wordA reader wrote to say his copy of Microsoft Office failed and the Microsoft Help Desk suggested he buy a new copy for $150. Of course they would, but …. no need to do that; freebies abound.

“OpenOffice” works great. Basically, it does everything that MS Office does and it’s free. It’s been around since 2000. You can open Word documents, create your own, and save them in the familiar “doc” format. It’s free at OpenOffice.org.

google-docsAnother nice free option is Google Docs from Docs.Google.com. All your stuff is saved online, and from there you can download everything to your computer. If you’re writing a novel, as Bob is, and would rather speak than type, click “tools” and then “voice typing.” Or try Google “Keep,” a free smartphone app. Use it for dictation and send the results to Google Docs, just by clicking “send.” This is the author on the beach approach; it will take down everything you say.

Now back to Microsoft Word: There’s a free version online. Everything you write goes out online, but you can also save it to your computer. Find it at office.live.com/start/Word.aspx.

Joy uses Microsoft’s Office 365, for $70 a year, which works offline or on. It automatically saves a copy online, which syncs with her other devices. Bob only uses Microsoft Word for this column, otherwise he finds it too cumbersome and annoying and prefers to write with a text editor called Q10. There are dozens of these text editors, so pick and choose as you like.  Dark Room is another one he likes.

Smart Shopping

shopping-onlineOver 54 million Americans pay $99 a year to get free two-day delivery on Amazon, as well as other perks. But there are additional tricks to being a wise Amazon shopper.

Take a look at their outlet store. Where it says “all departments” in the drop-down list, choose “Amazon Warehouse Deals” to see used and refurbished products. But watch out: Sometimes the supposed good deal is nothing special; we saw a used Playstation 4 for $242, but that was only $27 less than a new one. So, price check everything.

Going beyond Amazon, there’s the “InvisibleHand,” from GetInvisibleHand.com. (A tip of the tam-o’shanter to Adam Smith.) It notifies you of price drops on shopping, flights, hotels and rental cars. The name comes from the famous statement by 18th century economist Adam Smith, who pointed out that the invisible hand of the marketplace does a better job than government in allocating goods and services.

Managing Bookmarks

bookmarkWe tend to accumulate Internet “favorites” or “bookmarks.” After a while, the list is so long, we can’t find anything. Here’s what to do.

In Google Chrome, click on the three dots in the upper right of the screen and choose “Bookmarks,” and then “Bookmark Manager.” Highlight the ones you don’t want and click “delete.” Bob accidentally deleted a bunch he did want, so it’s best to save the list to your machine first. Click the picture of a little gear and choose “Export bookmarks.”

For Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari and other browsers, find the bookmark manager easily by searching on the name of the browser and the words “Bookmark Manager.”

Where Am I?

internetIn Kansas City, some mansions are so large, housekeepers get lost. We heard from someone we know there that one puzzled maid was adrift in the west wing and finally called the owner to ask: “Where am I?”  That can happen to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) too. They think they can pinpoint the location of your computer. They can’t. Ours says we live in Cicero, Illinois. We don’t. Al Capone liked it there but it’s nothing special to us.

A reader told us that every time he visits HomeDepot.com and similar websites, they peg his computer as located in a town at least an hour away. So if he wants to shop online and pick up stuff in person, he has to change the location they have or take a long drive. Same thing happens to us. It gets annoying. Some people have their location pegged to another state.

Experts have suggested calling your Internet Service Provider and telling them to fix it. That didn’t work for us with AT&T. In fact, after being connected to a help person in India and following her directions, we temporarily lost all connection to the Internet when they did a reset. We then we lost our TV service and they had to send a technician. He was local.

Our reader’s ISP is CenturyLink. When he called, they said they had one smart guy who could fix it, though they haven’t yet; maybe he was out sick. So instead of the fix, they offered a faster service and a new modem for the same monthly price he was already paying. So it pays to complain now and then and see what they offer. (Yes, we know we’re troublemakers.)

Those Annoying Ads

adsA reader wrote us that he’s saved a lot of money buying his car tires from eBay and Amazon. But now, no matter where he goes on the Web, he gets ads for tires. He says it gets “tiresome.” (People just want to have pun.) There are ways out of this.

On your computer, search on the term “Google Ad Settings.” Uncheck the box next to the word “Personalization.” You can accomplish the same thing on an iPad or iPhone, by tapping “settings,” “Privacy” and “Advertising.” Then tap “limit ad tracking.” On an Android phone or tablet, tap “Settings,” then “Google,” then “Ads.”  Then tap “Opt out of Personalization.”

Bob has his own swift method of killing ads that come up because they’re just following along with some search he did. Those ads usually appear in a column on the right-hand side of the screen. Do the “control” and “plus” keys together to enlarge the display on the screen. Keep doing it until the ads move off screen and out of sight.



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