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More on . . . WINZIG LOGO: Winzig Consulting Services provides excellent technical writing services. Services and products include technical documentation, user manuals, newsletters, reference guides, web page editing, software documentation, on-line help, business policies, work procedures and business plans. It has been in business since 1990, has software development experience dating back to 1977, and is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.  
TIPS IMAGE: Writing tips.    Technical

This page contains tips having to do with technical writing, technical editing, HTML editing, web publishing, and related tasks.

Word AutoRecovery Makes "Link to File" Images Disappear

Word 2000 inserts a partial absolute path to images inserted with Word's "Link to File" option if the images are in the same folder as the document or in a subfolder. This partial absolute path occurs in the iamge's INCLUDEPICTURE field code, as shown in the example below:

    { INCLUDEPICTURE "Images\\photo01.jpg" \* MERGEFORMAT \d }

This works fine in Word 2000, 2002 and 2003 as long as the document is located correctly relative to the image file. However, if Word crashes and does an AutoRecovery on the document, it replaces the partial absolute path in the IMAGEPICTURE field code with a complete absolute path to your AutoRecovery path, resulting in something like this:

    { INCLUDEPICTURE "C:\\Documents and Settings\\yourname\\
    Application Data\\Microsoft\\Word\\Images\\photo01.jpg"
    \* MERGEFORMAT \d }

This shouldn't work at all, because Word doesn't recover the images and there is no Images subfolder in your AutoRecovery folder, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It can be fixed permanently by going to Tools | Options, selecting the View tab, and checking the "Field codes" box under the "Show" options, doing a find on those INCLUDEPICTURE absolute paths and replacing them with a relative path, as shown below, and then turning the "Field codes" option back off. You'll then have to do an F9 update on the whole document to force Word to recognize these field code updates.

    { INCLUDEPICTURE "Images/photo01.jpg" \* MERGEFORMAT \d }

This relative path is the same path that Word 2003 inserts if the image is in the same folder as the document or in a subfolder.

2 February 2005

The Technical Writing Sector in Today's Economy

There's a fair amount of anecdotal evidence among technical writers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area indicating the technology downturn of the last several years has had a negative impact on the technical writing sector. The following news articles add substance to this anecdotal evidence and tell how technical writers are coping:

18 June 2004

"Supercrawler" Web Site Gums Up Searches
for a "Minneapolis technical writer"

Search engines continue to be plagued by unscrupulous web sites that use creative techniques to route unrelated traffic their way. A current example of this is the "" web site. If you use Ask Jeeves to search for a "Minneapolis technical writer", 43 of the first 100 hits are for various pages, the vast majority of which have nothing to do with finding a "Minneapolis technical writer".

Google avoids these results until you put the phrase "Minneapolis technical writer" in quotes; at that point, 53 of the 58 results point to The other three search engines, AOL, MSN, and Yahoo, are not taken in by deceives Ask Jeeves and Google by creating multiple web pages, each of which has multiple phrases that include the word "technical" at the bottom of the page. A search for "Minneapolis technical writer" lists links for web pages on "technical diving equipment", "technical support jokes", "technical university in warsaw", "technical stock photography", "technical jokes", "technical knowhow", etc., because each of those pages has the phrase "technical writer Minneapolis" at the bottom. Furthermore, in Ask Jeeves the phrase "technical writer Minneapolis" shows up in the text for every search link.

Incidentally, if you use itself to search for a "Minneapolis technical writer", you currently get a total of 10 hits with just one link to a Minneapolis-area technical writing firm, and one additional link to a Minneapolis technical writer if you put the search phrase in quotes.

Thus, it remains difficult for clients to find Minneapolis technical writers and editors. To make it easier, Winzig Consulting Services has submitted the Directory of Technical Writers and Editors in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area on its Minneapolis Technical Writer web site to several search engines and directories.

4 June 2004

Google's Vaunted PageRank Algorithm
Discriminates Against Small Web Sites

I've been researching why a search for "Minneapolis technical writer" on Google (and on AOL, which uses Google) yields far fewer actual technical writer web sites than searches on Yahoo, MNS, or Ask Jeeves. I'm focusing on these five search engines because, according to Media Metrix [Feb. 2004] and Nielson/NetRatings, the top five most-used search engines are Google [35-39%], Yahoo [28-30%], MSN [15-30%], AOL [16%], and Ask Jeeves [3-8%]. (In addition to AOL, USSeek, iWon, and Netscape also use Google.)

Of the 80+ Minneapolis-area technical writers and editors listed on the Directory of Technical Writers and Editors in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area (well, a few are from outstate Minnesota or Wisconsin) on our Minneapolis Technical Writer web site, only two currently show up in the first 100 hits on a Google search for "Minneapolis technical writer". I believe the reason is that Google's much-touted "PageRank" algorithm actually discriminates against smaller web sites, and most technical writer web sites are small.

