Wednesday, April 14, 2010

OffiSync + Google "Cloud" (e.g., Docs, Sites) + Google SaaS (Apps) + MS Word

OffiSync - the short story: Just go to the links at the bottom of this post.

The background:
Over the years I have done a lot of work in documentation, and two things stood out as being very useful in that work:
  • MSW (for "Microsoft Word"): Since 1998 my dependence on MW has grown. Then, I had to embark on a journey to become a "power user" of MSW, when faced with some major documentation tasks on a large and complex documentation project. I initially read "Taking Word for Windows to the Edge" from cover to cover, to begin that journey. Over the years, MSW has been continually refined and improved by Microsoft. It is an amazingly powerful document creation/editing tool - though sometimes I still miss the power of Macintosh Publisher (I think that was it's name) from the '80s.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tip - Defining your Information Management requirements

I was having a discussion in email with someone about what their requirements were for information management and I suggested an approach for them to define their requirements. I developed the suggestion further in order to make this post.

 To a large extent, the typical approach is for users to take an ad hoc, features-based approach to stating their requirements. That is, looking at the features of an information management system (e.g., Evernote or InfoSelect or Gmail, amongst others) and saying "Look how useful that is" or "I don't like this" (e.g., a "ribbon" menu) or "I do like this" (e.g., the ribbon). This actually is not the most helpful way (to a developer) to go about providing or gathering requirements, since a like or a dislike does not necessarily define a requirement nor does it necessarily even identify a requirement. This is why attempting to build a requirements list by, for example, a straw pole (likes and dislikes) is usually doomed to failure. It is, in fact, irrational.
As WE Deming said, "Action that is not based on sound theory or best practice is irrational by definition".

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tip - Save time by disabling the "Confirm File Delete" message box

This tip is a potentially very useful time-saving tip for people who find they need to delete lots of files when re-arranging or tidying-up their folders/directories on disk. It could save you many hours over a year of computer use.
In Microsoft Windows Vista and XP, every time you press the delete button for a file in Windows Explorer, the "Confirm File Delete" message box pops up asking:
Are you sure you want to send 'Filename' to the Recycle Bin?

If you delete more than one file - say 3 files - then the message reads:
“Are you sure you want to send these 3 items to the Recycle Bin?”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tip - writing for maximum reader comprehension

Today I read a post entitled "Serif vs. sans-serif legibility" on a blog which claims to be a "Blog about web design & development". (I have removed the link to the blog as a favour to the blog author after his comment below, since this post is critical of the material posted).

The post had been referred to in Hacker News - one of the feed combinators that I subscribe to in my Google Reader.
The post caught my eye because it was on a topic that interested me and on which there is quite a large and solid body of scientific research and knowledge, and I wondered if the post added anything to that body of knowledge. Disappointingly, it did not, because it was a superficial, elementary and unscientific look at the subject by someone who clearly seemed to be ignorant of that body of knowledge and of either human psychology or especially of human visual perception - the latter two factors being what I would have hoped might have been burned-in to the skull of anyone involved in "web design & development". Maybe modern educational standards just don't cut the mustard.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tip - the paperless office: take a rational pilot approach to workgroup systems

"Ignorance is bliss"
- as the saying goes, and it can be expensive when you are talking to snake-oil salesmen of computer systems. The rule is, caveat emptor ("let the buyer beware").

Whenever you plug your laptop or thumb drive into a client's knowledge systems, you may need to be able to share knowledge, which is often in the form of documentation. You need to have common, up-to-date and preferably "open" standards for this. Some organisations have really good knowledge-sharing or workgroup systems. Others do not and just use email to spray copies of documents around. This is a small case-study of one of the latter.
Last year I was working on an assignment for a client whose IT operation was running a moribund, unsupported version of Novell GroupWise (v6.5.6, from 2006), on an IT infrastructure that was based on an archaic operating system (Windows 2000). I was pretty surprised by this as, though the business processes in the organisation were pretty high up the CMM (Capability Maturity Model) - being at Level 3 or higher in some cases - they were using archaic systems to support these processes that I had thought no-one used any more.
I was further surprised when I subsequently learned that there were some areas of the organisation that were running a trial/POC (Proof-of-concept) of a couple of different modern-day workgroup systems that were unrelated to Novell's GroupWise.

