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By Garrick Chow | Monday, June 23, 2014

Consider the Dingbat

dingbats-hero_image

Most people have dozens if not hundreds of fonts installed on their computers in the form of serif, sans-serif, mono-spaced, and script fonts. But an often overlooked font type is the dingbat font.

On the computer you’re using right now, especially if you have a version of Microsoft Office installed, you probably have at least a handful of dingbat fonts available, such Webdings, Wingdings, or Zapf Dingbats.

Unlike other types of fonts, which are collections of letters, special characters, and punctuation marks, dingbat fonts are collections of unique non-letter ornaments, symbols, or shapes. You’ve most likely checked out the dingbat fonts while trying to format a document, only to quickly dismiss them when you found there were no letters in those fonts.

By Garrick Chow | Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sign a PDF Document with Your Webcam

Sign a PDF form with your webcam

It’s Small Business Week, and we have a handy tip for small business owners—who have to approve and sign a multitude of forms, invoices, and documents throughout any week. More often than not these days, forms are transmitted electronically; lots of people still sign these forms by printing out a copy, signing it with a pen, scanning it, and then emailing the scan back to the sender.

But there are easier ways.

By Garrick Chow | Friday, March 11, 2011

Creating a Facebook Page for your organization

Many people who are interested in creating a Facebook presence for their business, band, or other organization often make the mistake of setting up a new personal profile on Facebook, substituting the name of their organization into the First and Last name fields on the Facebook signup page. This can frequently result in frustration (especially when you’re trying to fill in the fields for the gender and birthdate of your organization), and there’s usually a decent chance of the profile being disabled by Facebook, because Facebook profiles are intended for personal use by individuals, not groups or companies.

To create a presence for your group, you need to use Facebook Pages, which are essentially profiles geared towards companies and other organizations or services. To create a Page, sign into your personal Facebook account and then go to facebook.com/pages and click the + Create Page button. (If you don’t have a personal Facebook account you can still create a page by going to facebook.com/pages, but you will have to register in order to administer your Page.)

Next, choose which kind of organization you’re creating the Page for, such as a band, a non-profit, your freelancing service, and so on. Based on the category you choose, you’ll be asked to enter additional information, such as the address of your business, or the name of the event you’re creating the Page for. Just follow the prompts to complete the required info. Once you’re done with the set up you’ll be taken to your page.

At that point you can start dressing up your Page like a regular Facebook profile by adding photos, posting status updates, and commenting or posting on other people’s Walls. One important note: if you want your comments to appear as being posted by your organization, and not from your personal Facebook account, go to the Account menu in the upper-right hand corner of the website, and choose Use Facebook as Page. If you have more than one Page, you’ll be able to select which identity you’d like to use when interacting with other pages and profiles. Return to the Accounts menu when you’re ready to switch back to your personal identity again.

Here are some other cool and useful things you can do with your Page. First click Edit Info under your Page’s name. From there you can do things like:

Add apps. Select Apps from the left hand column, and choose to add apps like Events, Photos, Video, and Discussion Boards, which make it easy to add multimedia and interactivity to your page.

Add Admins. More than one person can manage a Facebook Page. Just go to Manage Admins to give other Facebook users Admin privileges. Just be sure you trust the people you make admins, because they’ll have complete control over the Page.

Check your stats. Click Insights to see data and graphs detailing how many people have Liked your Page and how many users are actively using your Page each month.

And be sure to explore the other categories in the left sidebar to see what additional options are available for you to customize.

Once your Facebook Page is looking the way you like, be sure to promote it by linking to it on your personal account’s wall so that it will appear in your friends’ newsfeeds. Encourage friends and others to visit your page and to click the Like button and become Fans of your Page. Any updates or announcements you make on your Page will appear in the newsfeeds of all your Fans.

Learn more about creating Facebook Pages in Social Media Marketing with Facebook and Twitter with Anne-Marie Concepcion, which will be updated later this spring with new information.