Google's technology page ( explains "PageRank" in these words:

"PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves 'important' weigh more heavily and help to make other pages 'important.'

Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page's content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it's a good match for your query."

Google argues that this PageRank technology provides its search results with greater integrity. I would argue with that, as evidenced by how often Insource Staffing's disappearing ASP pages show up on Google as much as (or more often) than they do on other search engines. (See the note regarding Insource Staffing's web sites on our Web Resources page.)

But even if Google's PageRank technology provides greater integrity, it comes at a cost. Smaller sites tend to be linked to by other smaller, less "important" (in Google's eyes) sites, so they never get ranked very high by Google. This is not a problem if you do a very specific search. Looking for "Winzig Consulting Services" on Google of course yields results for this site (along with irrelevant, inaccessible links generated by Insource Staffing).

However, a more generic search, such as a search for "Minneapolis technical writer", yields sites that Google regards as "important" because they're linked to more frequently (sites like,,,,,, and rather than sites actually belonging to real "Minneapolis technical writers."

I tried substantiating this by using Google's search "link:" operator, which lets you search for sites that link to your URL. (You search for "link:siteURL" or you go to Google's Advanced Search page and do a Page-Specific Search using the "find pages that link to the page" option.) I ran it for this web site,, and came up with zero links, even though at least 20 sites link to this web site's URL (some from multiple pages). Apparently, Google does not consider any of those 20 sites "important."

As a further check, I used Google's search "link:" operator for our own neighborhood church's web site, Google lists just one link to our church's URL. In fact, however, there are at least 18 sites that link to our church's web site (some also from multiple pages), but apparently Google doesn't regard the other 17 as "important" enough (including Thrivent's web site, Luther Seminary's web site, and the web site for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

The bottom line is that Google provides poor results when one is searching for information that can only be found on smaller web sites. Not only are the results cluttered by references to irrelevant sites, but often the links to sites that have the desired information never appear.

Since Google is the most-used search engine, this is truly unfortunate, and not nearly as "democratic" as Google claims.

27 May 2004

Embedding Microsoft Word Picture
in Rich Text E-Mail in Outlook 2002
Triggers McAfee AntiVirus Warning

If you use WordMail in Outlook 2002 and if you paste a Microsoft Word Picture (created in Word by selecting Insert | Object and choosing Microsoft Word Picture) into a Rich Text e-mail message, receipients of the message will get a warning message if they have McAfee's HAWK Alert activated. The message is entitled "VirusScan HAWK Alert - Potential Hostile Activity" and reads in part: "This e-mail message that you are attempting to open contains an embedded attachment." In addition, the Microsoft Word Picture is sent as an embedded attachment. (That is, an attachment is indicated in the inbox [or outbox], but is not shown as an attachment when the message is opened.)

This warning occurs only if the sender inserts a Microsoft Word Picture into the message and uses a Rich Text (RTF) format. If any other image is inserted or if HTML format is used, there is no warning message. The reason is that WordMail generates an "OLEObject Type" of "Embed" into the XML code it generates whenever a Microsoft Word Picture is inserted into a Rich Text e-mail message.

28 April 2004

Limits on Long File Names and Path Names
when Copying to CD in Windows XP

Windows XP has a nice feature that lets you quickly copy files and even entire folders to CD. (In Windows Explorer, you just right-click on the file or folder you want to copy, select "Send To" and choose "CD Drive". Windows XP writes the selected file or folder to a work area and displays a window showing the files and folders waiting to be written. You can repeat the process to add additional files or folders. When you're ready to write to the CD, you click on "File" and select "Write these files to CD".)

However, there are two important but undocumented glitches:

  1. First, even though Microsoft has allowed long file names since the release of Windows 95, whenever Windows XP copies files to CD it truncates all file names longer than 64 characters (including the extension). This means, for example, that if you copy a Word file containing linked-to images, those images will no longer work if the image's file name is longer than 60 characters (exclusive of the ".JPG" or ".GIF" extension). The images will be copied to the CD with truncated file names but the images' file names embedded in the Word document will not be truncated, so Word will be unable to find the images.

    What's bothersome about this glitch is that Windows XP's built-in CD burner (unlike that of some CD mastering software) provides no warning or notice that the file name is going to be truncated. However, if you happen to view the lists of temporary files in the CD window that Windows XP provides before they are written, the file names will be shown exactly as they will be written to CD.

  2. Second, when copying to CD, Windows does not allow for path names longer than approximately 158 characters, though I can't find any documentation on the precise limit. (It's longer than the 128-character limit specified in the ISO 9660-Joliet extension standard that some web sites say Microsoft uses.) If the resulting file name will be too long, Windows XP refuses to write the file and instead displays a "Problem Copying" error window, showing the name of the file that cannot be copied. However, the error window does not tell you the reason for the error is a path name that is too long. (The ISO 9660-Joliet extension standard also says the maximum level of directories that can be copied to CD is eight, but XP allows at least ten.)

