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I often receive emails where the subject line does not reflect the contents of the message or the sender has not included a subject in the email. Is it possible to change the subject line of received emails to make them easier to find later?

Changing the subject line of a received email to better reflect the information contained within makes organizing your Inbox easier. If you are using Outlook 2007 the process is simple and anything that helps you to find a valuable email has got to be a good tip to know!

Firstly open the message that contains the subject line you want to change. Then simply highlight the existing subject, replace the text with your desired subject line and close the message. A dialog box will appear, asking if you want to save the message. Click "yes" and you are done.

If you get a lot of emails daily and these emails represent tasks that you need to action during the day, you can also use this feature to help you organize your tasks. Just change the subject lines on emails to something more relevant; reflecting a 'to do list' of sorts – this may help you in attending to your emails more efficiently.

I have found your previous quick list of shortcut keys really helpful! Do you have any shortcuts for Windows users?

There are lots of inbuilt keyboard shortcuts in Windows and you can even set up your own, here are a few good ones to get you started;

  • Control+Esc key or one tap of the Windows key opens the Start Menu
    • If you are using Vista, you can take this shortcut a step further. Tap the windows key to open the start menu, and your cursor is automatically positioned in the search menu. Begin typing a program you wish to open e.g., "Word", hit enter and the program will open
  • F3 will start a file search when on the Desktop
  • Alt+Tab cycles through open programs
  • Window key +D Shows the Desktop
  • Window key +E starts Windows Explorer

Another useful keyboard shortcut for opening programs you have saved as a shortcut on your desktop is to assign a shortcut key to these icons. Simply Right click the shortcut (on your desktop) and click properties. In the properties dialog box, click the shortcut tab. In the shortcut key box, enter a Control-Alt key combination or a Control+Shift key combination then click OK. Easy!

When turning my computer off there are different options available. I normally just select the "shut down" option but what is the difference between hibernate or the stand-by/sleep option?

The main difference between these two options is the power consumption and data storage treatment. Stand-by or sleep mode is more a short term state to leave your computer in. It allows for the computer to recover quickly as your data is stored in the RAM, rather than the hard disk. The machine is still on but in low power mode.

In hibernate mode your work and open files/desktop are saved to a special file on your hard disk and power is completely turned off. The difference between this and the shut down option is that in shut down mode all programs and files are shut down prior to the power being cut. Hibernate mode allows you to pick up where you left off.

Both stand by and hibernate modes allow for quick resumption of work - stand by being the quicker option. However should you leave your laptop in stand-by mode and the battery runs out, all your unsaved data will be lost. In hibernate mode the unsaved data would have been saved to the hard disk. It is always advisable to save prior to hibernating just in case access to the hibernate file is compromised.

If you don't have the option to select hibernate hold down your shift key while hovering your mouse over the stand by button and it will change to hibernate.

I frequently email clients reports and word documents but would like to be able to email them as PDF's. Can you recommend a quick and easy way to do this?

There are a number of reasons why you may want to convert your files to PDF prior to emailing. Apart from being readily accessible across most platforms including Windows, Mac's and PDA's, PDF's are often more compact than the original file which makes emailing easier and they are not prone to carrying viruses. You can add security to a PDF, protecting your work and ensuring it is received as you intended the viewer to see it.

To convert files to PDF's you can purchase specialized software such as Adobe Acrobat (not the free Acrobat Reader, but the full version of the software). There are also websites that will convert the files online. There is free software available on the internet however be aware that some free software will actually convert with a watermark or some other evidence that the file has been converted using that free software...not very professional. For a PDF creator available as a free download on the internet, we have found cutepdf to be reliable and easy to use for PC's. Visit www.cutepdf.com to have a look.

I am out of the office regularly and would like to know if there is a way that I can access my faxes easily when not at my desk.

There are many 'virtual fax machine' services available which allow you to not only receive your faxes without the need for an actual fax machine, but you can also send faxes without a fax machine too!

These services simply redirects the fax normally printed out by the office fax machine and converts the fax to a PDF file which is then emailed to your nominated email account. So if you are waiting for an important fax and know you will be out on the road for most of the day, you can simply divert your faxline to a number you subscribe to and any faxes will automatically be emailed to you.

These services often cost very little to subscribe to and can vastly improve your business communications. Many of these services also offer a voicemail to email service too where any messages left for you are automatically emailed to you.

How do I access my emails when I am out of the office?

If your email hosting provider supplies you with webmail access to your email accounts, checking your emails is easy providing you have access to a computer with internet access. Using your laptop with portable modem will allow you to access emails readily.

However if you can't be bothered carrying around your laptop from appointment to appointment the obvious choice is a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) mobile phone.

Most businesses will either use a Microsoft Exchange Server or a Pop3 account for their emails. You may need to check with your email hosting provider to determine which system you are running. Either one of these can be set up on your PDA phone to send/receive emails.

If you are running a Microsoft Exchange Server it is advisable to contact your service administrator to set up your email settings on your PDA due to password restrictions and other technicalities.

If you are running a Pop3 account all you will need to do is to set up a new email account on your PDA and input the settings given to you by your web developer. These are the same settings used to set up your emails in Outlook.

I send a lot of emails which have some of the same phrases or even entire paragraphs of text and find myself typing the same things over and over. Is there an easier way to get these repetitive snippets into an email?

