Jun 3

I’ve been using Microsoft Word for close on 20 years and still technical things crop up either I didn’t know about, or haven’t had to know about. I recently received a Word document to work on in which a significant number of words at the end of lines were hyphenated. Nothing strange about that, except that, when the cursor was advanced over the hyphenated word, it completely jumped over the hyphen to the next character as if the hyphen wasn’t actually present in the document.

I did a bit of searching and discovered that automatic hyphenation had been turned on in that document. In Word 2007 and later, you can check the status of hyphenation in your current document and turn off automatic hyphenation by going to Page Layout, clicking Hyphenation and selecting None.

Word hyphenation

In Word versions earlier than 2007 go to Tools, Language, Hyphenation and uncheck Automatically hyphenate document.

So you’ve never noticed automatic hyphenation? Well, that may be because it’s turned off in all your documents. So this doesn’t apply to me? It might. if someone sends you a document in which automatic hyphenation has been used, it will be turned on for that document in your system, i.e. the hyphenation setting travels with the document. So a hyphenated document will open on your system. But it’s easily turned off as I’ve described.

Jan 26
Changing the Date Format in Gmail
icon1 techandlife | icon2 How to | icon4 January 26, 2015| icon38 Comments »

If you use the US date format (MM/DD/YYYY), this tip will not concern you as Gmail seems to use the US date format by default. However if you live in UK and are used to dates being in the format DD/MM/YYYY and use Gmail then this tip is for you. Why is it important? Well it’s important to be aware of the date format to avoid any possible confusion which might arise in a date like say 10/11/2014. Is this 10 November 2014 (UK interpretation) or October 11th 2014 (US interpretation)? And I wonder how often this has led to confusion in say international meeting planning. Once you go back to your Gmail archive, it’s nice to have dates in the format you expect.

Anyway, the solution in Gmail is simple enough. If you live in UK or want the UK date format in Gmail, go to Settings, General, Language and change Gmail display language to English (UK):

Gmail date format

Then scroll to the bottom of the page and Save changes. That’s it. Dates should now be in UK format.

If you’d like to know more about date formats, Rich Menga discussed it here.

Jan 16
Finding Free Kindle Books on Amazon
icon1 techandlife | icon2 How to | icon4 January 16, 2015| icon3No Comments »

It’s possible to pick up great Kindle ebooks for free on Amazon. I’ll show you a couple of ways to go about it. These methods work for the Amazon UK site but may be a little different on your own Amazon store if you’re outside the UK.

Method 1: Go to your Amazon website, select Kindle Store in the drop down menu to the left of the search window, then enter your keyword. I’m showing ‘Evernote’ as an example.

Amazon free ebooks1

This will bring up a list of Kindle ebooks about Evernote but the trick now is to change the ‘Sort by’ drop-down menu on the right side from ‘Relevance’ to ‘Price: Low to High’. And there are your free Evernote books at the top of the list.

Method 2: Again go to Amazon, mouse over ‘Kindle E-readers & Books’ from the ‘Shop by Department’ menu on the left side, then navigate to and select ‘Kindle Books’ from the fly-out menu:

Amazon free ebooks4

This will bring up a screen of Kindle Books. Then select Kindle Best Sellers in the menu on the left side.

Amazon free ebooks2

This will bring up a new window where you can select ‘Top 100 Free’ rather than ‘Top 100 Paid’. Then select the Genre you want on the left side. I’ve chosen ‘Computing’ as I know that’s where the Evernote books will be. Then just browse through the top 100 best selling free Kindle books on computing.

Amazon free ebooks3

So there’s two ways to search free Kindle ebooks on Amazon. It’s worth going back regularly as paid books are often promoted to free for short spells. Good hunting!

