Category Archives: How-to guides

How to fix an error setting the bottom margin in Word 16

It’s always the little things…

If you keep getting an error message when you try to set the bottom margin of your Word document below a certain measurement… disconnect your printer.

Yes, that’s right, disconnect the printer, and not just via the cable but from Windows as well.


For those using Windows 7:

  1. Click the Start button,
  2. Select ‘Devices and Printers’

This will display the ‘Devices and Printers’ window. Under ‘Printers and Faxes’, you will see your printer. It will have a bright green tick next to it to show it’s the default device.

  1. Click your printer
  2. Select ‘Remove this Device’

Now when you open Word and set the margins to the lowest pre-set measurement [1.27 cm or 0.5 inches], Word will do your bidding without bitching and going “Nah ah, not gonna happen.”

This may seem like a drastic ‘fix’, but printers are ‘plug and play’ so Windows will re-install them again without issue.

Now, why on earth would you need to completely disconnect the printer in the first place?

The reason is that Word takes the dimensions for the ‘printable’ area of a page from the printer.

This is not a problem for most Word documents, but it can be a huge problem if the printer you want to use is CreateSpace. Or, to be more exact, if you want to set non-standard margins for the book you want CreateSpace to print for you.

This is exactly the problem that’s been vexing me for days. Printing in colour is expensive so I didn’t want to waste precious page space on unnecessarily wide margins. But do you think Word would co-operate? It allowed me to set all the margins to 1.27 cm, except for one. For some reason I could not fathom, Word kept telling me that the bottom margin had to be a minimum of 1.68 cm. For my US friends, that’s 0.66 inches.

I have wasted hours of my life searching Google for an answer, and it was not until I remembered a problem we had with Word at DVLC [the community centre where I help teach computer literacy to adults] that I began to wonder if I was experiencing something similar. At DVLC, there are multiple printers, but the student workstations are not allowed to access all of them. If the wrong printer is specified for a given workstation, Word chucks a wobbly and won’t even show a print preview.

So, could the printer be the problem?

Step 1 was to disconnect the printer cable from the pc.

Success? No.

Step 2 was to get stubborn and uninstall the printer from the pc.

Success? YES!

So there you have it, a simple solution for a rare problem. You’re welcome.




Book 5 up on CreateSpace

My CreateSpace adventure has gone in directions I never thought it would. Only 1 of the five books is actually ‘live’ but the 3 Innerscape books are due for their final, final, final review and the latest book is getting it’s 24 hour review by CreateSpace.

The approval process [by me] won’t be quick because I’m picky, but it is happening. This is the cover of ‘How to Print Your Book with CreateSpace, a step-by-step guide for absolute beginners’:

I know this doesn’t look like a professional, business type cover, but I wanted to convey how I felt about my books. And this is it. For now. I may change my mind though.

No comments. Literally. ๐Ÿ˜€



How to vacuum your desktop…safely!

I wish you could have heard my desktop computer an hour ago. It was making a nasty wheezing noise that did not bode well at all. Now, it’s humming with the soft, barely-there sound you’d expect from a brand new pc! And yes, I did vacuum it. Read on to find out if I’m crazy or not. ๐Ÿ˜€

But first, a warning: do not think you can take shortcuts. You have to follow these instructions to the letter or face the consequences. The first time I tried this, I was a tad over-confident and ended up frying my motherboard. If you don’t know what a motherboard is, stop reading right now.

Okay, now that we’ve got that warning out of the way, let’s start with why any sane person would want to vacuum the inside of their computer in the first place. The answer is simple: money.

Unless you live in a sealed bubble, your desktop pc will accumulate dust, on the inside as well as the outside. That dust will gather on all the internal surfaces, especially on the blades of the fans and on the grills beneath the fans. Those fans and grills are the ‘lungs’ of your computer. When they become clogged, your computer will struggle to keep all the vital bits cool. If your computer overheats, seriously, it will eventually just stop until it can cool down.

