Work Smarter: Put Your Mouse On The Left Of The Keyboard


Key to Instructions
To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we used two different typefaces:
Boldface type is used to identify the names of icons, agendas and URLs.
Sans serif type indicates the names of files and the names of commands and instructions users should type into the computer.
Q. I’m left-handed and keep my mouse to the left side of my keyboard. My partners keep bugging me to adjust to their right-handed world so that anyone who uses my computer doesn’t have to move the mouse. But I tell them that it’s they who should make a switch. What do you think?

A. Well, I’m biased. I, too, am a lefty and have always kept my mouse on the left side. However, I do it not because I’m left-handed, but because I’ve experimented and find the left to be a more efficient location. Just look at the keyboard: When the mouse is on the left side, the hand has a shorter distance to travel between the keyboard and the mouse, reducing the risk of carpel tunnel syndrome. But with the mouse on the right side, the hand has to jump over the numeric keypad to get to the mouse.

There’s research to prove it. According to New Scientist magazine, researchers in Canada asked 27 right-handed volunteers to place their mouse on the left for a month. The volunteers were able to adjust easily and could handle all computing tasks using much smaller movements. They also found it improved their posture during work because they didn’t have to stretch as far. In fact, of the 27 volunteers, 16 decided to stay with the left-handed placement after the experiment ended.

Exception : If you’re a heavy user of the numeric keypad, you may find it’s better to keep the mouse on the right-hand side.

Q. I recently upgraded to Office XP, and now when I click on the toolbar, only some of the function icons drop down; in order to get them all, I have to click on the double arrows at the bottom of the menu. How can I get the full menu to reappear?

A. Before I tell you how to get each drop-down menu to display all its icons, you should be aware of the various toolbar features available. You can make each toolbar category display all of its functions, which looks like the screenshot below.

Or you can format each category to display only those functions you commonly use. Windows monitors which functions you use most and will display an abbreviated menu tailored to your needs, which could look like this:

If you opt for an abbreviated menu, you have two further options: Either the full menu will drop down a few seconds after the abbreviated menu opens or it will drop down only if you click on the double arrows at the bottom of the menu.

To set any of these defaults, click on Tools , Customize and then on the Options tab, producing this screen:

If you want the full menu, place a check in Always show full menus . If you want Windows to display only your commonly used icons, leave it unchecked. But notice that when that box is not checked, you have the option to place a check next to Show full menus after a short delay . Notice, too, you have the option to reset your saved usage data by clicking on Reset menu and toolbar usage data . These menu options work in all Office applications.

Q. Because I’m a faithful reader of your column, I’ve been designated the “technology guru” of our small (12 professionals) CPA office and challenged by my partners to come up with a better way to handle interoffice communications. They complain that using the Internet to transmit interoffice messages is slow and tedious and makes us more vulnerable to spam and viruses. They say there has to be a better way. If there is, I’m not aware of it. Can you help?

A. Your partners are right. Using the Internet for internal messaging on a network is like using a 747 to commute five miles. Since you’re already on an office network, you’re part of the way to the solution, which is to use peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, where each of your computers is set up to talk to the others without going through the Internet.

What you need is P2P messaging software. One small but versatile program is SnapMail, which you can set up in just a few minutes. SnapMail is a cross-platform (which means it lets Windows and Macintosh computers talk to each other) private messaging and file-transfer utility. It instantly handles interoffice messages and can send files, reminders and alerts to anyone on your network (see screenshot below).

Because all interoffice communications remain inside your network, the system is less exposed to viruses and junk mail and there is no danger of one of your confidential messages going astray over the Internet. The program also can send what it calls “Snaps”—reminders or alerts (such as “Your lawyer is on the phone”) that pop up on recipients’ screens—and preconfigured “SnapBacks” (responses such as “Take a message for me”).

You also can configure SnapMail to work with remote offices not on your local network. Although obviously such messages must be transmitted via the Internet, SnapMail encrypts them safely.

The price is $69 for two users or $249 for 10. For more information go to .

Q. In some of my spreadsheets I need to add long explanations for some data, but I don’t want to add them directly into the spreadsheet because they are very long and would be hard to read in a Comment ( Insert , Comment ). Is there some way to add something such as a footnote that can be easily accessed directly from the spreadsheet?

A. To do that you’ll want to create a hyperlink between a spreadsheet cell and a separate document containing the detailed explanation, and then display the text directly from the spreadsheet with a mouse click; the document even could contain backup charts and other graphics.

Creating such a link is easy. First prepare your document in Word and copy it (Ctrl+C). Then switch to your spreadsheet and place your cursor on the target cell and right-click to evoke the menu below.