By Garrick Chow | Friday, May 21, 2010

How to take screen shots on your Mac or PC

There are often times, especially when I’m trying to convey a technical issue I’m having with my computer, when it’s much easier to show the problem than to spend paragraphs trying to explain it. Both Macs and PCs have had the ability to take screen shots (or screen captures) since time immemorial, and it’s a simple and useful task for capturing a problem visually. Screen shots are also useful for creating how-to documentation or to complement a review or other article about a piece of software, for example. Here’s a primer on how to take screen shots on your computer in case you have to capture what’s on your screen at a given time.

Macs

  • To capture the entire screen: Shift+Command+3
  • To capture a selected portion of the screen: Shift+Command+4 turns your mouse cursor into a cross hair. Drag a rectangle around the portion of the screen you want to capture.
  • To capture a window: Shift+Command+4 again turns your mouse cursor into a crosshair. Then press the spacebar, which turns your cursor into a camera icon. Place the camera icon over the window you wish to capture (the selected window will highlight in blue) and then click. Even if the window you’re capturing is partially obscured by another window on top of it, your screen capture will be of the entire unobscured window.

In each case, you’ll hear a camera shutter sound to let you know the screen capture worked. The images you capture will be saved to your Mac’s desktop. On Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard, the file is saved as a PNG and named as “Screen shot” followed by the date and time you took the shot. Earlier versions of Mac OS X name screenshots as Picture 1, Picture 2, etc., and save them as either PNGs or PDFs.

Windows

  • To capture the entire screen: press the Print Screen button (possibly labeled PrtScn or something similar, depending on your keyboard). This copies the entire screen onto your computer’s clipboard.
  • To capture the active (frontmost) window: press Alt+Print Screen. Again, this copies the selected window to your computer’s clipboard.

Unlike the Mac, there is no audible feedback when you perform a screen capture on Windows, and instead of saving the screen capture as a file, Windows only copies the image to your clipboard. You’ll then have to open an image editing program, such as Microsoft Paint, and click the Paste button to paste your screen capture into the document, where you can then edit it before you save it, if you like.

Mac OS X also includes an application called Grab, located in your Applications > Utilities folder, which gives you slightly better controls over the portion of the screen you’re capturing. It also offers a “Timed Screen” option which gives you 10 seconds to get your screen ready before it takes the shot. This can be useful if you need to capture something in action and don’t have your hands free to manually perform the screen capture.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 both include an application called Snipping Tool, located in All Programs > Accessories, and it, too, gives you more and better options for creating screen captures, including the ability to grab irregular shapes and specific portions of the screen.

So if you’ve never taken screen shots before, take some time and play around with the different controls and options. You may be surprised at how often screen captures come in handy.

See the accompanying video for additional screen shot controls.

By Garrick Chow | Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Texting Google for instant directions

For some reason, I’m the guy people are always asking for directions. Whether it’s because of my seemingly non-threatening demeanor, or my confident stride down the sidewalk, I seem to attract all the lost and desperate drivers, trying to get wherever they’re going. Because of this, I’ve developed an inflated sense of pride in my ability to get people un-lost, and I hate to be stumped or reveal that I don’t know how to get to a particular location from wherever I happen to be. Admittedly, this sometimes results in me just making something up, yet delivering these fictitious directions with such a confident tone that the driver will cheerfully drive off in whatever random direction I’ve suggested, leaving me standing there with the awkward contentment of having made a stranger temporarily happy.

If your phone can send and receive text messages, it can almost instantaneously receive driving directions from Google.

At least, that used to happen. These days when I’m approached and stumped by the rarer and rarer breed of driver who dares to take a road trip without a GPS device or smartphone, I simply ask if they can send and receive text messages. (So far, I haven’t come across anyone who does not have a mobile phone.) When they say yes, I instruct them to send a text to GOOGLE (466453), formatted as “A to B” with “A” and “B” as their origin and destination. These can be exact street addresses, the names of towns, zip codes, or any combination of the three. Within seconds, Google will text back with the same set of directions they would have received by visiting google.com/maps in a web browser.

