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TWIP Vol. 6 Issue 01

This Week in Purdyville

In this issue:

  • Rundy(21) Writes about the cold weather
  • Arlan(19) Writes about making thank-you notes
  • Rundy(21) Asks if people still want The Word Corner in TWIP

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new year of This Week in Purdyville! Thanks from us to all of the loyal subscribers who renewed. As always, we are striving to improve TWIP, and we’ve started the new year with a slightly spiffed up format. I hope these slight tweaks will help provide a clear reading format. If you have any further suggestions for improvement, please contact me at rundypurdy@earthlink.net.–Rundy, TWIP Senior Editor.

Cold Weather
By Rundy

Before I can moan and complain about the weather I’m required to admit that it could be worse. Yes, there are colder places in the world than this little section of NY. Yes, in living history, even in my lifetime, it has reached lower temperatures around here. But enough talk about the North pole–they have misery all the time. And enough talk about ten years ago. That was ten years ago, and since that time this current weather is the longest and coldest of my life experience.

How cold? Not north pole cold, but anything negative is cold enough. Negative 11 is plenty cold–and that is the lowest it has become–so far. Nights are routinely down in the negative temperatures. The past two weeks, on whole, have been persistently below normal temperatures.

How do we suffer? How do we cope?

That depends on who you ask. Me, I don’t suffer too much, and I cope by putting on more clothes. But the inability to send little kids to play outside because of the frigid temperatures does begin to drag. Watching, and hearing, kids run around the house gets very old.

With the past heavy snow falls of this winter the world is locked under a white covering. Perfect for play, except with the outside chill it seems as if we’re now living much closer to the arctic circle than I previously remembered. The world is a barren wasteland–it feels–we’re all trapped, and spring will never come.

Well, we tell ourselves that spring will come, and that it is coming in a few months. In the middle of January that is as good as never. Especially when it is cold, dark, and the wind is blowing.

I cope–if it can be called coping–by doing what I always do. Ten below? Dark out? I go for the morning bike ride, just as I have for the months before. Yes, I wear more clothes, and I do dread (just a little) any ride in sub zero weather. But that is for another story. Sufficient for the present, I wear more clothes and don’t let the arctic air stop me. The air is frigid, but it’s fresh.

Writing in the den can be difficult, too. The den was added onto the rest of the house and there are no heating vents in the room. All the warm air the room has comes in from the kitchen. The den isn’t frigid, but, shall we say, on really cold days the room has a noticeable chill. It doesn’t help to sit still. Remaining practically motionless for several hours–working at the computer–can be difficult if you’re trying to keep warm. I’ve learned how to deal with the situation to a certain extent: On the really cold days I end up wearing an undershirt, a shirt, a wool sweater, and another sweater over that, along with a wool hat. It works . . . most of the time. If I go have a cold glass of milk I’m freezing again. The equilibrium of heat and cold is that fine.

But such conditions are only the worst days. The rest of the time I’m quite comfortable–even now, when it is ten degrees at three in the afternoon with a wind blowing. Actually, after ten below, ten above just feels a bit nippy, that’s all. Hey, when thirty degrees comes around it will feel like a heat wave.

And spring–well, we won’t think about spring yet.–RP

Comments, questions? Write to Rundy at purdyville@earthlink.net

Impractical Applications for Word:
Mass-Produced Thank-You Notes
By Arlan

It’s that time of year again: time to write Thank-You notes. If you haven’t gotten yours done yet, maybe you need the help only a computer can provide. Here’s how to get Word to write your Thank-You’s for you. (Note: the author is not responsible for any damages to relationships, emotions, or other tangible or intangible things caused by using computer-generated Thank-You notes.)

What we want is a template, a form letter that we can use to quickly dispatch our polite thanksgiving. Templates can be used for any kind of form—around the office, for an address book or cookbook, or anything where you are entering the same sort of information over and over. Word comes with a bunch of pre-made templates that might work perfectly for you—look them over sometime (you may have to get them off of your Word installation CD).