If you find yourself typing the same things repeatedly in emails there is an easier way. Previous versions of Microsoft Outlook allowed for saving these bits of text in the 'signature' section. However with Outlook 2007 there is an easier function and it is called 'Quick Parts'. Simply type the text you want to save in an email, highlight that text then click the Insert tab on the ribbon. Next click Quick Parts from the Text group and select Save Selection to Quick Part gallery and name the text.

Think about what you will call the text. For instance if it is about directions to your office, you could name it 'Directions' then when you want to use it in an email, simply type the first three letters 'dir' and press F3 and it will appear in the body of your email. A real time saver!

Excel is a popular software program we use every day in our office. How do we cut down on the amount of time it takes to format or create reports in Excel?

If you have never heard of a macro, you are really missing out! A macro is a shortcut for performing a series of actions in an Excel worksheet. Macros are useful for automating complex or repetitive tasks. For instance you could create a Macro for formatting cells in lots of tables, to make them look more professional, in order to print, let's say, a report for a client. Once a macro is created, you can activate it by using the Macro dialog box or by pressing a keyboard combination.

Here are the steps used in creating and recording a new macro

  1. From the View command tab, in the Macros button, click record
  2. Macro. The Record Macro dialog box appears.
  3. In the Macro name text box, type a name for the new macro (A macro name must begin with a letter and contain no spaces or special characters.)
  4. This next step is optional, but recommended. In the Shortcut key text box, type a letter that will be used to activate the macro. The shortcut key must be either an uppercase or lowercase letter. Note too that Macro shortcut keys will override any existing shortcuts while the workbook with the macro is open (e.g., copying with Ctrl + C, underlining with Ctrl + U and so on).
  5. To save the macro to the workbook that is currently open, from the Store macro in pull-down list, select This Workbook
  6. To save the macro to a new workbook, from the Store macro in pull-down list, select New Workbook
  7. To save the macro to Excel for use in any workbook, from the Store macro in pull-down list, select Personal Macro Workbook
  8. You can also type a summary of the macro's function or any other information in the Description text box.

It might take a few minutes to set up, but next time you want to perform the task all you have to do is press one key and the computer will do the job for you.

I take my laptop everywhere and it can get pretty dirty. What is the ideal way to clean the screen on my laptop?

The combination of fingerprints, dirt and dust can build up over time on any computer screen. It is best to clean the monitor when it is off, that way you can actually see the dirt against the black screen.
Be very gentle and avoid putting even the slightest pressure on the computer screen with your hand as this can damage the pixels.

You need to clean it with a piece of soft cloth but don't try tissue papers, as it can scratch your screen permanently. Try an old T-Shirt or something made from 100% cotton. You will need to moisten the cloth as dust particles moved around with even the softest cloth could create scratches.

To moisten the cloth, use a mix of isopropyl alcohol and water. A 1:1 solution of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol can be used to clean a laptop screen that is not heavily dusty or soiled with greasy fingerprints. Vinegar and distilled water in a 1:1 solution can also be used for light cleaning. If this is all too hard, you can buy a cleaning kit from a computer store.

Be sure that the screen is dry before closing it or using the computer.

I find that there are so many distractions at the office that sometimes it can be difficult to get things done? Do you have any tips for me?

The irony of the modern workplace is that technology can often make it difficult to actually get any work done! Constant interruptions from your mobile phone, the barrage of emails or even colleagues coming in for a chat can mean your productivity suffers.

I find that one of the most distracting things while you are working on your computer is when a new email is received. We are programmed to be responsive and that pop up and associated alarm which tells you that you have a new email can completely divert your attention from the task at hand. If you are using Outlook 2007, you can turn off the pop-up while working on an important task and turn it back on later, so you avoid the distraction.

To do this go to Tools menu and click Options, then click E-mail Options, and then click Advanced E-mail Options. Uncheck the Display a New Mail Desktop Alert check box to stop receiving email alerts.

Then you can check your emails at regular intervals, say hourly, and improve your productivity.

I use my laptop when I am on the road and seem to constantly be looking for a power outlet to recharge! How do I get the most out of my laptop battery power?

If you have ever had to rush to find a power outlet in the middle of an important presentation, you will appreciate knowing a few tips on how to get the most out of your laptop battery;

  1. Always keep track of how much power is left in your battery to avoid the unexpected disasters. Sounds obvious, but a lot of people forget to check this!
  2. Reduce the screen brightness.
  3. Put your computer in sleep mode when you are not actively using it. If you plan on not using it for an hour or more it is best to use the hibernate mode so you don't lose any documents you were working on.
  4. Remove peripherals when not in use as these devices such as external hard drives, CD-ROMs, Zip drives, modems can draw power from your battery even when they are not actively being used.

To extend your battery life, remember the following;

Always completely deplete the charge on your battery before recharging. If you opt to purchase a second 'back-up' battery, charge and drain the new battery a few times before you use it. This fully activates the chemicals within the battery ensuring a longer battery life.

You recently did a bit on how to clean your computer monitor. What is the best way to clean your keyboard?