But you won’t know that your computer is only cooling down. You will think that it has died. In a panic, you will gather it tenderly in your arms and take it to the nearest computer repair shop where:

  • you will be charged for a tech to clean out all the dust [best case scenario and only if the tech is honest] or…
  • you will be told that you need a brand new motherboard, or power supply, or harddrive or…oh my god, your pc’s totally stuffed, mate, but I happen to have this nice one over here on special….

Either way, that dust is going to cost you money, and if money is tight, that could be a real problem. So instead of paying someone else to do your cleaning for you, why not learn to do it yourself?

And it is at this point of my post that I have to send a huge thank you to my very honest computer tech Abraham Liu! Abraham has built and repaired my computers for years, and he is also the one who taught me how to dust the inside of my computer safely.

If you live in the Eltham area, Abraham has a tech shop in Bridge Street called One Touch. It’s almost on the roundabout near Bunnings. Or look him up:

Right, now to the nitty gritty, excuse the pun.

  1. FIRST! Buy yourself a smallish, bristle paintbrush and some bamboo skewers. This is vital as natural materials don’t build static and static can kill your computer.
  2. Then…turn your pc off [yeah, I know, obvious but…]
  3. Unplug all the connections to yourย  pc [taking note of what goes where – a pic is helpful]
  4. Take the side cover off your pc [and don’t lose the 2 screws that hold it in place!]
  5. Take the head off your barrel type vacuum cleaner so that only the tube is connected to the hose
  6. Turn the vacuum on and hold the hose over but not in the pc while you use the paintbrush to sweep the dust into the SUCTION. Do not try to vacuum the dust directly with the end of the vacuum. The end of the vacuum hose should never touch anything inside the pc. Only the bristles of the paintbrush should connect with all those delicate surfaces.

Pay particular attention to all the fans inside your pc, this includes the fan on top of the cpu and any fans you may have on the video card. Getting the dust off the blades is fairly easy, but getting the dust balls off the grill behind the fans is not. Unfortunately, clogged grills are precisely the problem, so this is where the bamboo skewers come in very handy.

Put the vacuum hose down and tap your fingers against the frame of the pc. This is to ground any static that may have built up. Synthetic fibres in carpet and clothing can very quickly build static that you only notice when it discharges. When I wear a particular fleecy jacket, Buffa’s ears get little zaps that we can both feel when I pat him.

  • So discharge that static before you put your hand inside the pc.
  • Hold the fan still with one hand while you poke the bamboo skewer between the blades to reach the dust collected on the grill at the back. Pull the dust balls out [and wipe them on a non-synthetic cloth] until the grill is clean. [Do not poke the skewer all the way through..duh]
  • When all the fans are as clean as you can get them, brush the dust off all the other surfaces and catch it with the vacuum hose. Remember! Vacuum the air, not the pc.

Tip: if you have a hair-dryer, you can blow the dust from the pc into the air so the vacuum can suck it up. If not, just keep brushing [again, commonsense dictates that your don’t cook the components by overheating them with your hairdryer -rolls eyes-].

You’ll never get the pc absolutely dust free, but a little loose dust won’t do it any harm. It’s the dust balls over the grills of the fan [in particular, over the cpu] that do the damage. Once the inside is as clean as you can make it, replace the cover, re-connect all the fittings [power last!] and turn your pc on. It should run so softly that you can barely hear it.

You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ˜€


Printing Resources for Melbourne Indie Authors

My thanks to Michelle Lovi, David Prosser, and Suzanne Newnham for all the wonderful information they shared with me. Armed with this information, I went researching and found some resources that may be of use to others as well.

The following are by no means all the POD printers there are in Melbourne, but they are the ones that seemed to provide the best match to my needs.

In order of discovery:


This printer is based in Melbourne and requires a minimum 10 books.

Print on Demand

This printer is based in South Melbourne. No info. on costs or shipping.

Blurb Australia?

This company rang a bell, but when I investigated further, I discovered that you have to use their own proprietary software and fonts. And they only seem to offer one trim size : 6 x 9

Shipping – Express only. Cost in AUD 14.99 [that was for shipping only; no idea what the print costs would be on top of that].

The shipping cost is pretty much the same as for CreateSpace so I was disappointed. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ


IngramSpark have an Australian print facility but they do not have an Australian website [yet]. This was very confusing and I spent about half an hour following links all over the place, trying to find the Aussie site.

