Microworx Tech Tips.

Sometimes you don't need a new product - you just need some new information! With technology an ever-changing environment, it can be hard to keep up with the best way to do various tasks with the hardware and software you use every day. Here we collect some of the best tips and tricks to help you work smarter and faster. From editing images to sorting emails, from creating passwords to back-up power, there's something helpful for you to learn.

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Thou shalt make back-ups

Recently a client lost 100 Gb of data when a hard drive failed.  With no effective back-up for much of the data, thousands of hours of work were lost.  Are you able to cope with such a disaster?  Many of us go through life hoping that it will never happen to me! What are your […]

Good office ergonomics

Recently a friend of mine developed repetitive strain injury.  His work of developing written language for a people group in Cambodia requires extensive use of a computer keyboard.  This constant keyboard work exacerbates his injury & requires significant changes to resolve it.  Like most things in life, prevention is better than cure. What are the […]

Out of date antivirus is worse than no antivirus at all

Sometimes we get asked the question, “How could I have got a virus when I have antivirus protection installed?”  Most people have taken the precaution of installing antivirus software, or perhaps had it preinstalled when they purchased their computer.  A common problem, however, is that they may not have kept the product up-to-date, or perhaps […]

The quest for the paperless office

Many of us have filing cabinets full of paper we’d either rather not have to store, or experienced times when we’re unable to find a particular document when we want it.  What are some of the ways that we can save paper & reduce the clutter in our lives? Saving documents electronically can be a […]

Creating more secure passwords

Strong passwords are usually at least eight characters, include a combination of letters, numbers, & symbols and is easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess.  The easiest way to create a strong password that you won’t have to write down is to come up with a passphrase.  A passphrase is a […]

Policies that can protect your organization from Viruses, Worms & Internet Scams

Viruses & Worms are small but destructive programs that are commonly spread by e-mail. They come in the form of cleverly disguised attachments to messages that trick unsuspecting users into clicking on them. Once installed, viruses infect programs & files and can destroy your data. They can self-replicate across your network & spread by e-mailing […]

Handy Keyboard Shortcuts

  Keys Action F2 Rename F3 Find F5 Refresh F6 Switch between panes in Windows Explorer ALT+ENTER Properties CTRL+X, C, or V Cut, Copy, or Paste CTRL+Z Undo CTRL+A Select All CTRL+drag a file or folder Copy a file or folder to new location CTRL+SHIFT+drag a file to the desktop or folder Create a shortcut

Future Trends in IT; Virtualization

Virtualization is a technology that has been around for years, but it’s application is now filtering down to the everyday computer user. It is the creation of a virtual, rather than actual, version of something, such as an desktop computer, a server, a storage device or network resources. By creating a virtual environment we can […]

Future Trends in IT; Hosted Services

Hosted Services seems to be a concept that is starting to come to the fore. Rather than purchase the software & hardware outright, you “rent” the service from someone else. In certain circumstances, particularly organizations with small to medium networks, it can be very cost effective. Hosted services include technologies such as hosted anti-virus & […]

Two Monitors are better are One!

Gone are the days when a computer monitor the size of a large microwave sat on your desk. Today, flat screens are the product of choice. Because they have a much smaller footprint, options become available that we may have never considered before. Extra large monitors (which can be expensive), or even two computer monitors […]

Batch renaming files

When you download files from a scanner, digital camera, or other peripheral device, they often have meaningless names. You can rename several similar files at once with the following procedure. Open the folder containing files that you want to rename. Select the files you want to rename. If the files you want are not adjacent […]

Save your work early & often

Many of us create a new document, spend considerable time & effort updating it, but only save our work at the very end. A system crash or other computer problem can render our hours of work lost forever. A simple trick employed by the pro’s is to save your work early & often. As soon […]