Click on Paste Special , and in the screen that emerges, click on Paste link , Hyperlink , Display as icon and finally on OK .

The hyperlink appears in Excel as a Word icon. Click on it to bring up the document.

In the May 2004 Technology Q&A column (page 43), I invited readers to suggest a solution when using the blind copy ( Bcc ) function to protect the identity of all addresses in an e-mail. A problem sometimes arises when recipients reply to your e-mail by clicking on Reply to All , rather than just on Reply . When this happens all the Bcc recipients get that reply—and everyone’s names and addresses as well. One reader tested the Bcc function and said he could not duplicate it; as a result, I, too, tried to duplicate it and I also was unable to. My conclusion is that the problem is not consistent. But I also concluded that, if the message is in any way sensitive or you don’t want to disclose the names of all who received the initial e-mail, it would be imprudent to use Bcc .

However, many readers (too many to mention individually) suggested this simple work-around which is foolproof: Begin in the usual way by entering the addresses in Bcc , but before you send the e-mail, open the Message Options function ( Options , Message Options ) and place a check next to Have Replies sent to: and enter a reply address (preferably yours). Then, when any recipient clicks on Reply to All , only that e-mail address will appear in the To: area and only you will get that reply message.

Thanks to all who sent in solutions to this problem.


Q. I often add several graphics to Word documents and Excel spreadsheets to enhance their visual impact. But what drives me bananas is that just as I’m about finished the graphics sometimes move on the page—so now they no longer are lined up correctly. Is there some way to get them to stay still?

A. You’re right; graphics have a way of unexpectedly shifting around. But it’s not hard to get them to sit still. Both Word and Excel have a feature called Group in their graphics tools that can freeze the relative positions of graphics.

After you’ve placed your graphics in a document or spreadsheet, engage Group by opening the Drawing tool ( View , Toolbar , Draw ). Then select all the graphics you want frozen by holding down the Shift key while clicking on each image. Then click on Draw , which appears in the lower left-hand corner of your screen, and then on Group . If the word Group is dimmed out, that means you have failed to properly select the graphics you want to freeze.

You still can move the grouped graphics, but now they all will move together, maintaining their relative positions to each other. Later, if you want to ungroup them, click on them and select Ungroup from the Draw menu.

Q. I usually add many comments to cells in my spreadsheets. It’s an effective way to document what’s going on in a complex file. I run into problems, however, when I try to find some specific comment because there are so many. Is there some facility that makes finding them more effective?

A. It’s not well-known, but the Find tool can handle the job quite well. All you have to do is dig a little deeper than Find’s opening screen. To launch Find , press Ctrl+F, which displays the Find and Replace dialog box. You may have to click on the Options button to evoke more of the searching options. Then, in the Find what box, enter the words you’re searching for and click on the arrow next to Look in until the Comments choice appears and click on Find Next .

Once you locate the target cell or cells, you must close the dialog box before you can display the comment.

Browser navigation: Although you can surf Web pages with your mouse by clicking on the Forward and Back buttons, you also can give your mouse a rest and accomplish the same actions on the keyboard. To move back, hold down the Alt key and press the left arrow key; to go forward, press the right arrow key.

Excel: Once you’ve worked hard to create a formula in Excel, wouldn’t it be nice if you could save it in a convenient workbook? Unfortunately, Excel lacks that ability. But you can copy formulas into a text file and then store the file on your desktop for instant reference.

Internet Explorer: Instead of using your mouse to move your cursor to the address bar to enter a URL, press Alt+D.

Windows: To quickly minimize several open files, click on the Show Desktop on the desktop toolbar or press the Windows key+D. Likewise, the fastest and easiest way to get to your desktop is to click on the Desktop icon, which looks like this:

If the icon is not in your taskbar, you can put it there by right-clicking on an empty space in the taskbar and then clicking on Toolbars and placing a check next to Quick Launch .

Word: To return immediately to the place in your text where you ended up during your last editing session, press Shift+F5 after you open the document.


STANLEY ZAROWIN, a former JofA senior editor, is now a contributing editor to the magazine. His e-mail address is .

Do you have technology questions for this column? Or, after reading an answer, do you have a better solution? Send them to contributing editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, 201 Plaza Three, Harborside Financial Center, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.

Because of the volume of mail, we regret we cannot individually answer submitted questions. However, if a reader’s question has broad interest, we will answer it in a forthcoming Technology Q&A column.

On occasion you may find you cannot implement a function I describe in this column. More often than not it’s because not all functions work in every operating system or application. I try to test everything in the 2000 and XP editions of Windows and Office. It’s virtually impossible to test them in all editions and it’s equally difficult to find out which editions are incompatible with a function. I apologize for the inconvenience.



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