19 August 2015

A Word annoyance resolved

I recently upgraded to Office 2013 and everything seemed OK at first. However, when I subsequently upgraded to Windows 10, Word 2013 started refusing to open files that had been emailed to me, which was a real nuisance since most of my work comes that way.

Clicking on the Help button in the error message led to scary stuff about possible corruption of the file I was trying to open. But why should everything I downloaded be corrupt, and why if that were the case was Word 2007 happy to open the same files?

Initially I worked round the problem by opening the files in Word 2007 and resaving them, which seemed to convince Word 2013 that they were OK. However, having dug about a bit, I have discovered that Word 2013 (combined with Windows 10?) has a new security precaution built in: it simply blocks all downloaded files!

To get round this on a file by file basis, you can go into File properties and manually unblock the file. But for me a better solution was to go into Trust Center (in Word options) and add my entire Documents folder and subfolders to Trusted locations. Problem solved.

12 August 2015

Idealist and Windows 10

As long-time readers of this blog will know my computer use is built around Blackwell Idealist, an ancient database management program which used to be marketed as ‘the information manager’. In addition to it being essential to the bibliographical research and note-taking phases of my workflow, I use it to manage my personal journal, a repository of story and novel ideas, and several other databases. If I add that the date on the copyright page of my copy of the Idealist manual is 1995 (!), you’ll realize why it was with some trepidation that I pressed the button to start my system upgrading to Windows 10 this weekend.

The good news for any other worried Idealist users out there is that the whole upgrade process went smoothly. In fact, this has been the smoothest transition to a new version of Windows in my experience (and my experience encompasses ten different versions since the days of my very first laptop, which ran Windows 3.1 on 4MB of RAM and which I upgraded to Windows for Workgroups in order to make full use of the then cutting-edge 32-bit capabilities of Idealist). Yes, there are a few annoyances (Microsoft will insist that they know better than the user when it comes to all kinds of settings), but the main thing is that Idealist is still working! What is more, my first impression is that it appears to run more smoothly on Windows 10 than it did on Windows 7 (which sometimes seemed to be slow about shutting Idealist down).

So, for any Idealist user worrying about the prospect of Windows 10:

  • Don’t worry. The upgrade should be fine.
  • If you are planning to install Idealist on a shiny new Windows 10 computer: (a) If it’s a 32-bit system, Idealist’s installation program should still work (and once installed, set Windows to run the program in compatibility mode for e.g. Win98). (b) If it’s a 64-bit system, the installation program won’t work. But it is easy to install the program manually. Simply save the folder containing your existing working program (which will most likely be in the Program Files (x86) folder of your current computer) to the Program Files (x86) folder of your new computer, create a shortcut pointing to i32.exe (with the appropriate compatibility setting), and you’re ready to go.
  • You should probably devise a viable migration strategy anyway. Idealist may have survived to work with another generation of Windows but it is over 20 years old. Sooner or later 32-bit programs will go the way of their 8-bit and 16-bit predecessors.