DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

July 18, 2017

Dictation

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:18 am

From a column a few weeks ago regarding speaking to voice activated devices, Microsoft came to mind.  You are in all likelihood aware of Cortana the voice search that comes built into Windows 10 but there is more.

It all started many versions ago in Microsoft Word where you had the ability to speak to Word and it would type what you said.  Well sort of.  You had to first train it to recognize your voice.  I remember testing it and having to read several sample texts to your computer for it to learn.  If memory serves me correctly I had to read paragraph excerpts from Shakespeare, a couple of well-known novels and even a paragraph or two from The Wizard of Oz.  Once that was completed it could clearly understand your speech patterns, accent, etc.

Then you could start it up in Word and start dictating your work.  It would do a poor job nowhere near what it should be.  You would get quite a few errors with grammar, punctuation, misunderstood words, with plurality always a mess.  The last time I checked it, several years ago, it was not very good.

Microsoft recently announced a new foray into the dictation arena which is a free add in that works with Word, Outlook and PowerPoint.  Other than a microphone and speaker on your computer you need a couple of other things.  A minimum of Windows 8.1, Office 2013 and .Net Framework 4.5.0 (.Net will be automatically installed if needed).

You can easily install this add in and get much more information at “Dictate.ms.”  You no longer have to read sample text for “Dictate” to understand you.  It uses data pulled from speech recognition in Cortana to convert speech to text on all Windows 10 devices.  All the millions of Cortana users are contributing in all languages, dialects, accents, etc.

Dictate.ms

Now to my testing for accuracy.  I read several paragraphs from the old Bard and from The Wizard of Oz.  I tested the first time by reading aloud at my normal pace, not over enunciating or adding commas, question marks, etc.  I got an accuracy rating, which includes all of the missed items from years ago, mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, of about 65%.  Again, not fantastic.

The next way I tested was to speak more slowly, clearly and properly, especially when I used the word, “but” which it missed every time it was used in the first test.  This time I got a better score at 87%.  Much better; however, still not what I feel like it should be.  However, I can see usages where it could be very helpful.

If you are not a great typist you could use Dictate to more quickly put the words on the “paper” and then carefully correct it.  Or if you we unable to type it could be useful.  But in my opinion for day-to-day work I do not believe it is up to speed…yet.

I dictated the above paragraph which you can see below and has about 88% accuracy.

“You are not a great typist. You could use dictate more quickly put the words on the paper and then carefully corrected. Or if you are unable to type that could be useful. But in my opinion for day to day work. I do not believe it is up to speed dot, dot, dot yet.”

I could have said, “period” three times and the ellipsis above would have worked.

March 3, 2015

Google Tricks, Part 3

Google Logo

For the last couple of weeks I have told you about some interesting Google tricks you can do, some helpful, others fun.  Your interest in emails has shown me that you would like a couple more of their tricks, so here we go.  Remember always start on the main Google.com page for these to work.  Most will anyway but they will definitely work from the main page.

Pretend that you are researching some item on Google, say bananas.  You search using Google.com as usual with, "banana farms" and find many links with information.  Many of the sites reference, "Chiquita" but you do not want any more information on that company.  To weed out that company type, "banana farms -Chiquita".  The results will have removed, "Chiquita" from most all of the searches.  The use of a minus sign filters your searches by removing the following word.

You may want to get information is a particular format, say a Microsoft PowerPoint slide show which contains the phrase you are looking for.  Search Google this way.  Type, " ‘space the final frontier’ filetype:ppt" in the search box.  Two things to remember.  First thing is that you need to put regular quotes around the phrase you are searching and no space between the colon and the file type after it.  You could also search for graphics using, "jpg" extension; however, it is better to use the Google image search for that.  Other extensions you may search for are Word files (doc and docx), Excel (xls and xlsx), Portable Document Format (pdf), PowerPoint as stated previously (ppt), Text (txt), Open Document Format (odf) and many more from various programs.  

What can you do if you remember reading an article on a site in the past and need to "refind" that article?  Google allows you to search a site for keywords.  For instance you remember an app I wrote about called "Ninite" and want to find it.  You could go directly to my site and search for it or you could go to Google.  In Google type, "ninite site: www.doubleclicks.info" search and you will find several times I have mentioned it online.  Capitalization does not matter; however, spacing is very important.  You must have a space between the term you are searching for and after the colon or you search may fail. 