Tip - use Gmail and other Google services to avoid "lock-in"

The post [G] Welcome to the Data Liberation Front discusses Google's approach to Gmail data portability and zero "lock-in". Brilliant. This is one of the main reasons I like using Gmail and Google's other free services. They don't try to lock you in. It's YOUR data - e.g., they even make it easy for you to pack up and migrate your Google blogs to some other system.
It reminded me of my recent experience with migrating my NZ mobile phone number from Vodafone to the much cheaper - by up to 50% - 2degrees mobile network service.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tip - start using OpenDNS

OpenDNS stands for "Open Domain Name Server".
An ordinary DNS server is used by your web browser and other internet applications, and is usually provided by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). If you start using OpenDNS, then you will start to realise what it does, and will be unlikely to stop using it - thus it will become your "preferred" DNS.

A DNS server looks up the numerical IP (Internet Protocol) address of any domain to which you are effectively requesting access when you enter a domain link into the address bar (e.g., or when you click on a link on a web page.

The DNS server settings are TCP/IP addresses that are usually automatically created when you install your modem and subsequently boot it up, whether that is an ADSL or a cable modem (ignoring dial-up modems). However, these addresses can sometimes only be set by opening your computer's TCP/IP properties and manually adding the DNS server IP addresses provided by your ISP.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tip - TidyRead will save you time and cut the noise

I just started using TidyRead. A real time-saver and an aid to reading enjoyment and comprehension. I found out about it at - here.
I use Google Reader to filter all the blogs and news sites that I like to keep in touch with, scanning the headers for items that look like they will interest me. This has automated things to the extent that it saves me considerable time/effort in visiting these sites individually from RSS feeds/bookmarks - I now have it all “delivered” via Google Reader - which presents me with a neat and uncluttered list of the feed items, with headers.

However, when I go to read the items presented in Google Reader that interest me, I am faced with something I detest: all the distracting colour splashes, logos, and general advertising noise/garbage and bad ergonomics in web design that the authors/promoters of the destination sites have decided they will force-feed to me as part of my “user experience” (a euphemism for “you will see what I dictate” used by editorial/media fascists). It’s got as bad as - if not worse than - commercial TV advertising, which is something else I detest. The media are in control of the viewer.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tip - Getting more out of tables (Word 2007)

(This is borrowed with thanks thanks from 2 separate articles in Worldstart newsletters.) 
The features of MS Word 2007 make for easy creation of nice-looking tables from scratch. To do this, you have to insert a table of appropriate dimensions, format any coloring, header rows, row height, and so forth. This can become tedious, especially if you need to do it repeatedly. An alternative would be to insert one of the standard formatted tables already provided in the Quick Tables, and either use that as is, or develop it into the table you want. If you take the latter path, and if you are likely to use that final table frequently in other documents, then you could also save it as a Quick Table item. This could be very handy.

Using Quick Tables to insert a ready-made, pre-formatted table:

Place the cursor at the location where you want to insert a table, and go to the Insert tab of the Ribbon. On the Insert tab, select the Table button:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tip - email etiquette/netiquette, and using computer resources wisely

This material has been consolidated from sound policy advice provided by major computer companies.

A general rule of life is that, if left undisturbed, people will tend to follow the path of least resistance and fall into bad habits.

This rule can also be applied to the way people use email. In the early days of email, in the late 1970s or early 1980s when companies first installed email systems, email was mainly for the use of company employees and relatively few people received mailboxes - it was almost a mark of respect to have an email address. Email was rather in the private domain. Few companies supported external access to mailboxes, and fewer still allowed employees to connect from home. Today, email is in the public domain, is ubiquitous, and each of us is able to access free email on many different systems and can connect to email using a variety of devices and different network links, ranging from notebook PCs across VPNs to RIM Blackberries across public wireless networks.