Roger V. Skalbeck is the Technology Services Librarian and Webmaster at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, and he is a web committee member for the Law Librarian’s Society of Washington, D.C. Opinions included in this article do not necessarily reflect those of his current employer or any other organization.
This column is, of course, 100% free of any legal advice.
When Notes From the Technology Trenches was first introduced on LLRX.com back in September of 1997, one initial focus was on providing technology tips and solutions for common technology problems. Previous column editor Elizabeth Klampert took on this challenge and helped quickly foster a healthy genesis of coverage. Harkening back to the very earliest roots of the Notes... column, I'd like to start out this month with a fairly straightforward approach to computing efficiencies, providing some very practical and probably productivity-enhancing computing tips.
Here's a lighthearted example of what I mean: I could really feel for Homer Simpson in an episode of the Simpsons  where his task while telecommuting from home requires him to type in an answer "Y-E-S" to a continuous loop of the same question. He is ecstatic when he realizes that he can just type "Y" to answer the question. "I've just tripled my productivity!" he shouts excitedly. I certainly don't subscribe to Homer's work ethic, slothfulness or reasons for telecommuting, but I do like his approach to cutting out the unnecessary keystrokes in routine keyboard tasks.
If you read the weekly LLRXBuzz update, you might have seen mention of a site that provides a plethora of Windows operating systems and application shortcuts. In the March 19th update, Tara Calishain cites the Windows Keyboard Shortcut Search, where Microsoft provides numerous compiled lists of one- two- and three-key combinations that can be employed in most major Microsoft applications and operating systems. These can do a lot to hasten routine tasks. For some common web publishing applications, also check out the Reference Section of CNet.com which includes separate listings of shortcuts for Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Allaire HomeSite, Macromedia Dreamweaver and Macromedia Flash.
Before you go out to check out these keyboard shortcuts, I'd like to offer ten of my favorite Windows commands. Many of you might already use these regularly, but I'll take the risk of restating them, as I find them invaluable for quick computing. Note that these keystroke combinations should work in most Windows applications. Check one of the above cited sources for specific application examples.
<ALT><TAB> This allows you to switch between application windows that you have open, which toggles in a single direction. To browse back in order, use <ALT><SHIFT><TAB>
The <TAB> key might seem like an obvious one, but it works really well for navigating between form fields on the Internet (click to fill in the first form entry, <TAB>, next form box, <TAB>, etc.) Also, <TAB> will allow you to jump from one hypertext link to another on a web page without the need to touch your mouse.
The print screen button will take a snapshot of the full monitor view on your computer, which you can then paste into a program like Paint to get a bitmap version of the screen. <ALT>PRINTSCREEN will copy just the active window. <CTRL>A This will allow you to select all of the text of a given document, range or section, depending on the application. Within a word processing document for instance, it selects all of the text. <CTRL>C
These are some of the most common keyboard shortcuts: <CTRL>C to copy text, <CTRL>X to cut (or delete) text and <CTRL>V to paste it. <CTRL>Z This will usually UNDO your last operation. This can be an invaluable keystroke to remember. Many advanced programs support multiple levels of the UNDO command, which allows you the ability to roll-back several operations such as edits to a document. <ALT>F4 With almost all Windows programs, this operation will close the active application window. For applications like Word or WordPerfect where you might have multiple documents open at once, you can also use <CTRL>F4 to close just a single document.
On keyboards that have it, the Windows Key is found between the ALT and CTRL keys (with a small icon on it). These two keystrokes will minimize all of your open applications so that you can see the computer's desktop. Windows systems often have the small icon that achieves the same effect if you click on it: Windows Key-E Open the Windows Explorer, which is used for finding, managing and copying files viewable directly from your computer. (You also can choose the Windows Explorer command from the Program item in the Start menu.). F1 The most commonly-used function key is the "F1" key for help. If you are having trouble with an application, the click of a single button might get you some answers. At a close second for my favorite general-purpose function key is "F5", which Windows (and particularly Internet Explorer) uses to refresh or reload the page or document you are viewing. Netscape requires a second keystroke of <CTRL>R to refresh a web page.
One of my favorite methods of using the keyboards to cut out time is to use the <ALT> key along with a windows menu. If you press the <ALT> key along with the underlined letter, you can bring the focus to that part of the menu. With the most common things, this is the leading letter as illustrated in the following menu bar from Microsoft Word:
Here the menu under File is open because I had selected <ALT>F. Once the menu has been revealed, I look for the underlined letter and type it directly to get what I need: "O" to Open, "A" to Save As, "U" for Page Setup and so forth.
Keyboard shortcuts are generally also indicated in these dropdown menus. Note that the commonly-used operations for New document: <CTRL>N and Open document: <CTRL>O are indicated, so you can discover even quicker keyboard commands for those routine tasks.
This will also work in most Windows dialog boxes, if an option has a letter underlined, you can usually select it in the same fashion with the <ALT> key and that letter. For example, you could quickly jump to the Properties page of the printing dialog box excerpted below by hitting <ALT>P.