Take time to proof read your email

We’ve all received emails that were sent in a hurry & with little care. Poor grammar, incorrect spelling & clumsy sentences can confuse the meaning & even give the wrong impression. A few “tricks of the trade” can help you minimize problems with your emails: Briefly proof read everything before you send it. That quick […]

Consider using the computer calculator

Many of us use a desk calculator regularly. For years I’ve had a calculator on my desk, right next to my computer, for those times I need to do arithmetic quickly. Nowadays, I just call up the calculator on my computer & use that instead. You can find the MS Windows Calculator under the Start […]

Consider creating a Standard Operating Environment

A Standard Operating Environment (SOE) specifies the software that is to be consistently used on all computers within an organisation. It is common practice for large organizations to use a SOE because it reduces their total cost of setting up, managing & supporting their computer infrastructure. An SOE simplifies technical support by minimising the number […]

View formatting in your Word Processor

There are times when we cut & paste information from different sources, but the original formatting gets pasted along with the text. To view the formatting of a particular block of text, highlight the text and press SHIFT-F1. There is the option to tick the check box “Show all formatting marks” in order to see […]

Less is More with Computer Software

Just this past week, I spent the day rebuilding the computer my kids use for homework & entertainment. I was constantly barraged with complaints about it running slowly & occasionally crashing. Giving in to the family pressure, I initially tried to remove the various unnecessary programs they had downloaded over the years. This sped it […]

Consider switching your computer mouse to your left hand

A couple of years ago I strained the muscles in my right forearm & exacerbated the injury regularly cycling to keep fit. Operating my computer mouse with my right hand continued to irritate my forearm & wrist. Out of necessity I decided to try using my mouse with my left hand. It took a few […]

Trends in Computer Security

For years there has been an ongoing debate as to which computer platform is the most secure. Whilst there is a perception amongst both PC & Mac users that Macs are safer, apparently Mac users are victims of cybercrime just as regularly as PC users. According to security vendors, Viruses and Trojans are no longer […]

Consider accessing mail using a Web Browser (Webmail)

For years, many of us have accessed our email via an email client like Outlook, Thunderbird, Evolution, or Eudora. Whilst these programs are powerful, things get messy when you try & access mail from multiple devices. The proliferation of smartphones, notebooks, netbooks, tablets/ipads, & desktops makes it difficult to synchronize mail to all devices. When […]

Tips for Gmail users

Gmail has a number of useful features that many users are unfamiliar with. Not only can you access these features through your own Gmail account, but they are also available to you if you own your own domain, via Google Apps. Some of my favourite features are: Use filters to sort mail into prearranged labels […]

My favourite Smartphone Apps

I’ve recently returned from a successful climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. After operating from overseas with nothing more than an android smartphone, I thought I’d give a quick review of what apps worked for me. (Note that the same or similar apps may be available on other platforms such as iphone.) Inserty This is one of […]

Editing metadata tags within audio files

As we expand our music & audio media collections, many encounter the problem of inconsistent or incomplete metadata. A file’s metadata is the tagged information that describe audio files such as MP3’s. It usually describes parameters such as Title, Artist, Album, Genre, Track Number, Year, Picture, etc. We’ve all ripped CDs that we have legitimately […]

Dealing with a dusty computer

A dusty room can lead to computer problems. Dust is easily sucked into the computer case. As the dust collects, it will restrict airflow throughout the computer. The restrictive airflow will cause computer components to overheat & shorten their lifespan. Dust prevents cool air from reaching the components that need to be cooled in order […]

Consider a UPS to protect delicate equipment

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a battery backup unit that plugs in between your computer & the wall socket. If the power to your computer is suddenly cut, or drops significantly even for a moment, a UPS will cut in instantly & automatically supply power from its built-in battery. You then have time to […]

Copy & Paste Special Characters

Have you ever needed a special character or symbol (such as ✔), but can’t remember the key combination to create it? A convenient alternative is to navigate to the website www.copypastecharacter.com, & simply paste it into your document. The steps to follow are:  Browse to: http://www.copypastecharacter.com/ for a list of the available characters.  Click the […]

