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Technology Q&A.

Should you invest in a flat-panel monitor? ... Put a 10-key calculator in Excel ... Remove floppy or CD in an emergency ... Replace a lost Desktop icon ... Make an Excel formula constant ... Best way to put pictures in Word

Q. I've been seeing lots of advertisements recently for flat-panel computer monitors. I'm interested in buying one, especially because it would take up less space on my desk. But these monitors are nearly twice the price of the regular models and I wonder whether they're worth the extra money? Is there any downside to replacing my regular monitor with one of these slimmer designs?

A. Except for price, I can't think of a single reason why you shouldn't make the switch. However, you'll be happy to hear that their prices are falling--fast.

The flat-panel--or, more accurately, the liquid-crystal display (LCD)--monitors have loads of advantages over regular monitors, which use cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) for display. CRTs are the picture tubes used in conventional television sets, although some new TVs are coming out with LCD displays, too.

LCDs are more expensive because they are more difficult to manufacture, but as production techniques improve, prices are declining. Some advantages of LCDs:

* They take less space on a desk.

* They produce no flicker. Images on a CRT, on the other hand, need to be refreshed repeatedly, which produces the flicker effect.

* They generate brighter images with greater tonal range (blacker blacks, whiter whites).

* They produce none of the harmful radiation that's emitted by CRTs.

* They save electricity. One estimate puts the savings (if the computer is run 14 hours a day) at more than $50 a year.

Q. Okay, so Excel is a whiz-bang spreadsheet calculator. But, frankly, when I'm working on a complex spreadsheet there are times I'd like to have immediate access to an old-fashioned 10-key calculator rather than having to stop to figure out some Excel formula. Is there a way to get an ordinary calculator into Excel?

A. I'm glad you asked because I, too, would find it handy to have a calculator at my fingertips. At first I didn't think Excel provided such a function, but I soon learned that it does; however, it's well camouflaged.

When I searched the functions under Tools, Customize, Commands, I couldn't find a calculator function, although I found two calculator icons. One is labeled Calculate now, and performs a calculation update--so that's no good. The other is labeled Custom, and that turned out to be the well-disguised 10-key Windows calculator. I wonder whether Microsoft engineers meant to hide the function.

If you want to add the 10-key calculator to your toolbar, do the following:

Go to Tools, Customize, Commands, Tools, and locate the calculator icon named Custom (see screen shot on page 109).


Drag the icon up to your toolbar and click on Close.

When I tried to add the icon to the Word toolbar, I could not find the function under Customize. Instead, I realized there's an even better alternative: Add it to my Desktop Taskbar. That way, the calculator is immediately and conveniently accessible no matter what application I'm in.

To do that, open Explorer and find the calc.exe file under C:\Windows. Right click on it, click on Create Shortcut, then go to your Desktop and right click again and click on Paste Shortcut. When the icon appears on your Desktop, drag it to the Taskbar. That's all there is to it.

Q. A colleague told me that I can remove a CD or floppy that's stuck in its disk drive with a paperclip. Is that true? I'm hesitant to try it, for fear it will destroy my computer.

A. Your colleague is correct. If you look just below the slot where you insert the CD or floppy, you'll notice a tiny hole. Open up a paper clip, push one end into that hole and a stuck storage device will pop out. The emergency method works for Zip cartridges as well. For safety, shut down the computer before you jab the paperclip into it.

Q. The Desktop icon that usually sits in the Taskbar next to the Start button has disappeared. How can I get it back?

A. I understand your concern: That little icon is one of the most useful tools in the Windows Taskbar. When you click on it, you're taken right to the Desktop. To replace it, you must create what's called an .scf file.

However, you cannot create the file in Word. You must use a pure text application such as Notepad or WordPad. To open either, click on Start, Programs, Accessories, and then open either word processor and create a new document, typing in the following lines:
IconFile=explorer. exe,3

Now save the file as Show Desktop.scf in the C:\Windows\System folder if you're using Windows 98 or Windows Me, or in the \Winnt\System32 folder if you're using Windows NT 4 or Windows 2000 (this assumes you've installed Windows to those default folders).

By the way, make sure Notepad or WordPad doesn't add an extra .txt extension to the filename, as is its wont. If it does, remove it so the file is called Show Desktop.scf.

Now create a shortcut to the file by locating the file in Explorer and right-clicking on it. Choose Create Shortcut from the pop-up menu and copy the shortcut to the folder C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch if you're using Windows 98/Me, or to \Winnt\System32 if you're using Windows NT 4/2000.

The Show Desktop icon should then automatically appear in your Taskbar. If it doesn't, rename the shortcut you just created to Desktop.

If you don't want to go through all those steps, there is a keyboard command to get to the Desktop: Click on the key with the Windows logo and D.

Q. Sometimes an Excel convenience can become a handicap. For example, if you move a formula to a new location, Excel will automatically change the formula to reflect the new location. But that automatic action can be a pain if you want the formula to remain constant--not to adjust to the new location. I know I can manually add $ symbols to the parts of the formula I want to remain constant, but if you have several formulas to move, that's time-consuming. Any ideas on getting around this problem?

A. What you want is a command to get Excel to apply an absolute reference to the moved formula rather than a relative reference. Yes, you can do that.

But first, let's back up a bit for readers who are unfamiliar with this technique. For example, if you have the formula at right and you move it to a different location, the references will change automatically to [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But if you want it to reference A1 and A2 even after the move, you can change the formula to [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] by adding the $ symbols as shown.

An easier way to make the formula absolute is to double-click the cell that contains the original formula and then, with your mouse, highlight the formula, press F4 and then Enter. That will add the appropriate $ symbols in the right places to convert the formula into absolute referencing.

Q. I frequently cut and paste pictures into my Word documents. That works okay, but the files get really fat, and if I e-mail them, which I often do, they take forever to transmit. I don't want to go through the extra step of compressing them. Any ideas?

A. First of all, you shouldn't copy the files into Word. When you use that cut-and-paste procedure, the graphics are automatically treated as TIFF files, which are typically far larger than other graphics formats.

Instead, use the picture insert function, which converts graphics into the space-saving JGP format. In addition, JGP images are easier to edit.

Here's how you do it: While in your Word document, click on Insert, Picture, From File. That evokes this screen:


Then, click on the arrow in the Look in field, locate the folder with the graphic, highlight it and click on Insert.

Key to Instructions

To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we use two different typefaces.

Boldface type is used to identify the names of icons, agendas and URLs.

Sans serif type indicates commands and instructions that users should type into the computer and the names of files.


* Excel's AutoSum [AutoSum] automatically enters the sum of any column or row of values. Select the cell below or to the right of the values you're summing and click the AutoSum button. You can even add multiple columns and rows of values at the same time by selecting contiguous cells and clicking AutoSum.

Keyboard's AutoSum: If you're fond of the keyboard, you can do the same thing by pressing Alt-= (that's the Alt and the equal keys).

* Find a page in Word: To jump quickly to a particular page in a lengthy Word document, press the F5 key, which launches the Select function, and type the page number you want.


Another way to evoke that screen with the mouse is to double-click on the page box in the lower left corner of the document window (the one that indicates page number).


Do you have a technology question for this column? Send it to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881. We regret that we cannot answer letters individually. If a reader's question is deemed to have sufficiently broad interest, we will answer it in a forthcoming Technology Q&A column. --The editors
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Previous Article:Tax issues for nonresident aliens.
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