Over the last couple decades, I’ve suffered through some serious computer incidents. So when Sally Bagshaw told me her computer died, I felt her pain.
But in typical glass-is-half-full fashion, Sally wrote a fantastic post about it. This is a nice sister post to my computer crash recovery plan I wrote about in January.
I’ve been a bit quiet lately. Work has been busy, my son has been on school holidays, and oh yes my computer died.
It is completely dead.
Won’t even turn on type of dead.
Turns out a software update did something nasty to my hard drive. So nasty that I’ll most likely not be able to recover any files from it.
Don’t you love that? Technology seems to fail at the most inopportune moment.
Now don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those woe-is-me-I’ve-lost-all-my-files posts. I learned that lesson a long time ago so now have thorough back-up systems in place. Even though I lost my hard drive, so far it seems that I haven’t lost any data. But nevertheless, I did learn some useful lessons the past couple of weeks that I’d like to share with you:
I had this idea to write a short little post on tools I use to run my freelance copywriting business. I figured it would be easy.
But when I started looking at all the software and online tools I actually use, I had one of those “sheesh” moments. I had no idea just how many tools I rely on. I could have made a list of 101 tools.
But it’s a busy week, so I’ll cut it down to just 32 I use a lot. This includes some design tools since I offer design services to my clients as well as copywriting.
Oh, and keep in mind that I’m on a PC Windows system, so there aren’t any Mac tools here.
These built-in writing tools catch some of the more obvious things, such as misspelled words, but they’re near useless for grammar and punctuation. And they don’t catch things like missing words.
That’s why I was so thrilled recently when I discovered Whitesmoke. It’s not just a spell checker, it’s a comprehensive proofing and editing system that is a genius compared to what you get with word processing software.
There’s no substitute for a human proofing your copy, but this comes pretty close.
Have you ever been writing copy and needed to insert a ® (registration mark), © (copyright symbol), or some other special character?
On some word processing programs if you type (c), the program will automatically transform those three characters (left parentheses, the letter c, right parentheses) into the proper one-character symbol. This works for a few other characters as well.
But there are other ways to do this and access thousands of “extended characters” hidden inside the fonts on your computer. One is to look up a list of Alt codes for all the characters, which you can find on the Internet. For example, if you hold down the Alt key and type 0169, you get ©.
Another way is to open a little built-in program called Character Map on Windows and Character Palette on Mac. You just select the typeface you’re using and you can choose from a huge collection of special characters. Personally, I find this a lot easier than memorizing Alt codes. And using the correct symbols gives documents a professional look.
If you’ve never heard of OpenOffice.org, it’s time you did. It’s the choice of thousands of smart writers.
“Choice” isn’t a term you associate with Microsoft Word. You use it because it came pre-installed on your computer. Right?
Word is the standard word processing program for the business world, so it’s convenient to have documents in that format. But let’s face it, like so many of Microsoft’s products, Word has grown into a clunky behemoth. You probably don’t use more than 5 or 10 percent of its features.
Worse, with the release of the Vista operating system, Microsoft stopped pre-installing Word and replaced it with Works, a program that went out of vogue years ago. Why? I guess Bill Gates needs a new pair of shoes. He wants you to pay for Word.
But with OpenOffice.org you have a better choice. It’s small, it’s fast, it includes all the features you need as a professional writer, and it’s free.