Small & Home Office
Some Silly Diversions to Distract Us in Dark Days
By Daniel Coolidge
After the last six weeks, is there anyone alive who couldn't use some silly diversion? Fortunately, I have two teenaged children who have supplied me with programs that provide mindless entertainment. Why is this good? After a stressful day, challenge is not something I am looking for. I need something mildly engaging, somewhat challenging -- that I can pick up (or leave) in an instant.
My girls showed me a program called variously Diamond Mine and Bejewelled. It's the same program, and worth the $20 shareware price. Go to Popcap.com and download the free version and try it out. You'll be hooked. (Editor's note: he's not joking. I got addicted in five minutes -- M.B.)
The game board consists of variously colored and shaped jewels. The goal is to swap one jewel with an adjacent jewel and get at least three in a row, which then disappear (along with pleasing and rewarding sounds)! If you mange to get a whole bunch eliminated in one move, the game rewards you with a basso-profundo robotic voice that says "Excellent!" The game is fast moving, but easily paused to take a phone call or go to dinner. Enjoy. It will not make you crazy.
Secondly, I get tired of doing the same mindless tasks over and over again. Sure, I can write a macro in Word or WordPerfect, but it only works when I am running my word processor. What about when I am in my spreadsheet, or time and billing program, or e-mail?
There is an answer: ActiveWords. You are working in a spreadsheet document and want the latest news. You simply type the word news, press your ActiveWords Key, and are directly transported to a news page on the Internet. No icons, no pointing and clicking, no nested folders, no hierarchical menus -- just direct and immediate access to what you want, literally, information at your fingertips. As one user puts it, "This is how computers are supposed to work!"
Active Words is an inexpensive tool that provides a macro language that anyone can figure out, and runs anywhere you may be in Windows. I've done some simple minded things like tell it to substitute the text "caddr" with my condo address, phone number and fax. If I encounter a word I don't know, one of the provided routines lets you set the cursor at the word and press a single key, and it goes up on the Web and looks it up. This barely touches the capability of the program -- you can get it to handle a zillion little tasks quickly and simply with a single keystroke, and learn them all only once. It's one of those programs you have to see to understand how useful it is, so I urge you go look at it and download the trial version.
Lastly -- I just hate it when I tell Windows to do something, and it comes back with a smarmy "Do you really mean to delete that file?" or some such prompt which requires me to holler "Yes! So do my bidding, you stupid $#@$#!!!"
I've been computing long enough to accept responsibility for my actions without being second-guessed by the folks at Redmond. Moreover, such nonsense exists in all kinds of other programs as well. What to do? Go to basta.com and get a product called Buzzof. Best little utility in the world, and once you have set it up, you never even know it's there.
What it does is allow you, when a prompt screen appears, to define a default reply to that screen. Never want to see a "So you really mean to delete that file?" prompt again? When the screen appears, just bring up Buzzof (its down on the toolbar once it's installed) and click and drag the "Yes" response to the yes button. Next time such a screen pops up, Buzzof remembers it and does it automatically. Over the years, I've eliminated about 30 annoying prompts using Buzzof, and it speeds things no small amount!
Buzof lets you to automatically answer, close or minimize virtually any recurring window including messages, prompts, and dialog boxes. Simply teach Buzoff how to click the button that you would normally click to get rid of the annoying window. From this point on, Buzof will periodically scan the desktop and take care of the window whenever it shows up again. Teaching Buzof how to click buttons is a snap; it can be done either by dragging an icon from the Buzof window to the targeted button, or by positioning the cursor over the button and pressing a hot key.
Buzzof is $15, shareware, so you can try it before you buy it.
Daniel Coolidge, a member of the LTN Editorial Advisory Board, practices patent and corprorate law.