Ask Mr. Modem: Convert PDF Files To Word Format

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Click to read more about Mr. Modem.


Q. Is there a way of converting a PDF file into a standard Word Document?
A. Yes, there sure is. I use the free, online PDF-to-Word converter at Simply browse to and select the PDF file you want to convert, provide your email address and the converted DOC file will be e-mailed to you. For users who need to convert Word DOC files to PDF format, it will probably come as no surprise that there is also a free Word-to-PDF converter located at

Q. How can I enlarge my Quick Launch bar buttons? I’m using Windows XP and my aging vision needs more assistance. Help!

A. We can relate – and by “we,” I am referring to my trifocals and me. You can definitely enlarge the Quick Launch buttons. In fact, you have a vast selection of sizes to choose from, ranging from Small to Large.
Once you have dithered over the choices and made a decision, right-click an empty area of the Quick Launch bar, then select View > Large Icons. The icons will instantly enlarge – to a much more reasonable size, if you ask me. You do not have to restart your computer for this change to take effect.

Q.  What is the difference between Google Earth and Google Maps?

A.  Besides the spelling (I couldn’t resist), Google Earth ( presents a phenomenal airborne view of the planet from which you can zoom in – like you’re free-falling from outer space – to an address or other selected location. If you want to see Google Earth in action without actually installing it, go to and search for “Google Earth.”
Google Maps provides road maps from which you can obtain information such as driving directions, for example. The best way to get a handle on it is to simply visit Google Maps at, and have fun exploring.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

In response to my invitation in a previous column, many of you sent links to your favorite WebCams. There are so many interesting WebCams, I could easily fill an entire column with them, but there are two WebCam aggregator sites that provide links to hundreds of fascinating WebCams throughout the world. If you are a WebCam enthusiast, be sure to visit and

Enter your (or any) street address, and up pops a map of your area with a list of all neighbors and their phone numbers, if available. Helpful or overly intrusive? You be the judge. is a free genealogy service that enables families to learn about their ancestry and discover new relatives, who will undoubtedly want to borrow money or move into the spare bedroom. Caution is advised. A Basic Plan lets you add up to 100 people and offers 1GB of storage for photos, documents and videos. Plus and Pro plans, which offer additional features and storage, are available for a monthly fee.

Subscribe to Mr. Modem’s award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter using promo code CITYSUN and receive a free month with your 6-month subscription.


Ask Mr. Modem: Tips For Comfy Computing

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Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Ergonomic and environmental issues can be particularly troublesome for computer users. This month, I’d like to share several tips you can use to keep your computing comfortable, productive and, ideally, injury-free.

1. Position your keyboard so that you can type while keeping your hands in a
neutral, flat posture. Place your keyboard on a height-adjustable, negative
slope (a fancy-shmancy way of saying “away from you”) keyboard tray that attaches
to the underside of a desk or a table. For additional information, read Healthy
Computing’s Keyboard Tray Buyer’s Guide at
Frequent laptop users, consider a Laptop Desk ( that provides a stable, ergo-friendly surface. If you have restricted hand mobility, consider a one-handed keyboard, available through

2. When seated, position your mouse on a stable surface as close to your body as is naturally comfortable, approximately elbow high.

3. As you sit back in your chair, with your arms extended, your fingers should just about touch the center of the computer screen. You should be able to look straight ahead at the monitor without tilting your head back or looking down.
If you cannot comfortably read your screen, increase the font size within a given program. WebEyes ( works well with Internet Explorer and can greatly increase the size of on-screen fonts for visually impaired individuals.

4. Place your screen so it does not face or back up to an uncovered window, unless you can lower blinds to reduce glare. Keep room lighting dim so the screen can be seen without any glare.

5. Use a document holder that it is height adjustable to reduce awkward head and neck postures, fatigue, headache, eye strain and unsightly chafing. See eBay’s “Document Holders Buyer’s Guide” at for additional information.

