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August 2003, Week 1 -- Keystroke shortcuts

   
 QuicKeys

   QuickKeys is quicker. Why not take a bunch of keystrokes you probably use every day and turn them into two keystrokes.

   QuickKeys is from CE Software, which has been at this for a long time and makes keystroke programs for both Windows and Macintosh. You can assign almost any number of keystrokes to a single key or brief series. A simple example would be opening Microsoft Word and going directly to particular place on a document or opening a whole set of documents. You could assign that set of keystrokes to be executed by striking a couple of keys.

 

   Looking at the wider picture, a common use is to assign frequently used names and titles, like "U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell," to a couple of keystrokes. This is a technique often used by newspaper and magazine writers. This approach can be extended to huge blocks of text, and you can have news background articles and editorials stored as blocks and assigned to a shortcut. Tap a couple of keys and they're automatically slugged in, as they say in the publishing business. Writers and editors have used such shortcuts, sometimes called "save/gets," for many years.

 

   QuicKeys can also create toolbars with icons for frequently used shortcuts. If you prefer using a mouse instead of hitting the keys, just click on the icon in the shortcut toolbar. You can make keystroke recordings and then assign that recorded string to a shortcut command. You can also set commands to take place at pre-arranged times.

 

   These programs are powerful and equally useful for individuals or businesses. QuicKeys is $100 for either Mac or Windows. But if you don't want to spend that much, there are others with fewer features, like ActiveKeys, which is $20 at www.download.com. The web address for Quickeys, though, is www.quickeys.com.

 

Tape to CD

Audio Cleaning

 

   Audio Cleaning Lab is a great program for burning old audio tapes and LP records to CDs. You can get rid of the scratches, hum, crackling and all those other annoying noises. You've seen the line "digitally remastered" printed on new releases of old recordings? Well, that's what this does.

   All this for $40? This is the 2004 version of this program, with new noise filters, volume controls and, cuts and fades between pieces, and normalizers to adjust strange peaks. In other words, it's a sound studio control room on your Windows screen.

 

   The program burns the cleaned up music and speeches to a CD. It also lets you record Internet radio broadcasts to CD, just as you used to do by turning on the tape function on a combination radio/tape player. That's a particularly nice feature since you can now listen to almost any radio station in the world through the Internet. Audio Cleaning Lab 2004 is otherwise great. It's from Magix www.magix.com.

 

Hard Copy

 Perfection Scanner

 

   Epson has come up with a fairly awesome flatbed scanner: the "Perfection 3200 Photo." It will scan anything that fits on the sheet size scanning glass but it's biggest appeal will be for photographers wanting to scan both prints and transparencies into the computer.

   The Perfection 3200 works with either PCs or Macintosh and can handle film transparencies as large as 4x9 inches. If you want to scan 35mm film frames, it will handle up to 12 of those at a time. The resolution is a truly impressive 3200x6400 dpi (dots per inch).

 

   The scanner comes with a special edition of the highly regarded SilverFast software for negative editing, which is fairly expensive on its own. They've also bundled Adobe's "Photoshop Elements 2," a very nice program for those who don't want or need the full Photoshop.

 

   The Perfection 3200 sells for $360-$400 from discount dealers. The Epson web site is www.epson.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.mesopotamia.co.uk/menu.html  This site is for the middle-eastern archaeology section of the British Museum, covering artifacts and history from the ancient kingdoms of Assyria, Babylonia and Sumer. Mesopotamia of course means "between the rivers" in Greek, and refers to that area, now mostly in modern Iraq, watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

 Spices

 

-- http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/  History and other information on spices as flavorings and medicines, from the Louise Darling Biomedical Library at the University of California, Los Angeles.

-- www.pazsaz.com  Every episode of every science fiction and fantasy TV show ever aired is described here in loving detail. Some are also available for purchase on tape. Houston, we have ignition!

 

Education

SAT 

   Kaplan Software has released new versions of their software to help prepare for the SAT and ACT college entrance exams, as well as the LSAT (for law school admissions) and the GRE (graduate record exam) for grad school admissions. The programs have $40-$50 list prices but are frequently discounted.

   Interestingly, there is a claim on the front of each box that they "guarantee" you will get a higher score after using this software. That's a strong claim but I have covered this stuff for many years and have found that it's true; like many things, practice improves performance, including the taking of tests. Web: www.kaptest.com.

  Painter 8 Wow

Books

   "The Painter 8 Wow Book," by Cher Threinen-Pendarvis; $50 from Peachpit Press www.peachpit.com. A genuine wow of a book illustrating the visual magic that can be done with Corel's stunning new release of Painter. Comes with a CD of special brushes and lighting techniques.

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.

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