Two last items are more of a set up and not a trick.  First, if you like the "I’m Feeling Lucky" link in Google and now it is gone most likely you have somehow turned on "Instant predictions."  To go back to the "old" way go to Google.com page, look in the lower right corner and click, "Settings," "Search settings." Finally under "Google Instant predictions" click the "Never show instant results" button.  While there you can also try, "Advanced search."

Try searching with your voice if you have not before.  From Google.com click the gray microphone to the right of the search box.  You will see when it is ready, then just talk away.  This will only work if you have a mic on your computer and it is on/working.

February 2, 2015

Hide the Ribbon in Microsoft Office

Filed under: Training Videos — Tags: , , , , — Ron @ 11:51 am



December 30, 2014

New Computer, Part 2

Last week I told you about Ninite.com for your new computer.  I received several emails asking what other applications I would install on a new Windows computer. 

My first "have to have" application is anti-virus software.  I suggest initially what probably comes free with your new computer. However, after the free six or twelve month trial ends, get a free app.  The one you get with your computer usually goes for a high annual fee.  Download only one of these first: AVG or Avast!. These are the two many other geeks and I use.  Search the sites for the free versions and only get them from those sites.  Viruses may be included in them when they are downloaded elsewhere.   

Do not install more than one antivirus app on your computer at a time or it could cause issues. 

Next, I have a new recommendation, Malwarebytes.  This will help your antivirus software keep you even safer.  The free version is good.  You need to remember to run it yourself every few days.  Malware stands for malicious software that may not destroy things but can really mess with your computer.  I almost guarantee if you install and run this on your old computer you will find you have hundreds of malware items present.  

Now, go to Speed Test and see what actual speeds you are getting from your internet service provider.  If you get less than you should call your provider and get their assistance to correct the issue.  The speed can vary from hour-to-hour but should be close most of the time. 

The next thing I suggest is something you used to have to pay a bundle for, Microsoft Office.  Not any longer.  For the average Office user you can create a new Outlook.com account or use your Hotmail.com account and use Office Online – for free.  There are several ways to get to your office apps but I suggest onedrive.live.com to set up or login to your office products. 

After typing like you did in your new free online Word application you notice that your typing could be improved if you used more than two fingers.  To work on your typing skills and speed take a look at Typing Web and practice.  You can improve your typing for free and maybe have some fun doing so.  

Finally, you should just have some fun.  If you like computer games login for free at Steam Powered.  An account is free as are some of the games; however, some may have a onetime cost or possibly a monthly fee.  I like the free, "Star Trek Online" where I am a commander of a Federation vessel. 

If you want to pay for a game, set up a PayPal account.  It is a very secure online payment system.  I have used it for years and have never had a problem.  I suggest anytime you tie your checking/savings account to anything online you create a separate account from your "home" account.  This is just in case there is ever a security hack.  They can only get a minimal amount of money and it will not affect paying your "real" bills.

Have a Happy 2015!

April 29, 2014

Online Docs May Be the Answer

Last week we looked at the confusion regarding the many choices with Microsoft Office.  I said I would have another solution for Lindsey and you this week.   

imageHere are two more good options.  Office Live or OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive) depending on where you read about it or Google Drive (drive.google.com or just get there from any Google product you are logged into.)  Either of these are very good online solutions.  There are many ways to get Office Live.  I suggest using Live.com.  There you can sign up for a free Outlook.com email account which gives you access to everything you need.  You can also sign up with Yahoo! or Gmail accounts; although I have not experimented with those.  If you already signed in to other MS devices like a Windows PC, tablet, phone, Xbox Live, Outlook.com, or OneDrive, use that account to sign in.  Once there you can view and use your email, address book, calendar, online drive Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. To get to these click the labeled down arrow in the upper-left corner of the window.  Any of the files created can be stored in OneDrive so that you can retrieve them from any online computer.  They are all saved in the default MS Office formats so you can easily share them via email, etc.

imageVery similar products are available with a Google/Gmail account.  Setup a free account or you can use one you already have. Once logged in click the "Apps" button in the upper-right corner that looks like a small tic-tac-toe pattern, and then select "Drive."  You have a create button on this screen where you may choose from Document, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Form and several others depending on what you normally use with Google.  The files you create here are saved on your Google Drive for later retrieval just as in Live.com.