We have all heard those horror stories about how our desks at work harbor more bacteria than a public toilet... yuk! The main cause of dirty keyboards is due to people who don't wash their hands after using the toilet, and from people eating at their desk. The food crumbs left behind encourage the growth of millions of bacteria. Even simple dust can contribute to the problem, since dust traps moisture and creates an environment suitable for bacteria growth. To clean your keyboard, first, turn the keyboard upside down and gently knock the crumbs out of it. Then set it up-right again and use a compressed air can, a small vacuum or small paint brush to sweep out any remaining debris. Gently wipe the keyboard with an alcohol wipe to remove bacteria and don't use any harsh cleaning agents, as they can remove the paint from the keys.

To keep your work area clean you should avoid eating at your desk – difficult for all you workaholics, I know! Get in the habit of regularly wiping down your desk area with an anti-bacterial wipe and regularly wash your hands during the day especially if someone in the office is sick. Not the most exciting of topics, but potentially a lifesaver!

The local café that I regularly hold meetings at has told me that they are going to get Wi Fi. How easy is this to use with my laptop? (Joanne, Liverpool NSW)

Wi Fi is basically another term for a wireless network. If you run your internet connection at home via a wireless modem/router, you are already using a Wi Fi! It is becoming more popular in major cities with the plan for some areas to use the technology to provide free or low-cost internet access to as many residents as possible. In the not too distant future wireless networking may become so common that you will be able to access the internet from just about anywhere, at any time.

In order to use a public WiFi hotspot as they are known, your laptop will need to have a built-in wireless transmitters. If you don't have one you can always buy a wireless adapter. You will need to search for wireless networks in the area – if your laptop does not connect automatically. If using Vista, simply right click on the network icon in the system tray (lower right hand side of your screen) select connect to a network. When your computer locates the network in your local café, select this network to connect to. If the network is unsecured, this is all you should need to do. If it is a secure network, you will need to get the password from the operator and then you are away.

Should I be using a screen saver when I leave my computer on for long periods of time? (Marissa, Chermside Qld)

In the not too distant past, image burn was a problem with older style computer monitors. If an image was left on the screen for a long period of time, the actual image could damage these older monitors by being "burned" into the screen and would remain there even if the user navigated away from whatever was causing the image. Screen savers were invented to combat this problem and became extremely popular.

With the introduction of LCD monitors the 'burn-in" issue is no longer a problem. People now use screen savers out of habit or just for fun. There are countless screen savers available on the internet for download and some people love them. While it is not necessary to use a screen saver, you may want to set your computer to go into sleep or power saving mode when idle for a while. This not only saves energy, but also helps stop your computer overheating.

I have heard about 'Cookies' and know they have something to do with the internet...what exactly are they? (Peter, Sandringham Vic)

Internet cookies are small pieces of information in text format that are downloaded to your computer when you visit websites. The cookie may come from the site itself but more often than not the cookie will be from the providers of advertising banners on the site. The advertisers use the information in the cookie to track your internet usage and use that information to tailor the ads that you see.

Visiting a single website can actually mean you are downloading more than one cookie - each from a different source. They help a site to 'remember you'. For example sites like Yahoo and Ebay use cookies to personalize information and help with online sales processes.

Cookies are not harmful as they are short text strings and cannot transmit viruses. Their main purpose is to improve your browsing experience. You can however block and delete cookies in internet Explorer via options under the tools menu, as the amount of cookies you download over time can build up. You can list sites that you choose not to accept cookies from under the options tab as well.

I have been looking at getting a website for my business and was wondering if you could give me a few quick pointers on what to consider? (Jonathan, Mermaid Waters Qld)

It can be very confusing when you first set out to build a website for your business. There are lots to consider including the style, layout, content and structure of the site. So, without going into too much detail here are my top tips on creating a great site.

First impressions count – you have only a few seconds to keep a visitor on your website, before they decide your website is of no interest and click away. So it is important to keep the home page and all internal pages (as you never know which page a visitor will land on first) quick to load and easy to read.

Don't confuse the visitor – always ensure your site is easy to navigate. Keep the links clear and always ensure the information found via the links is what the user is expecting by including relevant informative content.

Consistency – maintaining consistency throughout the site gives the user confidence in the site and hence the business behind the site. So, use uniform text fonts, colours, navigation menus etc in order to maintain the feel of the site.

Use graphics sparingly – flash graphics and large image files can make a site slow to load and difficult for search engines to 'see'. Use these graphics to add interest to the site or to highlight important information... never build your site entirely out of flash as html sites will be more user friendly.

Can you tell me if there is any way to salvage my mobile phone which I recently dropped into water?! (Robert, Harbord NSW)

The key to your mobile surviving a dip in the pool is to act fast... if you wait too long the damage may be done. The chemicals in salt, chlorine or simple tap water can corrode or short circuit the electronic components of your phone. If your phone was turned on when it got wet this can increase the chances of it being irreparable.

  1. Remove the battery quickly.
  2. Remove the sim card – if your phone doesn't survive you may as well try to save the contacts and data stored on your sim
  3. Dry the phone using a lint free cloth
  4. Gently shake out the excess moisture

To draw out remaining moisture do not use a hair dryer or oven! The delicate components in the phone can be damaged further - the moisture can actually be blown deeper into the phone with a hair dryer. You can actually try gently vacuum cleaning the phone.

The safest way to do try to get rid of the moisture is one of two methods. Place the phone into a bowl of dry uncooked rice for a few days. Or, the other method is to get one of those silica gel packs often found in packaging of shoes etc. Place the gel pack in the phone's battery compartment and seal it in there for a few days. Best of luck!

