Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bend Word to Your Will

Everybody loves to hate Microsoft Word. That includes famous people like Dvorak, Slashdot folks, Kuro5hin folks and people who dislike WYSIWYG in general. Some of the criticism's that Word faces include:
I have a theory that people love to hate Word because they don't understand it well enough. After all Word seems easy enough. It opens to a seemingly easy to understand interface. There's the text area where you write things, there's the fonts tool, the indentation tool and all sorts of other sundry tools which fit into the mental model that people have about Word. It's just that the interface seems to be boneheaded if you try to type anything more complicated than a simple letter.

The problem is that Word is designed to be easy if all you are interested in doing is writing a simple letter. To do anything more complicated you have to RTFM. Just like DocBook, just like LaTeX, just like all the supposed alternatives to Word. Of course, if you decide to learn Latex or DocBook, you have to read the manual, you won't be able to do anything at all if you don't. Word on the other hand seems to bring out I-don't-need-to-ask-for-directions behavior in people. Especially in highly technically savvy people. So if you're a geek or just someone who's lost a lot of hair over Word, here's what you should do:

First bookmark the Word MVP Site. You're going to need to look-up everything that's over there time and again.

Begin by reading the Tutorials and FAQs. Make sure you don't miss:
Follow up by downloading and reading Bend Word to Your Will.



Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tiny Extensions Which Should Be Merged Into Firefox

Firefox while usually very intuitive, has some strange gaps in functionality which make certain tasks unnecessarily difficult. Here's a list of tiny extensions which fix it. In alphabetical order:

Clear Private Data Button
Adds a button that lets you clear private data. This is the same functionality as the menu item Tools -> Clear Private Data... Useful for compulsive cookie clearer's like me.

Context Search
Lets you right click on a selection and search for it using any of the installed search engines instead of the currently selected ones. (Tip: You can add many useful engines from the Search Engine Page and Mycroft.)

Paste and Go

Steals the feature from Opera. Lets you right click the address bar and Paste and Go instead of Paste and manually clicking the Go button. As a bonus also adds a Paste and Search item if you right click on the search bar. (Yes, we know we're lazy!)

Searchbar Autosizer
Automatically resizes the search bar depending upon length of the text typed in.

Search Button
Adds a button just like the Go button to the right of the search bar. Useful when there's already some text in the search bar but you don't want to take your hand off the mouse to hit Enter. (We really are very lazy!)

Search Plugin Hacks
Adds a very useful feature. Lets you delete search plugins. Just right click on a search plugin you want to remove and delete it.

Lets you translate entire webpages via an item in the Tools menu and snippets of selected text using the content menu. Translation is done using Babelfish.

(After installing the Clear Private Data Button and the Search Button you'll have to add them to your toolbar manually. Do this by right clicking on the toolbar and selecting Customize... and dragging the buttons to the appropriate locations on the toolbar.)

Quite a lot of the functionality that these extensions bring is going to be a part of Firefox 2, so they'll be unnecessary then.

Tags: Firefox, freeware

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Making Explorer Do The Right Thing

Windows Explorer while usually well behaved, has some odd quirks which make things unnecessarily complicated.

For instance, unbelievable as this may seem, there's no way to sort files using extension. There is instead a generic "Type" which lumps all kinds of files together depending upon the application they are registered to.

In the folder below, there seems to be no way of sorting to differentiate between the mp3 and ogg files.

The solution is to install this Explorer extension. It neatly adds a "Ext" column. (In the Explorer menu, select "View -> Details" to popup the dialog below.)

Now we can sort by extension, and all is well in the world!

This sort of thing also strengthens my theory that Microsoft is filled with excellent programmers (They designed a file browser so beautifully that you can write an extension for it with relative ease) but overeager user interface designers. This problem should never have happened in the first place.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Search For The Second Best Coding Font

Seeing as how the best coding font has been found, grumpy coders who don't like having anything to do with number one are busy looking for the second best. The top three contenders are:
Honestly, I would have just continued to use good old Lucida Console, if only it didn't have the dreaded 0O (zero - oh) problem.

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