i-think Twenty-Two

Now with more coherency.

VBA Help in Office 2007

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I rely a fair bit on being able to bring up the help file when working in Visual Basic for Applications. When working with new functions or functions you only use occasionally, this life saver of a tool at least tells you how it’s all supposed to work.Well, that’s the idea, but with Office 2007 they’ve introduced a new prettier help file. Unfortunately like the stereotype, this is all beauty, no brains. When using the F1 key on an add method of the Sheets object I got this screen:

Excel Help Window

Each of these Add methods are different. I have no way of working out what object it applies to. Fortunately not all is lost. If I change to Offline help I can see the full description. Offline it is then…

Excel Help Window

Windows Vista Dates

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Often I see users opening up the time and date panel from the task bar to have a look at the calendar. It is fast makes it easy to work out what day of the week a date falls on. The trouble is that if you are looking in a different month you come perilously close to changing the date. Windows Vista improves on this and makes things surprisingly fast. Today I discovered that if I click on the date, it shows a mini calendar and clock, ideal for a quick calendar browse.

Windows Vista Calendar

Windows Vista Magic Keyboard Layouts

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I currently use the Dvorak keyboard layout at work. If you don’t make this setting when you first install Windows the logon screen keeps to the normal US layout. Whilst I can touch type in both layouts, things get a little bit tricky when I start putting my fingers on the keys. It is quite counter- intuitive (and to make matters worse, the letters H, F, U and J can’t be swapped on this keyboard).

Anyway, I worked around the problem by describing my password and username in dvorak terms. (So my username would be pdfol and my password, well I’m not going to tell you that…)

Today I found a link under the keyboard layouts in Windows Vista to a help topic that was the key to solving my problem: “How do I change the keyboard layout for the Welcome Screen?”. Now, Microsoft’s whole thing with Vista is “The Wow is Now” and I have to admit I did say “wow”. Finally I was able to easily copy the keyboard layout to the welcome screen and the solution (Administrative) was only a tab away.

I just wish I could change the horrible blue and green welcome screen without having to use a 3rd party tool.

Working with Windows Vista

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After reading an editorial article suggesting Microsoft should dump Vista I felt sorry for the Operating System. I wasn’t fond of it, but I figured my exposure was minimal. So therefore to get an accurate overview of how well Vista actually worked I grabbed the test machine with Vista installed, stuck it under my desk and use it as my primary workstation (using Remote Desktop) to access the Windows XP version.

So far I have been generally happy with it’s stability, but certain things are bugging me.

  • Today I noticed that whilst switching between multiple windows (Windows Explorer and Firefox) the icons would occasionally stick to the wrong program in the task bar. It wouldn’t stay that way for long. Once the program refreshed it’s icon it was fixed, but was still very odd. It was almost reminiscent of the days when running multiple web browsers resulted in websites melting into each other.
  • When Windows Vista is installing software by group policy it doesn’t tell me what it is doing, it merely says “Please Wait”
  • I don’t want users going to the Windows Update site because all updates are managed internally, but when updates are pulled down to Vista PCs, you can only install them by selecting the “Install Updates and Shutdown” option. An icon still pops up telling you to click here to install, you just can’t do anything with it.
  • Why is the default shutdown option “Sleep”? This should be an option at install. (It can be fixed by Control Panel > System and Maintenance Power Options > Edit Plan Settings under “Power buttons and lid”).
  • What is with the hideous colour on the logon screen? I’ll let that pass as personal preference thing, but the whole thing makes me sick
  • Why can’t we use the old style login screen for domain logins?
  • Sometimes a status bar alone just won’t do. When I’m copying files, I want to know how much of the file has been copied so far. Watching this number tick over helps build my confidence.
  • When playing around in Windows Explorer I sometimes accidentally select the DVD drive. If there is no disk in the drive it comes up with the usual message and ejects the drive to insert a disk. This would be handy if I was intending to insert a disk, but makes it much easier to accidentally eject the drive (but only if it is empty).
  • Why isn’t the status bar on the boot screen centred vertically? It looks like something is missing. To be fair, I do like a few things about Vista:

  • I usually have two rows of programs in my task bar because I don’t like the “group task bar items” option. Under Windows XP/2000 the start button took up half the height of the task bar with a blank unusable area beneath it. Now Windows Vista centres the new (and spiffy looking) start button in the middle of the task bar, so there is no horrible empty space.

  • Moving around in Windows Explorer using the breadcrumb trail is a thing of beauty. Especially good for navigating complex directory structures (this is probably my biggest gripe with the Mac OS X Finder). I like to know where I am and Windows Explorer is good at telling me that.
  • Start Search is fantastic. It’s a good thing too, because navigating through the start menu (all programs) is next to impossible, particularly if you are used to having it occupy your whole screen (which I admit isn’t an ideal option). However usually I know what I’m looking for, so after pressing the Windows key and a few letters I’m good to go.
  • I’m generally happy with the look of the user interface. I changed the windows to be blue and I’m quite happy with the look.
  • I like to see the extensions of my files. Yet when renaming files it is normally a pain because I have to retype the extension or adjust the selection to not overwrite the extension (which is way too complicated). In Vista, I select the file, hit F2 and start renaming. It leaves the extension as it was, but I could certainly change it if I wanted to. Smart.
  • We are getting closer to having a New Folder button on the toolbar in Windows Explorer. Why has this not been done? In Windows XP I use Alt + F, W, F to make a new folder, but it’s complex. In Vista, Organize > New Folder. Big improvement. (I still want my button though. Seriously, the open/save dialogs have it, why not Explorer?)
  • Volume Shadow Copies on a desktop machine. Very useful, insanely so.
  • The Reliability and Performance monitor is great for giving real feedback as to exactly how Windows performs over time. No more relying on general feel. The numbers are there and well displayed. So all in all, not a bad experience so far. Software compatibility has been ordinary, but the latest updates tend to fix most problems. Unfortunately the transition to Vista is inevitable (unless some real crazy stuff happens). Better to be ready before it is necessary.

Size does matter

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My monitor has been playing up recently, flickering all over the place (as seen in Die Hard 4.0). Knowing it was only a matter of time before it completely kicked the bucket I ordered a new monitor, on special for $255. My old monitor promptly started working properly and has not had a problem since.

Anyway, I picked up my new monitor yesterday and I can only describe it as enormous. It’s a 20" widescreen monitor at 1680 x 1050 pixels (my old monitor was 15" at 1024 x 768 pixels). I have to sit back when I am watching a movie, which is now a much more pleasant (and detailed) experience.

Maximizing windows can be quite insane at this size (except for movies of course). But maybe I will simply get used to the new size.

It is definitely noticeable that things are being designed for bigger and wider screens. The Apple Menu bar seems far less cramped spread across an extra 656 pixels.

Trouble is, my monitor at work now seems awfully small.