PC Tips and Tricks
for the average user who wants to do better...
A collection of articles and notes from BuyTrain newsletters
updated May 2008

NOTE:  This is not intended to be a source of technical information. It's just a collection of tips I've distributed to my friends who are trying to do a better job of using their PCs. I highly recommend you visit and use one or more of the many great free resources online. Fred Langa, Woody Leonard, Karen Kenworthy are industry icons who have I learned a lot from!

Why Dual Monitors?

Do you use two monitors connected to your computer at the office? I know… it's not something I thought I'd want to do until about 5 minutes after I tried it. Now I would never want to go back to just one monitor. Let me clarify why.

Word 2007 Compatibility- Heads Up

I've been reading a little about the new version of Microsoft Office including WORD 2007.    So far I know almost nothing about the new versions of the applications  - seems like some interesting new features, but I don't plan to change until I have plenty of extra leisure time to learn about it.   However, Office 2007 is available now and if you purchase a new PC or new software you could end up with the 2007 version.

One thing to be aware of is that the new version of WORD, creates and saves documents in a new format with features that are NOT compatible with older versions of WORD.   Just like previous changes, Microsoft has done a pretty good job of giving you options to edit and save files in "compatibility mode" - however, you'll need to scrupulously make sure that you do so.

I doubt we'll change here at the office anytime soon - so those of you who take work home, will just need to be aware of the potential compatibility issue if you end up using new software at home.

Wish those little icons in the Quick Launch toolbar area of the Windows Taskbar were a little bigger?
It can be done.

The quick launch toolbar includes program icons and by default it appears on the taskbar next to the Start button.

1- Right click on an empty place somewhere on the Task Bar and unlock it (uncheck the "Lock the Taskbar" item)
2- Right click on an empty place in the Quick Launch toolbar
3- In the dialog box select VIEW then LARGE ICONS

We discussed before in our Outlook workshops and in some previous tips.


I highly recommend you NOT use the default Outlook HTML mail format.
I highly recommend you NOT use Word as your Outlook email editor.
Use the Outlook RFT mail format instead.


HTML message format can be pretty and can include cute wallpaper - HOWEVER……..

HTML formatted messages make it difficult to include and test working hyperlinks before sending
HTML formatted message can be rejected by some anti-virus email scanning systems
HTML formatted messages may be reformatted by some email settings so the recipient doesn't see the same thing you sent
HTML formatted messages can be hard to respond to with links and attachments.

RTF messages can include some simple formatting to look better so HTML formatting is a waste of time and effort.

The more complex and complicated you make your messages with special formatting and fonts, the more likely you or the recipient will have problems.

You can always make the change for a specific message where there is a reason to use HTML formatting.


In the Outlook Tools menu select Options
Select the Mail Format Tab and set the default Message Format to RTF.

Rich Text Format is a relatively simple text format that most word processors and email programs can easily read and handle.


O.K. so this may not be new to you - but it was new to me. 
Thanks to Mike W.  ( you know who you are)  for asking the question.

Yes, you can combine multiple chart types into one excel chart.


How can my PC Help with Contracting Issues?

Two Examples:

1) A contractor received the following legal opinion about a contract wherein the Buyer had shortened the contractor name by using an acronym instead of the full name.  (names have been changed to protect the innocent). 

This is not a valid acronym for our company name. I understand the concern of using Animated Association of Automotive Audiophiles over and over in a contract.  However, under no circumstances do we want to start using AAAA. The reason for this is that we have a brand name in the market place and don’t want it diluted by acronyms.

2) NPR story about a contract dispute – resolved by the courts,  over the placement of a comma.


Both situations serve as reminders that we are issuing legal documents. Cavalier wording or punctuation which creates ambiguities, can, and will, be used against us in a court of law.  I jest with my lawyer friends about using too many words, but sometimes using too few can be a problem.  In the first case, our contract referring to the AAAA company, could be judged invalid since there is no such company. In the 2nd case, clarifying comments seem to have been left out of the English version of the contract.  Someone assumed that their (unwritten) interpretation of the text would suffice.

In both examples MS WORD can help us to fill up the contract with precise words while at the same time avoiding repetitive typing.  Here are two easy ways:

1) Set MS Word's autocorrect feature to always replace a specific acronym with the full text.. I have mine set, for example, to always replace DOE with the Department of Energy.  To resolve the first example above I could set up MS Word autocorrect so that every time I type AAAA,  Word automatically replaces it with the full contractor name.  In Word open the tools menu and select AUTOCORRECT.  Add the acronym and text to replace it. 