Even though I am a Google fan boy, Google is not quite friendly to Microsoft Office file types.  That being said they work with MS products; they just take an extra step or two.  There are several ways to do this but they all require you to download the file to your local computer.  I suggest finding your file in the file list, right click on it and choose download.  You will be presented with a choice of what file type you want to use, so choose "Microsoft Word. (.docx) You will then have it in your downloaded files to share as a standard Word doc.

Another note regarding Google docs.  When right clicked you may also choose to "Share" the file.  If you choose email as an attachment you once again can choose the file format and MS Word is one of the choices.

Now the final note.  OneNote is a terrific app available only with the Microsoft suite.  If you are interested let me know via email and I will share that with you in the future.

There are many other options and features in both Microsoft and Google online offerings.  Lindsey chose to try both and make a final decision later.  How about you?

April 22, 2014

2013 or 365 That is the Question

As time goes by I realize that many companies, unfortunately Microsoft included, strive to keep the customer confused.  I received a question last week from Lindsey saying she had just gotten a new computer and wanted to know which MS Office to get.  She had Office 97 on her previous computer and yes, Windows XP.  Now she has Windows 8.1 and no Office Suite yet.

She wanted to make sure the old documents would still work with the rest of the world.  She does some occasional consulting work and needs to make sure her work is MS Office compatible.  First off, congratulations to her for switching to a new computer with 8.1.  Secondly, congrats on wanting to upgrade the office suite.

My first suggestion was Libre Office (libreoffice.org) since that is free and fully compatible with all MS Office modules.  Libre Office is quite compatible with Office 97 as far as the mechanics of how it works.  However, she, as many, is more comfortable spending the money and staying in the Microsoft world.image Now comes the confusion.  As she read online she found out there are basically three versions of MS Office now available in the world.  All of which will present her with a learning curve since her old version and the new ones are not similar.  I am going to be very general from here on out since I do not want to write about the versioning for the next year.  Visit office.microsoft.com for all the details.

image First there is the standard of the line, MS Office 2013 which is installed locally on a computer.  This is essentially the original Office that has evolved over the e-years.  There are also a couple of versions there from around $140 to $450.  The price depends on what you get with it.  The base model for Students has Word, Excel PowerPoint and OneNote.  The high end one, 2013 Professional Plus is mainly for larger businesses.  It has all of the above plus Outlook, Publisher, Access, Infopath, Lync and Office Web Apps.  Most of these the normal home and office user will never need.  These are onetime prices and included upgrades within the 2013 version.  Then you need to buy the next version if you want to stay on top.  You will be licensed to install 2013 on one computer.

image Next is MS Office 365, a cloud version.  Wow!  Let more confusion roll.  Two versions are available, Personal and Home.  These both have monthly fees (yes, you can also pay annually).  Personal is currently $6.99/month and can be used on one PC or Mac, plus one iPad or Windows tablet.  Home is $9.99/month and can be run on up to five PCs or Macs plus five iPads or Windows tablets.  They both include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher, 20 GB of OneDrive storage (formerly SkyDrive) and 60 minutes per month of Skype calls.  There are a few other items that are not that significant.  The Home version is basically for your home if you have multiple computers or a small office.

Stay tuned for next week when I come up with a better answer…the one Lindsey decided on…which includes none of the above.

January 28, 2014

Chromebook

Last time we looked at some of the neat features in Google’s newer device called "Chromecast."  I liked the column so much I went out and bought one for my household.  (Wow, I am easily persuaded.)  It works as described with new features and applications being added all the time.  I did have several reader questions about it and the main one was, "I want one but how hard is it to install?"  I have to tell you it was very simple.  All you do is follow the 4-5 steps in the installation paper which comes in the box.  It worked flawlessly for me. 

After the install completed (which took less than ten minutes with the longest portion being the update of the device itself) we were watching streamed shows immediately. 

Unfortunately when I went to the local big-box store to purchase it another, "Chrome" item struck my eye.  More unfortunately, I bought that also.

