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More answers to Readers questions

May 2007

This month, a few more points that have arisen from your emails (do please keep them coming – 


A regular worry is the question of Cookies – what are cookies and are they a source of anxiety?  You will often see them referred to in website small print (if you care to read it).

In short, a cookie is a tiny bit of computer language that is planted in your computer by a website, so that it recognises you next time to visit the site.  Why?  Well, mainly so that they can save you the bother of repeating yourself.  By using cookies, they know it’s you (or at least they know it’s your computer) will say something like “Hello Webster” and remember some of your preferences.  You may have noticed something like this when you use, for example,

This may sound a bit impertinent, or even invasive, but there is really little to alarm you.  Cookies cannot steal information about you from your computer system.  They can only be used to store, on your own computer, information that you have provided at some point, like your address, or age.  The website can’t get at your computer's file system with a cookie; it can only put one in the folder specified by your browser.  They take up almost no space are, easily deleted and don’t hide.

I wouldn’t worry about them; they make life easier.


What's the address bar?

Now – the difference between the address bar and the Google search box.  This crops up a lot, and needs clearing up.

When you want to go to a specific website – like for example, please DON’T put the web address into your Google search box, put it in the Address Box that should be at the top left of the screen.  Then press return, and it will take you to the site.  By asking Google about it all you will get is whatever they have in their own index – it might be the right answer, but it might not, and anyway you’ll have to click again to get there.

If the address bar is not visible, hover over the stuff that is there, and right click.  Up pops a list of available toolbars – tick the Address Bar and there it is.


Using the decimal tab

Next - do you ever have to create columns of numbers in a Word document?  A tariff, list of costs, or similar?  If so, please DO NOT spend ages trying to line up a column of numbers using the space bar – you’ll never make it work.  Instead, put the little known and very clever Decimal Tab work.

Start on a new line.

Now find the Tabs (ex-typists will remember tabs) which are controlled from a little box at the top left of the page, just above the left hand ruler.  (If you have not got a vertical ruler, click on Tools…Options…View and make sure the Vertical Ruler box is ticked.)

Back to the Tabs.  Left Click in the little box until you see something that looks like an upside down T with a dot beside it.  Then move the mouse to the point on the horizontal ruler at the top of the page where you want the decimal point to be (you can move it later) and Left Click.  It should appear.

Press the Tab key (above the Caps Lock).  Now type a number, including a decimal point.  Press return, then Tab, and another number – and, hey presto, they line up beautifully, and it all looks neat and tidy.