Even if you have a GPS or phone with GPS capabilities, you still might want to use this tip just so you have a backup set of directions should your GPS lose reception or run out of power. Bear in mind that your normal charges for text message will apply, depending on what your contract stipulates, but it’s probably a small price to pay for getting a reliable set of directions. Well, at least they’ll be more reliable than what you might get if you asked me.

For more info on Google’s wide array of text-based services, including movie times, flight schedules, translations, currency conversion, and more, visit google.com/mobile/products/sms.html.

By Garrick Chow | Monday, March 22, 2010

Dingbat fonts: Ready-made ornaments, symbols, and shapes

Although most people have dozens if not hundreds of fonts installed on their computers in the form of serif, sans-serif, mono-spaced, and script fonts, an often overlooked font type is the dingbat font. On the computer you’re using right now, especially if you have a version of Microsoft Office installed, you probably have at least a handful of dingbat fonts available such Webdings, Wingdings, or Zapf Dingbats.

Unlike other types of fonts, which are collections of letters, special characters, and punctuation marks, dingbat fonts are collections of unique non-letter ornaments, symbols, and shapes. You’ve most likely checked out the dingbat fonts while trying to format a document, only to quickly dismiss them when you found there were no letters in those fonts. But dingbats can really come in handy at certain times.

Zapf dingbats features checkmarks, stars, scissors, and other useful icons.

For example, Zapf Dingbats is a large collection of stylized stars, checkmarks, scissor, and pencil icons, and other items that could be used for bulleted lists, flyers, or the like.

Wingdings includes mailboxes, pointing fingers, and the Apple Command key symbol.

Wingdings has flags, pointing fingers, religious symbols, and the cloverleaf command symbol found on Apple keyboards.

Webdings includes common signage and symbols, including a ribbon, the 'don't do what's inside this circle' symbol, and an information icon.

And many designers know that typing the letter C in the Webdings font is a quick way to create a single checkbox or even a series of boxes for credit card numbers on a form.

So take some time to browse through the dingbat type fonts installed on your computer, and you may find a couple of ornaments or shapes that will save you the time of firing up your image editing software to create graphics from scratch.

By Garrick Chow | Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Keep your iPhone secure by keeping it clean

Recently a colleague of mine set down his passcode-secured iPhone on the desk we were sitting at. As I was marveling at how smudged the screen was from his constant use, I noticed that among the various smudges I could clearly see four distinct fingerprints, whose positions I realized revealed the four numbers he used for his passcode lock. The passcode lock is a feature of the iPhone that, when enabled, requires the user to enter a four-digit code to unlock the phone. It’s a great feature to keep your contacts, email, and account secure should your iPhone get lost or stolen. But because you have to type in your passcode every time you use the phone, the four fingerprints over those numbers can easily become the most distinct marks among the smudges.

By Garrick Chow | Sunday, January 31, 2010

Get directions with Google Maps even when you don’t have an exact address

Recently, I was trying to figure out how many miles it was from a highway exit to the intersection of the road leading to my house. Some family friends were coming to visit and I wanted to give them an idea of how far they would have to drive before they had to keep an eye out for the tricky turnoff to my neighborhood. But without specific addresses to punch into Google Maps, I wasn’t sure how to plot the path from point A to point B.

This led me to right-clicking (or control-clicking on a one-button mouse) on the Google Map of my area and, lo and behold, up popped a contextual menu containing the command Directions from here. Selecting that placed an A marker on the map which I could freely drag around, so I placed it on the exit ramp of the highway. Then I right-clicked again near the ramp for the road where my friends would have to turn off and chose Directions to here, placing a B marker on the map, which I could again drag to a specific location. And just like that, I had the information that it was 5.3 miles to my exit—all without having a specific address for either the starting or ending points.

Right-clicking (or Control-clicking on a Mac with a one-button mouse) on a Google Map pops up a contextual menu giving the options for getting directions to or from a point on the map.

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