Jul 26

Feed readers are great for getting all your news delivered to one place. Now that Google Reader has gone, we’ve all had to find an alternative reader. I’ve been using Feedly for some time now. I can set it up pretty much like Google Reader used to be, but the one thing I find most annoying is that keyword filtering is not built into feed readers. Filtering out stuff I don’t want is the feature I want most and I could do it in Google Reader with the Google Reader Filter extension. However, thanks to a recent post on Addictive Tips and Lifehacker,  I’ve discovered that I can use Reader Filter for keyword filtering in Feedly and The Old Reader using Chrome browser. I’ve found it also works fine if you’re using Feedly Cloud.

Once installed in Chrome, go into the settings and add your keywords and phrases in the ‘What to hide’ section.

Reader Filter

You can set up Reader Filter to filter out keywords or phrases occurring in the post title only or in the title and body text which is very useful. You can also choose if the keyword is to be case-sensitive or not. You can also add a list of feeds never to filter. You can change your Feedly layout too but that doesn’t really bother me. I don’t think there’s a Feedly filter userscript for Firefox yet but from what I read here, that may come soon.

So if you want to hide blog posts you just don’t want to read in Feedly, try Reader Filter.

Jul 16

Some bloggers choose to add utm_source tracking codes to their page URLs to track where their blog traffic is coming from. That’s fine but if I follow a link from Feedly, my RSS reader, and want to bookmark the link for future reference, I now have a bunch of additional junk at the end of the URL which I’d rather remove before bookmarking. Usually, the junk part starts something like ?utm_source=feedburner. I found a way to remove this in Google Reader using the Unburner plugin in Chrome and most people that commented there seemed to find it useful.

Turns out that even though Google Reader has now gone, this plugin still seems to work fine for me with Feedly. I’m using the cloud version of Feedly (cloud.feedly.com) which currently uses Feedly version 16.0.558. The Unburner plugin is currently at version 0.4.

Seems to work for hover-over links in Feedly where the link seems to point to feeds.feedproxy.com and feeds.feedblitz.com but not for say feeds.mashable.com which leads to a ?utm_campaign=Feed… tracking code. Still, at least it seems to get rid of all of the annoying FeedBurner tracking codes.

So if these FeedBurner codes are bugging you too in Feedly, try installing the Unburner extension in your Chrome browser.

May 16

I’ve already talked about my backup routine in an earlier post. Part of that involves daily backups to CX (Cloud Exchange) –  it’s my first choice cloud storage site as it gives 10GB free storage. Like Dropbox and SkyDrive etc, just drag your files to the CX desktop folder and they are automatically synced to the cloud.

That’s great, but what about scheduling automatic daily backups of your changed documents to the cloud? For me, it’s important to have a second copy of my recently changed work files in the cloud, just in case my PC doesn’t boot next morning, for example. We need a way to automatically select documents you’ve worked on that day, and at a preset time, copy those files to your CX folder for syncing to the cloud. I’m going to show you how I do this.

Get some free cloud storage

If you haven’t already done so, sign up for free cloud storage and make a note where your desktop folder is for syncing to the cloud. For me, it’s C:\Users\<user name> \Desktop\CX Sync.

Create a batch file to copy daily changed files to the CX folder

Yes, I know batch files are a little old school but, once set up correctly, they get the job done. We’ll make one to execute a simple command to copy today’s changed files to our syncing folder, but first why select just changed files? Well, if you have a good backup routine in place, all your documents older than today should be on your external drive anyway. During the current day, you’ve been editing documents, photos or videos and these current files should be backed up to your external drive and the cloud at the end of the day. You could use a backup program but why download another utility when you already have the tools to do it for free in Windows.

