MadMod Computing The MadMod Computing Newsletter

Vol. 2006d

Welcome to this edition of The MadMod Computing Newsletter.   We hope that you enjoy the features of each issue and learn some computing skills along the way.

First, a reminder to make backups of your important files, and to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.   Second use a software firewall and/or a router if using broadband.   Last, obtain all the critical Windows updates.

Featured in This Issue
1.     Drawing inside Microsoft Excel
2.     "No Script" Firefox Extension
3.     Be Jane (website)

1.    Drawing inside Microsoft Excel
If you a regular user of Microsoft Excel, you know that cells may contain descriptive information, numbers or formulas.  What expands the capability of Excel is to also make drawings inside of cells.

First after starting Excel, use the mouse to expand the cell size of say cell A1 (Put the mouse at the "|" between the A and the B column labels and drag a bit to the right--to widen the cell A.  Similarly put the mouse at the "-" between the 1 and the 2 row labels and drag a bit downward to make the cell taller.)  I generally make my box about 6" wide by 4" high.

Next, click on the drawing icon which is probably near the "Help" pull-down menu.  The toolbar should load at the bottom of the Excel worksheet.  Now you're set to play with the tool creating shapes of different colors with labels, borders and effects.  Use the usual cut and paste features normally used in Excel to move things around, center, etc.  When done with your drawing, click on the drawing tool icon to dismiss the toolbar.  I usually then resize the starting cell to fit the drawing a bit better.  The "Insert" menu also allows you to add clipart or pictures to the drawings you've made with the drawing toolbar.

Drawings can greatly improve the meaning of a complicated Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, describing a configuration, layout or plan.  Experiment with the toolbar and you'll probably become a fan of the feature.  Microsoft Word also allows the use of the drawing toolbar, but it requires that you adjust given frames so as to best fit your drawings.

My preference is to do my drawing work in Microsoft Excel, and then copy and paste them into Microsoft Word or into a blank new picture frame in a picture editor such as Adobe Photoshop Elements so as to make a .jpg image. (one of my favorite techniques)  The drawing shown above was first made with Excel with a fluorescent bulb picture added.  Then the entire drawing was copied into Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 to make the .jpg illustration you see in this topic.

2.    "No Script" Firefox Extension
Assuming you're using Mozilla's Firefox browser, (You are aren't you?), there is a free extension obtainable from under the section "Firefox Add-ons."  Click on the link "Extensions" and you should find "No Script" in the "Popular Extensions" list.  Downloading and installing the extension is a snap.

What "No Script" does is to act as a scripting firewall when browsing webpages, but with a strong eye toward malicious JavaScript code snippets that could cause problems for your computer or your personal identity.  At each site which contains JavaScript--most sites these days--you'll have the option to allow, allow this time or block scripts before they can take action against your computer.

As you can tell, I'm a fan of "No Script" to help guard my browsing environment.  There are some pro's and con's about "No Script" however.  If you visit pretty much the same sites, "No Script" will remember your choices so you can forget "No Script" for the sites you regularly visit.  Blocking all scripts except those for the main site visited greatly limits advertisements or their motion-picture aspects.  The down side to "No Script" is that if you surf many new sites or regular sites though not frequently, "No Script" can be a nuisance.  Sometimes when a major feature of a site is needed, I have to remember to click on the "No Script" option box and change the principal permission for the site, and then all's well.  By using this Firefox extension, I've greatly limited my exposure to malicious scripts.

3.    Be Jane (website)
Be Jane is a website for women do-it-yourselfers in the home improvement field.  Topics range from carpentry to yards and gardens.  This site gets down to the nitty-gritty on all the projects described.  A typical example is "Project: Change Your Faucets" which can be found in the plumbing part of the site.

There are dozens of message boards to help out those stuck in the middle of a project.  The site also features women-friendly tools in the menu section called "Shop."  The pink hard hat comes to mind.  (Men can also make good use of this site!)

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E-mail to the editor: David Mawdsley

Copyright © 2006, The MadMod Computing Newsletter