This item is another Google product named, "Chromebook."  Are you starting to get the picture with Google and their naming conventions?  By-the-way, their browser is named "Chrome."  I guess they like chrome since it is bright and shiny.  The Chromebook runs the Chrome browser as its operating system hence the name.

The Chromebook looks a lot like a notebook computer.  It is slimmer and lighter (about 2 pounds) than a regular windows notebook and mine has an 11" monitor.  So it is basically smaller all around.

imageWith it I can surf the internet, use email, play some games and do many other things online.  One big difference with a Chromebook is that one word in the last sentence, "online."  You can perform some of the functions without being connected to the internet; however, for everything to operate properly you need the net.  It is a cloud based device meaning that everything it does is stored on or taken from the web. 

Another difference is they do not have an internal hard drive.  They do have a small internal SSD, solid state drive.  The one I bought has only a 16 GB drive – the same as my phone.  Well then, where do you put stuff?  The storage for documents you create is in the cloud. 

Since Google created the Chromebook they also have the storage.  Called Google Drive, where you get 15 GB of storage.  To give you an idea, all of the columns I have written since January, 2002 (OVER 1,100) take up only 109 MB of room.  That is less than 1% of 15 gb, so there is really plenty of room for documentation.  You can also store photographs and any other types of files.  Google now offers a deal where for two years you get 100 gb of free cloud storage.  After that you get to purchase it at $4.99/month, currently.  I can also plug in a thumb drive and store files there.  I would not choose to buy the online storage but I could save a lot of documents on the SSD provided very easily.

imageSince the Chromebook runs on the Chrome browser it has a very, "internet feel" to it which most everyone is familiar with so it is easy to use.  Google Docs is your online replacement for Microsoft Office and does a pretty good job of emulating all of its features and capabilities, especially for normal, non-geek types of people.

I will be writing most of my columns on it for the foreseeable future — like this one.  Since I usual write while not at home and "on the road" I will be using it for quite a while.  As long as I have wi-fi I can do most everything I need to do.  However, for my business use I have to stick with a "real" computer due to the programs specific to my job which will not run in the Chrome browser.

December 24, 2013

Office – Which Office?

I received a great question today from one of my regular readers and writers, so thanks Ivan for turning me around.  I was going to have an entirely different theme today but it will have to wait.

Ivan asked, "What choices do I have beside Microsoft Office to install on my computer?" 

I thought that I would send him to one of my previous articles and then I realized I had mentioned this before but never specifically addressed it.  So, the answer is, "Yes, there are two freebies which are excellent replacements for MS Office. I have tested both and I do have a preference.

image First, off let me state that Microsoft Office is the "King of the World" when it comes to office suites being used by people all over the world.  However, I will also state that OpenOffice and LibreOffice are excellent and mimic most of the functionality of the "King."  Please, note that they both merge the two names. That is not my typo. 

There are people who swear by both of them and both are excellent.  However, my personal opinion is that LibreOffice is slightly better.  The main reason is the same people were originally working on this application and it was only known as "OpenOffice."  Apparently there was a developer/designer conflict.  Some of the folks wanted to move in a slightly new direction and others wanted to remain on course.  A "spilt" resulted with the new group forming LibreOffice.

I believe LibreOffice is slightly better mainly because they provide updates to the entire office suite as well as individual features a little more often than OpenOffice. 

image imageLet me share more good news.  Either OO or LO have suite members which do most of the same things found in MSO.  You can create and edit text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and more.  Another very nice feature is the ability to open and save in the Microsoft formats.  That way if you use one of these two to create a file (or edit one you received from a MS Office user) it can be saved in the MSO format.  You can even set the default document types the same as MS types.      

If you want to take them for a spin, do as I did and install both.  Try them out and decide for yourself if one is better than the other.

Be warned that when you download either they are very large files.  This means that it could take quite a while to download them depending on your internet speed.  There are also many online tutorials for them so you will not be at a loss as to how to do tasks with either.  

March 26, 2013

Office 2013–Word

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

So I made the plunge recently and moved to Microsoft’s latest Office version which is blandly, yet I guess appropriately named "Office 2013." 

So far my evaluation leans toward… "Yawn."  It performs as well as the previous version in most areas I have checked,  looks a little different,  saves to the cloud a little easier,  has a few new buttons and bells, but  still contains all of the office applications you are used to. 

