Here are a few tidbits that readers might find useful:
A gem of a calculator: Microsoft quietly introduced a powerful little conversion calculator that not only adds, subtracts and divides but also converts all the major world currencies to the currency of your choice. The exchange rates are current—downloaded in real time (assuming you’re Internet-connected) from the European Central Bank. As if that’s not enough, the calculator also converts weight (for example, carats into Chinese or Taiwanese jin), length, temperature and volume. It even can function as a scientific calculator. (Sorry, it doesn’t do taxes.)
The URL for downloading the free calculator (which only works on Microsoft XP and above) is very long, so download it by doing a Google search for Microsoft Calculator Plus .
Color rows and columns in Excel: One of the nice things about columnar pads is the alternating color bars to guide the eye. Excel does the pads one better: With just a few clicks, you can highlight any row or column as a way to guide the eye along a stream of numbers. Place your cursor in any cell and press Ctrl+Space to highlight the entire column in blue, or Shift+Space to highlight an entire row in blue.
If the highlight is too dark, making it hard to read the numbers, highlight the row/column below or adjacent to the target line.
Of course, if you’re near the left edge of the screen (where the numbers are) or the top (where the letters are), just click on a number to highlight that row or a letter to highlight that column. No need to press keys.
Simple, but useful.
Password insight: A computer-password study reported in Windows Secrets ( www.windowssecrets.com ) said that, contrary to conventional wisdom, hard-to-remember passwords with a mix of 15 or so arbitrary letters and numbers are not that effective in thwarting hackers. Much better are passwords longer than 15 characters, made up of a mixture of misspelled words, such as My.Nu.Chevvy-iza-xpensive-gazguzzelrr. Add some rhyme and humor to make them easier to remember, and throw in a few numbers to further frustrate would-be hackers.
Stanley Zarowin, a former JofA senior editor, is now a contributing editor. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
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Because of the volume of mail, we regret we cannot individually answer submitted questions. However, if a reader’s question has broad interest, I 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.