Tagged: Tips and Tricks

I never knew Excel could do that!

Microsoft are right to be concerned about the fact that their customers uses perhaps only 20% of the capabilities of their products and their bold move – to radically change the UI – was definitely needed.  I have found myself making great use of the new formatting capabilities in Excel...

Maxthon or Firefox

As more and more people recommend Firefox I have felt increasingly that I am a stuck in the past by continuing to use Maxthon, which use to be MyIE2. 

However Maxthon is not a browser to give up lightly.  It’s had the greatest affect so far on my productivity, especially when doing blog initiated research.  When I go back to using IE, the experience is literally painful (so much mouse movement affects my arthritic hands and wrists).  The following Maxthon features make all the difference for me:

  1. Tabbed browsing
  2. Double click tab closing
  3. The ability to open a new tabs with a scroll button click on a hyperlink, left mouse clicking re-uses the current tab
  4. The ability to make new tabs open in the background so as not to disrupt the current activity
  5. The ability to change these behaviours as required with a single click on the toolbar
  6. The ability to create groups of URLs
  7. The ability to open a group of tabs as a set
  8. The ability to customise the names of the tabs in a group
  9. The ability to save a whole load of tabs as a temporary group and re-open later, great when you have an …

Seven rules for email

One of the researchers who works for my company produced a great guide on the uses and abuses of cummuication and collaboration technologies a few years ago.  When I first read it I was impressed but at the same time depressed at the neglect that most companies have of their basic (common) business processes.  I have continued to be interested in how companies can extract maximum advantage from simple IT infrastructure technologies by focussing on how to use their tools to best effect. 

The following post therefore caught my eye – seven rules for e-mail – it would be great to see a best practice debate on how the phone, SMS, email, syndication, IM and conferencing technologies should be used.  The seven rules above provides a good but limited start. 

As an illustration of such a debate in action, albeit on a slightly different subject, there is no better example than the getting things done forums.

How to write a good paper or report

Werner Vogels wites an interesting article about what he looks for in a good report.  The advice is slanted towards academic papers, but its pretty useful for any technical writer.  he also references an excellent article that goes into the subject in greater detail.  Here is an extract with the main points:

  • User or system requirements. Most of the papers I read are about networking, operating systems, distributed systems, but being active is such a deep technical field does not exempt you from thinking about WHY you are doing this. Who or what is going to use your system? Can you write down the requirements and constraints such that it is clear to the reader why this drives your research? Do you have trace or input data that matches your requirements? Even if you did not start out with requirements (sometimes you just have a cool idea), when you write about it you must define what the criteria for success for your project are and why.

  • Alternative design decisions. It cannot have been the case that there is only one path to your goal. You must have seen other roads along the way, but you decided not to …

Writing the living web

I just read a very nicely crafted article describing 10 tips for writing the Living Web.  Essentially its about writing blogs.  As I progressed I wondered increasingly who could have put together such an article and what motivated them to put in the effort.  When I got to then end I found it was Mark Bernstein who is chief scientist at Eastgate Systems, publishers of Tinderbox, a personal content management assistant.  I went straight there to have a look, (so its good advertising Mark!), but unfortunarely its for the Mac only, but they are working on a Windows version.