Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Windows 8 CP--try it, you'll like it (I think)

Well, I must say I'm a bit baffled by the backlash of bad sentiment about Windows 8 I've been seeing in the tweets and posts of many of my tech writer colleagues--especially those who have been doing this for a while. I'm not sure why people are so up in arms about Windows 8. I for one am ready for a change! I think our use of technology is maturing, our understanding has a new baseline, and by and large the advent of the smartphone has taught us new ways of interacting with our devices in real time. Do we really need to sit chained to a desk, opening menu after menu, pointing and clicking to find what we want? Do we really need that Windows Start button so much? I'm a bit confounded by all the criticism I've heard thus far. I love the freedom, color, and flexibility I've already seen in Windows 8, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a real release copy!

I downloaded Windows 8 Developer Preview the minute the download links became available (actually a few minutes before the public links went live, LOL). And the same story was true for Consumer Preview--I downloaded and installed it as early as I could. And granted, the CP version isn't perfect. Some of the apps are a bit lame. The updatable tiles aren't yet as engaging or used as well as they might be. But the features, folks! I love the features. I love having the flexibility and freedom to use software that seems to follow the way I think. I feel like Windows 8 fits my brain and processing style much more closely than Windows 7 (even though I think Windows 7 has by far been the best Microsoft OS up to this point).

With the awesome, never-say-die team at Que Publishing, I wrote My Windows 8 Consumer Preview to show you how you can do in the new release all those basic tasks you count on your OS to do. I focus on showing off the newest features that are working in CP, and there are quite a number of changing-the-way-we-work items. I just love it. Check out the book and let me know what you think! And before you join the not-so-happy band of Windows 8 haters, give it a look yourself. It just might surprise you.

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Monday, April 02, 2012


Too many labels!

I get a number of messages--for good reason!--about problems with Word's mail merge process. Even though the whole task has been simplified a bit through the years, it does still require some outside-the-box, non-traditional-document thinking. For one thing, you have to choose the type of merge project you want to create. And then you have to attach a data source (or enter the information you want to use in the merge). Then you have to arrange all the fields on the page so you get the effect you want, whether you're creating labels, or letters, or catalogs. Then, after you preview the project to make sure your data shows up in the right place, you need to choose the type of output you want--print, email, or something else?

Choose Rules in the Mailing tab
and select Next Record
One simple fix that causes a lot of consternation involves a field code you insert to tell Word to insert the data for the next record. This is the action that determines whether you get a whole page full of labels or you print one label on each page. And if you've ever gotten waaaay too many labels (as I have) or spent waaaaay too much on labels that you ultimately waste (as I have), this little field code can save you a big amount of frustration.

So the process is this. Set up your merge as you would have it be, choosing labels as the merge type (for a big label merge print job, choose Start Mail Merge in the Mailings tab and click Labels). Add your data list by using Select Recipients. Then, when you go to position the label fields on the page, add the fields you want to include, and then click Rules. Choose Next Record. This tells Word the information is complete for that label and you want to move on to the next.

When you preview your merge, by clicking Preview Results, you should see a whole variety of different labels on that first sheet--no more wasted labels or unwanted repetition. Life is good. :)

One fun thing if you want to get fancy with it is to create a conditional merge print, which prints the next label that meets a certain specification. For example, if you want to send reminders to your students who signed up for a spring seminar, you can use Next Record If...to have Word find the records that have the data in the field you're looking for. It's worth playing with, especially if you love being smart about label use. (Your trees thank you.)

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