Zamzar for converting files

WVLS has a new Digital Byte video that walks you through Zamzar, a free online file converting tool (also covered in these 2009 and 2018 TechBits posts).

Like the video format? Check out other Digital Bytes here.

Enabling High Contrast Themes

Enabling high contrast settings may be a good idea If you or somebody you know has difficulty reading text on a PC screen.  This is a common problem when a lighter-colored font, like gray, is on top of a white background.  High contrast settings can be enabled for the Windows operating system and there is an extension that can be installed for the Google Chrome browser.

The easiest way to enable High Contrast for your PC is to press Left Alt + Left Shift + Print Screen then click Yes.  Use the same key combination to turn it off.

Google Accessibility offers an extension for the Chrome browser simply called High Contrast.  After you add it to Chrome, you can enable and customize the extension by clicking its button to the right of the Address bar.

High Contrast Extension

HC Menu

Explain (It) Like I'm Five

I attended the WiLSWorld Short, "Five Steps to Better Online Privacy with Jessamyn West," last week (which I would highly recommend!) and I learned a phrase I hadn't previously encountered before:  "Explain Like I'm Five."  There are a number of variations on this theme out there ("Explain It Like I'm Five", "Explain It Like I'm Actually Five") and a quick search brought up several Reddit forums, a video series, a podcast and many other things.

Why might it be helpful to know this?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

If you're looking for help with a complicated topic and all you're finding are complicated, overly technical explanations, you could add this phrase to your search and, with any luck, find someone explaining it in a way that anyone would be able to understand.

For example: How does wireless charging work? (which includes a link to this pretty cool video)

It may not help in every situation, but it's definitely worth keeping in mind.

What tricks do you have for finding simple explanations of complex topics?

Choosing a projector screen

Over my career at the South Central Library System I have never been asked to help a library select a projector screen, until a couple months ago. Since then I’ve been asked about projector screens 3 times, and in order to provide the best answers for the libraries I’ve done a little research and have some information to share with you about how to select the right screen for you.

I think the most important factor in selecting the right screen for you is knowing your budget and setting expectations for what you can get in your price range. A few hundred dollars may get you a nice screen that will last a lifetime, but it may also be small and have a little pull string to lower the screen.

Manual screens come as wall mounted or portable. Portable screens come with a stand and can be moved around, but are limited in size and take up storage space.

Motorized screens are more expensive but offer ease of use and larger sizes.

Some terms you may hear when selecting a screen are aspect ratio and gain.

    Aspect ratio is the relation of the width of a video image compared to its height. The two most common aspect ratios are 4:3 (standard) and 16:9 (wide-screen).
    Gain is the amount of light being reflected back from the screen. The higher the gain the more light is being reflected back. Most screens are between 0 and 2. The coating on the surface of the screen contributes to its gain.

Their is way more to selecting a projector screen than I thought when I started researching them. I found this Projector Screen Buying Guide useful when doing my research. The link does go to a retail site, but it's still good information.

I’ve worked with a couple of dealers in Wisconsin who specialize in AV equipment, so if you live in Wisconsin and have a question about who to turn to you can ask me for a couple of vendors who support most of the state and I’ll pass that info along to you.

Um, excuse me? Weaponized PDFs?

I was going to do a Tech Bits post about Carla Hayden's (Librarian of Congress!) proposal to digitize the  Library of Congress (!!!) but I ran across this other article and thought "What?!  Like with little guns and knives and stuff?"  

American Libraries linked to an April 19, 2019 article on the Nextgov website that has the title "Report: Weaponized PDFs on the rise." (sounds like an excerpt from a Terminator movie, right?) But it is no fantasy my friends, just the next generation of malware, scamming and spamming.   

So in addition to reminding your patrons, staff and coworkers about suspicious emails, ads and hyperlinks you also need to warn them about weaponized PDFs.

Welcome to the 21st century.




How to refresh your web browser without clearing your browsing history

Isn't it aggravating when you KNOW a webpage should be showing an update, but clicking the browser's "refresh" button (or hitting Ctrl + R) isn't showing the change? You might run across this when updating a website or even checking email.

Sure, you could log out, close all your tabs, and delete your browsing history to start completely fresh, but who wants to do that? Try these tips instead:

Hard Reload (two ways)
Ctrl + F5
Ctrl + Shift + R

Hold down the Control key and press F5. Or, hold down Control and Shift, and then press the R key. This will force the browser to reload and will work in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

Empty Cache and Hard Reload (Chrome browser)


The "cache" is the group of images and files your browser saves to help load previously-visited web pages more quickly. Clearing cached files and then reloading forces the browser to get the most current versions of all those images and files.

