Computer tips

I spend quite some time behind the computer, at work as well as at home. Mostly I use the computer for only four things: read my e-mail, read some web pages, create web pages and write documents. Over years I have tried to make my life as easy as possible, and I would like to share here with you how I am doing. Although I use both Windows (98 & XP) as Linux, I will focus here on Windows.

Reading e-mail

Did you know that there are two protocols to read your e-mail? We have POP3 and IMAP.

Most people use POP3, but IMAP is far better. Why? First of all, because IMAP leaves messages on the server, so you can see all your e-mail from any location (I know, web-based mail can also do this, but has a lot of other inconveniences). You can also create folders on the server.

At home I am still using a 28k8 modem to connect to the internet. If I want to read an important mail, but somebody has sent me a big file just before it, I’ll have to wait for the big mail to enter first. Not with IMAP!!

With IMAP, first the headers of the messages are downloaded, and then I can decide which message I want to download to my computer. So I can skip the big message and read the important message first.

Like most people I am using Outlook Express for my e-mail. I know that I can install a better mail program, but why should I if OE comes preinstalled?

There are however some things that I really don’t like about OE, but fortunately they are easily fixed.

The biggest problem is quoting. When replying to a message, Outlook puts the cursor and my signature above the original message. If after a while I want to read the entire thread of the message, I’ll have to scroll down to the first message, read it, go up to the next message, read it, go up…

Anyway, it would be a lot easier if everybody would write their messages under the original message (and trim the message!!!!). I am using a very simple program that fixes this problem automagically: OE-QuoteFix. By the way, when reading a threaded message, it uses colour coding to show the different replies. Really handy!!!

Read web pages

Lets continue with Internet Explorer. I use it not because it is the best, but because I can’t deinstall it and don’t have disk space for a better browser (Mozilla). As somebody who designs web pages I can tell you how horrible IE is…

Even though it is a bad browser, it has some features that are unknown to many people.

For example, I really hate pop-up screens (I know, this site has them, but read on…). To disable them, I changed the security settings of IE so that JavaScript will be disabled (tools → internet options → security → internet → high). JavaScript is used by many web sites, but mostly for features that I am not interested in (pop-up screens, tracking of my behaviour, fancy menus, etc…). If I notice that a site really requires JavaScript, I simply add the site to my trusted sites. But until now that was only necessary for four sites.

Create web pages

I know that not many of you create web pages, so I’ll keep it short.

The greatest tool I have found is HTML-Kit. It is free and can do a lot more than its name says (HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, XSL, JavaScript, VBScript, ASP, PHP, JSP, Perl, Python, Ruby, Java, VB, C/C++, C#, Delphi / Pascal, Lisp, SQL, and more). But if I need to quickly change something, I usually use Notepad (see below).

Write documents

One tip: You don’t need Microsoft Word for everything!!!

Why not? Because the application is way too big (I only use 5% of the options), because Word files are way too big (ever received a Word document under 200k?) and more important: Word documents can only be read by Microsoft Word.

In other words, if I send somebody a Word document I force him to use a really expensive text editor!!

Most texts I simply write in Notepad, since most texts are short and don’t need any make-up. If I want my headers to appear in another font, I’ll switch to WordPad. Easy enough, isn’t it??

Jeroen Sangers @jeroensangers