In the end, I rang the Lightning Source phone number and the very nice voice at the other end explained that:

  • Lightning Source is for big print jobs
  • IngramSpark is for small to tiny print jobs
  • One account to bind them all
  • Printing processed according to actual, physical location – i.e. in Australia for Australian Indies.

So, to have your book printed in Australia [with IngramSpark], you have to setup an account via the international website [shown above]. Processing the print order is the same for everyone, everywhere, but if you’re in Australia, the printing and shipping will be done from /here/.

To check the shipping costs, click on the IngramSpark website, then click on Resources followed by Tools.

You will now see a whole range of tools available for selfpublishers – including templates and the shipping calculator. I had a little bit of trouble with the shipping calculator because it didn’t seem to like the page count of 370. -shrug- When I entered 380 instead, everything was fine. This is the info I entered for the calculator [the book is Nabatea]:

I have to say, the results made me very happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

The shipping costs for 1 book gave this result:

The per book cost is almost double what the CreateSpace eStore would charge [buying at cost], however the shipping and handling work out to be more than 2/3 less. Thus, printing here works out to be quite a bit cheaper than shipping in 1 book from the US.

When I looked at 10 books, the savings were even greater:

The per book cost remains the same but so does the shipping! This means that each book costs only 44c to ship. Colour me laughing all the way to the bank. ๐Ÿ˜€

And finally, just out of curiosity, I looked up the cost of 100 books:

Clearly, the economies of scale just don’t stack up with POD as the reduction in per book cost was tiny. Nevertheless, it was heartening to see that the shipping costs worked out to be 25c per book.

So there you have it. The local copies of the Innerscape saga will be printed here in Australia, by IngramSpark. This will mean another learning curve for me, but even that has an upside as I’ll be able to publish a second how-to book titled “How to print your book [using Word and IngramSpark]”. lol

I may even offer workshops as well… Guess who’s going to be a very busy girl? -dance-

Hope this is of use to others out there.




Corel X8 tips for beginners – moving objects precisely

I have to start this post by saying I am not an expert in Corel X8, but I have been using vector graphics for a very long time, and there are some labour-saving tips I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to share. The first of these involves a basic feature called ‘Object position’:

The ‘X’ and ‘Y’ numbers describe the left/right and up/down position of the object on the page. But they’re more than just co-ordinates – they can also be used to change the position of the object on the page, precisely. So precisely in fact, that you can use ‘Object position’ to move your shapes one pixel at a time.

What’s a pixel?

If you zoom in on a digital image far enough, you will eventually see a grid of coloured squares. Each one of those squares is a pixel, and they are the building blocks of the most common digital images:

In the screenshot above, the image has been magnified to over 3000%. Despite this extreme magnification, however, small errors of alignment can and do show up in much large images. In the following screenshot I created two, almost identical pairs of shapes. The pair on the left is just one pixel shy of being aligned perfectly. The pair on the right is aligned perfectly. When you place the images against a contrasting background, the small imperfection in pair A can be seen as the hint of a ‘bump’:

The next screenshot is a super closeup of that one pixel difference:


In bitmap images [the kind you get from photographs], there are so many shades of pixels that you would never notice such a tiny imperfection. In vector drawings, however, especially of objects with straight lines, one pixel can make a difference.

The magnitude of the difference one pixel can make was brought home to me over the last few months as I’ve been working on the covers to my books. Like most people, I began by eyeballing the position of the shapes and moving them around manually. If I’m careful, I can line them up perfectly, most of the time. But if I have a lot of shapes, and they all have to be aligned perfectly, the strain on my eyes, neck and shoulders can become intense. That’s where the ‘Object position’ comes in. Instead of relying on hand-eye co-ordination, I simply type in co-ordinates, and X8 does the work for me.

So how do you use ‘Oject position’?

