Category: Productivity

Pandemic Computer Questions

Pandemic Computer Questions

We have been getting a lot of questions relating to the stay at home order that we don’t normally get.

Here are some of these questions and our answer.

  1. Do I have a webcam?

    In general, desktops don’t have webcams built-in. You can get a webcam that sits on top of your monitor and plugs into your computer using a USB cable. However, if you don’t already have a webcam, getting one now is not easy. They are hard to find and way more expensive.

    Most laptops have a webcam built-in. But not all. Some older or cheaper laptops don’t have them.

    All In One Computers
    Most AIO computers have webcams built-in. But not all.

    Cell phones
    All smart phones have cameras.

    Every tablet I have ever seen had a camera.

  2. When I try to use my webcam, I get a black screen
    Take the tape off that is covering your webcam.
  3. Do I have a microphone?
    Any device that has a webcam has a microphone too.
    If you add a webcam to your desktop, that webcam has a microphone built-in to it.
  4. Do I have to install the Zoom app to join a Zoom meeting?
    No. You don’t have to. But we recommend that you do.
  5. Do I have to sign up for a Zoom account to use Zoom?
    You don’t have to have an account to join a meeting, but you do have to have one in order to host a meeting.
  6. Is Zoom free?
    The basic version of Zoom is free. But there are limitations. If you are only joining meetings, then there’s no need to pay for Zoom. If you are hosting meetings, a meeting hosted by a free account will be limited to 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, it will cut off. Ready or not. If your 40 minutes are up and you weren’t finished with your meeting, you can simply start a new meeting and go for up to another 40 minutes.
  7. How can I work remotely?
    You may be able to work from home using your personal computer, but you may be limited on what you have access to. This can cause email issues. You may not have access to network resources like a share drive and so forth. VPN is one way to work from home. It will give you access to network resources, but still has the disadvantage of having to install everything on your home computer.

    For a very small office, that only needs access to email and to a few documents, you may want to set up your email on your home computer and use a cloud sharing product like Dropbox or OneDrive to share documents.

    For most people, the best way to work from home is to use remote control software. What that does is allow you to control and use your work computer from your home computer. That way, you don’t have to install anything on your home computer and you have access to all of the resources your work computer has. It’s also better for company security because you don’t have company data on your home computer. It’s still all on your work computer, share drive,  etc.

    Your company should provide remote control software for doing this. However, if it’s a small company, or your company doesn’t want to do that, you have options.

    There was a time when there were several free remote control products out there that worked well. One by one, however, they have all eliminated the free versions of their products. The cheapest one is called It’s only $30/year and works pretty well. If you want something better, you’ll have to pay more. A lot more. There are many remote control products on the market and we certainly haven’t tried them all. LogMeIn and GoToMyPC are both good and are now owned by the same company. LogMeIn is $350/year. That allows you to have LogMeIn set up on 2 computers that you can remote into. GoToMyPC is more expensive at $35/month ($420/year) to remote into one computer. These are the only ones we can recommend at this time.

    If you go shopping for remote control software, be aware that many of them are more for support organizations than towards individuals. In addition, many of them, especially the “free” ones, require manual router configurations to work. These same ones have other limitations as well.

Keyboard Shortcuts You Should Know

Keyboard Shortcuts You Should Know

Back in the late eighties, I worked on Unix where there were no mice and no graphical user interface. It was just text and your keyboard. There was an editor called VI (Pronounced Vee Eye) that was a text only editor. Windows 3.0 was around at the time as well. I could get things done much faster using only a keyboard and VI than I could using Windows and a Mouse. Why? Because my fingers never left the keyboard. Switching between the mouse and the keyboard costs a lot of time and slows you down.

That’s why keyboard shortcuts are so useful. They really do save time. With that in mind, I’d like to tell you about some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts. This is by no means an complete list of all shortcuts. Just the ones I think are the most useful.

Before we get into the actual shortcuts, I want to make sure you are familiar with some of the special keys that keyboard shortcuts use.