Shorten a URL

Ever come across a web address that is long & cumbersome? It can be tedious to copy it down correctly when sharing it with other people. An easy way to shorten a website address is by using a web tool called Tiny URL.  Browse to the website http://tinyurl.com/  Copy the long web address into the […]

Consider using Dropbox for cloud storage

One of the apps I have found especially handy is Dropbox. It is basically a cloud storage facility that allows you access your data from various devices such as desktops, notebooks & smartphones. Dropbox is available free for 2GB of storage. Download the desktop app to sync your computer & the smartphone app to sync […]

Changing text size when web browsing

Occasionally, when web browsing, you might find the words on a particular website a little small to read clearly. The size & font of text can be permanently changed in the tools section of your web browser. However, web pages can often be inconsistent in the size of the text they use, & you may […]

Creating a favicion for your website

A Favicon (short for favourites icon) is a small graphic you can associate with your website for display in web browsers. The icon appears beside the URL in a browsers address bar, as well as next to the site’s name in a bookmarks/favourites list & with the site’s title in a tab. For example Facebook […]

Creating a QR Code

A QR Code is a 2 dimensional bar code (see below) that can be scanned & decoded as text by a smart phone. When scanned, the QR code can open a website, load an electronic business card, & more. To read the code, simply download a barcode reading app from the Appstore. Point your phones […]

Use Dropbox to sync between computers & mobile devices

One of my favourite apps is Dropbox, because it allows me to synchronize my files between various devices. I no longer carry a usb or portable hard drive. Now I just download it from the cloud, as required. Using Dropbox allows everything I am working on to be available everywhere I work, without even thinking […]

Using your Smartphone as a mobile WiFi Hotspot

Many modern smartphones allow you to connect to the mobile data network (3G) & then act as a WiFi router providing internet access to nearby devices. Rather than carry an internet dongle with its own SIM & mobile data account, you can use the data plan on your existing mobile phone. Any WiFi enabled computer […]

Phone scammers target computer users with phoney virus reports

Last weekend I received a panicked phone call from a friend who suspected he’d fallen victim to a computer virus telemarketing scam. A con artist makes a phone call claiming to be a “tech support specialist” who warns that your computer is infected with a virus. To fix things, all you have to do is […]

Using Canned Responses in Gmail

If you use Gmail to access your email, you may like to activate a very handy feature called “Canned Responses”, which is available under Google Labs. These are stock responses you can use for common requests, saving you having to retype it every time. To activate Canned Responses: 1. Click the “Settings” link near the […]

Wireless Projector Display from your iPad

A couple of apps are available that enable you to wirelessly beam your Tablet or Smartphone screen content to a projector via a Mac or PC. This gives you the freedom to move around the room with your iPad in hand, controlling the content on the projector. 1.Download either Reflector (www.reflectorapp.com) or AirServer (www.airserverapp.com) to […]

Multitasking on your Smartphone

Recent apps is a feature introduced in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that makes it very easy to switch between running apps on the phone. To access recent apps in order to multitask:  Press and hold the Home button for about two seconds.  A list of recent, running apps will be displayed.  Scroll up and […]

Dropbox: Restoring previous versions of files

Dropbox allows you to restore earlier versions of any file. The fee edition of Dropbox allows use of previous versions of files over the last 30 days, but the paid editions have an option known as “Packrat” that allows unlimited undo history. To access this feature, launch the Dropbox website. Go to the folder where […]

Dropbox: Recover Deleted Files

Dropbox allows you to recover any deleted file up to 30 days old. To access this feature, launch the Dropbox website, then go to the folder where you want to recover the file. To view deleted files, just click on the trash icon at the top, which will toggle the “Show deleted files” option. The […]