The first step is to ensure that your ‘Object position’ is counting pixels not milimetres etc. To change your page setup to pixels, click on the Layout tab and select ‘Page setup’ from the drop down menu as shown:

Next, select ‘Pixels’ from the drop down list and click ‘OK’:


The next step is to learn what those X and Y numbers actually mean.The X numbers show the object’s position from left to right, and increasing the number moves the object further to the right. For example, if the object’s starting position is 50, changing that number to 60 will move the object 10 pixels to the right. By the same token, changing the number from 50 to 40 will move the object 10 pixels to the left.

The following is a before-and-after screenshot of a real project I’m working on:

The X position of the shape in the pic on the left is 2266. The X position of the shape on the right is 2273. In other words, the shape moved 7 pixels to the right.

Unfortunately, using the Y numbers is not so intuitive. For reasons I will never understand, you have to decrease the number to move the object down and increase it to move the object up. In the following before-and-after shot, I increased the Y number from 406 to 411 in order to move the object up into alignment:

Using the Y position, in particular, is a bit hard to get used to, but once you do, a combination of up/down and left/right adjustment will ensure that your objects align with each other perfectly, every time.

The mantra to remember is:

  • Left = less
  • Right = more
  • Up = more
  • Down = less

In the next post, I’ll be talking about converting shapes to curves, adding and deleting nodes via the right click menu, and how to create a ‘mitred’ joint between two shapes.





Self-publishing via Word and Createspace – page setup

This is the second post in this series and this time, I’ll be showing you how to setup your Word document to match the Createspace template for your chosen trim size. If you’ve forgotten about templates and trim sizes, you can find the post explaining what they are, why you need them and where to find them…here.

Right. So in this post I will assume that:

  1. you have typed up your manuscript in Word or in a Word compatible format – e.g. Rich Text Format or .rtf for short.
  2. you want to change that manuscript to make it compatible with Createspace so the printing process goes smoothly
  3. you have decided on a trim size
  4. you have downloaded the appropriate template [from Createspace] specifically for that trim size
  5. you have looked at the template but did not change any of the settings

If any of these assumptions are incorrect, please go back to the overview article linked above and make sure you have everything that you need.

How to easily change the font and font size to match the Createspace template [of your choice]

The first step is to open Word. Then, open both your manuscript and the template document. The template document will look something like this:

I chose a trim size of 5.5 x 8.5 so this is the template for that trim size. Garamond is a common font, and 12 is an average font size. Your template may be different. One thing, however, is most most certain to be true – the font in the template will not match the font you used in your manuscript. Assuming you want to change the font in your manuscript, the following is the simplest, easiest way to do it. But…be warned before you begin – this method will change your title and chapter headings as well.

First, we have to select the entire document. There are two ways of doing this.

The first way is to hit the Ctrl key and the ‘a‘ key at the same time. Ctrl-a is a keyboard shortcut and will ‘select all’ on most apps.

The second way is to use the ribbon:

Microsoft Word 10 uses tabs so the ‘Select’ options are on the Home tab, at the top right of the ribbon as shown. Click ‘Select’ and then click ‘Select All’ from the dropdown options.

Your manuscript should now look like this:

WARNING: hitting the ‘Delete’ key or the spacebar when everything is selected can lead to the loss of your entire document. If you make a mistake and everything disappears, DO NOT PANIC. Simply click the ‘Undo’ button to cancel whatever you last did. The ‘Undo’ button can be found here:

You can also undo your last action by hitting Ctrl Z [Ctrl and ‘z’] on your keyboard.

Moving on. With the entire document highlighted as above, click the small arrow next to the font box as shown:

Select the appropriate font for your template. For mine it was ‘Garamond’.

With the document still highlighted in blue [i.e. selected] click the small arrow next to the font size box as shown:

Click on the appropriate font size and then click inside your document to de-select it. The blue highlighting should disappear.

The next change we will make is to adjust the alignment and first-line indent of each paragraph. To do this, click the small button in the Paragraph category on the Home tab of the Ribbon:

You should now be looking at the Paragraph dialog box as shown below. Here, you can specify how all the text in the document is aligned. As most books are justified, that is the option I’ve chosen under ‘General’. I’ve also chosen a first-line indent of 1 cm so that everyone can easily see where a new paragraph begins. This is important, imho, as I’ve also chosen ‘Single’ line spacing.