  • Control Key
    Most keyboards have two control keys. They are usually labeled CTRL. They are almost always on the lower left and right corners of the keyboard.
  • Function Keys
    The function keys are F1, F2, F3, etc. and they are on the top row of the keyboard. On some laptops, you have to press the Fn key to use the Function keys.
  • Windows Key
    This key’s symbol is a four-pane window. Some keyboards have one, some have two. There is always a Windows key in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, usually next to the control key. There is often a second Windows key in the lower right-hand corner next to the other control key.
  • Alt Key
    Most keyboards have two of these and they are usually on either side of the space bar.
  1. Now let’s look at some useful keyboard shortcuts.
  • Control-A
    When you have a list of files, emails, etc., you can often use Control-A to select everything in the list. Once you select everything in a list, you can delete it by clicking the delete key, or you can click and drag the list somewhere. You can also right-click on the list and perform other functions.
  • Delete and Shift-Delete
    When you want to delete something, there is often a delete button on a toolbar you can click with the mouse. But if your hands are on the keyboard, you can delete the currently selected item using the delete button on the keyboard. Normally when you delete something, it goes into the recycle bin, trashcan, or whatever. Then later you have to empty the recycle bin or trashcan to really delete it. You can skip the recycle bin and permanently delete something by holding down the shift key and hitting the delete key instead of just hitting the delete key.
  • Arrow down, arrow up, page down, page up, home, and end
    These are movement keys on the keyboard. When you are viewing a website or a list of some sort, you can use these keys to move around. For example, if viewing a website, you can use the arrow down key to scroll down as you read. You can also use page down. Want to go to the end of the web page, hit the end button. Want to go to the beginning? Hit Home.
  • Backspace
    Everyone knows you can use the backspace key to erase whatever you just typed, one character at a time. But did you know that when you are viewing a website, the backspace key is the same as clicking the back button on your browser to go to the previous web page?
  • Tab and Shift-Tab
    When filling out an online form that has several fields, many people fill out a field, click the mouse in the next field, fill it out, click the next field, etc. This is slow and inefficient. When filling out an online form, after filling out a field, hit the tab key to go to the next field. That way your hands don’t have to leave the keyboard. Need to go back to the previous field? Hit shift-tab.
  • Cut, Copy, & Paste
    You probably know how to cut, copy, and paste using the mouse, but do you know how to do it using only the keyboard? Here’s an example of how to do it when editing text. This might be when you are composing an email or editing a Word Document.

    • Use the arrow keys to move the cursor to the beginning or end of the text you want to select.
    • Hold the shift key down and use the arrow keys (up, down, left, right) to highlight the text you wish to highlight.
    • Now press Control-C to copy the text or Control-X to cut the text.
    • Now move the cursor to the point where you want to put the text and press control-V.
  • Undo
    Delete a file accidentally? Or delete some text and decide you want it back? Just hit Control-Z.
  • Switch Windows
    By far, the keyboard shortcut I use most is Alt-Tab. If you have more than one window open, this allows you to switch between windows quickly using only the keyboard. Hold down the alt key and hit tab. It works a little differently in Windows 10 than in previous versions, but it shows a list of either icons or thumbnails of all of the currently running programs. You can keep pressing tab while holding down the Alt key to find the program you want to go to. When switching back and for between two programs a lot, you can just hit Alt-tab to once to switch back to the last program. Many TV remotes have a key you can press to go back and forth between the last two channels. Pressing Alt-tab once is like that. If you hold down the Windows button, instead of Alt, and hit tab, it does the same thing except that instead of icons or thumbnails, you get bigger windows in a different format. It’s hard to explain. You’ll just have to try it.
  • Minimize all Windows. AKA, show desktop
    If you have a lot of programs open and want to minimize all of them so you can see your desktop, just hit Windows-D.
  • Rename
    Have file selected and you want to rename it? With the mouse you can right-click and choose rename. Or you could just hit the F2 key.
  • ESC Key
    The ESC key is in the upper left-hand corner of the keyboard. Think of it as a cancel key. If you are watching a video in full screen, hit ESC to get out of full screen mode. The ESC key works in many other situations as well.
  • Searching
    Many windows programs offer search capability. If you want to search for something in one of these programs, hit Control-F and type in what you want to search for and hit enter to search for it. To search for the next instance of the same thing, just hit F3. You can keep hitting F3 to keep searching for the same thing. If you want to change what you are searching for, hit Control-F again.
  • Lock Your Computer
    At most companies, you are required to lock your computer any time you walk away from your computer. This is to keep anyone from using your computer while you are away and to protect the information on it. In a residential situation, there may be situations where you want to lock your computer as well. Of course, this only works if your computer is password protected. You can lock the computer with the mouse, but it’s so much easier to just hit Windows-L before you get up and walk away.