6. A comfortable computing chair, with lower back support, is a little slice of heaven. If the chair does not feel comfortable after you have been sitting for awhile, consider purchasing a gel-type seat cushion. For additional information, read “How to Choose an Ergonomic Chair” at

7. Get in the habit of taking a two- to three-minute break every 30 minutes. Stand up, walk around and look out the window to rest your eyes. I use an inexpensive kitchen timer, placed across the room, set for 30 minutes. Every half hour, the alarm goes off and scares the bejesus out of me. When I regain consciousness, I get up, stagger across the room and tap the timer to reset it for another 30 minutes. It’s simple, it’s highly annoying, but it works like a charm.

8. While at the computer, your feet should be positioned firmly on the floor or a footstool. Dangling feet and dangling participles are to be avoided at all costs – though while writing this article, my cat fell asleep on the keyboard.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

8-Track Heaven
Forget iPods, iTunes, downloadable MP3 files, CDs and DVDs. They are all just passing fads. Groovy hipsters like Mr. Modem know that the only truly worthwhile musical format is the almighty 8-track tape. Visit this happy hunting ground for all things 8-track related.

Pictures That Lie
A picture is worth a thousand words, unless of course, it’s a fake. This site, hosted by C/Net, presents examples of media images that have been doctored, altered or otherwise manipulated before being publicly released.

Say Cheesburger!
In the mid-1920’s, a gentleman named Lionel Sternberger (what are the odds?), in a slice of culinary genius, added cheese to a hamburger patty, thus inventing the Sternpatty. No, that’s not right, he invented the cheeseburger. Here you can read the complete history of the cheeseburger (assuming the above doesn’t about cover it), obtain recipes and read life-altering, heart-warming cheeseburger stories.


Ask Mr. Modem: The Perils Of Remote Access

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Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Q. What do you think about letting other people take remote control of my computer to analyze and fix problems?

A. I would be inclined to use something like that right after I have a microchip implanted in my body so my cat knows where I am if I wander off. In short, I wouldn’t. To grant anyone that level of access, in my opinion, is – I believe the correct psychiatric term is “nutso.” That type of access is not limited or restricted; it is full, 100-percent, wide-open, help-yourself-to-my-data access.
Most remote repair services require you to install their software so they can take control of your system. You are then relying on the honesty and integrity of people you don’t know while effectively saying, “Hey, unknown people, I give you permission to poke around inside my computer and fix whatever you think needs fixing.”
For those who have had a computer problem resolved via remote third-party access, congratulations! But while you’re basking in the glow of problem resolution, keep in mind that there are many people who also wind up with compromised computers and new problems where none previously existed – sometimes days or even weeks later. At worse, steer clear; at best, caution is advised.

Q. I have a PDF form that I have to fill out each week, but I can’t always get the form to open so I can type into it. Is there some other way to do this? Thanks, Mr. M.

A. Fill Any PDF ( is an online PDF form filler-outer and is an easy way to crack open a PDF file. There is a video on the site that demonstrates how it works, so give it a try and you shouldn’t have any problem.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

Einstein’s Big Idea
Filled with fascinating facts about the legendary E=MC2 genius and his life’s work, you will also find interesting articles about Einstein’s personal life (who knew he was a big fan of the Three Stooges?), as well as some interactive features that explain the science behind the famous equation that few of us understand.

Phone Arena
If you become woozy trying to sort through features in an attempt to figure out which mobile phone is best for you, at the Phone Arena you will find phone reviews by actual users who aren’t trying to sell you anything. How refreshing! You can also observe side-by-side comparisons, editor picks and obtain the latest news about phones, including when the next version of your phone will be released, thus rendering your new phone obsolete. (Hint: Obsolescence generally occurs within 30 minutes of purchase.)

Subscribe to Mr. Modem’s award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter using promo code CITYSUN and receive a free month with your 6-month subscription.

Ask Mr. Modem: A Second Chance With CTRL + Z

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Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Q. Sometimes when I drag a file from one location with the intention of placing it in another location, I fumble with the mouse and it winds up in the wrong spot. When that happens, is there some way I can cancel what I just did so I can start over?

A. Windows does provide a second chance of sorts in the form of an Undo keystroke command for this type of oopsie. (It’s a technical term.) The universal Undo command is CTRL + Z, which works just about everywhere within Windows. You can use it copying or moving objects, pasting and even when editing a document or spreadsheet. (If only life had an Undo command…)

Q. I have been using Windows XP since it came out years ago. Do you have a crystal ball handy so you can tell me how long XP will be around? Thanks Mr. M.