2) Store clarifying or explanatory text in a separate “scrap” file.  Then reverse the processes to easily insert the scrap-file text in as many places as you want.  In a Word Document highlight the paragraph or text that you want to save, and drag it to the desktop. Word will create a “SCRAP” icon.  Now you can drag that scrap back into any MS Word document to insert the text.  Note: I can also drag the scrap text I create from Word into an Outlook email message or Excel file.

Let Outlook Help Your Memory

Sometimes we receive notices about scheduled Network Outages. It would be helpful to have a reminder about those events on our calendar so that we don’t schedule a meeting or task when the network will not be available.

There is an easy way to use Outlook as a personal reminder about important events.

When you receive an email and want to set a reminder.

1 - Drag the email message from your in-box and drop it on your calendar. This will automatically open the calendar dialog box with a copy of the message included.

NOTE: you can do the same thing by dropping a message on the Task icon – to set up a task.

2- Set the date and time to correspond with the event.

3- Set the REMINDER  to remind you about it a few days in advance

4- Set the "SHOW TIME AS" to show your time as Free (or whatever is appropriate).

5- Save and Close.

This will add the event to the Outlook  calendar and send a reminder so you don't forget…  If you SHOW TIME AS Free, then it won't block other appointments, but will still show up where you can see it.

Examples of where this might be handy:

"The network will be offline on Saturday…."

"There will be a PassPort outage starting at 3:00, be sure to close and save your work before it dumps you out."

"I'll be over at 2:30 to chat about this audit report."

"Remember to bring this completed for with you to staff meeting…"

File Wont' Open?

Do you have a file that won't open?  It could be that the file just needs to be renamed. Windows, Microsoft Office and many other software programs identify a file based on the 3-character file extension  following the period "." in a filename.

Examples:  .XLS=Excel;  .DOC=WORD; .PPT=PowerPoint

Older programs and some people, have never adjusted to that naming convention. They create files with names that sound good, but don't comply. As a result, we sometimes run across files with oddball filenames, weird filename extensions or no extensions at all.

Some Examples:  REPORT.MAY ;  RESUME.MLT ; SEMINAR(09/23/06) ; and worse

Since Windows Doesn't recognize these filename extensions, it has no idea what program to use to open the file. If someone sends you the file in an email - then clicking on it will result in an error.

You can sometimes work around this error manually.  1)Save the file to your hard drive. Scan it with an up-to-date virus checker!  2)Rename the file, adding an extension based on your best guess about what type of file it is. 

In our examples above I'd guess this way:



Sometimes malicious people will try to fool you by adding two or three extensions behind a filename:


This is not a TEXT file, it's an HTML file that could do bad things to your computer.

They are hoping you won't notice and click the file to run a virus.  If you click before thinking - it's too late-  you can't just-sort-of click.

Whenever you receive a file from someone you don't know (and trust) -be very careful.

Corollary..  How you name a file can not only affect how easy it is to open, but it can also affect how easy it is to link to, attach or describe.

Despite the fact that Windows will let you use long file names, it can cause you problems.

Whenever possible I try to stick to these file name rules: 

1- Keep the file name short   [ There is actually a limit to how long a file name can be and all of the folder and subfolder names in the path count against that limit as well]
2- If you want to leave space for readability use an underscore in the name    (Taylor_Resume.DOC)
3- Don't use any other special characters in the file name. 
4- Always make sure the 3-character extension references the right software program. Usually programs assign the extension automatically.
5- Never include spaces in a filename.
6- Never include extra periods in a filename (see rule 3).
7- These rules apply to folder names as well.

Geeks call the original file naming convention of 8 characters with a period followed by 3 characters:    " 8 dot 3" . The closer you can get to filenames complying with that geeky term, the safer.

Example of the problem in rule 1 above:

Imagine a file in a subfolder of a folder, of a folder, of a folder on our network drive called:  Fiscal Year End Report (10/15/2006).doc.    Regardless of all the other problems with the filename - the limit on length could sneak up and block access to the file.

Windows sees the full file name like this:

[ _\\HANFORD\DATA\Sitedata\TNS\procedure_rewrite_taylor\Performance%20Matrix%20files\Fiscal%20Year%20End%20Report%20(10/15/2006).doc ]

You get the idea…... how hard it would be to keep track of that and/or ask someone to type in the link.

Outlook Message Archives

Many of us have a nasty habit of saving lots of email messages in personal archive folders. After all, it’s only a few electrons, right? Wrong! After a whole year of saving, a few hundred email messages can take up a lot of space.

Outlook is unforgiving. At some point the archive folder will get so big that Outlook will refuse to open it – and it may be permanently corrupted – and it may be that you can never open it again.