There you go! I hope that list wasn’t too long.

Office 2013

Office 2013

Recently, Microsoft released Office version 2013. In case you forgot, Office is the name of the set of programs that includes software like Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and so forth. Office comes in different editions that include different combinations of these programs.

Microsoft office does not come with Windows. So if you are planning to purchase a new computer, you should be aware of that. If your new computer has Windows 8 on it, then you can use Office version 2003, 2007, 2010, or 2013. If you are interested in purchasing Office 2013, you should be aware that it will only work on Windows 7 and Windows 8. It doesn’t work on Vista or on XP.

What’s new in Office 2013? For starters, it has a look and feel similar to Windows 8. No surprise there. Microsoft has been changing everything to have that same look and feel. In addition to that, the biggest change is that Office is more cloud oriented. It wants to save your documents online instead of your local computer. Of course it will save them on your local computer. But it prefers to save them online. As an example, if you have Microsoft SkyDrive installed on your computer and you create a new Word document, when you go to save it, it’s going to want to save it on your SkyDrive. You can, of course, tell it to save it on your computer.

Another difference concerns how Outlook accesses email accounts from,,, and Prior to this version, you had to install the Outlook Connector so that Outlook could access these email accounts. The Outlook Connector worked, but it had problems. Now that functionality is built-in to Outlook and works much better.

Although the fixed a few problems, they created a few as well. The biggest problems seem to be with Outlook. Specifically, when you delete an email the display in Outlook often gets messed up. In addition, there are some problems when you are tying a reply to an email. These problems are pretty annoying. If you are an Outlook user, I would recommend that you hold off upgrading to Office 2013.

Should you upgrade? In a word, no. Unless you want or need the more cloud-centric features, stick with your current version.

Why Can’t I Open That Microsoft Word File?

Why Can’t I Open That Microsoft Word File?

A common occurrence; A friend or colleague sends you a Microsoft Word document. You thought you had Microsoft Word, but you can’t open this file. Here’s what’s going on and how to view this file.

There are two possibilities. One is that you were mistaken. You thought you had Microsoft Word on your computer, but you do not. If this is the case, you don’t have to purchase Microsoft Word in order to view the file. You’ve got two options. One option is to download and install the free Microsoft Word Viewer. You can do that by going to this link:

The other option is to download and install which is free as well. The difference here is that while installing the Word Viewer will allow you to view the Word document your friend sent you, it won’t let you edit that document and it won’t let you create new documents. will let you do all of those things. Be aware, however, that, while compatible with Microsoft Word, is not Microsoft Word. So it’s going to look a little different. In addition, includes other Microsoft compatible software, not just one that is like Microsoft Word.

If you want to download and install just go to, you guessed it,

By the way, the same applies to Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. There is a free viewer available for each of these or you can use

So those are your options if you do not have Microsoft Word. But what if you have it and you still can’t open the Microsoft Word document that your friend sent you? What is going on in this situation is that your friend has a newer version of Microsoft Word than you do. The newer versions save files in a different format. You can’t open the file because it’s in a newer format that your version of Microsoft Word doesn’t understand. But never fear, there is an easy fix for this. And it’s also free.

All you need to do is download and install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack. It’s a free download from Microsoft. This gives older versions of Microsoft Office Applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, the ability to read the formats used by the newer versions. Be aware, however, that what this does is convert the newer version to the older version. You won’t be able to save the file in the newer version, but you can save it in the older version format. To download the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack, go to the link below:


Office Backward Compatibility

Office Backward Compatibility

Right now the latest version of Office is 2007. In case you forgot, Office can contain different applications like Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and so forth. There are different editions of Office that come with different combinations of applications, but all of them come with Word and Excel.

