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Windows Tips

Computer industry news source ZDNet published an article today called “Microsoft security research paints bleak picture for XP users”. You can click on the title to read the whole report, or you can save yourself some time and just peruse our executive summary:

  • Windows XP was released in October 2001. That’s 12 years ago, which is forever in computer years. But, as Windows versions go, XP has been a rock-solid workhorse. Thrifty users, both individuals and businesses, who don’t have a pressing need to upgrade to the latest and greatest new software, have hung onto Windows XP and milked it for all it’s worth.
  • That ride is coming to an end. You can still continue to use your antiquated XP, but do so at your own risk. Microsoft will stop issuing security updates for it in April of next year. Once the last Windows XP patch is issued, unpatched vulnerabilities will begin to emerge. With no one watching the store, the bad guys will loot and pillage to their hearts’ content.
  • Even before all this happens, the vulnerability situation for XP users is bad compared to later versions of Windows. Microsoft has steadily incorporated new defensive technologies into Windows with each new version. Windows XP is 12 years behind in that defensive technology. As such, Windows XP users are many times more likely than Windows 8 users to become infected with malware. The number of vulnerabilities in Windows XP has steadily increased over the last few years. Things will get worse — much worse — when Microsoft stops releasing security patches in April.

The moral of the story is that it’s time for every XP user who is connected to the Internet or who receives files of any kind from any outside source to make plans to scrap their beloved operating system and make the move to Windows 8 (or at least to Windows 7 if you can still find it). XP has become a “bad neighborhood” for system security, a magnet for malware. It’s time to pull up stakes and head to higher ground.

On the bright side, Windows 7 and 8 open up the bold new world of 64-bit computing. Windows XP was a 32-bit operating system, a 32-lane data highway so to speak. (OK, there was a 64-bit version of XP, but it was rare. Who needed 64 bits in 2001?) It moved data around in 32-bit (4 byte) chunks. Windows 7 and 8 come in both 32-bit and 64-bit variations.  Take the 64-bit option.  It allows your system to access more memory, it runs all of your 32-bit software, and it opens the door to 64-bit software. Notably, the newest versions of Adobe’s Creative Cloud software require a 64-bit operating system, so go with the 64-bit option and hopefully you won’t have to upgrade your operating system for another 12 years.

But don’t count on it.

Easy BlocksMany of you might remember Maggie Timmons. She was our office manager for a few years awhile back. She left us to return to the family business – a great tourist attraction and hobby shop in Marblehead. Check out Train-O-Rama when you’re in the area. Or make a special trip. It’s worth the visit. (They have  Ohio’s largest operating multi-gauge model railroad display that’s open to the public.)
Maggie still helps us out occasionally and she’s frequently sending me tips she comes across in her tech reading. Here’s two helpful tips for Win 8.

Add a Start Button
I recently purchased a new laptop. New equipment always brings joy and frustration. In this case, that came in the way of Windows 8. I knew in advance that there would be a huge learning curve to Win 8, but don’t mind a challenge in working with technology. One of the first challenges was to NOT have the start menu as in Win 7 & XP. It was driving me crazy. Then I read about a program that runs on Win 8 and provides a kind of start button complete with customizable menu. It works great! You can download it for free here or here.

Teach Explorer 10 to Work Like Explorer 9
The next challenge that required outside help involved Internet Explorer 10 that comes pre-loaded with Windows 8. As I was trying to accomplish a task on a website, I found that the site wouldn’t display the information that I needed to edit. I did an online chat with the site administrator and he directed me to “teach” Explorer 10 to work like Explorer 9. It worked like a charm!

Here’s how: In Explorer 10, press the F12 key and change the “browser mode” to Explorer 9. So easy! But not if you don’t know about it. You’re welcome!

By guest blogger Maggie Timmons

windowskey00Pressing “Windows Key + R” opens the Windows “Run” dialog box. From here, type the name of any program you want to open. For example, the filename for Windows Word is winword.exe. In the Run dialog box, you simply type winword. This saves time when your hands are already on the keyboard. Here’s what to type for programs you might use:

  • Winword – for Microsoft Word
  • Excel – for Microsoft Excel
  • Powerpnt – for Microsoft Powerpoint
  • Onenote – for Microsoft OneNote
  • Outlook – for Microsoft Outlook
  • Mspub – for Microsoft Publisher
  • Indesign – for Adobe InDesign
  • Photoshop – for Adobe Photoshop
  • Acrobat – for Adobe Acrobat Pro

Is it reasonable for you to memorize all these codes? Absolutely not. But it is reasonable to learn the two or three that you use regularly. You will save seconds every time you open the program. That just might get you home a few minutes earlier! And that’s always a good thing.