Rather than take the risk, I proactively manage my archive folders. (incidentally, Outlook also calls them Outlook Data files and/or Personal Folders (PST) files).   Read more....

Outlook Temporary File

I just learned this trick. The revelation came to me in my favorite email newsletter ( www.langa.com ) . It's an issue that has impacted quite a few people in our office and until now I couldn't help them.  The solution is kind of technical - but if you have this problem;  show this solution to your local geek, who will then easily figure it out.

Problem:  I open an attachment to an Outlook message. Maybe it's a word file that I'm commenting on. Make a few changes then click save and close the file. When I delete the Outlook message, I can't find a copy of the attachment with my changes. The only thing I can remember is that Outlook saved to some folder called  OLK... something. 

Issue: The OLK folder is a temporary folder created by Outlook that is hidden - I mean very, very hidden. Messages and attachments are stored there temporarily. Until now, I knew of no way to find or view items in this folder. But if you act fast, they can be found and recovered - before Outlook cleans out the temporary folder.

Use the Windows XP disk cleanup tool. In the list of files to delete, highlight the Temporary files item and select the View Files button.  Now in the File Explorer window, select the FOLDERS button.  You should now be able to navigate to the OLK... folder and recover your file. Amazing and Awesome!

This from the Microsoft web site. Some good ideas.

There is a better way to stop the clutter: manage your files more effectively. Managing files on your computer is a lot like managing paper files. They can be organized using folders and then stored in specific locations for when you need them. And just like paper files and folders, if you don't have a way to organize them, things can get lost.

7 Tips to Manage Your Files Better

A Different Way to Search

Sometimes the best way to find something on the internet is not the most intuitive.
Can't find a specific vendor's web site by searching with keywords?

Try searching with Google using the phone or fax number.

Example:  A friend recommended I call a vendor and gave me the phone number 800-591-0048.
I tried searching for the vendor's web site in Google by using keywords.
I got hundreds of hits and couldn't figure out which site was the right one

So instead;  I did a Google search on the phone number.
Since the phone number was listed on the vendor's web site, I easily found the right one.

Here's the trick.

1- Don't put in hyphens or slashes, they can confuse Google; leave spaces instead
2- Put the phone or fax number inside of quotation marks  "509 375 0414"

Try this one at Google…..  www.google.com 

Outlook Trick:  Schedule delivery of a specific message

Problem: I want to prepare a message now while I'm thinking about it, but I don't want to send it until later.

Solution:  Prepare the message and select message option  DO NOT DELIVER BEFORE: date&time.
When you are finished; send the message.

How: The Options button is located on the message toolbar when you are preparing a message.

What happens:  Outlook stores the outgoing message in your Outlook OUTBOX folder. Then sends it at the date and time you selected.

Why would I want to do this? A few examples:
- I am talking with someone and offer to send a reminder later. Type the message now and schedule outlook to deliver later to me and the person I want to remind - message says: " This is the reminder for us to talk after the UPS delivery and check on package xyz."

- I decide this morning that I want to send a PC tip to people on Friday. Instead of creating a task to remind me to send the message, I can type the message now and schedule it to be delivered on Friday so I don't have to do anything more on Friday other than just log in to my email.

- I decide on Monday to send a reminder to a group of people on Friday

1- Your Outlook must be running for Outlook to send the message.  I can't pretend I was working at midnight by having outlook send message to my manager at midnight - although I could probably figure a way to work around this limitation for a few special friends.

2- If you want to delay sending all messages for a few minutes - while you rethink a curt and career-limiting response - use the tip below/

3- In either case, Outlook stores the message in your Outlook OUTBOX folder. If you want to review, change or cancel the message just open the OUTBOX and either edit or delete the message. 

4- If I do not have Outlook running at the time  the message is supposed to be delivered, Outlook will send it the next time Outlook starts.

Identity Theft Resource: Just one more link as a reference for identity theft and fraud. There are many articles and web sites devoted to this subject. Probably the most important thing I can recommend (beyond reading a few of them) is printing a copy of the suggestions and keeping it where you can find it.  I've put a copy in the glove box of each vehicle and keep also keep a copy in my briefcase.

When I use Word to edit long documents, I often find myself jumping around in the document. Scanning to the end to find a reference or jumping to the top to check wording, etc., then loosing my place and having to scan through several places to figure out where I left off. Solve that problem by using SHIFT+F5 to return to the last edit. Here's how it works; If I'm typing on page 8 and scan back to the beginning of the document to check a reference; I click SHIF+F5 and jump back to the last place in page 8 I was typing.

Take a minute to reconsider…...

