The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 078 12/04/08


Spaced Out

I have spent many hours tying to find a way to insert an extra space after punctuation marks in a Word 2000 document. I think it looks better that way and I assume I must be able to make it a default setting. Am I right?

Henry Richardson, by email


The question of double spaces or ‘French Spacing’ exercises a lot of people, and it can be a difficult habit to break if you’ve learned to type on a typewriter. Some maintain that older typefaces and serif fonts benefit from double spaces but I think it looks a bit odd on modern proportionally spaced word processor fonts. 


As far as I’m aware there’s no facility in Word 2000 to put the extra space in automatically but it’s easy enough to do it retrospectively using Find and Replace. Go to Replace on the Edit menu and type a full stop (or the punctuation mark of your choice) followed by a space in the Find box then type a full stop followed by two spaces in the Replace box and click Replace All.


Privacy Drive

The hard drive on our computer broke down recently and was replaced under the manufacturer’s warranty. However, the company has instructed us to send them our broken drive and if we fail to do so, we will incur the cost of the new drive.


We are a little perturbed because not only have we lost a lot of material stored on the old drive but it also contains personal data. There doesn’t seem to be any information on what will happen to the drive once it is returned. Is this common practice and what can we do to protect ourselves against potential theft of information?

Kay and Cliff Bristow, by email


I can understand the manufacturer wanting the faulty drive back, otherwise if they just replaced drives without question they would be opening themselves up to fraudulent claims. The privacy issue is a tricky one, though, and the first thing I would do is contact the company and ask them for an cast iron assurance that the drive will be destroyed.


If they can’t or won’t satisfy your concerns then you should take steps to wipe the drive yourself. It is very unusual for a drive to fail completely but if it has your data is almost certainly beyond recovery (or at least more bother than it is worth to try). Otherwise the vast majority of faults are due to a corrupt operating system, boot record or physical errors, in which case you should still be able to access the drive and erase what remains of the contents using a free called Active KillDisk.


The program creates a bootable floppy or USB flash drive and all you have to do is reconnect the faulty drive to your computer, boot it from the floppy or flash drive and run the utility. You will find a link to the program on the Software page of the PCTopTips website at http://tinyurl.com/uuvbu.



Flash in the Pan

A fortnight ago I had a message on my Windows XP computer, asking if I wished to download an update to Macromedia Flash.  I did so, but since then I very regularly get a box with the message ‘Could not find Macromedia Flash’. It appears therefore that I do not have Macromedia Flash - to be up-dated! What is it? Do I need it and is it worth having? If so, how do I get it?

John McNicholas, by email


Macromedia, now Adobe Flash is a collection of programs and utilities that allow web pages to display high quality animated graphics and illustration, movies and interactive features. It’s not compulsory but a growing number of websites depend on it and you may find that things like order forms won’t work without it.


This particular problem is often caused by old screensavers and a file called Flash.ocx. When the screensaver starts it looks for the file, which will have been renamed if your copy of Flash was updated, but it can’t find it and tries looking for it on the web.


Switching off or uninstalling the screensaver should stop the error message appearing; otherwise you can try a workaround, which involves renaming the offending file. Go to C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash; right click on Flash9c.ocx (it might be Flash Flash9d.ocx if you have a later version), select Rename and change it to Flash.ocx.



The Dating Game

A few weeks ago you explained how to disable Auto Date. I like it and don’t want to turn it off but I do NOT like the way that the original date in a Word document changes to the date of the day I re-open it This is hopeless when the document is a letter and you want to refer to it in a further letter or copy it to someone again.

Donald Mc Bride, by email


This is because the inserted date is a ‘Field Code’, which is automatically updated to your PC’s System Time. It’s easy to check if this is the case, just click on the date and if it is highlighted in grey it is a Field Code. If so you can unlock the field and convert it into normal text by pressing Ctrl + Shift + F9. You can stop it happening in future by going to Insert > Date and Time and uncheck the item: ‘Update Automatically’.





© R. Maybury 2008 2303


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