Finally, I’ve clicked on the option ‘Set as Default’ down at the bottom. Word then wants to know what I mean by default. Choosing ‘All documents…’ would change the Normal style for every Word document I create from here on in. I don’t want to do that so I selected ‘This document only’.


Click on ‘OK’ and you will notice that…nothing has changed!

Don’t panic. In reality, the Normal style has changed, we simply have to tell Word to reflect those changes in the document. To do this, Select All again, and when the whole document is highlighted in blue, click the Normal style as shown:

Ta dah…the first big change is complete. The headings still need to be fixed up but that can wait. The next thing we need to do is change the size of the ‘paper’ so that we can start to see roughly how many pages this document really contains.

Changing the paper size to reflect the trim size of our ‘book’

To find out what is the correct paper size for our book, open the template document. Then open the ‘Page Layout’ tab of the Ribbon. With the Page Layout tab open, click the small button under the Page Setup group of functions:

You should now be looking at the Page Setup dialog box for your template. Under ‘Paper size’ you should have a number in cm for width and height. Write those 2 numbers down. Then click on the Margins tab. Again, you should write the margin numbers down and note whether ‘Mirror margins’ are specified. The following screenshots are from my template:

Now, go back to your own document, open the Page Layout tab and click on the small button to open the Page Setup dialog box. You should be looking at the tab for Paper. Click inside the ‘Paper size’ boxes and type in the dimensions that were shown in the template document. Mine looks like this:

Next, click the Margins tab and again, type in the numbers you found in your template. Mine looks like this:

Congratulations! You’ve changed some of the most important aspects of your manuscript to reflect the Createspace template.

But there is still a great deal to do. The Title and Headings will have to be fixed and to do that we will change the default styles to make the changes quick and easy. The book will also need page numbering, but some parts should not have page numbers – e.g. the Title page – so first we will have to insert section breaks. As well as making sure the page numbering is correct, section breaks are necessary to ensure that the first page of every new chapter always starts on an odd page. Nothing shrieks ‘amateur’ in a print book like wonky formatting.

And finally, there’s the cover. Front page + back page + THE SPINE! Plus ISBNs, pricing, royalty calculations….

I hope you guys are in for the long haul as this could take a while. ๐Ÿ™‚




Self-publishing via Word and Createspace – overview

This is the first in a series of how-to posts that will help you publish a print version of your book…without making all the mistakes I made with Innerscape. The posts will focus on Word 10 and Amazon’s Createspace. The information is accurate as at April, 2017.

Right, first and foremost – what is Createspace?

Createspace is the print book arm of Amazon’s self-publishing toolset. Createspace allows you to publish a trade paperback version of your manuscript which will be produced on a ‘Print On Demand’ basis [POD]. POD is a fast way of printing small to very small print runs of books.

How small? Try just one.

Essentially, when a customer buys a POD book, they are placing an order for a book that does not yet exist in physical form. Once the order is placed, the book takes 1-3 days to produce, and then it’s posted out to the customer just the same as a book printed in the ordinary way.


  • Amazon will place your book for sale just like any other book – i.e. it will have the same visibility, or lack thereof, as any other book.
  • Self-publishers can have the pleasure of holding a physical copy of their own work.
  • Readers who do not like ebooks can find and buy your work in a physical format.
  • POD costs nothing up front, and printing charges* are subtracted from the sale price of the book – no sale, no charge.
  • POD books do not have to be warehoused.


  • Because POD books lack efficiencies of scale, they are not cheap*.
  • Because POD books come from Indies [and may or may not be returnable], bookshops generally do not accept them.
  • Most Indies sell far more ebooks than POD versions, but that may simply be a function of price [see above]
  • Preparing your manuscript for printing via Createspace requires a fair bit of work, or at least I found it to be so.

This is a cutesy video that walks you through the sales and royalties side of the process:

*Before you can calculate your royalties, however, you have to set a price that will not only cover your print charges, but will also bring in a small profit…to you. Working out the print charges, however, is a little bit like finding the end of a tangle of string.