We are strong advocates of keyboard commands. Studies consistently show that using keyboard commands is more efficient than selecting  menus and options with a mouse. Learning keyboard commands can take some practice. Welcome, TIPCards. We’re creating a series of TIPCards that will help you find the keyboard command you need for basic functions. The following TIPCards are currently available:

  • Special Characters – providing keyboard commands for things like registered trademarks, copyright symbol, the diameter symbol, typographical quotes and other commonly used special characters. These keyboard commands can be used in most Windows programs.
  • InDesign Navigation – keyboard commands that help you move from one open document to the next, from page to page, and around the current page. On its flip side, the TIPCard identifies common keyboard commands related to viewing the document – changing magnification and toggling guides and special characters on and off.
  • Excel Tips for Beginners – provides basic navigation keyboard shortcuts and commonly used cell editing commands.

Why TIPCards?
Because they make life so easy. Even though we use special characters in InDesign and Excel every day, there are some common commands that we don’t use often. Then we find ourselves in the middle of a project that would benefit from repeated use of some of the commands. It’s
so much easier to pull the TIPCard out of a top drawer and check a command than hunt through program menus or help screens to find what we’re looking for.

TIPCards are available for free download from our DDP Resources/TIPCards page.

Is there a program you’d like a TIPCard for? Or perhaps a series of related commands that it’d be helpful to have at your fingertips. Let us know. Add a comment below or email us at We’ll add your request to our production list for future TIPCards.

What do you get when you cross a smartphone with your computer? I’m not sure, but I’d bet it would look a whole lot like the new and upcoming Windows 8. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a screen shot of the new Windows 8 “Metro” interface:

The word on the street is that you will either love it or hate it, with accompanying groans of dismay coming from the haters and giddy enthusiasm erupting from the lovers. The user interface will largely be through touch-screen operation (a la Tom Cruise in the movie Minority Report), with support for gestures, a mouse, and a stylus.

To get a better feel for it, check out this video from They put it together in March 2012, shortly after receiving a preview copy of the software. The video was shot on the fly in a hotel room in Barcelona, so it’s not as slick as some videos. Fitting for demoing a product that is still very rough and unfinished at this point – you’ll see that many features don’t yet work properly. Before you get too freaked out by this vision of the next version of Windows, I was happy to see at about the 2:50 point in the video that there is still access to the traditional Windows desktop interface (big sigh of relief). When the demonstrator starts to manipulate the Metro interface at about the 4 minute mark, I started getting excited about ease of use. Think “apps” — lots of highly customizable apps. So here’s the video. My apologies in advance for the mandatory 30 second commercial at the start:

When, you ask, will Windows 8 be the standard on new machines, and when will we no longer be able to get Windows 7. Good question. Microsoft hasn’t said yet.

Needless to say, this is a radical departure from “business as usual” and it will take some getting used to, but I’m hopeful that when we take the plunge we will wonder how we ever got along without it.

If you’re a Mac user, you are probably quite familiar with the Stickies widget. PC users – I’m betting you’ve not heard of the PC program by the same name. Let me introduce you. Stickies are essentially digital Post-it® Notes and I’m starting to think that no properly dressed PC should be without them.

Stickies automates the manual Post-it management method. “Management method?” you say. Yes, some people manage by Post-its. (You know who you are.) It’s not really a method I subscribe to, but I do agree that Post-its come in handy at times. Getting that morning phone call about something that needs to happen at 2pm can be a perfect Post-it application. The problem is, Post-it Notes don’t stick to my monitor very well. And when they do stick, they’re always obstructing something I want to see. Putting them anywhere else, however, risks me not seeing them at the appropriate time. I’ve found that computer alarms aren’t effective and my smart phone may not be near me when the alarm is scheduled to go off.

