The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 075 22/03/08


Vanishing Emails

When typing emails I often hit a key that deletes the whole message. I think it is somewhere in the bottom right hand corner of the keyboard, and it usually happens when I am typing quickly. I have tried pressing combinations of different keys, to no effect and once the contents of the message have disappeared, it cannot be found again unless I have deliberately saved it in My Documents. Please could you help?

Pat Nias (Mrs.), by email


My guess is you are accidentally hitting Ctrl + A, the Windows ‘Select All' keyboard shortcut, which is easy to do if you are typing uppercase 'a' in a hurry. Pressing Ctrl + A highlights the whole message in preparation for text replacement, so the next key press deletes the lot!  It's annoying but easily reversed. Either click the ‘Undo’ icon on the Outlook Express and Windows Mail toolbar (a curved backwards facing arrow) or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Z, and like Select All it works in most Windows applications. 



Where’s Word?

As a new user to Windows XP Professional I was disappointed to find that Outlook Express does not include a spell checker. Also Word for Windows is not there and seems to have been replaced by WordPad. I would like both a spell checker and Word for Windows on my system; can you help?

Terence J. Richards


Word is not and has never been part of Windows, it is a commercial word processor program sold by Microsoft either as a standalone application or as part of the MS Office suite of programs. A lot of people seem to think it is included with Windows because some PC manufacturers 'bundle' Word or Office with their machines. If you don't want to buy a copy of Word – and it can be quite expensive -- I suggest either AbiWord or Writer in OpenOffice, both of which are compatible with MS Word and they’re free. You’ll find links to both downloads on the Software page of the PCTopTips website at: http://tinyurl.com/28hx9k


The spellchecker in Outlook Express (which is part of Windows) uses the dictionary from Word or Works but it can also be used with third-party spellcheckers, like Spellchecker for OE (also free, link at:




Underwhelmed by Overtype

Occasionally Microsoft Word seems to develop a fit and whilst typing the letters I key in delete the letters that follow. Usually it doesn’t matter if I am near the end of a document but if I go back to the beginning and make corrections I get into all sorts of bother. Is it a fault or have I pressed something by accident?

Bev Carter, by email


You have switched on Overtype mode, probably by clicking the 'OVR' button on the Status bar at the bottom of the screen. Click it to toggle the function on and off. Better still, switch this annoying feature off altogether and in most versions of Word you can do that by going to Tools > Options > Edit, under Editing Options deselect 'Overtype mode' and click OK. Overtyping in Word and other applications can also be enabled by accidentally pressing the Insert key, when it happens just hit the key a second time.



Can’t Boot Without a Keyboard

I have recently added a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse but my Windows XP computer won't boot up unless I have the original keyboard and mouse plugged in to the computer. Can you tell me what causes this and what do I have to do to fix it?

Peter Noble, by email


It is due to the PC's BIOS (Basic Input Output System) program, which tests and configures your computer hardware immediately after switch on and prior to loading Windows. One of the first things it does is check for the presence of a keyboard, which is needed to change BIOS settings. If it can't a standard PS/2 keyboard it looks for a USB type keyboard, which is the connection method used by your wireless kit. However, it seems the USB ports on your PC may be switched off during the BIOS check.


To put that right you need to run the Setup program by pressing a key, or combination of keys as soon as the first on-screen messages appear.  The necessary key(s) are usually displayed briefly on the screen after you switch on  (i.e. 'Press F2 to enter Setup program' or something similar), otherwise you will have to consult the motherboard or owner's manual.


BIOS programs vary widely but the option you are looking for is usually on the Advanced or Devices menu and normally something like ‘Enable/Disable USB Host Controller’ or ‘Enable/Disable Legacy USB Support’ in both cases the setting needs to be changed to enable. Be careful not to touch anything else and after you’ve made the change select Save and Exit and the PC should reboot. If your PC is more than five years old and you can’t find any mention of USB support then it may not be possible to get it to work without your keyboard plugged in.




© R. Maybury 2008 0303


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