Keep in mind my thoughts here are toward you, the normal user out in the world; not the published authors out there.  Though I have talked with a couple of you who have written books, newspaper articles and blogs, most of my readers are normal people who use Office on occasion, but maybe not for a living.

There are some interesting new features, or "buttons and bells" I will mention.  Today we will talk about Word 2013 and if I receive enough emails from you this week showing interest, I will move on to Excel, PowerPoint and some of the other apps in Office.  Its will be your call.

One change I really appreciate in Word is the new look when you use the "Read Mode." This is a great way to read a large document you have more than a passing interest in.

The read only mode was also present in previous versions of office so that in itself is nothing new; however, it looks much better and is significantly easier to read in this view. 

In the previous versions of the read mode your document changed into a two-page or column-type view.  Now, when you click the small book-like icon on the lower right of the Word screen it pops off of the page at you.  The words appear larger, darker and much clearer than before.  Another feature in this mode, which I accidentally found, was that when you double click on an object; picture, table, etc., it zooms in and becomes larger and even more readable.  This gives you a precise and higher quality view of the object.

Now if you are a PDF (Portable Document Format) user, creator or reader here is one of the best new features of Word 2013.  You can not only open a PDF document in Word but you can also edit it.  Yes, you read that correctly!

3-27-2013 4-34-39 PM

When I first heard this I thought, "Hmm, I bet you can, but I also bet it will not look very good."  Now that I have tried it, I have found that was absolutely incorrect thinking.  I have opened several PDFs in Word and after asking if you want to open it in Word it opens right up as a PDF.

I have edited them by removing words and graphics, adding words and graphics, moving paragraphs (and graphics of course) and saving the file.  They look identical (other than the edits) to the original document.  Even better you can save it as a regular Word file (docx is the default format but other choices work as well) or as a PDF.  This is amazing when I consider all the licensing requirements they must have had to work on with Adobe (the creators of that format) in order to achieve this.  If you get Office 2013 and use PDFs you will grow to love this feature very quickly.

The current retail cost for Office 2013 is $139.99, $219.99 and $399.99 for the "Home and Student", "Home and Business" and "Office Professional" versions respectively.

Let me know if you want to learn more.

November 22, 2011

Thrive, Even in the Cold

This should be the final time I write about my Toshiba Thrive.  Here are the 1st and 2nd articles.  (Well, OK most likely the last one.) But two more questions about it need to be answered. These were the most common questions I received about it from my readers.

First, it has Android Honeycomb as its operating system and it has been upgraded once since I got it six to eight weeks ago. Next, I run Nook software on it and it also has Kindle and other book reader apps for it. PDFs can also be read on it. If you do not know what a PDF is, do not worry, just skip that last part.

imageFinally about the Thrive; yes, you can work with Microsoft Word documents on the tablet. However, you will need to purchase an application to do it. I bought one called “OfficeSuite Pro 5” (market.android.com) from the Android Market, for a whopping $4.99. Yes, the prices for the applications range from free to (I believe the highest I have seen was $19.99.) They are reasonably priced to say the least. With OfficeSuite you can create, edit and save (online or on your tablet) Word, Excel and PowerPoint files along with other neat features.

OK, I think I am done. Be advised; I left a lot out but you will have to read more, email me or buy your own tablet PC and let me know what you think. I always like to hear from you folks.

Here is something you may want to consider purchasing for your tablet, smart phone, iPad or any touch screen using friends for Christmas this year.

Picture this, it is winter time, cold, snowing, icy rain, whatever the case may be ands you have on your nice warm mittens. Then your phone rings, you pick up your phone and see it is someone you really need to talk to. By the time you take off your gloves they have hung up. You then call them back, while your fingers are getting numb. Is there a better solution? You betcha!

imageLook for some touch screen gloves. I have had a pair for a couple of years and they are great. I am not talking about gloves with the finger tips cut off so you can use your touch screen device. These are gloves which actually have a special material built into the finger tips which reacts to your devices just like you were using your bare finger.

Some of them have finger tips that fold up out of the way, but I like the ones mentioned above much better. The special material finger tips work very well without having to do anything that takes more time.

You can find them online anywhere from $15 to over $100. My comment on that is the old, “Let the buyer beware.” My wife found two pairs this week in a local store for less than $5 for both!

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