A. Technically, Windows XP (released 10-25-01), is “no longer around” in the sense that it was replaced by Vista (released 1-30-07), Windows 7 (released 10-22-09) and Windows 8 (released 10-26-12). The fact that XP is no longer the new kid on the block doesn’t mean that it’s going to disappear from your computer or cause any particular problems other than those associated with any aging operating system.
Sometimes older operating systems become less cooperative than they were in their youth – something to which I can relate. If that occurs and you have the original XP installation CD, you have the option of having it reinstalled. If you don’t have the original XP installation CD, you will find several retailers on who still have it available for purchase.

Q. I like Microsoft’s Bing search engine, but I find the constantly changing backgrounds rather distracting. Is it possible to disable this feature?

A. Copy the following address into your browser’s Address field and press Enter: (That’s a zero, not the letter O.) If you are satisfied with the no-frills appearance of Bing, bookmark the above URL and you will never have to see a Bing background image again. Badda bing, badda boom.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

Customer Service Scoreboard
Dissatisfied with customer service in general? You are not alone. Only 46 out of the 604 companies found on this site have been described as providing acceptable service. Ratings are based on consumer feedback, as well as overall friendliness and issue resolution.

How to Get Rid of Things
Learn how to get rid of everything from allergies to wrinkles, from adware to unsightly static cling. (Unfortunately, it does not pertain to people. I just checked and Uncle Rudy is still here. Just my luck.)

Physics Games
Online, physics-based games. Need I say more? Perhaps. Here you will find 99 free, online, physics-related games. There is nothing to install and nothing to download. Just click to select a game and start playing. Instructions for each game are rather sparse, so be prepared for some trial and error gaming.

Subscribe to Mr. Modem’s award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter using promo code CITYSUN and receive a free month with your six-month subscription.

Ask Mr. Modem: iPhone/iPad Printing

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Click to read more about Mr. Modem.

Q. Is there some way I can print directly from my iPad or iPhone?

A. There are several ways to accomplish this, though I found it easiest to purchase an AirPrint printer ( AirPrint printers are wireless printers approved by Apple to work with the iPhone, iPad and other iDevices.
I use an Epson Artisan 730 printer primarily for printing photos taken with my iPad and iPhone, but it can be used for printing documents, email and other items. Photo print quality is outstanding and setup was a snap by simply following the instructions that came with the printer.
There are also third-party apps such as Printopia ( and PrintCentral ( or go to the Apple App Store and search for other apps that will enable printing to a non AirPrint printer.

Q. I just bought a new PC with Windows 8. I know this sounds crazy, but I can’t figure out how to shut it down. Help!

A. What you are experiencing is quite common for new users of Windows 8. Our old friend, the Start button, is gone (let’s share a moment of silence), so what you will need to do is mouse on over the little gadget in the lower right corner of the screen, or you can move your cursor to the upper left corner for the same result or press the Windows Key + C.
In the slide-out menu that appears, also known as the Charms bar – which begs the question: Who comes up with these names? – click Settings > Power button, then click Shut Down from the menu. In the alternative, if you press CTRL + ALT + DEL and click the Power button in the bottom right-hand corner, you will be presented with the same Shut Down option.
For users who prefer alternatives to alternatives, if you are on the Desktop, press ALT + F4 and make your choice from the Shut Down, Restart, Sign Out and Switch User options.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

What Was There?
Think of this site as a virtual time machine that will enable you to see how familiar places looked before they were ravaged by the passage of time – not unlike my high school yearbook photo. By combining Google Maps with historical photos of streets, buildings and locations, you can see how the past compares with the present.

Retail Me Not
This is one of my all-time favorite money-savings sites. Before I order anything online, I check here for applicable promo codes provided by the retailer and shared by other consumers. If a promo code is found, type in the code when placing an order and obtain whatever discount is associated with the purchase. There are scores of coupon and promo code categories that include everything from Accessories to Zithers. Well, okay, ZitherTown is no longer in business, unfortunately, but the list of categories is extensive.

