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ComputeThisOnline Newsletter 2
Cut, Copy and Paste

Talk to any seasoned computer user and you'll find that "copying and pasting" is a regular technique.

It is used to move data from one place to another, even from one program to another.

Many users would be lost without this powerful ability.

Repetitive tasks, such as filling in fields on forms, can be quickly streamlined by borrowing or "copying" data that has already been typed somewhere in your computer and inserting (or pasting it) wherever you like. Even Windows elements, such as icons, shortcuts, files and folders, can be moved around using copy, cut and paste.

The glue that holds the whole thing together is called the clipboard and this is the part that throws most people. 

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That's because the clipboard is hidden behind the scenes and you rarely ever see it. Since it's invisible, you have to take it on faith that something is really happening when you copy. That's where most people have trouble.

When you copy something to the clipboard, there is no obvious indicator that anything has happened until you go to paste, and then "pop," whatever you copied to the clipboard pops into place wherever you paste it, sometimes minutes (even hours) after copying it.

There are actually three commands associated with this technique: copy, cut and paste.

Cut and copy are very similar with one difference. When you copy something to the clipboard, the original item stays put. But when you cut something, the original item actually deletes from its original location when you finally get around to pasting it.

This brings us to the third command: paste. Once you have a bit of data copied to the clipboard, whether it's text, pictures, files, folders, icons or whatever, you can insert that data wherever you want just by clicking paste.

Even though you can copy and paste from different parts of Windows, there are some rules that govern the whole thing.

For instance, you can't copy and paste icons and folders into programs. In other words, you can't copy your my documents folder and paste it into a Word document. It just won't work.

You have to keep within loose boundaries. Copy text and paste it into areas that normally hold text, such as word processors and form fields. Copy graphics and paste them into places that usually manage graphics, such as image editors. Copy files, folders and icons and paste into places that support files, folders and icons, such as disk drives and your desktop.

So, how does it all work? Let's run through a quick scenario.

Let's say that you just got done installing a new program on your machine. In order to launch this program, however, you have to click start, then programs, then go to the new programs group and click on the program icon.

Isn't there a way to get an icon on the desktop that we can click without having to navigate through all those menus?

Sure! We can use copy and paste to place an icon on the desktop.

Let's run through it using Windows XP and FreeCell.

First, we have to find the icon we want to copy. Click start, then go to programs, then games. With the right mouse button, click on the FreeCell icon and notice another menu pops up. In the new menu click copy.

This is where people get confused because it appears that nothing has happened. Have faith. The menu where we clicked copy disappears and we go back to the desktop, right click and click paste wherever we like. In fact, we can keep pasting copies of our FreeCell icon wherever we want until we copy something else to the clipboard.

An easier way to access the commands is with "hot key" combinations listed in the edit pull down menu. CTRL+C is copy, CTRL+X is cut and CTRL+V is paste.

Those shortcut keys are often available, even when there is no menu or any command to click.

The uses for copy, cut and paste are unlimited. Once you know how to do it, you'll be amazed at just how many chores can be simplified with this technique.

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Don't ignore security when
setting up your wireless router

With powerful computers so low in price today, it's not uncommon for many households to have two or more computers.

One of the first things people set out to do is add the new machines to their existing Internet connection.

The steps to do this are easy, and the equipment is readily available and affordable. All you need to do is add a router to the mix and you can share the Internet connection with multiple machines. With most wireless routers having the ability to connect to both wired and wireless machines, people have the ability to share their high-speed Internet throughout the house without having to string network cables everywhere.

A typical scenario often plays out like this. Let's say you have a desktop computer that's plugged directly into your cable or DSL modem and everything is running fine. Then, someone in your household comes home one day with a new laptop that's wireless-ready. He fires up the new laptop hoping to be able to jump online only to find that there is "no wireless network available" and, therefore, no connection.

After a little research, our frustrated user determines he needs to get a wireless router. So, off they go to get one. After spending $50 or so, he comes home with a nice, new wireless router.

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He follows the "quick-start guide," plugs the router into the high-speed modem, the desktop machine into one of the ports in the back of the router and then configures the router for use according to the instructions.