  1. Print charges depend on the total page number, BUT >>
  2. the page number will change depending on the trim size of your book – i.e. how big or small it is, BUT >>
  3. Word documents are in A4, not in standard trim sizes, so a 200 page Word document could be up to 400 pages, depending on the trim size.

Trim size

I admit, I struggled with this. Trim size refers to the actual physical dimensions of the book you end up with after the printing process is finished. But what are these sizes? And how do they relate to my Word document?

After much floundering I found this table of trim sizes:

This information is from the Createspace website and the sizes shown in bold are the standard ones. Without going into too much detail, ordinary printers can print any sized book you can imagine, but POD printers like Createspace can only print the standard sizes. So, go standard. ๐Ÿ™‚

After much messing around with measuring tapes and various sized books, I settled on the 5.5″ x 8.5″ trim size. Imho, not too big and not too small. But I was still no closer to knowing how many pages I’d end up with. Enter the Createspace templates.

Createspace templates

Before I say anything else, I have to say that trying to pour my manuscript into one of the templates was an exercise in frustration. For example, I could not get the page numbering to work. At all. I really wouldn’t recommend actually using the templates but…they do provide invaluable information such as:

  • Standard fonts
  • margins
  • layout etc

The information on the margins is absolutely vital. So next step is to find a template for the trim size you have chosen. You will find the most up-to-date information on the Kindle Direct Publishing website. If you have already published an ebook with KDP, login as normal. If not, got to this link:

and login with your normal Amazon ID and password. Once you have logged in, select the ‘Help’ option from the top of the page. From the first Help screen select ‘Paperback Manuscript Formation’ as show below :


From the next screen, select ‘Paperback Manuscript Templates {Beta} as shown:

From the next screen, select ‘Templates with Sample Content’ to display the list of templates available for each trim size:

The ‘sample’ part helps you to see how the bits fit.

Select the appropriate template and save it to your computer. Open it and look at it, but do NOT change anything. This template works for Createspace, so you need to keep it with its original settings so you know what to change in your own Word document.

In the next post, I’ll show you how to:

  • change the font and font size of your manuscript to match the template,
  • change the margins and page setup to match the template
  • change the alignment and line spacing to match the template.

In future posts, I’ll walk you through how to:

  • change the styles to make formatting easier,
  • how and why to insert section breaks and
  • how to insert different page numbers in different areas of your book
  • how to calculate costs and royalties based on the number of pages you end up with in your formatted manuscript
  • how to calculate the price you need to charge for your book in order to make a profit, or at least break even.

This may seem like a very back to front way of doing things, but you can’t make any of the important calculations until you know exactly what size book you want to create and how many pages it will have.







How to uninstall Intel Security Truekey when all else fails

Before I get to the ‘how-to’, a quick explanation: I downloaded the latest version of Adobe Flash, from the Adobe website. I was not shown an opt-out screen for the two applications bundled with Flash – i.e. McAfee and Intel Security Truekey. All three applications were installed on my pc as I watched in fury, unable to stop it from happening.

As soon as the installation finished, I immediately uninstalled McAfee via the Control Panel, but for some reason, Truekey did not show up at all, not as ‘Truekey’ and not as ‘Intel Security Truekey’. Yet there it was on my desktop, cosily installed on my pc.

I went online and found suggestions that did not work. If you are in the same boat here is what you do:

  1. Go online and search for Intel Security True Key support in your home country. In Australia it’s – 1 800 073 267,
  2. Ring, and when you finally get through to a tech, do not give them your email address – it is not necessary,
  3. Do not agree to remote access support. Remote access means that someone, somewhere is given permission to get into your computer to fix it. Never, ever allow remote access because you have no way of knowing whether that access has been permanently closed or not,
  4. DO ask to speak to a supervisor. It may take a few minutes but this is your right, especially if you did not want the application in the first place.
  5. If the supervisor doesn’t offer it, demand a link to their software removal application. You will have to download it and install it on your pc, but you can check it with your own anti-virus application before you run it. The application I was given is called: MCPR.exe.

I had to run MCPR.exe twice as the first attempt was not successful:

After the first, unsuccessful attempt, I was told to restart my pc and then run MCPR.exe again. I did, and finally managed to get rid of Truekey completely, but I wasted a lot of time doing it.