Anyway, with version 2007, they changed the format of how Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files are stored on your computer. In older versions, the files and file extensions of  “.doc”, “.xls”, and “.pps”. With the release of Office 2007, the file extensions changed to “.docx”,  “.xlsx”, and “.ppsx”.  They changed the file extension because the format in which the file is structured has changed.

So when someone sends you a word file with a “.doc” on the end, for example,  you know it’s in the older Word format and when they send you a file with a “.docx” on the end, you know it’s in the new Word format. If you have Office 2007, you can read the new format and the old formats. No problem there. But for those of you don’t have Office, or you have an older version of Office, you can’t read the “.docx”, “.xlsx”, and “.ppsx” files.

You could go out and purchase Office 2007, but it’s not cheap. And besides, you probably don’t’ really need it. Really all you need is to be able to open files sent to you that were created by Office 2007.

If you don’t have any version of Microsoft Office, then you will want to go and download the appropriate viewer from Microsoft’s website. These are separate, standalone programs you can download and install that let you view Office files. You would need to download the viewer for each application.

Here are the links for downloading each of the viewers:

Word Viewer

Excel Viewer

PowerPoint Viewer

If you have an older version of Office (from 2000 up to 2003), there is a better way. You can download the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack from Microsoft. It’s free. It will make your version of Word and Excel be able to view files stored in 2007 format. So you could then open and view files in the new format if someone sends you one. If you wanted to edit or change the contents of a file in the new format, you can do so, but you’ll need to save them in the older format. Your friends with the newer version of Office can read the old format.

To download and install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack, go to the link below.

Share Your Outlook Calendar

Share Your Outlook Calendar

If you use Outlooks Calendar feature, you may have wanted other people to be able to see your calendar. Or perhaps while travelling, you would like to access your calendar while you are away from your computer. Or maybe you want to be able to access your calendar from any computer in your home or business.

For a small or medium business, you should have a server with Microsoft Exchange on it. This not only allows you to see your calendar from any computer, it allows others to see your calendar and schedule meetings with you. It also can be set up with Remote Web Workplace which allows you to access your calendar and e-mail from remote locations.

But home businesses and home users generally don’t have servers with exchange. What are the options for them? For a home business, especially if you travel a lot, the best solution might be hosted exchange. This gives you all of the features of Exchange without having to have your own server. It’s not free, but it’s not very expensive either. For example, Sherweb provides a hosted exchange service for $8.95/month for each mailbox. If you have a smartphone with a calendar, you can directly sync up your phone’s calendar with Exchange.

If you are a home user, or you are looking for a free solution to this situation, you have some options.

Outlook has a feature in it that allows you to publish your calendar to the Web. However, this feature simply doesn’t work very well.

You probably know that Google, Yahoo, MSN/Hotmail, and others provide free calendars. You can synchronize your Outlook calendar with one of these free calendars. Then you can access the free calendar when you are away from your computer. For example, you can download and install Google Calendar Sync. Then you can synchronize your outlook calendar to your Google calendar before you leave and access your Google Calendar while you are away. You can make changes to your Google Calendar while you are away. You can also download Google Sync to your mobile phone and synchronize your phone’s calendar to Google Calendar.

Programs like Google Calendar Sync, however, are not without their problems. You can end up with duplicates. Old appointments can magically come back. Back when I was using Google Calendar Sync, I once had a reminder for a year old appointment come up. That was some time ago. I haven’t tested the latest versions of Google Calendar Sync, but I hope they have fixed the problems. For more information about Google Calendar Sync, click here.

There are other programs on the market that help you share your calendar as well. Products like WorkgroupShare allow people on the local network to share their outlook calendars. But these types of products generally only work on the local network, so if you are travelling, accessing your calendar, or someone else’s, isn’t that easy. Products like WorkgroupShare aren’t free either. For a 5 user license, it’s $175.

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