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Say “Cheese!”

Before we had digital cameras, we had film … film that had to be developed before we could see our pictures. And, because of the uncertainty of the result, we’d always say, “Take another picture in case it doesn’t come out.”

Even in the age of digital cameras with instant results, I still recommend that you “take another picture.”


Photo editing software.

Along with digital images came the software to manipulate them: Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Printmaster, Aperture, among others. To take advantage of some of their features — like selecting faces from one image and pasting them into another image — you need more than one picture.

Even if you don’t have the ability to edit photos in this manner, there are people who can do it for you, if you can give them the images to work with.

Imagine trying to take a family picture with adults, kids, and even dogs. The liklihood of getting everyone to look at the camera, look their best, and smile all at the same moment is low. If, however, the photographer takes a series of images, the chances are much greater that with photo editing software, you (or someone) can select the best image of each individual and create one really perfect composite picture.

So snap away with confidence. Your closeup will soon be ready for you.

The Subject Subject

The more we hesitate to open unfamiliar email, the more important the subject becomes. Not the subject of opening unfamiliar email per se, but the subject of the email itself: the actual “Subject” line.

My advice: take the Subject line seriously; the more thoughtful your subject, the more likely your readers are to open your mail.

In the past, the Subject line could be an afterthought. The return address identified you as the sender and the message area said what you wanted to say. Why fill in the Subject line at all?

Today, with the frequent “spoofed” emails we get that look like they are from people we know, the Subject line takes on new importance.

While you used to open an email from a friend even if there was nothing in the Subject line or when the Subject said something like “You’ve got to see this!,” you might hesitate to do so now. Spoofers leave Subject lines blank or use generic excitement to entice you to open their mail.

What can be done about this?

You can’t do anything about your incoming mail, but you can control the Subject line in the mail you send.

Rather than leave your Subject line blank, enter meaningful content: “Monday Tennis Schedule” or “Upcoming Gourmet Dinner Menu.” Don’t make your friends and colleagues guess what your email is about, or whether the mail is even from you at all.

If you are sending an email that contains a link to a funny dog video, don’t put “Hilarious Video!” in the Subject line. Rather, enter “For my dog-loving friends” or “I wish my dog could skateboard!”

You get the idea.

One other reason to be thoughtful about your Subjects: the “grouped conversation” or “threaded” email option. Some email software programs offer you an option to group together emails that are part of the same “conversation.” The program determines “threads” by grouping emails with similar subjects; when you reply to an email, the subject is the same as the original email.

If you routinely leave the Subject line blank, or you use the same Subject for every email (please do not do this!), you could have “threaded” emails that are not related. This would be quite confusing.

Be thoughtful about the Subject line. Your readers will appreciate it.

Big App-etite

My family is in Savannah to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. As I watch my father walk around the house with his iPad, I am reminded of a funny story.

When I first taught him the features of the iPad last year, I remember getting to the section about “Apps,” the nickname for “Applications.”

“A Nap? I can download a nap? This is the greatest device ever!”

“Not a nap,” I said, “An App. Apps are the cool programs that make your device personal to you: games, weather, magazines, sports, dining, news, etc.

“Oh. Where do I start?”

There are literally thousands of apps available for “smart” devices through the Apple App Store, the Android Market, Blackberry App World, and Amazon, among others. Many apps are free, most are under $5, some are more pricey.

I will give you the same advice that I gave my dad about evaluating apps:

Know What They Cost

If an app you are interested in is free, you will likely download it, try it, and delete it if you don’t like it. If an app is expensive, you might be a more discerning shopper.

Read the Developer Description

The Developer Description tells you what the program does, usually by listing its features and special effects. If the app isn’t what you expect, you’ll know right away.

Look at the Screen Shots

Good computer graphics can really sell an app; bad computer graphics … not so much. You’ll know when you see the screen shot graphics whether an app appeals to you.

Consider the User Reviews

As I discussed some time ago regarding all online purchases, I recommend that you read the User Reviews. Discount a few of the really good reviews and a few of the really bad reviews and then see whether the rest are more positive or negative. Read the negative reviews carefully to see why these reviewers are dissatisfied. Some expectations are not realistic; some complaints concern features you don’t care about.

And, of course, word of mouth is a great way to learn about apps. If you find a app that you really like, tell your friends. After your nap.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Are you a keyboard person or a mouse person?

Either way, you are in luck. You can tell your computer to Save, Cut, Copy, Paste, or Print, for example, by clicking with your mouse or by using your keyboard keys. Wonderful.

Some people, especially those who began using computers before there were mice, trackballs, touch pads, and trackpads, are more keyboard-oriented. They are comfortable with the keys and prefer not to take their hands off the keyboard to find the mouse and click it.

Others, especially those whose first computer experience was with a mouse, find comfort in navigating to the menus and toolbars with the pointer.

Fortunately, either way will get the job done and you don’t have to choose between them; many people use a combination of both.

If you like using the mouse, you know how to move it around your screen, clicking and double-clicking on menus and drop-down lists to tell the computer what you want.

If you prefer keeping your hands on the keyboard, you should know about “keyboard shortcuts.”

  • Rather than clicking “Save” with the mouse to save your most recent work, try holding down the Control key (Command key on a Mac) while you hit the letter “s.” Work saved.
  • If you wish to cut a highlighted section of text, try holding down the Control key (Command key on a Mac) while you hit the letter “x.” Work copied to the computer’s clipboard.
  • To paste it elsewhere, try Control (or Command) and the letter “v.” Selection pasted.

How do you get to know the shortcuts?

Every drop-down menu lists its keyboard shortcut next to the written command. (If there is no keyboard shortcut listed, there is no shortcut for that command). Don’t try to master them all. Just focus on one or two of the commands you use most often and learn those shortcuts. You might like them.

Of course, this discussion does not apply to smartphones or tablets; as touch screen devices, these machines don’t have a mouse and all commands are communicated by tapping.

As I have reached the end of this topic, I think I’ll “Command + S” this email and schedule it to be sent.

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