Houston We Have a Problem... 063 29/12/07


Accent on Laptops

A short while ago you answered a question regarding creating French accented characters in emails, using a code entered via the keyboard's numeric keypad. I have a notebook computer, which, of course, does not have a numeric keypad. Is there another way of composing accents?

Ken Leeming, by email


It surprises a lot of laptop owners to learn that their machines do have a numeric keypad. By convention it's nestled in amongst the normal keys. Look closer and you should see boxed or dull coloured numbers 0 to 9 printed on the top or front of the 789, UIO, JKL & M, keycaps. The keypad is normally activated by pressing the NumLock key (or FN 'Function' + NumLock). You may have to press or hold down the FN key before pressing a numeric key, but the exact procedure varies from make to make so consult your owners manual.



Yet Another Accent

With reference to the recent query about writing e-mails with French accents.  I write my e-mails in Word using inserted symbols for the accented letters (having set up shortcuts for most of them). I then highlight the text, click on Edit and Copy, then open the e-mail form and click on Paste.

Hilary Kemmett, by email


It's a popular method, however the Alt + keyboard shortcuts suit a lot of people who either do not have Word, or are simply in a hurry. By the way, I don't know if you are aware but theres no need to create special shortcuts for accented characters, Word has it's own set of intuitive ready-made accent shortcuts.


To produce an acute accent, for example, simply hold down the Ctrl key, then press the apostrophe key (') release both then tap in any vowel or d and you get , and (use shift + letter for capitals). To create a cedilla () press Ctrl + comma then c. Circumflexes are Ctrl + Shift + ^ (caret), for Grave accents use Ctrl + ` (grave), to insert a Tilde on a, n and o use Ctrl + Shift + ~ (tilde) and for Umlauts use Ctrl + Shift + : (colon). The ligatures and are made by pressing Ctrl + Shift + & then a or o (or upper case A or O). For a full list of Words special characters, plus a complete set of the special characters available for use in virtually all Windows applications see the crib sheet in the word processing section of the PCTopTips website at: http://tinyurl.com/2d9tgt



Special Paste for a Sticky Problem

I host an information email broadcast to my two local villages. Periodically I want to copy part of an email sent to me by recipients, or an abstract from a blog. Sometimes if I copy/paste then I get a narrow column of words.  I can then tediously work my way down the message and by deleting the end of each row, line by line to get the shortened sentences to fill the page.


I get the same problem sometimes when copying from a web page and pasting direct into Word. Sometimes nothing short of retyping the whole page resolves the problem. Any suggestions would be a great help.

Paul Oliver-Smith, by email


Word has a little-known facility called Paste Special, which will solve all of your problems. Basically it strips out all of the hidden formatting commands in a block of text copied to the clipboard, then when you Paste it into a document it takes on the formatting of the surrounding text, or the documents default formatting.


To use it copy your block of text as normal, place the cursor where you want it to appear in the document then go to Edit > Paste Special, on the list that appears select Unformatted Text and click OK. I use this feature a lot and find it useful to have a Paste Special shortcut on the main toolbar. To do likewise right-click on the Toolbar and select Customize then the Commands tab. In the Categories list click Edit and in the right hand window scroll down to Paste Special. Click on it and drag it onto the Toolbar. You can exchange the text label for an icon by right clicking on the button and select Change Button Image from the drop-down menu.



Sounding Out Documents

Could you tell me if it is possible to scan a document and transfer it to a CD or DVD in an audio format?

I am a member of a group issuing a magazine and a newsletter to members, some of whom are almost blind.

Brian Metcalfe, by email.


No problem and for very short chunks of text you could use the Text to Speech utility built into Windows XP. Just highlight and copy a block of text (Ctrl + C) from a document or web page etc., then go to Start > Control Panel > Speech and Paste the text (Ctrl + V) into the Preview box. You can then record the voice using our old friend Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/), save the file as a .wav or MP3 file and copy it to disc.


The obvious disadvantage of this method is that it can only cope with a few lines of text at a time so to overcome that try a little freeware utility called Natural Reader (www.naturalreaders.com/). Once you have installed the program all you have to do is highlight a block of text, click the Playback button and as before record the voice using Audacity.


The paid-for Professional and Enterprise versions or NaturalReader (prices start at $39.50) have a save to audio file and MP3 facility and the option of more natural sounding voices, which is worth having as the free version relies on the rather mechanical Sam voice used by Windows Narrator.



(c) R. Maybury 2007 2805



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