New Toys for my Computer

A few weeks ago I started having problems with my email program running away with me.  I was sending empty emails, and duplicates, and I had no idea why.  And the problems spread to the web site I usually use to look up the TV schedule.  I’d click on a program description, and the box would snap open and shut too fast for me to read it.  Same thing with Twitter–it took several attempts to open a picture (Twitter was invented to disseminate pictures of cats, right?).

In due time I realized that the problem had to be related to my mouse.  I went to the control panel and tried adjusting the click speed, but that had absolutely no effect.  I tried googling terms like “hair trigger mouse,” and found nothing.  Then last weekend, I finally figured out what was actually going on–the mouse was randomly sending out double clicks when I was sending out single clicks.  Not every time, but often enough to be really annoying.  By then it was even affecting my attempts to select text.

When I googled “mouse sends double clicks,” I found plenty of folks who’ve had the same problem with aging mice (and mine was coming up on four years of steady service).  It makes sense–even optical mice must have some sort of physical mechanism for transmitting clicks.  I found instructions on taking a mouse apart to fix it.  Yeah, right.  Back in the day, I had no trouble removing the ball from the underside of a mechanical mouse to clean it, but that day is long gone.  The obvious solution to this problem, and the most common advice, was “buy a new mouse.”

So yesterday I stopped at the local Office Depot and found myself staring at a display of at least thirty different mice, about two thirds of which were wireless.  I wanted corded–this was for a desktop computer that never moves, and a corded mouse doesn’t require batteries.  I thought I might as well pick out something a bit higher up the scale than the simple mouse that came with my computer, so I settled on an ergonomic critter with some extra buttons and features (Logitech model M500).

The trickiest part of installing it was tracing the old mouse cord to the back of the computer to detach it.  I don’t know what I unplugged on the first try, but it wasn’t the mouse.  Once I had the new one plugged in, Windows took over and made it work.  There were a couple of features that needed the Logitech driver, so I downloaded that, but it wasn’t needed for the basic mouse functions.

The new mouse solved all the problems I had attributed to the old one, and even a few I hadn’t recognized.  It has a control that switches the wheel from free spinning (and very fast) action to line-by-line motion.  And it has two buttons on the side that function as back and forward clicks on web sites.  The Logitech driver lets you program various buttons to do all sorts of things.  Highly recommended for right-handers.  If there’s a leftie version I did not see it at Office Depot.

I have a new piece of software to play with, too.  The folks at Literature and Latte, the source of Scrivener, have released Scapple for Windows.  I’ve been envious since they released it for Mac, and this fall I downloaded the beta version of the Windows release.  The full release came out a few weeks ago for the princely sum of $14.95.  Scapple is a brainstorming, note-jotting, what-you-make-of-it program that turns your computer screen into an expanse where you can make notes, move them around, connect them, and generally play with them.  My first Scapple file is full of plot notes and ideas for the story I’m working on, thrown all over the screen.  A friend recently showed me the extremely neat plot outline she’d made with Scapple on her laptop.  You can pull Scapple files into a folder in your Scrivener project, too.  Here’s a sample:

Scapple sample

 

 

Next Week, RWA13

Back in late March when I learned that Jinn & Tonic is a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest, the conference in mid-July was a long way off.  Suddenly it’s next week, and I’m not ready.

Oh, I’m not totally unprepared.  I’ve tried on my conference clothes, and they still fit.  I’ve bought a few new things, some of which will actually make the packing cut.  I should be making a packing list.  (Last year I forgot the evening bag I intended to carry to the awards ceremony; this year I bought a new one and left it sitting out where I can’t miss it.)

I’ve decided how much cash to take, based on what I spent in New York City and Anaheim (thank you, Quicken), but I haven’t been to the bank yet.  I’ve registered (and paid) for the conference and for two events sponsored by on-line chapters that I belong to, the Golden Network Retreat and the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter Gathering.  I’ve sent RSVPs for a couple of party invitations.   I have my airline and hotel reservations.

Lucky 13 pinsA couple of weeks ago I opened my mailbox and found the Lucky 13 Golden Heart pins designed and made by one of our number, who writes historical romance as Eliss Baker and designs jewelry as Lisa Confetti.  The smaller one will go on my conference badge holder, along with my Golden Heart pins and my Starcatcher (2011) and Firebird (2012) pins.  Badge bling is a fun part of the conference.

Plans for the conference–workshops, receptions, appointments, dinners–are filling up a spreadsheet on my computer.  I’ll print that out, and probable scribble on it, because I’m not taking a laptop with me (I don’t even own one).  I know some of my friends are building schedules on their smart phones.  My phone is only moderately intelligent, and I’m still trying to learn how to access my email on it.  I’ll be using paper schedules and a spiral bound notebook.

My email inbox is overflowing with chatter from friends making plans to meet for dinner or drinks, information on the local restaurants, attractions, and transportation in Atlanta, and I’m afraid to clean it out for fear of losing some essential bit of information not yet transferred to my spreadsheet.  Meanwhile, I’m compiling a mental list of all the things I’m putting off until I get back (get the car serviced, have the roof inspected, make an appointment with the eye doctor . . . ).  I probably should put that list on paper, or at least in a computer file.

I’m frazzled, and semi-organized at best, but I’m also looking forward to Atlanta.  This will be my third RWA conference in three years.  I can’t wait to see old friends and new.  Atlanta, here we come.

[For those of you interested in Scrivener, I’ve added an Introduction to Scrivener for Novelists to the article section of the site.]

Scrivener Features: Auto-Complete

I stumbled across the Auto-Complete function the other day when I was doing a menu-crawl around Scrivener’s nooks and crannies.  It’s not the same as Auto-Correct, which I’ve had to turn off.  Either Auto-Correct is too imaginative or I am: when I had the feature turned on, Scrivener kept changing my characters’ names and “correcting” other words that I didn’t notice until I reread my pages.  Or worse, until I read them to my critique group.

Auto-Complete, on the other hand, only does what you’ve told it to do, offering up long or difficult-to-type words or phrases when you type the first letter.  For novelists, I imagine this would most often be character or place names.  In my collection of unpublished novels, I have a parallel worlds tale set partially along a Texas Coast dominated by the Aztec Empire.  Tenochtitlán popped up from time to time, and I was glad to have whatever word processor I was using at the time let me assign a short-cut key to it.  And the words Señor and Señora, with their tildes, were all over the manuscript.

AutoCompleteScrivener allows you to set up a separate Auto-Complete list for each project (under the Project menu, or with ctrl+shift+4).  When you type the first letter of one of the words or phrases on your list, up it pops in an unobtrusive little box.  If that’s what you want, hit enter.  If not, just keep typing, and chances are you won’t even notice the pop up.  Say you’re working on an essay on American history—just how many times do you want to spell out Articles of Confederation?

I didn’t find much on Auto-Complete in the Scrivener documentation, so it took a little experimentation to make it work.  You enter the words you want to escape retyping in the Auto-Complete list box (to get the accent on Tenochtitlán and the tilde on Señor I typed them in my text, using the Character Map located at the bottom of the Edit menu to find my special letters, and then copied and pasted them into the list box).  But you also have to go to the Corrections section of the Options box (under the Tools menu) and make sure that “suggest completions as you type” is checked.

OptionsCorrections

You may never have to look up that pesky accent or umlaut again.

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