Do you have any tips for getting on top of emails? I seem to get hundreds every week! (Susan, Hurstville NSW)

I have found three things that work really well in keeping up to date with emails. Firstly have a zero tolerance approach... always aim to keep your inbox empty. I know this may sound impossible for some people given the amount of emails that come in, but it is a great feeling to start the day with a clean inbox rather than an inbox full of emails requiring attention and getting forgotten as each days emails pile up.

The way to keep your inbox empty is to create a number of folders depending on the type of emails you receive. For example if you receive a lot of information that you need to review or read, simply set up a folder and name it 'to be reviewed'. Move the relevant emails into this folder as they come into your inbox and so on. You will soon end up with all your emails categorized in accordance with the content or action required. As each email is dealt with, move into another folder which could be called 'archive' or something relevant to you. This will make it easier to work through all the emails, ensuring nothing important is overlooked.

Always keep the subject of the emails clear and meaningful. To change the subject of an email simply open the email, highlight the subject, type in the new subject and close the email, saving the change. If the subject is relevant this makes searching for the email easier if need be.

You recently reviewed some shortcut keys for using in Internet Explorer. Can you recommend a few useful shortcuts I can use to speed things up when working in Microsoft Word? (Amanda, Newtown NSW)

Sure! Word is a program most people use on a daily basis. Here are a few common shortcuts you will find useful. There are plenty more, but these are a good start as the function keys are easy to access as they are a single button rather than combination.

F1 – opens help menu
F4 – repeats the last action performed
F5 - opens the find, replace, and go to window in Microsoft Word
F7 - Spell and grammar check selected text, word and/or document.
F12 – Opens the 'save as' box.

Combining with the shift button...

Shift + F3 - change the text in Microsoft Word from upper to lower case or a capital letter at the beginning of every word.
Shift + F7 will open a thesaurus check on a selected word
Shift + F12 opens 'save' box. Ctrl + shift + F12 will print a document

My PC which normally runs pretty well has been markedly slow lately. I am pretty sure it is not a virus as I have up to date antivirus software and update this regularly. Any suggestions? (Sue, St.Kilda Vic)

Just like you give your house a spring clean it is important to do the same for your trusted computer! First, have a look at programs you have installed and then forgotten about. People often download programs from the internet, use them for a short period and then forget about them. These take up space on your system and may even be running at start-up slowing your system down.

For XP users, to properly uninstall these programs go to your start menu and click on the control panel, then add/uninstall programs. A list of all programs installed on your computer will pop up and from here you can select the programs you want to remove. Bear in mind too that uninstalling programs will delete the majority of files related to the program but often there are some files which cannot be deleted. These 'ghost files' can accumulate on your computer and if you have enough of the can also cause your system to run slowly. You can fix this up by using a registry cleanup program.

Next, you can check which programs are running in your start-up. These programs will load in the background every time you start up your computer and can significantly slow down this process. Check whether or not you really need the programs to load every time you turn your computer on or not.

Finally you should get in the habit or regularly defragmenting your hard disk. Over time as you use your computer and regularly create and delete files, this leaves empty space on your hard drive. This space can be all over the place and defragmenting your hard disk will move things around so that files are stored in one continuous block as is the free space on your hard disk. If you are running Windows, this comes with a defragmenter program and depending on the version you may even be able to schedule regular defragmentation.

How do I let clients know I won't be in the office for a while, via email? (John, Buderim Qld)

This is a very common question and it comes with a simple answer, you can set-up auto-reponders. Auto-responders will automatically email anyone that sends you an email with a message of your choice, e.g. if you are on holidays you can write that you will be out of the office for two weeks and tell the email sender who to contact for any enquiries etc.

There are 2 ways to set up an auto-responder:

The first way is via Outlook. Go to tools – out of office assistant and write your message in the pop up box and select the option that you are currently out of the office.

The second way is through your webmail. Your ISP or Hosting Company will provide you with information required to access your webmail. Once there you will find a link to "auto responders". Simply add the message you want clients to read and enable the auto responder.

It is always a good idea to test the setup is correct by sending yourself a test email.

As our business grows and the number of staff in the office expands, I have been told our IT setup would benefit from installing a server. How do I know if I need a server and what does it actually do? (Jay, Parramatta NSW)

A server is a special 'master' PC that sits at the centre of a network and 'serves' applications and data to 'client' users. It provides a central location for your important files, shared applications, and other resources you regularly use, such as a CRM program. It makes it easy to share other devices like printers and broadband connections.
A key benefit is that the users are able to access the server from anywhere in the office or even off-site. This can be very useful if you or your staff work from home and need to access files in the office.
Naturally, you don't want to make an investment in technology that won't benefit your bottom line. However a server can help you to work more effectively and consequently make your life easier.

Here are a few things to consider in helping you decide if a server could be needed in your office;

  1. You spend lots of time searching for files or copying them from one machine to another.
  2. You want to restrict access to confidential files
  3. You want to allow for flexible working conditions e.g., staff working from home
  4. Your computers are already networked in some way but the performance of those machines suffers every time someone prints a document.
  5. You would like to centralise key business data like diaries, client files etc.
  6. As you increase staff, you keep buying printers, fax machines and your IT costs seems to be out of control
  7. You have lots of IT hassle - viruses, network problems, etc - and it's starting to impact your productivity and ability to function effectively
  8. There is just not enough space to store all your files

There are different types of servers depending on what your requirements are e.g., print/file servers or a web server. These are the most common types of servers required by small business. You need to think about what you will use the server for as this will ultimately determine what you will need to install/purchase. While they don't come cheaply, the increase in productivity can more than offset the initial expense.

