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It’s common for people to replace their computers every three or four years. They seem to believe performance degrades so much that they need new machines to gain speed increases.

Sometimes that’s true. Hard disk drives,for instance, can wear over time. Inexpensive machines aren’t usually built to be upgraded.

But if you want to keep working with your current computer, there are a number of things you can do to keep it moving quickly.

I covered one tip in a 2016 blog post. (Here’s something I forgot to mention in that post: Even though I claimed useless utilities are a Mac issue, Windows PC users also need to know when such “utilities” are “recommended” to them. Cheaper Windows computers usually ship with “bloatware” i.e. trial versions of frequently useless programs that promise to keep your PC in shape if you just buy them and use them. My recommendation: uninstall these programs and, if you must, buy reputable stuff.)

Now for this week’s tip, something that applies equally to Windows PCs and Macs. Why? Because they both have desktops.

The problem

Rendering complex graphics on screen can take so long that users may need to wait while the computer churns through the task. “Rendering” in this sense means putting all the pieces of a picture together on a screen.

It’s a sacrifice people who work with graphics-intensive software (e.g. photo, video, graphic design, architecture) often had to make. This process is slower on computers with:

  • older, slower processors
  • less RAM
  • older, smaller hard disk drives

The solution

Somebody must have realized that the computer had to work just as hard to render the desktop as it does graphical element that people need to work with. The more stuff people keep on their desktops – from fancy images to icons for documents and folders and so forth – the more computing power the computer needs to render the desktop. Most people don’t realize how often they go to the desktop, when they quit programs, minimize windows and so forth.

To keep your computer from chugging along just to redraw your desktop:

  • turn the desktop background entirely black. A black screen is the easiest thing a computer can render. To that end, remove any fancy images, especially software that changes your desktop image periodically.
  • keep very few, if any, files on your desktop. Put them instead in your Documents folder, or subfolders you create in the Documents folder. Each icon is one more thing your computer needs to render when you go to the desktop.

Whenever you minimize your programs, your computer ought to show your desktop much quicker if it’s plain black. That makes for one less type of delay during your computing day.

Do you have any tips that readers can use to speed up their computers? Please share them in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

Is your computer slow right now? Maybe there’s something you can do about that – right now.

The problem

Generally, the more apps you run at the same time, the more your computer slows down.

The solution

Find out how many programs you have open at any given time. You can quit programs you don’t need at the moment.

You can browse the dock (Mac) or toolbar (Windows) to do this, but I prefer a keyboard shortcut that both computer platforms offer.

On a Mac, hold down the Cmd key (Windows – Crtl), then press Tab. Icons pop up in a row in the middle of the screen showing all the apps your computer is currently running.

App_switching

Stop on a given app and you switch to that application.

If your computer is running slowly, consider quitting apps you don’t need right now.

Want to try other things to help you speed up your computer? Consider these tips:

  • Get rid of bloatware on your computer
  • Clean off your desktop
  • Quit applications that demand a lot of energy from your computer

What do you do to speed up your computer? Share any tips in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

I like exploring ways to improve my Inbox Zero habit. This habit enables me to effectively handle everything that comes at me via email. I do this by:

  • putting the information in the right places
  • deleting or filing the original email

The email inbox is never the right place for contacts, calendar appointments, tasks or other things I need to act on. That’s why my inbox contains NO emails at the end of a day.

Making Inbox Zero easier

It’s easier to keep the inbox empty if I prevent unwanted emails from arriving in the first place. That’s why I unsubscribe from as many lists as I can. I also use email rules to file listserv emails for me when they arrive.

There are other types of emails I’d rather not deal with. These include:

  • marketing messages that don’t offer unsubscribe options
  • conversation listserv messages where the topic is contentious, unimportant and a waste of my time
  • messages from people I would rather not hear from (I can count these on the fingers of one hand, fortunately.)

Maybe you can add other types of messages to this list.

When you have your list, consider creating a “delete email” rule so you never need to deal with those messages again.

Here are the criteria I use for my rule.

  • I use the “any” option so that the rule is triggered under any of the conditions I list.
  • I list the criteria I want to have trigger the rule.
  • The actions involve both deleting the message and ensuring I never learn of the email in the first place.
  • I only use ONE rule for deleting ALL unwanted messages.