We can create a batch file with a text editor like Notepad++. In the batch file, the command Robocopy is used to copy your daily files from the source folders to a destination folder, your syncing folder. Robocopy is available in Windows Vista and Windows 7.  The format for the Robocopy command here is Robocopy <source folder> <destination folder> switches. The switch /MAXAGE:1 makes the command select just today’s files (i.e. it excludes files older than 1 day). The switch /S tells Robocopy to copy subfolders. Open your text editor and copy and paste the following lines to make your batch file:

echo off

echo Daily files to CX

Robocopy “c:\Users\<user name>\Documents” “C:\Users\<user name>\Desktop\CX Sync” /MAXAGE:1 /S

echo Backup complete

You’ll have to edit <user name> to your own user name and you’ll have to change some details to point to your correct source and destination folders. The destination folder should be your syncing folder, in my case CX Sync. If the source or destination paths contain spaces in them, enclose these in double quotes as shown above. Now save it as a batch file (.bat) on your desktop, NOT as a text file (.txt). Give it a sensible name, something like Daily docs to CX.bat. Here’s how the Save as screen looks in Notepad++:

Save as batch file

Try it out by double clicking this batch file on your Desktop  to see if it’s copying today’s changed files to your syncing folder.

Schedule your daily backup with Windows Task Scheduler

So far so good I hope. But so far we’re relying on remembering to click this batch file each day. Much better if we could automate this process to run the batch file at a specific time each day, say 9pm when all work for the day is finished and we are doing other things on our PC. Well, we can set up Windows Task Scheduler to do this.

Click the Windows Start button and key in Task in the search window. This should bring up Task Scheduler on the list. Click it, then right click Task Scheduler Library and choose Create Task. Under the General tab, fill out the task Name:

Task Scheduler1

Then click on the Triggers tab and click New. Fill out the time for your scheduled backup to run and make sure Daily is selected. Click OK.

Task Scheduler2

Then click on the Actions tab and click New. Fill out the location of your batch file by browsing to your desktop and selecting the file. Click OK.

Task Scheduler3

Select the Conditions tab and set it up as shown.

Task Scheduler4

I found it best to uncheck the default ‘Start the task only if the computer is idle for:’ I want it to run right away at 9pm with no delay. Click OK to complete setting up your scheduled backup task and close the Task Scheduler.

When this scheduled task runs at your chosen time, it runs in the background anyway. The pause command at the end of the batch file means the window will remain open so you can check it has run correctly.  When you’re satisfied everything is okay, press any key to close the batch file window.

So there we have a free route to set up a scheduled backup of your daily edited files to the cloud without downloading any utilities. Eventually, when your free online storage starts to fill up, you can delete some of the older files to free up space. They should all be on your external drive anyway. How do you schedule backups? Have you any suggestions to improve this routine. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Update (28 July 2012): If you want to take this a little further, and you’re interested in client-side encryption before backing up, I’ve recently added a new post on Scheduling Encrypted Daily Backups of Changed Files to Cloud Storage.

Jan 30

Symbols of percent

We come across percentages every day. ‘iPhone sales grow 142%; iPad sales grow 183%’ . Sounds good, but what does it actually mean? What about a 415% increase? We all did percentages in school  way back when and some of us work with them in our daily lives but they can still be quite difficult to visualize.

For example, I’ve always had a problem with this one – when someone says something’s value has doubled well that’s actually only a 100% increase, and when it has tripled, that’s a 200% increase.  When the value has gone up say fivefold that’s a 400% increase on the original value. You would think that the numbers would match, i.e. tripled is a 300% increase, but the important word is ‘increase’. Remember that the original value is 100% and if it triples, its value becomes 300% of the original, but the percentage increase is only 200%. Percentage increase is also known as markup. And in the headline above ‘iPhone sales grow 142%’, I guess they are saying that ‘sales increase by 142%’.

You might also come across the terms -times or -fold which mean the same, i.e. triples is three times or threefold the original value.

But don’t let me muddy the waters for you! There are actually quite a few websites that will calculate percentages or percent increases and decreases for you. Here’s a couple of the best I’ve come across.



Nice clear interface. Just fill in 2 values and it calculates all the unknowns including the percentage increase or decrease.

Percentage Calculator


Perhaps a little clearer but just completes the row you have chosen.

So bookmark one of these sites for future reference when you perhaps want to clarify percentages you’ve been given or you want to calculate percent increases or decreases on your values.