There has been a lot of hype about Windows Vista, do you have any tips for Vista users? (Kathy, Balmain NSW)

Despite a lot of tech savvy people not enjoying Vista for various reasons, there are some features which are pretty handy and can be used every day. Here are a couple of my favourites.
When selecting files in 'my computer' or 'windows explorer' to move to another location, delete etc, instead of using the Ctrl click function to select multiple files, you can actually select each file by check boxes next to each file you want to select. To activate this feature, open any system window (like 'my computer' or 'windows explorer'), click the organize menu, and then choose 'Folder and Search Options'. Next, click the View tab, and then scroll down until you see "Use check boxes to select items." Enable it, and click OK.

Selecting files using this feature is quicker and easier, you also don't lose your selection if you accidently let go of the 'Ctrl' button and so on.

While other versions of windows allows you to switch between open applications on your computer via use of the 'Alt' and 'Tab' buttons together. Vista has taken it a step further visually. If you press the 'windows' button and the 'Tab' button you can flick between open applications too, it just looks a lot more impressive! Try it and you will see what I mean. This feature is called the Windows Flip.

If you want to alternate between two applications you are working on rather than seeing all applications visible in Windows Flip, quickly press 'Alt' and 'Tab', you can instantly flip back and forth between the two most recently used windows without seeing the Windows Flip window.

Do you have any tips for going greener in the office? (Steven, Dulwich Hill NSW)

We can all make a few simple changes to how we work in order to cut down on our 'carbon footprint' and in addition save ourselves a few dollars on our electricity bills. It doesn't take much... just a change in habits. Here are a couple of tips for going greener in your office.

Save paper and ink - Only print what is absolutely necessary. If you are only going to read something once and it is too big a document to read on the screen, print it on paper that you have already used one side of. Keeping your pristine paper for important documents will not only cut down on your paper usage but save you money in the long term too. You can also shrink the text and print two pages side by side on the one sheet of paper or print on both sides of the paper depending on what your printer preferences will allow.

Reduce wastage of CD's and DVD's - If you regularly use CD's or DVD's for storing or transferring data try using rewritable discs. These discs may cost more and take a little longer to burn, but they're perfect for passing data back and forth without throwing out all that metal and plastic.

Change your power settings - Putting your computer into power saving mode when it is inactive is a good way to save on electricity consumption. You can set your computer and monitor to 'power down' when you haven't been using them for a while and it will only take a second for them to 'power up' when you are ready to use them.

Turn off what you are not using - Printers, scanners, speakers, monitors--surrounding your computer is a multitude of peripherals that will happily keep on sucking power even when the PC is switched off. It doesn't seem like much, but even an idle printer is a drain on your electricity bill. The simple rule of thumb is to turn anything off when you're not using it. That includes turning off your monitor (rather than letting it sit in low-power mode when the computer is off), and turning on your printer only when you actually have something to print.

When I am on the internet I tend to move jump between lots of different sites especially when I am researching something. Do you have any quick tips to make internet surfing easier? (Paula, Reedy Creek QLD)

The most commonly used feature in Internet browsers is the back button. However, all browsers also have a small black down arrow to the right of the back button. This button allows you to easily see the history of the last 5-10 pages you've visited and quickly get back to them. This feature is especially helpful when you wish to move back several pages but don't want to have to press the back button several times.

You can create a shortcut key for web pages that you visit regularly in a similar way to creating shortcuts for applications. To do this right click on an empty spot of the web page you want to save and click create shortcut. Save it to your desktop and then right click on this shortcut, view the properties of the shortcut. Assign a shortcut key and click ok. Next time you want to go directly to this web page press the shortcut key you have assigned and the web page will automatically be loaded.

What is your favourite search engine on the net? (Kate, Frankston VIC)

The most popular search engine on the internet by far is Google. According to statistics released by Nielsen Online in June last year, Google captures almost three times as many users as the nearest competition; Yahoo & MSN. So like many others, my most used site on the net is Google.

In addition to searching the net for you, Google does so much more. You can type in those tricky maths questions that your child throws at you when they are doing their homework and get the answers or even convert currencies or measurements via the different features available in Google. To see a list of these features go to www.google.com.au/help/features.html.

How can I set up a shared folder between my desktop which runs on Windows XP and my laptop which is on Vista? They share the same folder and both are on the same network/router? – Sharon, WA

In some instances you may have common files which you use between your desktop and laptop. Instead of continually copying these files over from computer to computer to work with them, you can set up a shared folder between your two machines so you will have access to your common files. This also gives you the flexibility of choosing the computer you work on, knowing the data you need is readily available. So how do we do this?

Firstly, right click the folder you would like to share between the two machines, go to Sharing and Security, hit Share this Folder on the Network, type in a name, hit allow others on network to change files. Check the network name of this computer. Go to the other computer on your network, go to My Computer, click on Tools, then Map Network Drive. Select the drive letter you want, then type in \\X\Y, and hit Finish, where X is the name of the computer on the network and Y is the NETWORK name of the folder (that you put in the Share this Folder on the Network box).