This graphic shows a “delete email” rule built in Mac Mail, but the concept is the same in Microsoft Outlook and the same or highly similar in most email software.

Would you use this rule? If you would, what would you block? Let me know in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

Researching articles. Writing school assignments. Quoting other people in blog posts. During each activity, I usually cut text from one document and paste it into another.

The resulting text may make sense, but it often ends up looking like a ransom note, with different sections of text cut out of the headlines of various magazines and newspapers. That’s because the original publishers of the source texts use their own formatting, which can make words appear in different colours, fonts, sizes and so forth.

This isn’t a good look. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent this problem from happening. Here are two.

Use a web browser’s address bar

I sometimes copy text from a document and paste it into my browser’s address bar to search for that text. Recently, I read a tip about how the address bar strips formatting from any text pasted in it.

So I tried this experiment.

  1. Copy all the text from a seven-page PDF. This document uses formatting that’s distinct from the formatting of my target document.
  2. Paste that seven pages of text into my browser’s address bar.
  3. Select all (from the Edit menu or the keyboard shortcut, which appears in the Edit menu).
  4. Copy the text.
  5. Paste the text into my document.

Voilà! The text gets pasted, stripped of formatting. You may need to separate paragraphs and sentences, but you won’t need to reformat anything.

Paste and Match Style

Safari, the browser I used in the experiment above, has an option in the Edit menu called “Paste and Match Style.”

This option appears in many programs that handle text. It might also be called “Paste and Match Formatting.” In older software, it might be hidden in the “Paste Special…” option.

Options like these save me plenty of time when I want to write a document that not only reads well, but looks good.

Do you use any time-saving tactics when you create a document using pieces of other documents? Please share them in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

Today’s tip is part tech, part research. It’s a simple reminder to give a little love to your RSS reader.

(You ARE using an RSS reader, aren’t you? You’re not? Here’s a nice primer on why RSS is more important than ever in 2018.)

Whether you use Feedly, Inoreader, The Old Reader (my personal favourite) or something else, why not take a few minutes to check whether you’ve got any dead/defunct feeds among your subscriptions.

If a feed is dead or hasn’t updated in a really long time, does that mean the site is no longer publishing? Maybe the blog or news area got moved and the feed address changed, so you’re no longer getting updates from that site?

Investigate the source site and make sure you’re not missing anything you thought you were still getting.

While you’re at it, take a look at all your subscriptions and ask yourself whether each one is still useful to you.

Then ask yourself whether there are sites you’re NOT following, but could be. Do you have email subscriptions that could be replaced with RSS subscriptions, thereby reducing the email that accumulates in your inbox?

Lastly, consider whether upgrading your reader might be money well spent. Generally, paid accounts will let you subscribe to more feeds and give you more control over how you organize them, and for usually no more than the cost of a cup of coffee per month. Many readers give a choice of annual or monthly payment options.

Got a tested-and-true method for keeping your reader working optimally? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

People who try to recall an email after they’ve sent it might think it’s a good idea to close the barn doors after the horses have all fled.

That bit of snark comes courtesy of email systems that boast “recall” tools. I tried the one in Microsoft Outlook about a decade ago. It didn’t work for me, and I dealt with the fallout from a misunderstanding.

So I switched tack. Now I prevent fallout from poorly worded emails so I don’t have to perform after-the-fact damage control.

How do I do that, you ask? Simple: I wait an hour or more between the time I draft an important email and the time I send it. Reading it with “fresh eyes” helps me prevent most (not all) email mistakes.

I don’t do this with all emails. Sometimes I send quick, innocuous-enough messages with no real review. Every now and then a typo seeps in. But when the message and the recipient matter (especially in business) and the topic merits deep thought, I slow down.

I regularly used two methods to help me make sure I send the thoughts I want to convey. Both involve preventing emails from being sent until I feel they’re ready.

Write the email offline

I often write messages in a text editor. We all have these on our computers. They come with names like Notepad (Windows), TextEdit (Mac) and Microsoft Word (both Windows and Mac). The beauty of text editors (sans plugins) is that they don’t have an easy-to-access Send feature. Just save the message and set it aside for later review and sending.