The upshot is that copying or backing up whole directories to CD can be problematic in Windows XP, and Microsoft apparently provides no printed or on-line documentation of the limits and glitches.

27 April 2004

WordMail's Formatting Oddities
in Outlook 2002

There are several oddities that occur when using WordMail to compose e-mail messages in Outlook 2002. These oddities occur when an HTML file is "inserted as text" into an Outlook message while using WordMail because WordMail generates its own XML code for the message without adhering to HTML standards. (The XML code that is generated can be viewed by turning on the "HTML Source" command in Outlook.) Here are a few of the oddities:

  1. When using nested tables, you need to use nested SPAN tags (separating font-family and font-size) because Outlook Wordmail refuses to recognize a font size change in a nested table unless you also switch from a san-serif to a serif font (or vice versa?). This happens because Word generates separate tags for font family and font size and then nests them incorrectly, causing them to go unrecognized by any HTML interpreter. Further, while the use of separate SPAN tags works, the font size reductions will not show when working on the message in Outlook, but will appear in the message when it is sent.

  2. Certain combinations of font sizes and colors will not show when working on the message in Outlook, but will appear in the message when it is sent.

  3. The MIDDOT character must be used used instead of the BULLET character (#149) because HTML inexplicably blocks all line breaks that fall immediately before a bullet character when a bullet character is followed by a non-breaking space.

  4. Cellpadding doesn't carry over for Netscape because Wordmail converts this attribute to a style that Netscape doesn't recognize.

  5. Font sizes and bullets don't work if the message is read using Netscape 3.0.

  6. The color attribute for the HR tag doesn't work if the message is read using Netscape (any version?).

  7. If a BR line break is not present before certain combininations of font size, font color, and font family, WordMail generates XML and HTML code that ignores the font size and color for that line.

  8. If SPAN tags aren't repeated in certain links, then Wordmail generates XML and HTML code that makes the text for the link a larger, bold font.

  9. It is cumbersome to use Outlook's HTML format without also using Wordmail as Outlook's e-mail editor when inserting an HTML file as text; in HTML mode without Wordmail, Outlook applies "overtyping" that cannot be turned off for any lines ending in a BR tag rather than a P tag, thus effectively preventing any modification of the HTML file once it's been inserted into the e-mail message.

  10. The XML code that WordMail generates for an HTML file "inserted as text" into an e-mail message usually doubles the size of the message.

In addition, if you're using WordMail and try to create or modify Outlook signatures, WordMail frequently generates incorrect HTML tags that mess up the formatting of your signature. You can use the "Advanced Edit" feature to correct the HTML code. Even then, WordMail sometimes incorrectly modifies the HTML code for the signature once you save it.

19 April 2004

Glitch with Word's Table Grid Style

There is a glitch in Word 2002's Table Grid style that prevents you from changing the style to a 10-point font size for any font type, either via Table AutoFormat or Format | Styles and Formatting. Word will accept any other font size except 10-point. If 10-point is selected, Word blanks out the "10" as soon as it is selected. In addition, in Table AutoFormat, the Modify button is grayed out for the Table Normal style and that style does not appear when All Styles are listed in Styles and Formatting.

The cause is an apparent bug in Word. It almost seems that someone at Microsoft once decided that 10-point would be the default font size for tables and then decided not to do so while leaving the code there. So when you try to change the font size to 10-point, Microsoft assumes that's the hidden, hard-coded default and blanks out your choice. All of the Table styles are based on the Table Normal style, which cannot be changed, so you can only set up a 10-point Table Grid style by setting the Normal style to 10-point.

15 March 2004

Printing Large Word Document
with Inserted Images

If you insert images into a Word 2002 document using the "Link to File" option, the images may not print if the document is large or you have many large images. To ensure that all the images will print, go to Tools | Options, select the Print tab, and check the "Update links" option under "Printing options."

In Word 2003, you also need to go into Tools | Options and check the "Background colors and images" option under "Include with document."

In some very large documents, a few linked-to and/or embedded images don't print in Word 2003, and apparently also in Word 2002 and Word 2000. To avoid these missing images, go to Tools | Options, select the Print tab, and uncheck the "Background printing" option under "Printing options."

1 March 2004; updated 2 February 2005

Nov./Dec. 2003 Windows Security Updates
Affect Cisco Router Access

After applying three Windows XP security updates from November and December 2003, you must now have administrator rights to access the Commander 2.6.4 software for the Cisco 675 router. The three Windows XP updates are Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 6 SP1 (KB824145) for Nov. 12, 2003, Security Update for Windows XP (KB810217) for Nov. 12, 2003, and Security Update for Microsoft Windows XP (KB828035) for Dec. 2, 2003.

