Friday, May 30, 2008

Alternatives for Customers When Saving Files

Many times, customers may begin working on a document, but they fail to bring anything to save the document to. Their allotted time on the computer passes, but they cannot leave the computer because they are not done with their document and they have no means of saving it so that they can complete it some other time. How can we help these customers?

First, I would heavily suggest that each agency have a floppy disk that they can use as a conduit to move customer files from one place to another. The customer cannot obviously take that disk with them, but many options below require that you first save the file somewhere. And many public computers do not allow you to save to the My Documents on the computer; therefore, you have to save it to a floppy disk or flash drive first.

Now, the first question I would ask a customer is whether or not they have an email address. If they do, then you can save the file to your agency disk. Then the customer can log onto their email account and email themselves the attached file. We can then delete the file from the agency disk and a copy is available in the customer's email account. They can access it from any other computer that has internet access.

If they do not have an email address, Andy in History points out that you can use the same site I talked about earlier regarding sending faxes from a computer ( You can upload files to this site without an email address or without registering:

  • First, you save the file to your agency disk.
  • Go to
  • Create a unique url (ex.
  • Upload the file from the agency disk.
  • Create a password if you want.
  • Select an expiration time.
  • Customers can then access the files later by going to the url that they created in step 3.
Give it a shot. Thanks Andy!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Browsers, Plug-Ins, Media Player Versions

Do you receive questions from customer regarding the capability of our internet browser? Example: How come this video can't play? Or, how come this website does not work?

It could be that the lack of capability with our computers is related to the plug-ins installed on our computers. For example, do we have the most up-to-date version of Flash Player? If not, this could affect videos or websites that require the most up-to-date version of Flash Player.

For more information, see this information found on the Technical Trainer wiki page.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Send a Fax from a Computer

I just tested this out and it works. If you have an electronic version of a document (Word, PDF, etc.), then you can use a website to send that file to a fax machine. The website is and it is probably best to suggest to the more tech-savvy customer. For more information, see this blog post from Reference at Newman Library.

And technically you can receive a fax from this site as well, but it looks extremely complicated. And that is usually not what our customers ask for. They usually want to send a fax, not receive.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Printing Excel Spreadsheets On One Page Width

One annoying thing that happens frequently when attempting to print an Excel spreadsheet is the fact that it is sometimes difficult to fit the contents onto one page width. What do I mean by this?

Have you ever printed a spreadsheet in which the main contents will appear on, say, the first three pages; however, you get three more pages of random contents that spilled over onto separate pages due to the fact that your table was too wide to fit on one page? (wow, what a long question).

If this has ever happened to you, then here are a couple of quick fixes. First, make sure that your Page Orientation is Landscape instead of Portrait.

  • Click on File on the menu bar. Click on Page Setup. The Page Setup dialog box will appear.
  • Make sure you are looking at the Page tab.
  • Select Landscape under Orientation.
If this does not fix the problem, then you can automatically shrink your worksheet to one page wide.
  • Click on File>Page Setup again.
  • Make sure you are looking at the Page tab.
  • Under Scaling, see where it says Fit to ??? page(s) wide by ??? tall.
  • Select that option and make it such that it will be one page wide. This will automatically shrink the text so that it appears on one page wide.
  • Seeing that we do not necessarily need the table to fit on one page tall, you can change the number tall to anything obtuse (like 500). Excel will not stretch your document so that it is 500 pages long; but if your worksheet is longer than 500 pages long, then it will shrink the text. We don't really want to shrink the text this way, which is why I suggest entering in a large obtuse number that you will hopefully never approach.
So, next time you are helping a customer who can't seem to get their Excel table on one page width, just show them this handy-dandy trick.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Customer Question About MSN Messenger

A customer recently requested use of his MSN Messenger, which is an instant messaging service provided by the same people who provide Hotmail. However, MSN Messenger requires you to download software in order for it to work. Since you cannot install anything on library computers, customers cannot use MSN Messenger.

However, they CAN use MSN Web Messenger. This is a basic instant messaging tool that customers can use WITHOUT installing anything on the computer. This is just one of many web-based instant messaging services. You could do a web search for web instant messaging.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Online Job Applications

A new report released by ALA titled Internet Connectivity in U.S. Public Libraries points to a study which states that "77 percent of Fortune 500 companies do not give job seekers the option of responding offline to job positions posted to corporate careers Web sites".

Many people do not have access to a computer except at a public library. And many people do not have the basic computer skills necessary to fill out an application. So what can we do to assist these customers with the limited time that we have?

  • Does the customer have an email address? Filling out applications online almost always requires an email address. Customers without an email address should register for any free web-based email first. If a customer is interested in taking an Email class, feel free to give them the information on our free public computer classes. Keep in mind that this will not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know how to use a mouse? Some people can pick it up quickly while others cannot. If the customer is having difficulty with the basic skill of using a mouse, then the customer may need to ask someone that they know for assistance. You may refer them to our Computer Basics class. This class explains how to use a mouse, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know some basic keyboarding skills? I have assisted customers that did not know how to create a capital letter, how to add a space between words, or how to use the backspace key. A quick demonstration of these three key skills may be necessary. Our Computer Basics and Word Basics class can assist these customers, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know how to work with text boxes, drop-down menus, buttons, scroll bars and other graphic-based interface tools? If someone is familiar with a mouse, but not familiar with some of the common interface tools, then a quick demonstration may be beneficial. For example, "To enter text into a text box, just click on the box and type. To enter text into another text box, click on it and type." Our Computer Basics class can assist these customers, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
It just so happens that filling out an online job application requires someone to possess just about EVERY basic computer skill in existence. Customers with no experience will have many hurdles with every step. That is why it sometimes seems that the customer wants us to do it all, because every thing they have to do requires a new skill that they do not have.

The online job application can be seen as a great divider between the "have"s and "have not"s of the digital divide. And as you see above, our computer classes do not fulfill their immediate need of filling out that job application. Unfortunately, the online job application just exposes a larger problem that needs to be addressed. The customer needs basic computer skills.

In reality, the employer probably moved to online job applications to screen out those without basic computer skills. And while many jobs will not require daily computer use, employers would probably rather have someone with basic computer skills than someone without basic computer skills, no matter the position.

And to gain those basic computer skills almost takes a change in lifestyle, much like dieting. Your mindset has to change. Your daily routine has to change. Your time commitment has to change. You have to want to change. And addressing only the immediate needs while ignoring the larger picture will catch up to you eventually.