Now when he turns on the laptop, he gets a message that "one or more wireless networks are available" and within a minute or so the new laptop is sharing the same high-speed service that the desktop machine is using and everyone is happy.

However, nine out of 10 times there is a dark side to this whole scenario that can be avoided if people would take a few minutes more when setting up their routers.

Often, people will ignore the router's built-in security settings because it's easy to ignore and get the system up and running. That's when they end up having an unsecured wireless network that anyone else can connect to just as easily as they did with their new laptop.

Why is it that so many people, who are usually concerned about things like identity theft and getting hacked, ignore the security settings when setting up a new wireless network?

Quite simply, it's because most people will tend to sacrifice security for convenience. Taking the steps to set up security looks complicated and scary. So, some people just skip that part.

The reality is that setting up a new wireless router's security is easy and just takes a few minutes to set up properly. It's also something that can be done after the fact, so if you are running an unsecured wireless network, it's not too late to go back and activate the security settings. The easiest way to do that is to look at your router's documentation and follow the steps to turn on the router's Wireless Encryption Protocol feature and generate a key.

Each computer that attempts to connect to the wireless router will need to have this key in order to connect. This will keep unwanted users out of your network. Since your machine will "remember" a valid key, you won't have to enter it every time you connect.

This column is not going into detail on how to take these steps because every router has a different way of going about activating WEP. However, the basics are the same.

The important thing to keep in mind is that sacrificing security for convenience is something you should avoid. Take the extra time to learn how to configure your router's security settings - even if you've been using it unsecured for years and "nothing bad has happened, yet."

It's that "yet" you want to avoid.


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Print Screen? What's wrong with that button?

You might have noticed a little key on your keyboard labeled “Print Screen.” Like me, you may have tried pressing it expecting the printer to spit out whatever is on the screen. Like me, you may have noticed that nothing happens! I have gone over all my computer manuals looking for an explanation about our mystery key but can’t find one thing about it. 

Is this just another one of those things that computer manufacturers do to make computing more confusing? Actually, no. 

Back in the “old days” of computers (the 1980’s) when everything was controlled by the command prompt, all most people had were slower computers, “dot matrix” printers and low resolution monitors. Hitting the “print screen” key back then did just that - printed whatever was on the screen.

Today, everybody (well, not everybody, but most of us ;-) is running Windows  and using some sort of ink jet or laser printer. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes than there was back in the command prompt days and along with that, a simple task like printing a screen shot (or screen capture) has become more complicated. 

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On a modern computer, running Windows, printing out a screen shot is a several step process. When you press and hold the “Alt” key and press the “Print Screen” key (while still holding the “Alt” key) the computer “captures” the current screen image (the top most window that's open). This happens behind the scenes using the windows clipboard. You may hear your hard drive “chug” a little when you do it, but that’s about the only sign you will have that anything has happened.

What next? Well, now we have to get our screen image off the clipboard and over to the printer. One way to do so is to run the Windows Paint program and “paste” the image from the clipboard into it. Once the image is pasted into your Paint program it’s an easy task to print it; just click print!

Lets go over it once. First, when you have something on your screen you want to print just as you see it, press and hold the “Alt” key and then press the “Print Screen” key. Hear that “chug?” That tells us that the computer’s got it. (If you don't hear anything, have faith! Today's machines are a lot quieter than they were when I first wrote this so you may not hear anything!) Now, click the “Start” button and go to “Programs,” “Accessories,” then click “Paint.” Go to the pulldown menus at the top of the “Paint” window and click “Edit.” Next click “Paste.” I got a message that reads “The image in the clipboard is larger than the bitmap. Would you like the bitmap enlarged?” I click “Yes” and again my hard drive chugs but this time, an exact copy of whatever was on my screen is pasted into the paint window.

From here I can touch it up if I want; I can change it around, type in comments or messages, I can even save it for later. To print it I just click “File” and then “Print.” That’s all there is to it.

There are many reasons to want to print the contents of the screen. Sometimes you just have something on the screen that you want to make a permanent hard copy of or sometimes you want to save an entire screens worth of information. Whatever the reason, performing a “screen capture” ( while not as easy as just hitting “Print Screen”) is a simple procedure that lets us do a lot more with the image then just printing it. Experiment with it! See how many uses you can find for your screen “snapshots.”

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