To say that I’m angry is an understatement. Apparently there is an opt-out screen on which you can uncheck both McAfee and Truekey, BUT that opt out screen doesn’t always display. I know, because I found a lot of other angry people who could not opt out either. You’d think a company as large as Adobe could get something like that right, wouldn’t you?

Apparently not. And then, to add insult to injury, my research revealed that I didn’t need Flash in the first place! The only site I use regularly that did use Flash, once upon a time, is Youtube, and it doesn’t use Flash any more. There may be certain games that still require Flash, but the whole industry is moving away from it because of the constant security issues. That in itself should be a red flag.

So, my advice is to stay away from Adobe products like Flash unless you absolutely have to have them. And if you do download one of Adobe’s products, and become the victim of an unwanted application installation, don’t just shrug it away. User apathy is one reason these companies get away with behaviour that is one, small step away from malware.

Right, I feel a bit better now. Time to go make the Offspring’s birthday cake.




#Tweetdeck – how to filter columns for conversations

TweetDeck is an app owned by Twitter that helps make sense of your Tweets by allowing you to filter and display them according to your own needs. For example, I’m currently having a really interesting conversation with @YorgosKC and @DavidGaughran about politics and the birth of democracy in the ancient city-state of Athens. Trouble is, I’m missing half the conversation because there is no way of tracking a conversation in Twitter.

Enter TweetDeck. It won’t let you track conversations either…but it does have the smarts to create a workaround.

To start using TweetDeck, simply go to:

The TweetDeck banner screen displays a button to sign in to Twitter. Do it. Essentially, you are in Twitter, but you’re viewing it through a ‘shell’ that has some special functions, such as the ability to display different types of information, side-by-side, in columns.

What you can see in the screenshot below, is my TweetDeck screen after I removed the default columns and replaced them with 2 Mentions columns:


The reason for selecting the Mentions columns was so I could filter who mentioned whom. In the left hand column are tweets by David Gaughran in which he mentions Yorgos KC. [Users: By @DavidGaughran, mentioning @ YorgosKC]. As I am part of the conversation anyway, I don’t have to worry about him mentioning me.

In the right hand column, I’ve filtered the tweets so that I only see the tweets in which Yorgos KC mentions David Gaughran. [Users: By @YorgosKC, mentioning @DavidGaughran].

I admit that filtering the tweets this way is tedious, but at least I can see all the tweets of this three-way conversation in one place.

In case anyone wants to do the same thing, here’s a quick how-to:

tweetdeck-filters-4Clicking this small icon at the top right of your column will open a kind of settings menu. At the bottom of the settings menu is the option to ‘Remove’ the column. I removed all the existing columns so I could force TweetDeck to display my new columns side-by-side.

To display new columns of your choice, click the ‘+’ button on the narrow menu pane on the left of the screen. The following popup will display:


Each option is essentially a category of tweet. The ‘Mentions’ circled in red is for single Twitter accounts. If you have more than one account, select the ‘Mentions (all accounts)’ option.

Once you have your chosen column in place, click the settings button to display the menu options:


Click the arrow as shown to select the ‘Users’ option. With the Users sub-menu displayed, click inside the ‘By’ box to display further options:


The option we want is ‘specific user…’ Click. Now you can enter the Twitter handle of the person you’re interested in:


Type in the name preceded by the ‘@’ symbol and hit ENTER on your keyboard.

Next, do the same thing for the person mentioned by your first…mentionee?


Again, hit ENTER when you have finished typing in the name. Now the only tweets displayed in that column will be those in which person 1 mentions person 2.

Repeat the entire process to display the tweet in which person 2 mentions person 1.

As I said, it’s a workaround and not terribly elegant, but it’s better than giving a 3rd Party App access to your Twitter account. There are apps out there that will track conversations for you…but you have to give them access to your account and allow them to tweet in your name. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a no-no.









#Cloud storage &…….or a positive tech post for a change!

After coping with the security issues of Windows 10, it was such a pleasant surprise to find an ‘app’ that is unabashedly security conscious! And yes,, I’m talking about you. But first, a quick word about the problems that solves: storage, backup and version control.

