February 2006, Week 4 –
Reach Out and Snag Someone
The new "SnagIt 8" has some great features for capturing web sites
or anything on your screen. You can mark off all or any part of a page
or site and save that as a PDF file or Macromedia "Flash" document. This
can be stored or emailed.
But as they say on TV shopping sites: that's not all you get. The
real kicker with this screen capture is that all of the links remain
active in the PDF copy. In short, you can email the PDF or Flash to
anyone, or simply keep it on file, and whatever links to other sites or
information that were in the original, remain "live" in the copy.
You can add more information and live links of your own. You can
take a picture of a resort, or a property for sale, for example, and
make any part of that picture clickable to bring up more information or
even take you to a web site. You could click on a hotel wing to get room
rates or pictures of the view from that room. You could click on a
property for sale to get driving instructions, viewing hours, room
sizes, etc. As you move the mouse cursor over a picture, areas that are
clickable change color slightly. We experimented with a picture of boats
under sail and made each one clickable with prices and other information
we made up. Using one of the available file formats, we didn't have to
send the image as an attachment, it was part of the body of the email.
The user interface is
the easiest yet for the SnagIt series and we had no trouble navigating
it. If you're not sure what to do, a little help message pops up in a
couple of seconds. SnagIt 8 is $40 from
A Two-Ounce Scanner
For the third or fourth time we tried out a new version of the
DocuPen portable scanner, and things are getting a little better.
The DocuPen is more like a wand than a pen, a slender nine-inch,
two-ounce rod with a built-in rechargable battery. Place the scanning
side of the rod over a piece of paper and move it steadily across. If
you follow instructions carefully, you will get a legible scan of
whatever was on the paper. The scan handles colors as well as black and
In practice this worked fairly well with photos and clean pages with
clearly legible dark type against a white or light-colored background.
Newspaper and magazine pages often threw it for a loop, but once again,
with care, we could get something legible. You can select a scanning
resolution of 100-400 dpi (dots per inch).
The DocuPen comes with eight megabytes of memory and you can add more.
That's enough for quite a bit of scanned storage and the information can
be unloaded to the computer through an ordinary USB cable. The pen comes
with the excellent PaperPort software, which includes OCR (optical
character recognition) for reading scanned text. Once again, in practice
there were always errors but for the most part they were manageable.
Different models of the DocuPen run $100 to $300, depending on features
and color capability, at
We found very little discount pricing from other vendors.
The thing that struck Bob most was that the designers of this little
gadget had obviously never seen an old spy movie. You know, the kind
where the secret agent whips out his miniature "Minox" camera and
quickly photographs the enemy's plans to take over the world. The funny
thing about that, is that it actually works. You can take a photograph
of any page and then use it just like a scan. With a digital camera you
can feed it right into the computer and use OCR software to "read" it.
These days you can use a high-resolution camera phone for the same
purpose and even instantly transmit the image to another location.
www.iwillknot.com How to tie knots that won't slip. Unless, of
course, you want to make a slip-knot.
www.geekgirls.com The "Geek Girls" can tell you how to set up a home
network and much more. Lots of tips on software, podcasting, utilities,
VoIP, etc. Easy to understand advice and instruction.
A note from the Ministry of Digital Defense
We got a letter from a reader who complained bitterly about the problems
he had downloading and installing new software. Many people have written
about such problems, and we know just what they're talking about,
because unfortunately we actually run this stuff.
Most computer problems come from adding new software, not from viruses.
This is the only business we can think of that puts out products with
problems and then charges the customer for another product to fix the
problems. Considering this has been going on since the dawn of computer
time, two rules are worth repeating:
1.) Never buy anything with a low serial number.
2.) No matter what you get, you have to get something else to make it
What it boils down to is this: don't be too quick to upgrade to a new
version of anything. If everything is working fine, leave it alone.
There's an old farmer's adage that says "If it ain't broke, don't fix
NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers"
web site: <www.oncomp.com>.
You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at
email@example.com and Joy Schwabach at