Enter Stickies  – a free software package developed by Tom Revel of Zhorn Software. Stickies has a ton of features, outshining the physical Post-its by a mile. Once downloaded and installed, it puts a small yellow icon in your system tray (the bottom right area of your screen, just to the left of the clock). When you click on the icon, a yellow Stickie appears on your screen. You can type any kind of note into the Stickie, create checkbox lists or bulleted lists, label the Stickie, change the color of the Stickie, or add images. After creating the Stickie, you can move them anywhere on your screen, have them appear on top of any program you have open or simply sit on your desktop under your open programs. You can put your Stickies to sleep for a period of time (it’s like hitting the snooze button on your alarm – it gets them out of your way while they’re sleeping, but they pop up on top of your open documents when they wake up) or schedule them to pop up at recurring intervals.

Stickie Samples

The image at the right shows some examples of Stickies. The top one has a graphic in it. The Stickie automatically expands to the size required to hold the image. Below the graphic are two Stickies titled “Tuesday 6-Things.” That’s my “6-Things” to do list for the day. They are copies of the same Stickie, because I wanted to show you the capability of rolling up a Stickie (i.e., the top one) or unrolling it (i.e., the bottom one). Notice in the bottom Stickie that you can create checkboxes and check items off as completed. The Stickie at the right has a link to the Stickies website where you can download the program (or click here).

Don’t like the look of these generic Stickies? You can create your own Stickie skins or download skins that other people have created. Here are some of the skins available:

Stickie Skins


Like I said, a ton of versatility is built into this free download. Most capabilities are available from right-click context sensitive menus. There’s even a Stickie management window that allows you to see all your Stickies by category. And should you run into any problems, there’s a Stickie forum. Check out this useful program. You may never buy Post-its again! OK, you probably will because Stickies can’t be slapped on the folder you’re taking to your next meeting. There’s room in this world for both Post-its and Stickies.

[Post-it® is a registered trademark of 3M, St. Paul, MN.]

I’m always surprised to learn that people don’t use Windows Explorer. We use it everyday. It’s one of the programs that is always open on my computer. Check out this introduction to it.


Do you have window upon window upon window open on your desktop and need to quickly minimize them all? Or maybe you don’t need to minimize them, you just need to temporarily move them out of the way so you can see something that’s sitting on your desktop. This blog is for you. Windows offers simple commands that make getting to your desktop easy.

Windows XP
If you’re using Windows XP, try these steps:

  1. Move your curserdown to the task bar (that’s the bar at the bottom of your screen where your start button is on the left, your system tray is on the right and your open programs are in the middle).
  2. Right click.
  3. Select “Show Desktop”.

All your programs are instantly minimized. Much faster (and easier on the mouse-clicking fingers) than minimizing each individually.

Windows 7
Windows 7 not only allows you to go to your desktop, it allows you to peek at it at any time. Again, it’s pretty easy:

  1. You’ll see a rectangular box in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. Move your cursor to hover over it.
  2. As you hover over the box, all programs are temporarily minimized, allowing you to see what’s on your desktop. That’s great for taking a quick look at any desktop gadgets* you might have. When you move the mouse away from the corner, your programs reappear on your desktop.
  3. If you click the rectangle in the lower right-hand corner of your screen, all your programs are minimized and you are on your desktop. To bring a program back up on your desktop, you must click on it in the task bar.

*Gadgets are applications that run on your desktop. Phil, for example, has gadgets that monitor his system performance and a weather monitor – he always wants to know the weather! You might have gadgets that monitor headline news or your stock portfolio. I’m a calendar/schedule gadget kind of person myself.

“Pinning” is a great feature in Office 2010. (Maybe in Office 2007, too, but we skipped that version.) It keeps the documents and folders that you use frequently — or the ones that you just can’t remember where you put them — readily available to you. We’re loving it! It’s as easy as pushing  a pin into a cork board. Here’s how to “pin” a file in a Microsoft Office program:

Go to File > Recent to see your recently used documents and folders. The left column displays documents, the right column has folders. For any entry in either column, look to the right of it and there is your push pin! Click on it and it moves that document or folder to the top of the list and keeps it “pinned” there for you. It will now be in the top section whenever you need it. Very handy!

Want more handy file management goodness? You can change the number of recent documents displayed by clicking File > Options > Advanced and then change the number of recent files to display. There are a ton of options in this dialog box, but you’ll find this one right under the Display heading.