Get the most out of Office with Microsoft Server Software

In simple terms, a server is a computer that provides a service to other computers (known as clients). Many of the new & high end functionalities of Office 2013 become available when they interact with Microsoft Server software. Products such Microsoft Lync Server provides unified messaging on the desktop. Think of it as Skype on […]

How to use Gmail with an IMAP client such as Outlook

Delete Messages: To delete a message in a Gmail IMAP account, move the message to the [Gmail]/Trash folder. Archive Messages: To archive an email or remove it from a folder (i.e. Gmail label), “delete” the message. Mark Messages as Spam or Not Spam: To report an email as junk move the message to the [Gmail]/Spam […]

Dropbox: LAN Sync

LAN Sync is a feature of the Dropbox desktop app that speeds up syncing of files across your computers that are on the same Local Area Network. By default, Dropbox synchronizes a file to the server & then downloads that file onto the other computers from the Dropbox server. Unless your upload & download Internet […]

Dropbox: Save a file to your mobile device

Marking a file as “favourite” on your Mobile Device downloads the file onto your device. When you open a file in Dropbox, you can view the file then & there, but if you come back to it later you need to download it once again. By opening the Dropbox App on your mobile device, you […]

Dropbox: Selective Sync

Selective Sync is a feature that allows you to synchronise only specified files & folders to a particular computer. This can be particularly useful if you’re travelling & connecting to Dropbox via a mobile data (3G or 4G) connection. Rather than use a lot of your data allowance syncing everything, you can specify just particular […]

Ways to extend your WiFi Coverage

With WiFi devices becoming ubiquitous nowadays, poor wifi coverage can be very frustrating. However there are practical solutions that can greatly improve your experience. 1. Move your router to a better location. Changing the physical position of your router can make a big difference to wifi coverage. Try & avoid large metal objects between your […]

Dropbox: View History

Dropbox allows you to check your activity history to monitor the file additions & changes that have been made. To access this feature, launch the Dropbox website, then go to the Events tab on the far left. Events gives you a timeline of changes made to your Dropbox folder.

Consider editing Images in your browser using Sumo Paint

Sumo Paint is free & entirely browser based. There is nothing to install; just head to the website & sign in. It is not as comprehensive as professional tools such as Photoshop, but it has a simple interface & enough tools to meet the needs of most casual users. Sumo Paint is available at www.sumopaint.com/app/

Using the spreadsheet in Google Apps

Recently I experimented with using the online spreadsheet available in Google Apps to manage our price list. I’ve been very surprised by the functionality & ease of use. For many years I saw these online apps as merely viewing tools to open documents when on the road. But after using it for over a week […]

Turn off gridlines in Google Sheets

If you have a Google spreadsheet that you want to hide the gridlines, simply go to the View Menu, select Gridlines & toggle the checkmark to off. It’s that easy!

How to Whitelist an Email Sender in Gmail

Have you ever had a situation where an important email you’re expecting never made it to your Inbox? Instead, Gmail incorrectly classified that legitimate email as spam & moved into the spam folder. This can particularly be a problem with newsletters that you have subscribed to. There are two ways to whitelist emails in Gmail. […]

Cloud Computing – the Pros & Cons

I often get asked by clients about cloud computing. Is it the best option their needs? The answer depends upon your specific requirements & how you use the software. PROS 1. Always up to date. Software that needs to updated regularly is often better via a cloud subscription service. That way you have the latest […]

Malware writers get very creative

Virus writers are constantly adapting in an attempt to get around security measures. The threat landscape has changed from virus’s written by pimply teenagers as a form of digital graffiti, to organised crime approaching it as a business. Social engineering has become a key attack vector. Phishing attacks where the writer entices you to click, […]

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office has been the default business application for nearly two decades, but times are changing.  Nowadays there are viable options for those willing to be innovators. LibreOffice is a free office suite that is stable, fast & easy to use. It has the feel of Office 2003, & is available for Windows, Mac & […]