Top image credit: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nov 24


When we’re not on Facebook or Twitter, chances are we may be searching for something online. It’s important to know how to get the best out of search so we can get the results we want quickly and without too much irrelevant stuff. So I was delighted to find a post on Lifehacker a little while back pointing me to Daniel Russell’s blog SearchReSearch.

Each week, Daniel issues a search challenge on some topic and you can try your hand at getting to the correct result. A couple of days later, he explains how he arrived at his result so you can see where you went wrong or indeed learn from his own search experience. This week it was What’s that flower? (pictured above).

So if you want to make your search more effective, subscribe to his blog and try his search challenges. Even if you haven’t got time to try it every week, just looking at the answers and seeing how he went about the searches is very useful. He also gives a takeaway Search Moral or Search Lesson at the end. And there’s a great archive of search challenges there if you’re looking for something to do this holiday.

And here’s an added bonus: Get More out of Google: Tips and Tricks for Students Conducting Online Research (Infographic)

Aug 25

Unshorten URL

Yesterday I received email notification of a blog comment which I should check was spam and approve or trash. It looked like spam – a couple of words and a shortened URL. But was the link important or interesting? I was a little wary and knew that this could be a security risk, i.e. don’t click a link if you’re not sure where it’s leading or you don’t know the sender. If you come across a shortened URL on Twitter, you can hover your mouse over it and the full URL will often appear – but not always. So what can you do to check out a shortened URL before you click?

Unshorten the link

Paste the link into unfwd4.me or unshorten.com to see the full URL. You may then be able to decide if the link is reputable and worth following. Still unsure? Try the link scanners mentioned below.

Scan the link

Copy the shortened URL into LinkScanner Online or Online Link Scan. They’ll scan the site and alert you if there may be a problem following the link. Or if you have time and want to try multiple antivirus engines, try the scanner at URLVoid.

After you click the link

After you’ve decided to click, browser plugins like McAfee SiteAdvisor and WOT (Web of Trust) provide another tool you can use to alert you of known dubious or untrusted  sites. I use McAfee and have found it to be fine. There are free and paid versions. The download link to the free limited version (SiteAdvisor) is currently at the bottom of their Downloads page. Web of Trust is also highly regarded in this fight against ‘clickjacking’ and avoiding malicious sites.

Aug 2

We’ve all been there. Arrive at a website and after a few seconds, a massive popup image appears dimming the background and asking you to subscribe to a newsletter or buy an ebook.


You cannot continue until you close this popup – or of course subscribe to the newsletter or buy the ebook. If you regularly visit this website, there are a couple of ways which you might try to block the popups in future.

Adblock Plus extension (for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE)

With the Adblock Plus extension installed, when the popup appears, you click the Adblock button (ABP) at the end of your address bar, select Easy Create Filter, then highlight the individual elements of the popup, right click when selected, then click Add to block those elements in future. Keeping adding the elements until all of the popup image has gone. You also have to select the whole dimmed background as well and add this otherwise the annoying dimmed effect will appear next time you load the site. If you got your selection wrong, you can always delete the filter, or parts of it – right click the Adblock button, select Options, then the Add your own filters tab. Then just select all the elements to remove. Although a little fiddly to get right, the advantage of this method is that, once it’s added to Adblock, the filter will keep working until you delete it. The disadvantage I’ve found is that it seems to remove any embedded YouTube videos on the webpage as well as the popup image and so far I can’t find a way to leave the video and remove the pop-up.

Block overlay images in Chrome

I learned another way to try to block these popups in Chrome on the cnet How To website. The instructions there are very clear so head over there for instructions. It doesn’t always seem to work in blocking these overlays. Problem with this one is, when you go to do some PC maintenance with say CCleaner, the popups will reappear. I think that it’s the deletion of Google Chrome cookies which is causing the popup images to reappear after running CCleaner. To prevent deletion of cookies and leave the images blocked, in CCleaner, click the Applications tab, scroll down to Google Chrome and uncheck the box marked Cookies. But you may want all cookies removed anyway so perhaps the Adblock route is the best option overall.

Hope this helps. How do you remove these popups or are you bothered by them?

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