  1. In Chrome, press the F12 key. The DevTools menu will open.
  2. Right click on the reload button and select Empty Cache and Hard Reload.
  3. Breathe a sigh of relief that the page has refreshed, but all your tabs are still open and you are still logged into everything.
  4. Hit F12 again to close DevTools.

Creating and using Tasks in Google Calendar

In 2018 I wrote about using the "Reminders" feature of Google Calendar. Since then, Google has introduced a "Tasks" option that is slightly different than the Reminders option. 

Googletasks2To get started with Tasks, select the Tasks checkbox on the left side of the screen. This will enable the Tasks option on your Google Calendar. 

GoogletasksTo create a Task, click on the appropriate day, enter the information, and select Task. You can select a certain time for the task, or leave it as "all day." Currently, you cannot set up a repeating task. Tasks also include the option to add a description. Reminders do not include this option.

After you have completed the Task, you can mark the task as complete to cross it off of your list. To do this, click on the Task, and click Mark complete in the lower right-hand corner. Googletasks1

Unlike Reminders, Tasks do not continue to appear each day until you mark them complete. I think this makes them less useful than Reminders, so I haven't used Tasks nearly as much as I have used Reminders. However, I think they can be useful when you want to include detailed information about your Task. When using Reminders, you only have the option to enter a Title, while the Task option includes both the Title and Description.

Random Passwords

When I sign up for a new service that requires a login and password, I find that I waste too much time thinking of a good password.  I recently watched a co-worker use a random password generator to order pizza online.  It took seconds and involved no thinking.  That sold me on the idea of using a random password generator.  I was already using KeePass to store my passwords. 1390518392 Now, I also use its built-in random password generator.  Using a random password generator is also one of the easiest steps you can take to help safeguard your online services from hackers.  A randomly-generated string will usually be tougher for hackers to crack than a password manufactured by a human being.  It will also be unique.  Unique passwords reduce your risk of multiple hacks when one of your online services becomes compromised.

There are several good password managers and random password generators out there, and I can't really recommend one over another.  A quick search for online password generators led me to one hosted by LastPass.  Although the generator is accessed from the web, the actual service runs locally on your PC/Mac and never travels across the internet. This tool lets you select the length of the password and the types of characters you want to include.  It can also generate passwords that are easier to say (less secure) or easier to read.

PowerPoint Pointer

Laser PointerLast year while I was working on a PowerPoint presentation I came across a nifty little feature. In slide show mode you can make your regular mouse curser look like a laser pointer. Even though I didn’t use it then it came up as a topic during a presentation I sat in on last week, so I thought I’d share this with you now.

This only works if you’re in presentation mode in front of your computer--just hold the CTRL key down and left click your mouse button. Your mouse pointer should turn into a red dot. You can release the CTRL key when the red dot appears. You can move the dot around your presentation like a laser pointer now. When you release the mouse button your regular mouse pointer will re-appear.

A more permanent solution is to hold the control button down and press the letter P--this will turn your mouse pointer into a small red dot. Hit Esc on the keyboard to bring your mouse pointer back.

Deleting old or bad email addresses from Outlook's Auto-Complete list

Even though Andrew covered this topic back in Dec. 2014 I thought it might be good to cover it again.

You've all encountered Outlook's Auto-Complete feature when you start typing in the To, Cc, or Bcc fields in Outlook and you get a list of suggested email accounts based on the first few letters you've already entered. These suggestions are coming from that feature and is trying to save you time in entering someone's full email address.

This time saving list is sometimes your friend and other times it is not. If you have ever mistyped an email address and sent it, then that incorrect email address is now stored in your Auto-Complete list. This also goes for an employee that you emailed frequently and now that employee has moved on to other ventures. Their email address will still come up if you type the first few letters of their email account.

In order to delete theses bad and old email addresses from your Auto-Complete list you must do the following steps:

  1. Open a new email message.
  2. Type the first few characters of the email address that you want to delete.
  3. Use your mouse and click the 'X' next to that email address or you can use the down arrow key to highlight that email address and then press the Delete key.

Now you know how to keep your Auto-Complete list current and up-to-date.