Starting Line
My Mac Magazine #28, Aug. ’97

Dear Readers:

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July celebration! I’m looking forward to attending the MacWorld Expo this month. I’ll give you the lowdown on the expo in next month’s column! As usual, all the big hitters will be there: Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, etc., etc. Maybe…with good mug and T-shirt sales …we’ll have a booth there in ’98? Tim, Russ, what do you say!?

Before we start into the Helpful Hints, I just have to spend a few minutes venting about AOL. Now, don’t get me wrong. I sincerely like AOL. I like the services they offer, I love the new pricing, I love that I can send a file to a vendor or even a friend on DOS and not have a problem. I haven’t even run into those busy signals too much that has plagued almost everyone else! No, my problems tend to be other things.

Like, what happened to my bookmarks when I upgraded from 2.7 to 3.0? Maybe I am missing something simple here, but I haven’t been able to locate them! Yeah, there was probably something written in the instructions on how to save them, but really, who reads the documentation? And why should it be so hard in the first place? That’s not why we use Macs.

And how about spontaneous logging off? Has anyone had that problem? I don’t mean when you get that irritating dialogue box saying you’ve been on too long. I mean actually logging the program off and shutting it down. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened too often or I would have hurt someone at AOL by now! 🙂

Or last, what is up with these status bars that show nothing?! Is it a bug in the software? I’ve loaded AOL twice, thinking it was damaged software, but the problem keeps cropping up. It happens daily when I open up AOL and when I click on certain boxes, and sometimes just appears! No text, no movement, nothing!

I hope I haven’t just shown my complete ignorance here. There are probably very simple answers to the problems I’ve described, but I can’t find them! And as I said, we don’t use Macs because of their difficulty, we use them because of their beautiful simplicity and ease of use. If anyone out there has run across these difficulties, please, please e-mail me! And if you have answers, please, please, please e-mail me!

And Steve Case, if you’re reading, the following completely illustrates what I mean. When I first began this column, I “surveyed” other Mac users to see what issues they had as new users of the equipment. Their problems became the Helpful Hints of the first columns. What I didn’t share was a wonderful testimonial by Linda Daigle, an Administrative Assistant where I work. She said: “As a self-taught Mac user, I don’t find anything confusing. While I’m sure there are things I don’t know, so far the computer has met or surpassed my needs. I don’t miss out on anything.” Doesn’t that just say it all?

Helpful Hints

HH #21: Tutorials- Yeah, those tutorials that comes with the CPU and software really stink! Most were not written with the end user in mind. However, they do have their usefulness. My suggestion: use the software first, then hit the tutorial. Believe me, it makes much more sense once you’ve seen how the program acts. And, after you’ve gone through the tutorial, it can become a great reference tool.

Still don’t like the manual that came with your purchase? Hit the local bookstore. They have tons of computer books, starting with the “For Dummies” series and getting into the heavy duty programming stuff. My favorite tutorials came with CDs or diskettes and walked you through the examples. These, too, make wonderful reference manuals.

Other options: videos, usergroup classes, Mac journals, formal training (usually through work as they are expensive, but not always!).

HH #22: Printer Problems- These usually boil down to one of two items: either the printer is not turned on or it was not picked through the Chooser. Of course, it could be other things, such as a loose cable, a bad cable, or a virus running around your system. But, chances are, it’s the power or the Chooser.

If you’re not familiar with the Chooser, let me give you a quick course: Click and hold on the little apple in the upper left hand corner of your menu. Scroll down and usually the third item (unless you’ve done extensive customization of your system in which case this little primer is not for you!) is the Chooser. Open it up. You will see a dialogue box with little printers (these are the printer drivers) on the left hand side and a box on the right. Click on whatever is appropriate (LaserWriter, StyleWriter, HP, etc., etc). If you’re not sure which one, check the documentation which came with your printer. If you don’t have that, click on each icon until you see what you want. When you click on the printer driver, a list of available printers appear in the box on the right. Click on the printer you wish to use. Voila!

The only time I’ve seen serious printer problems has been with networks at work and that’s what the network guys are for, right? In those cases, it was a network problem, not a printer problem. So, if you’re having problems printing, take a deep breath and turn that printer on! Trust me, it works! 😉

HH #23: Uncluttering Your Desktop- “But, whatever do you mean, Barbara?” you ask. Well, I’m certainly not talking about aliases. Personally, I like aliases of programs and files I use frequently on my desktop. Makes life much, much easier. No, I’m talking about windows. You know, you open a file, then another, then another, then another, digging your way through to what you really want to open. There’s a nifty little trick that closes the window when you open the next. Option-W. That’s right. Press Option-W when opening a file within a file and it will close the window underneath. And, if you want to close all your windows, try Option-Command-W. Try it, you’ll like it!

Last, but not least: Please e-mail with your thoughts, suggestions, and corrections. I’m happy to answer and you will receive credit for your idea!

And so ends another Starting Line.


Barbara Bell (

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