Although we are making a template, you can start the same way you would any normal document. Once you have a blank document open, you’ll want to pick a nice informal looking font. It’ll be a lot easier if the list of fonts shows what each font will look like, and the more recent versions of Word can do this. If your version lists all fonts the same (in the selection box; usually it says “Times New Roman”), go to Tools: Customize {Options} and make sure “List font names in their font” is checked.

Find some font that appeals to you. It’s important to realize that amusing fonts are often hard to read, but you certainly don’t want to leave the font at boring old Times New Roman. When you find a good font, click Format: Style [New], enter a name for the style, check the box for “Add to template,” and click Okay. Now you’re ready to write. But keep in mind that we are ultimately going to be re-using this letter, so be careful how you write. The following is a suggested text, with the replaceable text in italics:

Dear Relative,

It was so delightful to see you this past holiday season. I hope we can get together more during this coming year. I’d make it a New Year’s resolution, but then we’d know for sure it wouldn’t happen!

I’m writing this little note to let you know how much I enjoyed your gift. I always love cotton sweaters, and this one is so cozy! It will be used and much appreciated when I am out and about on those nippy days.

We’re all recuperating from the holiday excitement. Once again I’m amazed at the outpouring of love this season always brings. It gives me such hope as we begin another year.

Wishing you the best of health and joy now and for the years to come.



Now we’ll make the letter customizable for anybody, using our example. Select “Relative” and delete it; then click Insert: Field. . . In the “Categories” box, select Mail Merge. In the “Field names” box, chose Fill-in. Look to the bottom of the window; you’ll see an entry box with “FILLIN” in it. Above that there’ll be a brief
example of how to use the box. What we’ll want to put in the box should look like this:

FILLIN “Type the name of the generous party:”

The “FILLIN” part is a field command, followed by a space. The bit in quotes is the prompt. We did not use switches for this blank. To be honest, I couldn’t figure out for sure what the check box in the corner did. It sounds like it is meant to keep the words that get filled in the blank from changing when the style (remember Word styles?) gets changed, so if you have problems with the fill-ins looking different than the rest of your letter, delete the fill-in field and try it again with the box unchecked. The options button down there will show you the switches you can use and what they do. You can also learn more in Word’s help files.

When you’re done and you click “Okay,” a box will pop up asking to “Type in the name of the generous party:” Enter whoever you’re writing to.

Now, delete “see” and insert another Fill-in field. In the entry box, put:

FILLIN “Enter Communication: see, hear from, visit, etc” /d “see”

This time we are using a switch. “/d” means set a default value; “see” is what we want to show up automatically. “See” is a nice general word, so it makes a good default here. Make sure there is a space after your field, or you will have run-on words. (If you need to see the field codes, click Tools: Options {View} and check the box for “Show Field Codes.” You can print your letter with the field codes showing without fear; when they print the real word will show up instead of the gobbledygook code. Click File: Print Preview if you want to check how things will print.)

Continue replacing italicized text with Fill-in fields. “I” could be “we,” “gift” could be “gifts,” etc. Check for agreement! You don’t want to say “Your gift are wonderful.”

You don’t need to use Fill-in for “Billy.” Instead, choose the field category “Document Information” and the field name “Author.” This gets the name from the document properties (File: Properties {Summary}; and by the way, you can have Word ask you for these when you save your document by checking “Prompt for document properties” at Tools: Options {Save}). If you are the only one using this copy of Word, you can also use the “Name” field from the “User Information” category (which refers to Tools: Options {User Information}).

A nice border is required for something like this. Go to Format: Borders and Shading. . .{Page Border} and, in the box for Art, choose something wintry. The right half of the window lets you chose which sides you want the border to show up on. You probably won’t need to change any of the options, but go ahead and click the button. You’ll see options on where you want the border to appear, measured in points from either the edge of the page or from the text.

As always, make sure the “Apply to” box is set correctly.

