25 February 2008

DreamSpark - free software for students

Microsoft have launched a programme called "Microsoft DreamSpark", which allows university and college students to download a range of free development and design software resources to help them in their studies. The applications are pretty 'geeky' and I guess their main appeal will be to Computing and Art & Design students but there may be something in the offer that might appeal to people in other fields.

This is a remarkable offer for anyone who knows about these things. To access downloads students will need to identify themselves as genuine students and I understand Microsoft recognise Athens accounts which we would probably have to create for them. There is some well-presented information for anyone who wants more information at either

the UK Further Education Blog (staff)

Microsoft DreamSpark (students)

Do pass this on to anyone who might be interested.

And don't forget that 'students' are eligible for the full, Office 2007 Professional suite, at a ridiculously cheap £30 or so. That was in another of my posts some months ago.

03 February 2008

Why do people feel they have to put images in Word to send them?

I notice that what a lot of people do when they want to share pictures by e-mail is paste them into a Word document and attach that. This is a pain from several angles for the recipient
1, they may not have Word and are left staring at a load of code and, more relevant as most people do have Word,
2, the pasted image can only be as big as the width between the document margins so if anyone wanted to look a bit more closely at it for some reason then they're stuffed,
3, the paste operation turns it into some weird .wmf type of file which no-one uses anymore and the only way to extract it and use it somewhere else if they wish to is to screen print the flaming screen print in the attachment which is silly,
4 Word can take an age to open if you haven't already got it open and
5, the file size is much bigger than it need be for the size of image sent.

This often is used for Screen prints. OK, so it's dead simple for you to hit PrtScr and paste into a handy new Word doc. That's the + point but it's all one-sided and selfish. Here's what you should do:

1. Do the Prt Scr thing
2. Open IrfanView which you should now have. It's instant and just zaps open no messing.
3. Paste.
4. Save the file (usually as a jpg)
5. Send that as the attachment.
6. Smile - you've been a good boy/girl and they'll appreciate it.

I reckon that, from scratch, with no apps open already, this route is also quicker so maybe the + point isn't such a + point after all. Any image editor will do, of course. It's just IrfanView is so fast and doesn't ask complicated questions. I particularly like closing things and not being asked a million times if I want to save changes and not finding another 79 files also open behind it that need closing too.

Of course, if all you want to do is send an image that's already an image then just attach that and forget Word altogther! If it's an original modern digital camera (or even mobile camera image nowadays) then it may be a good idea to resize it and compress it via IrfanView or whatever first. I must have written about that a hundred times before so you should have that message by now.