Once this is done, you can keep all your office files in this folder and when you're in the same network (internet connection) you will be able to easily and quickly access the common files. It may sound a bit tricky but it is actually a logical step by step process.

My office is using an exchange server to store all of our files and emails. There have been a few instances where I cannot access the server remotely due to the internet connection, but I have needed to access these files. Is there a way I can still get access to the files without going through the server and continually having to copy them to my laptop when I leave the office? Brad, NSW

This is a common problem, because the exchange server is dependent on a live internet connection and without that, well you don't have a server. There is a simple way to fix this problem without having to keep copying the files to and fro, which leaves you running the risk that you are not working on the latest version of the file.

This is faster when you are hard wired into your network, so the next time you're in the office follow the below steps and you should be ok from here on in:

Go to the folder you most commonly use or the one you need offline; right click on the folder; go to "make folder available offline" or click on "groove folder synchronization"; this will then synchronise the files in that specific folder onto your laptop. When there is a change on the file it will update on your laptop. If you have changed the file and when you go to synchronize it, someone has changed the master file it will copy a separate file on the exchange server.

Please note that if the folder you are trying to copy is 800mb, then you need to have 800mb free space on your laptop, as this process will physically copy the files over and keep them maintained using your laptops memory.

I have many files on my computer which I would like to keep private from other users. Can you advise the best possible solution for this? Roland, SA

To protect Microsoft word and Excel documents, you can place a password to open and/or modify these documents. When you go to save the document click "save as" and in that window go to "tools" (this can be in the top right or bottom left of the window). From there, go to "general settings". In general settings you have the option to create passwords for opening and modifying the document. When you put the passwords in, go to "ok", you will then have to re-enter the passwords you have chosen.

Once you save this, you will only be able to open and/or modify the document using these passwords. I would as a precaution recommend that you save a backup of this document in case you forget the password.

Recently my wireless mouse just decided to stop working and I was forced to use the keyboard in order to get any work done until I sorted out the problem. Do you have any more shortcut key tips? (Paul, San Remo NSW)

It is only when your mouse decides to die on you that you realize how much you rely on it! Not only can using your keyboard for many of the commonly performed tasks dramatically increase your productivity, it can be very useful to know how to make better use of your keyboard when your mouse is no longer functioning.

Below are the different methods of how you can quickly and easily move through text in a document without the aid of a mouse.

CTRL and Arrow keys - Holding down the CTRL key while pressing the left or right arrow keys will move the cursor one word at a time. This is much faster than only using the arrow keys. Holding down the CTRL key while pressing up or down will move through each of the paragraphs in the document.

End and Home keys - Pressing the End key will take you to the end of a document and pressing the Home key will move you to the beginning of a document.

Shift key - The shift key allows you to highlight text. For example, try holding down the shift key while using the right or left arrow keys... this will highlight the text to the left or the right. If you hold down shift while pressing the down arrow keys, you will highlight one line at a time in that direction. Once text is highlighted formatting, pasting, deleting and so on is much easier via the use of shortcut keys such as CTRL + C for copying, CTRL + V for pasting etc.

Finally, you can use the Shift key in combination with the other above recommendations. For example, pressing and holding Shift and CTRL and using the arrows will highlight a word at a time, or holding down Shift and pressing the End key will highlight from the current cursor position to the end of the document.

I would like to know how to backup all my emails and contacts from Outlook. I am using Outlook 2007 and would definitely be lost without it! (Arthur, Pt Melbourne VIC)

All your mail, your contacts, your calendars, and if you are like me, almost every other detail of your life is in Outlook. To make sure you don't lose all this in case of a hard disk crash or some other disaster, you will need to create backup copies of your Personal Folders (.pst) files, as Outlook 2007 does not have a backup function as such. If you are using an exchange server this may be different in that these files could be stored on your server or as an offline folder file (.ost) file.

The Personal Folder file (.pst ) is the place where Outlook stores its data (when you're using Outlook without Microsoft Exchange Server). Each Personal Folder file contains all of your Outlook folders, including the Inbox, Calendar, and Contacts. You may have a single .pst file (usually called "Internet Folders" or "Personal Folders" in your Folder List), and you may also have an additional .pst file that you use to archive messages (named "Archive Folders"). By backing up these PST files you will be backing up all your Outlook information.

To get started, click File then Data File Management. If not already selected, click on the "Data Files" tab. You may have a single data file or multiple data files. These "Data Files" are where you store your email messages, calendar, tasks and other items.

Highlight the data file that you want to back up and click on the "Open Folder" icon. Clicking on this icon will automatically launch Windows Explorer and take you to the location where this data file is stored.

Within the folder you should find an outlook.pst file. Burn this file to a CDROM disk or other backup source. If you archive your email, be sure to backup the archive.pst file as well. Before you back up these files, make sure that you have shut down Outlook first.

I am running Windows XP on my computer. I am the only one who uses this computer as it is in my home office and want to know how to change the settings on this computer so that when I switch it on, I don’t actually have to enter a password. (Samantha, Maroubra NSW)

This is pretty straight forward thing to do. In order to disable the login prompt, firstly click the Start button and select Run. Type in “Control Userpasswords2” and press enter. Uncheck the box which says "Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer." Then click Apply and press OK.