How to Paste without formatting by default in OSX

Have you ever pasted text into a document, only to have it formatted differently than all the text around it? The keystrokes Shift + Option + Command + V removes any formatting from the document you are pasting from. You can change the default behaviour in OS X by using System Preferences. Open ‘System Preferences’ […]

Battery Conservation Tips for your Smartphone

Unless you need it at a particular time, turn off Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile data, & syncing. Keeping these communications options running continuously will drain your battery power due to the constant polling of the network. I have set up profiles on my phone using Elixir (there are similar Apps available), that control my settings […]

Speed up an Old Computer with Linux

Just this past week, I re-imaged the software on some older computers for my family. The computers were becoming very slow & clunky running Windows, but perform quite well running the latest desktop edition of the Linux Operating System, Linux Mint 17. If you’ve got old hardware that you’re considering tossing out or making a […]

Consider enabling Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication consists of something you know (like a password) and something you have, (such as a phone or security key). Once you enter your user name & password, you’ll be prompted for a second code that may be SMS’d to you, generated by an app such as Google Authenticator, or issued via a security […]

How to find your Windows 10 Product Key

If you have upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8, the old product key will have changed during the upgrade process. If you need to reinstall Windows 10, the original key will not be valid. To obtain the upgraded Windows 10 key, copy and paste the following into a Notepad window: Set WshShell […]

How to move your Google Authenticator Credentials

When you set up two factor authentication, a code is generated that is entered into apps such as Google Authenticator to give you that second factor of authentication, ‘something you have’. Given that many of us update phones every couple of years, migrating your Google Authenticator credentials is an important issue to consider when you […]

How to Customize Column Widths in Mac OSX Finder

Finder is a great tool for looking at your files, but having to resize columns to see a long file name can be inconvenient. The handle (two small vertical lines) at the bottom of the column allows you to resize the column. Double-clicking on the handle resizes the column to fit the widest file name. […]

Create an Calendar Event using Google Search

You can add an event directly from a Google search page or your browsers omnibox. First, make sure your logged into gmail. Preface your event information with “make an appointment to” than add your appointment details such as “lunch with Joe from 1 to 2 tomorrow”. Enter that into Google search, & at the top […]

Favourite Mac Apps: TypeIt4Me

TypeIt4Me is a text expander that speeds up typing by instantly replacing short abbreviations with longer saved “snippets of text”. It can be used to autofill commonly repeated phrases, boilerplate texts for more lengthy responses, as well favourite expressions & turns of phrase. Any expressions that you use repeatedly can by saved in TypeIt4Me. Microsoft […]

Spreadsheets: How To Split Text into Different Cells

If you have a spreadsheet with a column of full names, you can split that column into separate first name and last name columns. Firstly, add the extra column to the right of the names you want to split. This provides a column for the separated names to be added. Next, highlight the column of […]

Spreadsheets: How to copy cells without incrementing the value

When you copy cells in a spreadsheet, it will by default increment the value by one for each entry. For example, if you copy 100, the next entry will be 101, then 102, etc. To copy cells in excel without incrementing the value, add $ in front of the value in the cell.

Protect yourself from Ransomware

One of the most common malware attacks nowadays is Ransomware. It differs from past attacks, which were a form of digital graffiti or vandalism. Instead, they are written by organised crime to extort money from the vulnerable. Ransomware encrypts files on an infected computer & can only be unlocked by paying the ransom. Good security […]

Spreadsheets: Use Control + Click to enter a formula argument

Whenever you enter a spreadsheet formula such as adding a series of values using: =SUM(A1, B11, C7:C17) you can simply enter “=SUM(” then Control-clicking each reference. By holding down Control (or Command on a Mac) as you click each reference, the spreadsheet will automatically enter commas necessary for the formula argument.