For information about Mr. Modem’s award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter and Pulitzer-lacking eBooks, visit

Ask Mr. Modem: Windows 8 In A Nutshell

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Q. Now that Windows 8 has been released, have you tried it and if so, what do you think, Mr. M?

A. Overall, I like it, though it is clearly designed for touchscreen devices. Using it on a desktop computer with a touchscreen monitor is a bit awkward, though it can be used with a traditional mouse. Windows 8 represents a major overhaul of Windows, and while interesting, I prefer touchscreen interfaces on tablet computers, smartphones and other mobile devices. I will be sharing more info about Windows 8 in future columns and in my weekly newsletter at

Q. If I’m composing an e-mail, then minimize it to the Taskbar and open another window so I can check something, is the first screen that is minimized as secure as the open window I’m working in?

A. When it comes to security, there is no difference between a minimized window and one that’s open full screen. Both are operating within Windows, so your installed security protects Windows overall. Think of it in terms of activating your perimeter security system at home. Once it’s activated, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in one room or another, sitting, standing or asleep in a chair. It is your home’s perimeter that is protected, no matter what you’re doing within the house.

Mr. Modem’s Web Sites Of The Month

Entanglement –

A semi-relaxing game that requires you to manipulate tiles to create a Zen-like path, making it as long as possible without connecting it to any walls. The accompanying music is somewhat soothing, right up to the point that it becomes annoying.

YouTube TestTube –

If you’re an avid YouTuber, a visit to this “idea incubator” permits you to take a sneak peek at cool experimental features for the world’s largest video site.

Mr. Modem’s technology-tips eBooks and award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter, now in its 13th year of continuous publication, are available on

Ask Mr. Modem: Beware Of Security Scams

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Q. I received a message that warned me of security problems on my computer that could be fixed if I clicked a link and paid some outfit $24.95. My security programs show no problems. I’m inclined to think this is a scam. What do you think, Mr. M?

A. Any alert that appears out of nowhere, emanating from something you didn’t install or approve, should be considered a scam, malware or worse. Even if the message was legitimate, for it to analyze your computer without your permission means that your computer was hacked – broken into – which is illegal, not to mention how it can ruin your day.
This type of scam is successful because many users react instead of thinking it though and wind up paying to fix a problem that never existed in the first place. Delete the message, don’t click any links and be happy that you dodged a digital bullet.

Q. I received some promotional CDs that are smaller than normal. I put one in the tray but I’m afraid to slide it in for fear it will get stuck in my computer. Help!

A. As long as the center hole is the standard diameter of any other CD, and the CD doesn’t physically fall through the slider tray, the CD should be fine to use. If the tray does not physically support the CD, then a mini CD adapter is needed. Run a Google search and you will find a lovely assortment of adapters from which to choose.

Q. I’ve got a really dumb question, Mr. M., so here goes: When you scan a document, does it use printer ink? I just bought a printer/scanner that requires four ink cartridges, so I don’t want to waste any ink.

A. There are never any dumb questions here in Mr. Modemville, so I’m glad you asked. When you scan a document, it does’’t use any ink. Scanning creates a digital image. Think of it as taking a photo of the item being scanned. Printing a scanned document does consume printer ink, but if your printer isn’t churning out a printed sheet, it’s not consuming ink.

Mr. Modem’s Sites Of The Month

Classical NPR –
If you love classical music, visit this site one time and you will soon be coming Bach for more.

Federal Spending –
If your blood pressure is running low and it needs a boost, point your browser here to Boondoggle Central.

Mr. Modem’s technology-tips, eBooks and award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter – outstanding gifts for the coming holidays – are available on

Ask Mr. Modem: Avoid Skewed iPhone Photos

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Q. When I take photos with my iPhone or iPad, they are usually crooked or tilted. Is there some app or something I can do to keep my photos on an even keel when taking them?

A. There sure is, but you don’t need any third-party apps to do it. Photo Grid is included on your iPhone and iPad. It does exactly what its name suggests: it adds a grid overlay to the photo capture screen, which provides a straight-line reference when taking photos. To enable this option, go to Camera > Options > Grid, and toggle it on.