Normally, when you create a file on your computer, you save it to your computer – i.e. onto the harddrive inside theย physical ‘box’. If you’re super organised, you may also save that file to an external harddrive or USB device, as a form of ongoing ‘backup’. Belt-and-braces type people might save that data to a DVD as well, giving them multiple backups in case of disaster.

But all of these various types of storage have one, critical downside – a change made in one copy of the data will NOT be reflected in the other copies. If you have 3 copies of a particular file, you will have to manually update each copy.

There is also another issue that can be a nightmare – version control. Let me give you an example. Every time I work on my WiP [work in progress], I save it to my desktop, and then I copy it to my USB device. The latest version from the desktop always over-writes the version on the USB. Obviously, this is so I always have at least one copy of my work no matter what happens [e.g. the house burns down in a bushfire or some other catastrophe].

But what if I have 2 computers and want to add to my WiP on both?

That is the problem I’ve been struggling with for the last few days: there’s no point having the laptop if I don’t use it for my work, but if I do use it while I’m away from home, how do I keep the versions straight?

My fear is that if I continue with the USB device, sooner or later I am going to get the latest version of the WiP wrong. In a moment of madness or tiredness or distraction, I’ll over-write the wrong copy and then I’ll be up the creek without a paddle. Enter cloud storage.

Like the USB drive or DVD etc., cloud storage saves your files outside your pc, usually in a server on the other side of the world. The file is ‘up-loaded’ to the cloud via your internet connection, and once it’s there, you can access it from any computer device you choose. You can also share that file with others if you wish.

For me, cloud storage means I can work on my WiP at home and have it synced to my laptop so if I go out, I can continue working on the WiP where I left off.

Lovely concept, right?

Unfortunately, the grand-daddy of cloud storage – Dropbox – showed that cloud storage can be hacked, and most reviews I’ve read say their security has not improved much if at all since then. Now, I’m not working on anything ‘naughty’ that I need to hide from anyone, but privacy is very important to me, and I would die if I lost four years worth of work through someone else’s ‘oopsie’. So no Dropbox.:(

I was trawling through the umpteenth review/comparison of cloud storage offerings – there are heaps of them! – when I came across And guess what! The thing that sets apart from the rest is its security. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus it’s Canadian, so not subject to some of the, um, government sponsored hacking found over the border.

And now for the acid test – does work?

Yes, yes, it does. ๐Ÿ™‚

The two screenshots below show my desktop and the laptop. They’ve been synced via and the test files I used have shown up on both computers with only a very short delay – approx. 20 seconds or thereabouts.

sync com screenshots

So now I know the system works, and thankfully, getting it to work is really simple too.

How to use

  1. First, register for the free, 5 GB plan:
  2. Then download the installer to the first pc. Install Sync to the first pc using the account name you setup in step 1. Part of the setup process is the creation of a folder called ‘Sync’.
  3. Now, download and install the Sync installer to the second pc. Make sure you have a ‘Sync’ folder on the second pc as well.
  4. Drag and drop [or copy/paste] a file into the ‘Sync’ folder on the first pc.
  5. Wait 20? seconds and you will see that the file now appears in the ‘Sync’ folder of the second pc as well.

The Sync presence on your pc is minimal. If you need to do something with the actual app., you can find it inside ‘Show hidden icons’ on your taskbar:

sync taskbar icon

All other work is done on the website itself. Once I’ve worked out how to share files with friends, I’ll detail that in a separate post. For now, I’m really happy with my new way of working.

Last question: was finding and installing Sync as easy or convenient as using the default OneDrive cloud storage app offered by Windows 10?

Simple answer: no. Installing and learning how to use Sync didn’t take me long, but it still required some time and effort on my part, the payoff, however, is more than worth it:

  • I have an excellent cloud storage app.
  • It has excellent security features, and
  • I am in control, not Micro$oft
  • oh…and Sync is free [unless I want heaps more storage]

By contrast, I pay for the ‘convenience’ of Windows 10 by handing Micro$oft my privacy on a plate. No contest.




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