What are your thoughts on automatic updates? I have anti-spyware and McAfee internet security suite and I have automatic updates turned on for these programs. Could this lead to problems by leaving my computer open to the net? (Jennifer, Acacia Ridge QLD)

Automatic updates for anti-spyware and particularly anti-virus packages is an absolute must There are simply too many changes every day, so keeping them up to date is a must. When this is set to be done automatically is by far the easiest and most reliable way to keep up to date.

Application updates I treat differently. I still want automatic notification of updates and new versions, but:

  • The update notification should tell me what it is, and what it's going to do for me - including how important or critical the update might be
  • I should be able to choose not to install the updates right now, but rather be reminded later
  • I should also be able to choose not to install the update at all, at least until the next, new, update becomes available.

As to your concern about security... most automatic updates are handled through the same mechanisms that your web browser uses to visit web sites. The result is that for most, you're not "opening up" any additional vulnerability by enabling automatic updates. And as long as you’re dealing with reputable vendors, the chances of "automatically" downloading some kind of virus are negligible.

Should I install the latest web browser from Microsoft, Internet Explorer 8? What do you think of it? (Mike, West End QLD)

I've heard some good things in various reviews, but I've also heard that there's no great rush to install it either. Personally I am hooked on the Firefox Web Browser, so will take a lot for me to switch!

I have heard that people find that after installing IE 8, it can disrupt other functions. So, I would be inclined to wait. If you don"t want to wait to see if the teething problems get ironed out then backup first.

By backup, I mean take an image snapshot of your entire system, so that if you run into problems with IE8 you can easily revert the machines complete state to what it was prior to the installation. The reason I recommend a backup is simple: a common theme among people having problems is that they can't revert. Perhaps the uninstall fails, or isn't even present, but regardless of why or how, they seem unable to cleanly remove IE8 and return to their pre-update version. Having a full image backup will guarantee that you can do so.

I have been making backups of important work documents and files on my USB drive but would like to know if this is actually a reliable way to backup? What would you recommend? (Steve, Manly NSW)

Losing your important business data can not only be a nightmare but very detrimental to your business.  There are many reasons why your data might disappear, from the silly – spilling a cup of coffee on your laptop to the unfortunate – having your laptop stolen. There are a few things to consider in relation to backups;

  • Match the backup medium to the amount of data you intend to backup
  • Backups should be stored as far away from your computer as possible
  • No storage medium lasts forever
  • Make your backup routine simple, otherwise you will avoid doing it

The different mediums available range from, Digital tape, CD’s and DVD’s, Online or network storage and USB or external hard drives and each has its own set of pros and cons.

Digital tape is probably the oldest choice as a backup medium and is very reliable.  Tapes are extremely portable which makes them a very easy choice for providing offsite storage of the backups plus it is easy to add tapes to backup set as the amount of data you need to back up grows.  On the negative side, retrieving data from the tapes can be slow as the tape must physically rewind and forward in order to retrieve the date.  The tape is fragile like all magnetic media and may be damaged by exposure to strong electric or magnetic fields.  In addition getting the tape drive and system ready to use can be expensive.

Using CD’s as data backups is popular as blank discs are inexpensive and copying and retrieving data with CDs or DVD’s is easy.  However, this is the most unreliable backup medium.  It is not uncommon to put a disc into a drive only to find that the data is unreadable and the disc simply doesn't work.  CD’s have a limited shelf life of between 2 to 5 years, perhaps longer depending on the quality of the disc and can be adversely affected by improper storage.  They should be stored in jewel cases, on the edge (not flat), in a dark and temperature controlled space.  The disc capacity of only 650 MB on average is quite limiting too.

There are sites/storage companies on the internet where you can store important files but you should choose wisely in terms of data security and encryption.  You can also choose to email important files to yourself to store in an online email account.

Flash USB drives are extremely small which can be very handy for taking backups offsite and are very convenient to use.  However this can also be a disadvantage as they can be easily lost, or, if you are like me, put through a cycle in the washing machine…believe it or not it actually came out working perfectly!  Flash memory, the type of memory used in USB thumb drives will wear out depending not so much on the age of the drive but the number of uses.  Data can easily get corrupted during use when plugging/unplugging these devices. 

My preferred option is to buy and use an external hard drive for data backups.  External hard drives are cheap compared to tape drive systems and storage capacity is huge.  They’re also easy to use; in many cases, all you have to do is plug the hard drive into your computer’s USB port.  And while hard drives do fail, their failure rate is much lower than that of other backup media such as CDs.

Is there a way to save on paper wasted when I print excel files? There always seems to be pages which print out with very little data on them and it is very wasteful? (Peta, Clovelly NSW)

Excel will automatically insert page breaks in your document however; you can choose to manually insert page breaks. To see exactly where the page breaks are so that you know what you are working with, click on the view menu and choose 'page break preview'.

You will see a view of your entire worksheet. The page breaks appear as either dashed blue lines (automatic page breaks) or solid blue lines (manual page breaks).

You can move the page breaks around by moving your mouse cursor to them, then clicking and dragging them. When you are satisfied and want to turn page break preview off, go back to the view menu and choose normal view.

Is there anything I can do if I send an email and forget to attach a file? (Brian, West Wollongong NSW)

Unfortunately this is a scenario which happens all too frequently.  We have all received emails that refer to a file which the sender has forgotten to attach, only to receive a second “oops” email with the file attached moments later!  To save you this embarrassment and frustration, if you are using Outlook, you can set the software to delay the actual physical sending of your email for a certain number of minutes after you press send.