Delete all recipients in a reply

You can write a reply in an email as long as it has no email addresses in the To, cc or bcc lines. If these fields are empty, your email software can’t send the message anywhere. You can then save the message in the Drafts folder for later review. Note: some email programs don’t show the Drafts folder unless you have actually saved one or more drafts.

How do you keep yourself from landing in email-fueled hot water? Do you use email recall systems that work? Or have you become a maestro at smoothing ruffled feathers? Let me know in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

Are there fillable PDF forms on your website?

When loaded within a browser, the fields in forms like these generally can’t be filled out – the PDF will need to be downloaded in order to be filled out.

Why not cut out a few extra steps for your site’s visitors, and make the PDF automatically download rather than load in-browser?

A hat tip to Gabriola Graphics for this super simple solution to do just that:

“All you have to do is add the word download to your <a> tag and if your browser supports it your visitor will get a Download Where? prompt.”

 

Do you have two or more email addresses? Tired of flipping between web pages to check them all? Why bother. Instead, set them all up in one email client.

Here’s what this looks like on my computer.

When I click “Inbox” I can see all inbox messages from the six accounts listed here. To focus on the contents of just one inbox, I click the name of that inbox.

Given how much time people still spend on email, this tactic ought to help save time. Also, I can file all my email in my own folders, offline, by having them come into a mail client.

The screen shot above shows how this looks in Mac Mail.app, but most email software lets you do this. I have this set up on my Mac, iPad and iPod Touch. (I don’t do this on my phone – long story – but I likely will when I eventually spring for an iPhone.) I could also create this setup in Microsoft Outlook and other email software.

There are other ways of doing this. For instance, you can have all email accounts but one forward messages to the one you want to use. The only shortcoming is that you would need to sign in to another address to reply from that address, if the original email wasn’t sent to your “main” address. (Switching addresses in software like Mac Mail is as easy as choosing the “from” address from a drop list.)

That said, email forwarding is a great way of keeping messages coming from addresses you eventually want to get rid of. Soon enough, the only messages going to that address will be spam.

Do you use multiple email addresses? How do you keep track of correspondence in each of them? Let us know in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

Imagine if your email system could look like this at the end of your day (presuming your inbox is empty):

This is more likely to happen if email lands in the right folder without you having to triage it from your inbox. Dealing with each message in the order it was received in your inbox can lead to context switching — a major drag on productivity. The time spent doing triage can instead be used to handle business email.

To minimize email triage time, build these five email habits:

1. Set Up Folders in a Logical Manner

Having folders scattered all over means you mix contexts. And that makes you less able to target the messages that matter. Here’s how I set up my work email folders (and document folders, for that matter):

2. Put “Tags” in Email Subject Lines

Include the matter name or number in the subject line of each email you send. Use this habit for things outside client matters, too. You’ll understand why this is important when you read the next habit.

3. Create Rules to Automate the Filing of Incoming Messages

Rules are automatic actions your email program performs when triggered by criteria or conditions you have specified for incoming or outgoing messages. Email rules can be based on many criteria. Here’s a list from Mac Mail. The options in Microsoft Outlook and other email software are much the same.

Here’s the Mac Mail list of actions the software can take when a message meets defined criteria. Again, other email systems feature similar lists.

All these options might make email rule creation seem daunting. It isn’t. Here’s the type of rule I suggest you set up:

If Subject Line contains “Project 1” move message to folder “Project 1.”

That’s it.

This rule works reliably well since few people bother to change subject lines during email correspondence. On the few occasions that correspondents do change the subject line and remove the “trigger text,” the email lands in your inbox. Get automatic filing back on track by changing the subject line when you reply.

By the way, each email rule needs a name. In this case, name the rule “Project 1.”

4. Create Rules for Other Types of Emails

In the same way that you want to direct business or client email to your business or client folders, you can have your email software file newsletters, family correspondence, news about networking events and other types of messages as they come in. This won’t happen all at once, of course. You’ll need to continually train this auto-file feature. If you stick with it, though, you’ll spend less time on email triage and more time focusing on your priorities.