Ever send an email only to wish you hadn’t a few minutes later?
Instead of sending a gratifying but regretful message, use an Outlook feature and take a minute to think about it.

At the office, I stop Outlook from automatically sending messages by setting my Send/ Receive options to wait a minute (or more)   Instead of immediately sending the message after I click the send button, Outbox patiently stores it in my Outbox for a minute and gives me a chance to reconsider the ramifications of what I said.  If I decide not to send the message or to edit it, I can pick it out of the Outlook Outbox - otherwise Outlook sends automatically a minute or two later. 

Change the option in the Tools menu > Options > MailSetup >Send/Receive >Schedule automatic Send/Receive.

At home, I always compose email while offline (mostly for security reasons) and then only after I’m done do I connect and ask Outlook to Send/Receive messages


I found a series of very good articles on the Microsoft web site about using Office Software to be more productive.

5 Beliefs that Limit Productivity - And How to Overcome Them

7 Tips to Manage Your Files Better

4 Ways to Take Control of Your E-mail Inbox

Protect Home Computers

Over the past two weeks I've had several people tell me that their computer at home might be infected by a virus or spyware.  It's certainly possible - my email at home has been flooded with messages generated by the latest computer virus. To try and help them, I provided the links shown below.

The bottom line is that there really is no free lunch. Sooner or later you are going to have to pay-to-play…. One of these nasty bugs is going to slip in and you'll get infected.  Interesting analogy;  you likely won't catch a cold if you never go out of the house… but step into the mall a few times and you'll likely catch something. 

Even good computer users are not immune. I recently ended up completely wiping my hard drive and reinstalling everything from scratch… actually, many advanced users do this every few years on purpose.

The best defense is installing and learning to use good protection. Antivirus and Anti-Spyware tools, need to be installed and updated on a regular basis. Keep in mind, they are not automatic. You'll need to invest some time in learning to use them and keeping them updated. Read more: Sharpen Your Software Tools

The next best defense in windows XP is to set up multiple user accounts. Set one account with just barely enough authority to browse email and the internet - but with no authority to make any system changes.  Always use the limited account unless you are deliberately installing or changing software. Kind of like setting a parental lock on the cable TV - it works even if you are the one changing channels while the kids are in the room.

If you think you might be infected, start here.  Norton has several tools to help scan your PC for virus' and remove the infections.


Also on the home page is a link to purchase the Norton Antivirus Software….  The Norton Internet security suite is hard to configure and control… but the basic antivirus is a must have!

To check for spy ware, there are three software programs you can download and use free. I'd recommend downloading and using them all one at a time.


Microsoft articles & information on PC security.

How do I know if I have a virus?

Set up separate user accounts to help block system changes while surfing the net.
http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/children/childrenonline.mspx  (step 2)

Download and install free web tools... not without some caution:

I know at home, many people have started to find a number of useful and free web tools. Services such as Google have a number of free tools for indexing, email, web searches, etc. Some tools are good, but some are not. Even if the company is reputable, you could be making a mistake.

Before downloading, installing and using ANYTHING, make sure you consider the risks and understand what you are doing. DO NOT fall prey to wiz-bang, pretty pictures, nice words. Be a savvy consumer!

I think most people understand that just running a strange file could be inviting a virus invasion. But even cute tools have risks; 

Why do we care? This isn't Las Vegas; assume that what you do, say and copy to the web is available and distributed to everyone who wants to know.

Here is a great article that provides some insight. www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=162600345 

At home, some of these consequences are innocuous. On the other hand;  I hear from people all the time who have suffered significant problems.

At work, you could be in violation of company policy, and/or you could be creating a significant business risk.

I'm all for balancing productivity tools with security. [I don't want to go back to when our executive secretary used to ration carbon paper.] But downloading and using new tools without understanding the potential liability is irresponsible.

Even with what I know about computers, I have a healthy skepticism about new tools. Even though I know many of the IT people who work hard at making sure all of the software in our company works correctly and is secure; I'm usually cautious about what they do as well.

The there is the other side…. I'm always amazed at people who are blissfully ignorant. They jump in with both feet and then act surprised when they have a computer problem.


Work Menu in Word

Over the past few years, I've recommended that people turn on and start using the WORD WORK menu.

It's one of the tricks that I find most useful in WORD.

The menu stores a list of documents that I will be working on frequently.

- Weekly highlights that will be updated daily
- Process Guides that I am receiving comments on
- An RFP or Contract that is being drafted as information arrives
- Documents I've started then got interrupted

Here's how:

MLTWEB is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M. 
Materials and articles prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are withheld.
Copyright;  Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
Last Updated: 10/17/2014