Q. How do I get my Windows Live Mail spell check back? It suddenly disappeared and refuses to work. Help!

A. Windows Live Mail (WLM) automatically checks messages and underlines, with a red squiggly line, any words it suspects are misspelled. If your Windows Live Mail is no longer doing this, it needs to be restarted, which is not difficult to do. Press the Menu button at the top of the screen, or press the ALT + M keystroke combo on your keyboard, then click Options > Spelling tab. Click to check the “Always check spelling before sending” option.
Also place check marks beside “Automatically correct common capitalization and spelling mistakes,” “Check my spelling as I type,” and “Check spelling in current input language.” Click OK to save your settings. Close then re-open Windows Live Mail and you’ll be spelling like a chump – oops – champ, once again.

Mr. Modem’s Sites Of The Month

Behold, the Mouse! –
In December of 1968 (Bill Gates was 13 at the time), scientists from the Stanford Research Institute presented demonstrations of new computing concepts that we now take for granted. In one video, researchers introduce a new device called a mouse. Also demonstrated were hypertext, dynamic file linking and a mind-blowing (hey, it was 1968) demonstration of something called “shared-screen collaboration.” Fascinating, in a geeky kind of way.

The Mountain –
 Vimeo Web is a website where people contribute unique videos. “The Mountain” is a week-long, time-lapse video of El Teide. El Teide, for those who don’t get out much, is the highest mountain in Spain, one of the best places on earth to photograph stars – not Tom Cruise-type stars, but stars as in twinkle-twinkle. Under “Also check out” you will find three additional videos: The Aurora, The Arctic Light and The Water. Each is well worth watching.

Mr. Modem’s technology-tips eBooks and award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter, now in its 13th year of continuous publication, are available on

Change Gmail Default Font

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By Mr. Modem –

Q. I would like to make Verdana my default font for all messages sent using my Gmail account. How can I do that?

A. In Gmail, go to Settings > Labs (or select Labs under Quick Links) and enable Default Type Styling. Be sure to click Save at the bottom. Next, return to the General tab on the Settings page and use the font drop-down menu to change to your desired font type, style and size from the list of available fonts.

Q. I know how to use my iPhone’s camera, but it takes me about 15 seconds to unlock the iPhone, tap Camera, check to see whether it’s the front or back lens being used and whether I’m taking video or still photos. By the time I check all that, I miss the shot I wanted to take. Is it just me or is there a faster way to do this?

A. There is, indeed, a way to be a bit faster on the digital draw. First, unless you frequently take pictures of yourself or video conference, keep the camera set on the lens that faces away from you. Right off the bat, that’s one less thing to check. If you primarily take still photos, leave that setting as your default as opposed to video. Then, when you see something you want to shoot, even though your phone is locked, press the Home button twice fast, and then tap the camera icon that appears and you will be ready to shoot. This quick-draw technique is perfect for those occasions when you spot Bigfoot, a UFO or when those pesky unicorn dash across the road.

Q. My HP printer always prints the last page first. How can I change that so it prints the first page first?

A. Many users, myself included, have their printers configured to print last page first because it avoids having to manually sort multi-page documents. If you prefer first-page-first printing, there is a setting within some printer software that allows you to change that. The precise steps vary, but generally click Start > Settings > Printers or Start > Printers and Faxes, depending on the version of Windows that you’re using. Right-click your printer and select Properties > General tab > Printing Preferences.
Click the Features tab and look for the “Start printing from last page” option. Click to remove the check mark from that selection and click OK twice to save your changes and exit.

Mr. Modem’s Sites Of The Month

Historical Timelines
History buffs can explore a long list of timelines in a variety of categories. Under Popular Culture, I selected the McDonald’s timeline and was presented with an outline containing fascinating historical McNuggets. For example, did you know that in 1955, total sales for the company were only $193,000? If I had only purchased stock instead of cheeseburgers…

Wimp has a single purpose: to locate the best videos on the Web – but not just any videos, nosiree. Its focus is G-rated, family-oriented videos so you don’t have to worry about your kids viewing something that would make a sailor swoon.

Mr. Modem’s Pulitzer-lacking eBooks and award-winning weekly computer-help newsletter, now in its 12th year of continuous publication, are available on

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