Free Adobe iOS App with some of the features of Photoshop

Adobe has released a new app for iPhones & iPads (& soon for Android) that allows you to edit photos on the fly. Adobe Photoshop Fix allows you to: 1. Retouch and restore photos using tools that give you the exact look, structure and feel you want: Liquify — Push, pull, rotate, swell or reshape […]

Spreadsheets: Jump to the First or the Last Cell

Navigating a large spreadsheet can be slow & tedious. Jump to the first cell by using the keyboard shortcut Control + Home, Command + Home on a Mac. To jump to the last cell use Control + End, Command + End on a Mac.

Spreadsheets: Adding or Deleting Rows or Columns

To insert a new row or column, simply highlight the entire row, then use the keyboard shortcut “Control” + “+”. To delete a row, simply highlight the row, then type “Control” + “-“. Exactly the same procedure applies for adding or deleting columns.

Spreadsheets: Move to the edge of the data region

You can use Control + Arrow key (Command + Arrow key on a Mac) to move in any direction to the edge of the data range. The curser will jump to the next data range if there are empty cells, or the end of the spreadsheet if all the cells are filled.

Google Drive Shortcuts

Google Drive comes with a list of useful shortcuts to streamline your experience. Type “Ctrl+/” if you’re on a PC or “Cmd+/” on a Mac, whilst working in Google Drive & the list will pop up.

Spreadsheets: Navigating your worksheet

Keyboard shortcuts are a great way to save time in almost any software package. After you have learned the shortcuts, you will find that you do these things very quickly, and without having to change from keyboard to mouse, or having to find the right option in the menu. To move to the edge of […]

Sign documents without printing them

There is a huge trend towards the “paperless” office at the moment. However, it raises the inevitable question: how do I sign an electronic document? Adobe Acrobat has a lot a great features for handling digital documents. It is the application I use most frequently. You may not be aware, but Acrobat gives you the […]

Spreadsheets: Change the colour of worksheet tabs

Colour coding worksheet tabs can make it easier to identify specific sheets. Simply right-click on the sheet tab, choose Tab Colour, then select the colour for the tab. From the same menu, you can also hide sheets that you may not need to see on a regular basis, such as those carrying out background calculations […]

Check if an email is fake, spoofed or spam

Nowadays, a lot of malware writers are attempting to use social engineering to dupe people into performing a task that will allow their malware to run. How do you tell the difference between malware and legitimate email? In order to check if an email is authentic, we need to look at the information contained in […]

Access Quick Settings on Android

To access your quick settings on your Android device, swipe down from the top with two fingers instead of one. Simple!

Search operators you can use with Gmail

Gmail allows you to use words or symbols called search operators to filter your search results. By combining search operators you can filter results even more. To specify the sender, search using from: To specify a recipient, search using to: To find words in the subject line, use Subject: To find messages that match multiple terms, use OR or { […]

Free up space in Gmail by bulk deleting old messages

We use Google apps for a number of our office applications & Gmail handles our email. Recently I’ve been noticing that the storage in our Google account has been getting pretty full. Fortunately, a quick search is all it takes to identify messages worth deleting. I used the search operators older_than:1y size:500KB to filter messages that were […]

Resetting your Mac System Management Controller

On a Mac computer, SMC controls & manages system hardware for power consumption, battery charging & battery function, thermal activity & fan activity, LED lighting for keyboards & displays, GPU functionality with video mode changes & video output, sleep & wake, & other core hardware functionality. An SMC reset helps to resolve many power & […]

Display Google Tasks in its own tab

Google Tasks is a really handy resource, but the tiny popup window can make it difficult to use. Rather than using the clumsy little popup, I view my Google Tasks in it’s own browser tab. The URL for Google Tasks is https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas or you can also use https://mail.google.com/tasks/ig It is also possible to manage multiple […]

Virtualisation

Virtualization is a technology that has been around for years, but it’s application is now filtering down to the everyday computer user. It is the creation of a virtual, rather than actual, version of something, such as a desktop computer, a server, a storage device or network resources. By creating a virtual environment we can […]

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