’ xx.xx; ‘Refer to’ Table xx-xx; etc.)
    • Update all fields.
    • Toggle display settings for field shading, bookmarks etc. (much quicker than doing it via Word’s Options dialog box)
    • And many many more…. (see the More Details tab on the webpage for CRM for full descriptions of all functions, screenshots etc.: http://www.wordaddins.com/products/cross-references-word_doctools-crossreferencemanager/)
  • Help: Lene has written a very comprehensive Help file to go with CRM. Read it to see all the things CRM can do — I only skim over the main functions in this review.

Summary

This is a terrific add-in that improves on Microsoft’s own cross-referencing function, and makes it much easier to assign cross-references. It’s a great tool for all power Word users.

I highly recommend it.

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Word: Assign keyboard shortcut to paste unformatted text

August 11, 2016

I’ve previously written about using toolbar icons, macros, or other features of Word to paste copied text as unformatted text (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/word-keyboard-shortcut-to-paste-unformatted-text/ and https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/word-2010-keyboard-shortcut-to-paste-unformatted-text/).

However, if you have to do this a lot, there’s another, much easier, way — assign a keyboard shortcut to the ‘paste as unformatted text’ command.

Note: As far as I’m aware you can do this in all versions of Word from at least Word 2010 onwards.

  1. Open Word.
  2. On the File menu, click Options to open the Word Options dialog box.
  3. Click Customize ribbon in the left panel.
  4. Below the left panel of commands, click the Customize button (next to Keyboard shortcuts) to open the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  5. Scroll down the list of Categories (top left box) to All commands and select it (number 1 in the screenshot below).
  6. In the Commands list (top right box), type p to get to the commands starting with ‘p’.
  7. Scroll down to PasteTextOnly and select it (2 in the screenshot).
  8. In the Press new shortcut key field, PRESS the keys you want to use for this shortcut. Do NOT type them. For example, if you want the keyboard shortcut to be Alt+p+t (‘p’ for paste, ‘t’ for text), then press those keys as though you were using them in the document. They will display in the field similar to this: Alt+P,T (3 in the screenshot).
  9. Checked that Currently assigned to has [unassigned] next to it. If it doesn’t, then the key combination you chose is already used for something else and you’ll have to assign a new combination in the Press new shortcut key field.
    paste_text_only
  10. Click Assign (4 in the screenshot). The new keyboard shortcut will shift into the Current keys box.
  11. Click Close.
  12. Click OK to close the Word Options dialog box.
  13. Test your keyboard shortcut by copying some formatted text from another source (web page, another document, etc.), then use the keyboard shortcut you just assigned to paste it into your Word document as unformatted text.

[Links last checked August 2016]

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Visio: Open two windows

August 5, 2016

I’ve been doing a bit of work with Visio files for my main client. I am NOT a Visio expert in anyone’s imagination, least of all mine!

One of the things that’s frustrated me as I’ve tried to copy objects from one Visio diagram to another is that, by default, Visio only opens a single instance of the program, with each file within the same window. This is REALLY frustrating when you have two monitors and want your files side-by-side for comparison or copying purposes. There had to be a way to open the files in separate windows that you could move around the screen(s). And there is.

There are a couple of simple ways to do this, which I’ll discuss here. There’s also a way to do it via a Registry setting so that Visio always opens a new window each time you open a file. I won’t discuss that method — you can Google it.

The instructions below are for Windows 7 and Visio 2010, though I believe the same/similar techniques also work in later versions.

Simple method 1

  1. Open Visio from the Programs list off the Start button.
  2. Repeat step 1.
  3. Once you have your two instances open (yes, you can have more — just keep repeating Step 1), use File > Open or File > Recent to open an existing file.

Simple method 2

  1. Open Visio.
  2. Hold down the Shift key as you click the Visio icon in the taskbar — this opens a new instance of Visio.
  3. Once you have your two instances open (for more, repeat Step 2), use File > Open or File > Recent to open an existing file.

Simple method 3

  1. Open Visio.
  2. Right-click the Visio icon in the taskbar and select Microsoft Visio — this opens a new instance of Visio.
  3. Once you have your two instances open (for more, repeat Step 2), use File > Open or File > Recent to open an existing file.