15 December 2003

Extra Margins on PDF Documents

Are you having trouble getting PDF documents to print with the same margins you've set up in the original document (e.g., in Microsoft Word)? The problem may be in the print settings for Adobe Acrobat Reader.

When you print a document in Acrobat Reader, check the options on the Print window. If you have Acrobat Reader 4.0, uncheck the "Fit to Page" option. If you have Adobe Reader 5.0, uncheck the "Shrink oversized pages to paper size" option. Each of these options adds an extra quarter of an inch to all four margins, even if this is not needed to make the page fits. While this quirk doesn't seem to be documented on Adobe's web site, it holds true for documents created using Acrobat Distiller and PDF Maker.

14 August 2003

An Interesting Book
on Document Design

Karen A. Schriver's Dynamics in Document Design (John Wiley & Sons, 1997) is an interesting examination of how to design documents that take into account how people interpret words and pictures. It's a little heavy on research and on the historical evolution of document design, but other aspects of her book, like the appendix outlining guidelines for designing on-line displays, more than compensate.

11 August 2003

Using Microsoft Personal Web Server
to Test Web Pages on Win 98

The Microsoft Personal Web Server is a handy tool for small web site developers who are building web pages on their own PCs and then publishing them to a corporate intranet or the public Intranet. With it, an individual developer working on a stand-alone PC can test such capabilities as server-side includes (SSIs) Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts, and Active Server Pages (ASP).

However, it is one of those features that Microsoft doesn't promote very well. It's included in Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0, but OEMs like Dell don't install it. Furthermore, while Microsoft's web site has some partial descriptions of its Personal Web Server product, it does not tell you how to install it.

I recently discovered that it can be installed by running SETUP.EXE in the ADD-ONS/PWS folder on the Windows 98 CD. (If you install it after installing Microsoft's FrontPage 2000 version, as I did, you'll have to run FrontPage's Detect and Repair facility because Personal Web Server in Windows 98 overlays the Microsoft Data Access Components with an earlier, outdated version.)

Once installed, you can use configure it to test HTML pages and sites located anywhere on your PC:

  • Start Personal Web Server, select the "Main" option, and note the URL listed for your home page. (If there's no URL shown, click "Start" to activate Personal Web Server. Unless you've changed the name of your computer in Network Neighborhood, the URL is something like "http://computerbrandname". Make a note of this URL because you'll need it later.

  • Go to the "Advanced" option in Personal Web Server and set up an "alias" directory for each directory used to develop web sites on your hard drive. (You can call it something like "mysite1" and then use the "Browse" button to find the desired directory on your hard drive.)

  • Check the "Allow Directory Browsing" checkbox in the "Advanced" option.

  • Go to the "Web Site" option in Personal Web Server and select the "Edit Your Home Page" option. Once the home page (the default is "default.asp") edit screen comes up, add a URL link for each of your development web sites, linking either to the directory or to your index.html page. (Since you've selected "Allow Directory Browsing," you don't have to specify an index page.) Each URL will consist of the URL you noted earlier plus the "alias" name you created earlier (e.g., "http://computerbrandname/mysite1/").

  • Save the changes you just made and the Personal Web Page home page will display. Bookmark the page.

  • You can now use that bookmarked page to test any of your HTML pages using Microsoft Personal Web Server. You don't have to use any of Personal Web Server's other capabilities (such as publication).

15 May 2001

The AP Stylebook

It's a little embarrassing to admit to having discovered an important writing resource after 11 years in the business, but such is the case with the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. As a publication of the Associated Press, the AP Stylebook is designed for use by journalists, but is quite handy for all writers and editors.

The AP Stylebook is organized into several sections:

  • Stylebook: An alphabetical list of entries that includes: the difference between should and would, state abbreviations (both postal codes and abbreviations), the use of possessives, a metric conversion chart, international time zones, a Fahrenheit/Celsius temperature conversion table, conventions for foreign proper names, usage rules, an oil equivalency table, ands the titles of many organizations. This is the largest section of the book.

  • Sports Guidelines and Style: Lists sports terms, team names, sports conferences, and team positions and categories (such as wrestling weight classes).

  • Business Guidelines and Style: Describes corporate earnings reports and lists business terms.

  • A Guide to Punctuation: Describes punctuation marks and how to use them.

  • Briefing on Media Law: Explains fundamental principles of libel law and relevant First Amendment principles.

  • Photo Captions: Technical information about AP photo captions.

  • Filing the Wire: Technical information about filing AP stories.

  • Filing Practices: Additional technical information about filing AP stories.

The AP Stylebook can be ordered on-line at for $13.75, plus state sales tax and $5.95 for shippping.

8 May 2001

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Web page last updated: 18 November 2005.
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