5. Run Email Rules on Your Sent Items Folder

Messages you write can matter just as much as those you receive. That’s why you may want to file relevant messages you’ve sent into the right folders.

Once you’ve created rules, there’s an easy way to have them take effect on sent items. Go to the Sent items folder, select all messages, right-click (or Control-click), and run your email rules. If you haven’t visited your sent items folders in a few years (or ever) and they’ve piled up, sit back and let the process chug along. Once it’s done, your email will be much more organized.

Prevent Inbox Busywork

These email automation habits are powerful ways to prevent inbox busywork. As you work with rules, you can explore other ways they can automate tasks you commonly perform. But what matters is that you create the rules you need as soon as the need arises.

Do you have any favorite email automation tips? Please share them in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on Attorney at Work]

 

Each time an electronic document comes into being, metadata is created along with it. People often add their own, too. From the obvious (like page numbers) to the obscure (like dates of creation and author names), every piece of metadata serves some purpose.

During discovery, document metadata can prove just as important as the visible contents in the document. That’s why legal teams need to comb every document for metadata. (It’s also why many use metadata “scrubbers” on documents they share with other people.)

Things can get interesting when one legal team unwittingly sends documents to opposing counsel that contain metadata they weren’t aware of. The following tips cover some of the most common “accidental” metadata disclosures. These types of disclosures don’t always happen, but they’re worth checking for in files. And if you find such metadata, disclose your finds to opposing counsel. (Be sure to check for related ethics guidance in your jurisdiction; the American Bar Association has a handy resource for checking state metadata ethics opinions here.)

Turn on Track Changes in Microsoft Office Documents

Modern document revision often happens in the margins. Well, the right margin of Word documents. That’s where authors place comments and questions, each one labeled with their Office user ID. (The “Track Changes” feature can be called different things and be in different places in other types of documents.)

When authors choose to view a document in its “final” form, that margin and its notes disappear. Doing so means they might forget to get rid of Track Changes content before sending the document on to others. If that happens, that document will travel with all commentary and suggested additions and deletions. These threads can reveal deeper thinking behind a given document and offer hints to a legal team that wasn’t supposed to see those threads.

Check Document Properties

Ever wonder who the actual author of a document happens to be? How about when the document was created? If you’re checking a photo, was it ever opened using Photoshop? You can learn all this and more by checking a document’s properties.

Look for Hidden Rows and Columns in Spreadsheets

Sometimes an author will hide rows or columns to conceal information they contain. You won’t know until you unhide them.

Spotting hidden columns or rows should be straightforward. For instance, if one column is labeled F and the next one you see is J, that means three columns have been hidden.

Check Document Headers and Footers

From author names to Bates stamps to file paths, headers and footers can contain plenty of useful information.

For instance, sometimes authors redact documents by “cutting” them down once they reach the PDF stage. You may be holding a four-page document that says, in the bottom-right corner, “Page 7 of 19.” If you see something like this, you should go “hmm …”

Look for Speaker’s Notes in PowerPoint Documents

Sometimes presentation files contain entire scripts on crammed slides in fonts only bald eagles could read. And sometimes content is kept to a minimum, interspersed with tastefully chosen images that engage the audience.

That’s what the audience sees. What the audience doesn’t see is any speaker’s notes created in the spot reserved for such notes with each slide. Short of a video or audio recording of the presentation, this user-generated metadata may provide the most insight available into what was said.

Does a PDF Contain Redacted Parts?

If you receive a redacted PDF, try this:

  • Select and copy redacted bits.
  • Paste them into a text editor like Notepad, TextEdit or Microsoft Word.

If you don’t see anything “under” the redacted parts, the PDF’s creator knows how to redact a PDF properly.

But if all the creator did was draw black lines on top of the material to be redacted, those black lines don’t carry over when the material is pasted into a text editor. Who knows what fun stuff you might learn?

Mining for More

Expect disclosures such as the ones outlined here to become less frequent as more lawyers learn how to prevent them. That said, they haven’t all learned yet, so the above tips are certainly worth trying whenever you review electronic documents during discovery.

These aren’t the only ways to look for valuable metadata in documents. Did I neglect to mention your favorite tactics? Share them in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on Attorney at Work]