Other topics in efficient computing
For additional information on how to create icons on your computer's desktop and some other tips on troubleshooting and tweaking the Windows environment, check out one of the following sources:
- Creating and Using Shortcuts -- this is a quick overview of the kinds of shortcut icons that can appear on your computer desktop
- ZDNet: Help & How-To -- a comprehensive guide to many common computing questions, including: 40 ways to make Windows 98 fly
- The Trouble With Windows -- this is a site that details some pesky problems with all versions of the Windows operating system
- Annoyances.org -- This is a companion site for books from O'Reilly with links to web site versions of Windows98 Annoyances and Windows95 Annoyances
- PCWorld.com: PC Troubleshooting FAQ
To highly-advanced users and computer geeks, some of the above tips and sites could seem mundane, but I have found that almost everybody who sees the tips for the first time finds them to save time.
During the period since last month's column, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the biggest intellectual property case on the current term's docket. This case involves the right of publishers to include the works of freelance writers in electronic databases, where these rights might not have been previously covered under contract. This case is being closely-watched by the publishing, writing and information professional communities, and it could have long-lasting impact on the nature of copyright protection and interpretation for electronic works. Two co-workers and I had tried to get to the court to hear the oral arguments in this case, but a misguided taxi driver and the D.C.'s Spring tourist influx thwarted our efforts. Thankfully the argument transcripts are online, linked from the Supreme Court site. A decision will come out later in the term, so for now, check out the following for documents and background information from the case:
- FindLaw provides court briefs and a link to the docket sheet
- National Writer's Union coverage of Tasini case
Within the last week, I spotted two good articles suggesting friendlier and more creative approaches to trademark and domain name protection. Though the two appear in publications for markedly different audiences, they both use similar illustrations to make a point. Both tell of tales in which a domain name registered fairly harmlessly for a child resulted in legal action in the form of "cease and desist" letters from a trademark owner's legal counsel. At issue were two common names which happen to also be registered trademarks. In the May 2001 issue of WebTechniques, Bret A. Fausett covers the tricky issue of Cease and Desist letters for disputed Internet domains in the Legal Code column. The other article is from the April 2001 issue of Law Practice Management, which is put out by the ABA Law Practice Management Section. In the monthly column, "As I Was Saying", Wendy Leibowitz covers the domain name issue with: "Old Trademark Issues Require New Tactics: When does the duty to protect a client's domain name jump over the edge of the oblivious into the absurd?" If you advise clients on domain name protection, or if you have domain names of your own to protect, I suggest that you check out both of these articles.
If you have followed the Thomson Corporation, West Group's parent, at all over the past year or two, you will know that they have been busily purchasing new companies, combining entities, divesting some properties and generally changing a lot. According to a March 23rd article from the Professional Publishing Report, Thomson CEO Richard Harrington says that 2001 will be a year of "nuts and bolts" and no surprises for the company. This article includes some interesting details about Thomson's financial success of late: "Internet-based revenues doubled last year to about $800 million, and Harrington said he expects them to pass the $1 billion mark in 2001", Beyond that, the article notes that "Thomson Financial revenues soared 31% in 2000 to $1.3 billion, thanks to completion of the Primark acquisition in September ...". It is admittedly presented somewhat like a company press release, but it's still intriguing to see this news: 2001 Will Be A Year of 'Nuts and Bolts' for Thomson, says CEO (this is a link to the article on Lexis.com -- database charges apply)
That's about it for this time around. As always, if you have comments, questions or concerns about materials covered in this column, please let me know.
Web Sites Mentioned in this column:
Current Oral Argument transcripts from the Supreme Court (with a link to Tasini transcript)
2001 Will Be A Year of 'Nuts and Bolts' for Thomson, says CEO (Link to article on Lexis.com -- charges apply)
 This is from the "King-Size Homer" Episode. A Simpson's fan site provides a bit more context to Homer's computing experiences, though it doesn't include specific mention of the way he is able to triple his productivity:
Homer reads the computer screen.
Homer: [reading screen] "To Start Press Any Key". Where's the ANY key? I see Esk ["ESC"], Catarl ["CTRL"], and Pig-Up ["PGUP"]. There doesn't seem to be any ANY key. Woo! All this computer hacking is making me thirsty. I think I'll order a TAB. [presses TAB key] Awp...no time for that now, the computer's starting.
[reading screen slowly]
"Check core temperature, yes slash no."
[types] Yes. "Core temperature normal." Hmph.
Not too shabby. "Vent radioactive gas." [types] NO.
"Venting prevents explosi-on." Heeheee...whoa, this is hard. Where's my Tab? Okay, then, [types] YES, vent the stupid gas.
[Cut to a farmer tending his corn. The gas release blows away part of the crop.] [...]
source: http://www.snpp.com/episodes/3F05.html <return to text>
Copyright © 2001, Roger V. Skalbeck.