To do this, go to the tools menu and click Rules and Alerts and then click New Rule.  Pick ‘check messages after sending’ from the list of template rules available.  Then click next.  Select ‘on this machine only’ from the list of conditions, then click next.  Select ‘defer delivery by a number of minutes’ then click on the highlighted link in the bottom box and fill in the number of minutes you want your email sending delayed by.

In the next screen you can set up any exceptions to the rule.  For example you may want to specify certain people that you don’t want to include in this rule and so on.  Click next, name the rule and turn it on, then click finish.  Now when you click send after typing up an email, the message will remain in your Outbox for the amount of time you specified in the rule.  This should give you enough time to realize you forgot to attach a file and then you can easily retrieve the email fix the error and send.

I am looking at getting my database organized so that I can market more effectively to my clients. If I export my contacts into Excel, do you have any tips on how I can easily separate the fields? I know that having first names and last names listed separately is going to be an issue for example. (Servish, Mt Druitt NSW)

How your data displays after exporting from your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software will obviously depend on the fields you have in your CRM and the software itself.  If you end up with your clients’ first names and surnames in the same column in Excel, here is a quick fix.

There is no need to waste countless hours manually cutting, pasting or heaven forbid retyping the data.  Highlight the text you want to separate ensuring there are enough columns to the right of the text for the new sorted data.  Select your Data drop down menu.   Select Text to Columns and a wizard will pop up; select ‘delimited’ and press next.   Select ‘space’ (this will mean every time there is a blank space, the information will be put in a new column), press next and your data should now be sorted into separate columns.

Also, don’t forget to delete duplicates from your database.  This is easy in Excel too.  Simply highlight the data and then select ‘remove duplicates’ from the Data drop down menu.  Your marketing efforts will be more effective if your database is well managed and these Excel tips can literally save you hours of work.

I recently upgraded my computer and am now working with new versions of all the Microsoft software. In the old versions of Word for example if I wanted to use my keyboard instead of my mouse, the first letter of the menu items were underlined and so I knew what the shortcut keys were. How do I find these in the new versions? (Vanessa, Como WA)

It can be difficult upgrading software versions especially when things have moved around and you find your productivity can be affected as you get to know the new formats. To find the shortcuts simply press the ‘Alt’ button. This will bring up the shortcut letters for the main menu items such as File, Insert, Page layout etc. Then as there is no need to hold down the ‘Alt’ key, simply press the letter corresponding to the menu item you want to use and away you go.

I have recently upgraded my computer; do you have any suggestions for what to do with my old computer? (George, Norwood SA)

Computers, like many electronics, contain heavy metals that pose environmental hazards when disposed of improperly. With the ‘lifespan’ of computers being about four years and millions being sold every year, how we dispose of computers is becoming a huge issue.  So it is important to find ways to reuse or recycle the parts in our old computers rather than merely dumping them in the garbage bin and moving on.

Obviously you will want to ensure no personal data is left on your hard drive before you part with it.  Once you have copied the data you want to keep, merely reformatting the computer will not totally remove the data as it will still be retrievable in some form.  There are different programs available that will completely erase your hard drive or you can physically destroy it the old fashioned way…with a hammer, not very environmentally friendly, but effective.

Some companies will actually recycle your old computer when you purchase a new one from them.  Have you thought about giving it to someone who doesn’t have a computer, a school or a charity?  Maybe you could use the old hard drive for data storage after removing it from the tower.  If it is a laptop you are upgrading, you could use the old one as an E-Book reader.  Computers contain a lot of parts which can be recycled so it is important to dispose of them properly.

While using Google recently to find some info, can’t remember what it was now, but noticed some of the search results had a date or time when the information was recorded. I found this useful because what I was looking for had to be up to date. Can you filter the search results in Google? (Arlene, Maroubra NSW)

Google can do so much to enhance your experience on the net and they are always looking for ways to improve their product and features in order to benefit their clients…us!  When you enter the keywords into their search bar and hit enter, the results that display can be further manipulated to refine your search.

If you want to see the date the web pages listed in the results was published on the internet, simply add “&as_qdr=y15” to the end of the URL of the search results.  To take this a step further you can sort the search results according to date published, type of file and so on.  To do this click on the “show options” link that appears under the Google search bar after the results are displayed.  The search results window will split with a feature on the left hand side of the screen allowing you to refine your search according to your needs.

Do you have any quick tips or shortcuts when using Outlook folders? (Margaret, Annerley Qld)

The folders in Outlook such as Mail, Calendar Tasks etc can easily be accessed by using the Ctrl key and the number corresponding to the folders.  In outlook 2007 these numbers correspond with the icons in the bottom left hand side of the screen.  The folders are numbered as follows;

  1. Mail
  2. Calendar
  3. Contacts
  4. Tasks
  5. Notes
  6. Folder list in the navigation pane
  7. Shortcuts

Selecting Ctrl + Y will bring up a list of your folders in a pop-up screen so that you can look through and select the folder your want to see without using your mouse.  Also another quick tip…when moving folders using the drag and drop feature in Outlook, it is all too easy to drag the folder and accidentally drop it in the wrong place, sometimes inside another folder by mistake.  To correct this, simply right click on the folder, select move "folder name" and a pop up box will allow you to actually select the correct location for the folder.  Simply click ok and you are done.

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