Why Can’t I Open .DOCX Files?

Posted by admin on Mar 30, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, March 2011 Edition

With the introduction of Office 2007, Microsoft abandoned the age-old .doc format in favour of the newer .docx format.  If you’re still using Word 2003 or an earlier version of the program (and many people are), you won’t be able to open .docx files without a little assistance.  Likewise, the venerable .xls spreadsheet format gave way to .xlsx and PowerPoint .ppt files became .pptx files.  Anyone using Office 2007 or 2010 is generating these kinds of files, which older versions of the Office applications can’t read.

What you need is the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats, available at find.pcworld.com/71116. (Not there’s a name that leaves no room for confusion).

Designed for use with Office 2000, XP and 2003, the downloadable add-on allows you to open, edit and save the newer file formats, seamlessly converting the files on the fly and in the background.  Just make sure that your copy of Office is equipped with all of the latest updates from Microsoft before you install the Compatibility Pack.

Master Your E-Mail (Before it Masters You)

Posted by admin on Mar 28, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, March 2011 Edition

I field hundreds of incoming e-mail messages each day.  Processing them – from opening the inbox to deciding which items to act on, which to file for reference, which to delete, and which to mark as spam – takes more than just time and energy.  It takes planning.  Here are some useful basic tactics to add to your e-mail strategy so you can tame your inbox and work more productively.

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Rules to Put Digital Disasters in Perspective

Posted by admin on Mar 23, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, March 2011 Edition

Most of us love a good mystery, as long as we eventually find out who dunnit or, in the case of high-tech, how it’s done.  Ultimately, we’re looking for a resolution – something that ties up the loose ends so that we don’t have to waste time noodling over the unknown.

Some mysteries, though, have no neat answer.  Although verified by personal experience, these enigmas can’t be explained by physics, psychology, or even logic.  When faced with such digital brain-twisters, we can toss them off with a shrug – or better yet, we can codify these conundrums into a set of rules, along the lines of Murphy’s Law.

Here, Nine Regrettable Rules of High-Tech Happenstance.  Read ’em and weep.

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Network-Attached Storage for Any Business

Posted by admin on Mar 21, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, February 2011 Edition

Network-attached storage can make your business easier to run and more efficient in multiple ways.  Let’s look at some scenarios for NAS use in businesses of various sizes.

A small-office or home-office setup consisting of a few PCs, a multifunction printer or two, and perhaps a wireless, peer-to-peer network is far from  optimal for sharing a accessing files.  Data is scattered, and accessing it from outside of the local network requires a VPN or remote control. A NAS box puts important data in one accessible, easy-to-backup location.  You can back up anything you’re working on off-site by logging in and uploading the files to the NAS box.  Most NAS boxes have on-board backup utilities and USB ports for attaching drives.

If you collaborate with coworkers far away, a NAS box’s easy wide-area connectivity can consolidate and centralize your efforts.  Like any other administered network-storage resource, your NAS will allow users to access only the contents you approve.  To handle collaborative work arrangements, simply create folder for each project, give each person access to folders as needed, and give yourself access to all of the folders. A NAS box is self-sufficient, redundant, and task-specific.  But some programs insist that their database reside on a local PC, and others require you to install a traffic-cop program for multiple users.  For these programs, you need a NAS box that uses Windows Home Server.

When buying NAS hardware, focus on redundancy, capacity and speed.  Don’t buy a single-drive NAS box: You’ll need at least a two-drive box for mirroroing one drive on the other so you won’t lose access when one drive fails.  For help, ask the professionals at ICS Computers.

Online Office Apps

Posted by admin on Mar 17, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, February 2011 Edition

Over the past few years, Web-based office suites have grown from humble roots to become tools that nearly match the flexibility and features of full-blown desktop apps.   Google has led the way in this burgeoning category with its popular Docs family of programs, though rival Zoho offers a broader, easier-to-use, and more sophisticated suite.  But while most online suites have slightly kludgy interfaces that come with their share of quirks, Microsoft’s introduction of Web Apps with Office 2010 offers the familiar, refined interface you already know, directly integrating a desktop suite that outstrips all online competitors.

Most people rely so heavily on their word processors and spreadsheets that it’s difficult to depend on a solely cloud-based system. Microsoft’s version of a cloud offering – Office Web Apps (free at find.pcworld.com/71083) – provides the best of both worlds. Combined with Office, the apps allow you to work in a robust desktop suite as well as to store, access and edit your documents online.

If you’re a Gmail user and your needs are modest, Google Docs (free at docs.google.com) is a highly serviceable secondary choice.  It suffers from quirky formatting and compatibility issues with Microsoft Office files, but its integration with Gmail makes it worth a try.

Set Your Default E-Mail Client to Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail

Posted by admin on Mar 14, 2011

Taken from PC World Magazine, February 2011 Edition

If you use a web-based e-mail client such as Gmail or Yahoo Mail, you’ve likely encountered this hassle before: You click a ‘mail to’ link on a Web page, and then watch while Windows tries to open Outlook, Windows Live Mail or some other desktop program you don’t use and have not configured.  Error messages (and possibly cursing) ensue.

You could jump through various hoops to configure Windows, your browser, or both to direct such e-mail links to the proper destination (to Gmail say), but why bother?  I’ve found a small, simply utility – GmailDefaultMaker (find. pcworld.com/71071) – that will do the hoop-jumping on your behalf.

Just run the free program and choose the default e-mail service you want: Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo. (Yes, the program needs a name change.) Then go about your business.  It’s that easy.

Now, whenever you click a ‘mail to’ link, you’ll land in the proper Web client, not in an unwated desktop program.