You may want to color the text. Click Edit: Select All and then click on the font color button (the letter ‘A’ with a bar of color under it). Choose a dark color; bright colors are very hard to read on white paper. If you don’t like the colors on the box that pops up, click “More colors. . .” The {Standard} tab gives a good selection, but you can get picky and choose custom. To customize the color, drag the white plus around until the bar on the right shows the right range of colors; then use that bar to adjust the brightness.

A proper letter has a date header, but chances are your border is where your header will show up. To fix this, go to File: Page Setup {Margins} and increase the amount for headers, in the “From Edge” box—try an inch. You’ll also have to increase the distance for the top of the text so the header doesn’t get squashed.

To put in the header, click to View: Header and Footer. You should automatically be in the header (all your other text will be grayed out). Right-justify (there’s a button on your toolbar that’s called Align Right), then click Insert: Date and Time… Choose the style that appeals to you most. Make sure the font style and color matches the rest of your document.

If you have a digital camera, or if you can scan in photos, you could include a photo of yourself adoring the gift in question. Click to Insert: Picture> From File. . . and find your picture. The picture is probably in a bad spot and messing up your letter, so right-click on it and choose Format Picture. . .{Layout} [Advanced] {Text Wrapping}. When you choose anything but that miserable default, “In Line,” you get options for how close you want the text to come to the picture. But you can just choose “Square” and leave the numbers alone. Go to the {Picture Position} tab and set both of the boxes to “Page” (one of them probably says “Column”). You can adjust where the picture appears on the page with the number boxes, but we won’t do that now. Note that, if the picture is positioned relative to the page, the box for Move With Text comes unchecked. This is good. It means that if we edit our document, the picture won’t follow around whatever word it thinks it’s attached to.

When you’ve got that all straightened out, you can drag the picture around to wherever you want it on the page. If it’s way too big, right-click on it, chose the {Size} tab, and enter a reasonable size in one of the boxes. You will have the option of changing the size in percents of the original size, but that isn’t useful now. And you might notice that, if the “Lock aspect ratio” box is checked, any time you change one number, the other changes automatically. This is to keep the picture from getting stretched.

You can also adjust the size of the picture by hand. Click once on the picture to select it, then put your cursor over one of the white boxes around the edge and drag it to change the size. If you hold down shift while dragging on a corner box, the picture won’t get stretched—it will “scale” up and down.

Look over you letter to check for problems, and if it’s good, click File: Save As… Change the "File Type" to "Document Template." Call it "Thank-You note." When you’ve saved all your hard work, close down all the documents in Word and click File: New> More Word templates… That’s where you’ll find your form letter. Open it and it’ll ask you to fill in all the blanks.

When you are using templates, Word may ask if you want to save changes to your template, or to the Normal template. If you have been careful to save your template when you are done with it, you probably do not want to save changes to any template. If you do, your Thank-You note template could wind up looking like the last Thank-You you turned out (it is harder to mess up the Normal template, but you want to leave it alone).

Remember the Golden Rule of Mastering Word: if at first you don’t understand, try it and see! Very nearly everything is easily undoable; the few things that aren’t, I’ve probably already tried, had a heart attack, and fixed. If yo
u get stuck, drop me a line.

Comments, questions? Write to Arlan at purdyville@earthlink.net

What About The Word Corner?
By Rundy

Looking over my files, I see that I’ve written ninety-seven editions of The Word Corner. This makes The Word Corner the longest running feature in the history of TWIP. But all good features have their end, and at the beginning of this new TWIP year I think it good to ask if the time for The Word Corner’s end has come.

I know The Word Corner was always something for only part of the TWIP audience. People in the past have commented that they never read The Word Corner. However, I know there are few people like to read about the obscure words I find.

The Word Corner doesn’t consume very much of my time, but I don’t want to waste space on something which nobody reads. I’m asking all our readers who would like to see The Word Corner continue to drop me a quick note telling me so. If enough people in our audience are still interested, I’ll continue. If not, I’ll free up the little electronic bits for some other purpose.–RP

Comments, questions? Write to Rundy at purdyville@earthlink.net