PDF- An acronym now in Webster Dictionary!

Merriam Webster dictionary result for pdf:

noun

\ ˌpē-(ˌ)dē-ˈef  \

variants: or PDF

Definition of pdf

: a computer file format for the transmission of a multimedia document that is not intended to be edited further and appears unaltered in most computer environmentsalso : a document that uses this format

 

PDFDictionary result for PDF:

pēˌdēˈef/

Noun COMPUTING

a file format that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted.

a file in PDF format.

“I sent him a PDF of the article”

 

So how did this acronym become a word?  Used as a noun quite frequently, this three letter acronym has changed how we save and handle files.  If you want to create content to share with others, pdf file format is the best.

Pdf files are self-contained, they are easy to send to a printer, they are compatible with most browsers and the format is great for setting up interactive forms.

A PDF file itself contains all the formatting, fonts, and layout designs. They will render the same way every time without relying on the operating system, hardware, or software.  Sharing a Microsoft word document with others can result in the end user losing formatting and the document not looking the way you intended.  Because PDF files are self-contained, print shops will happily accept them. They often won’t accept files created in Microsoft applications or other kinds of productivity software.

PDFs are going to look the same to all users, no matter what computer or browser they use to open the file.  As long as they have a program that will open pdf files, you can be sure your file will look the same way on other devices.   Page layouts, images and formatting will not be affected.

You can save most files as a pdf document and if your software doesn’t have that option, there are pdf printers you can install that behave just like a printer.  Once installed, you tell it to print, choose the pdf printer and it lets you save the document as a pdf so you can send it on.  This can be handy if you are worried someone may edit your content.

Using a pdf format for forms like applications or feedback forms are a better choice than a Microsoft or other productivity software option.  This is simply because pdf files use fixed fields for input and the person filling out the forms can’t delete fields or miss a question.  When you create a pdf form, you can add instructions to the users in the margins to help them file it out.  It is also possible to have formulas calculate amounts in a pdf.   There are some services like Adobe Sign and DocuSign that let you add a signature securely.  (To create these kinds of files, you may need more advanced software than programs like Adobe Reader.)

While there are good things about using both browsers and specialist PDF readers, just the fact that the person receiving your file has a browser installed on their system, will allow them to be able to open your file.

The cons of pdf format are the opposite of the good things we just discussed!  In a pdf document composing text, editing content, handling images and collaborating with others on a document are not easy.  If you need these things, it’s best to stick with your favorite document program (Microsoft Word, etc.), and save the pdf file for the final product.

What was that password?

What’s a password?  ….. Necessity, Aggravation, Security?  No one describes creating and maintaining passwords as fun!

Any online site that you give personal information to requires a password.  Some are more critical in that those sites have access to your finances.  All should have secure passwords, but have you counted how many passwords you currently are supposed to know?  Let’s say your online presence is small and you have five email accounts, three credit card accounts, two bank sites, five online shopping sites, three medical sites, two utility accounts, two tax related sites, one investment account, and two social media accounts.  5+3+2+5+3+2+2+1+2= 25.  So that’s twenty-five passwords.   They should all be different, they should all be complex and they all have various questions or codes associated with them for recovery purposes.   And of course some sites require that you regularly change your passwords.

DANGER DANGER!  What if my memory can’t handle all that?   If you keep your passwords listed on index cards, in a word document, or in an excel spreadsheet, imageyou are providing any hacker or do-badder access to your whole life!  It’s time to work on your security and peace of mind but where do you start?  Eating ‘brain food’ doesn’t fix the I FORGOT MY PASSWORD! Problem, I can personally vouch for that.   Here, I will give you some ideas but they aren’t gospel.  Think this through and come up with your own plan.

ORGANIZE  – The first thing you should do is figure out what you need passwords for and if you remember the passwords.  Using a program like KeePass (there are others so ask around, but I’m using this as my reference) will let you store all your passwords in one encrypted file, with one password to unlock it.  You’ll need to create your own password file in your secure password program.  This program is just a database of your passwords.  In a KeePass file you create, for example, you can set up folders to organize your passwords into manageable groupings like banking, social media, shopping, online games etc.  You can enter a user name and password.   The program will even generate a random password for you, if you’d like.   There is a space to enter a hyperlink to the login site.  Also included is a memo field for any security questions, pin information, etc., that you might need to gain access to the site if you password is corrupt or needs to be reset.  I have found this part extremely helpful since more and more sites are requiring you to change your password frequently.  If you haven’t logged on in a while, they might require some of this information to let you reset your password.  If you have multiple emails and the user name isn’t your email address, it doesn’t hurt to record the email registered with the site in case they send you a password reset link.

THE ONE PASSWORD  You will need to create a password for your password file, but in theory, all you have to remember is that one password.  Make sure that one password is a) strong and secure and b) one you can remember (I’ll speak to this a little later.)   I’d like to tell you that this works perfectly, however, I can’t stress enough that you won’t be able to hack into your file if you forget that one password.   After you’ve created this one password, you can start to generate secure passwords and info for all your login sites.

CREATE SECURE PASSWORDS- Strong passwords generally contain both upper case and lower case letters, numbers and special characters, in an order that is random.  123456abc would not be a strong password!     The second part of that, making a strong password you can remember is the trickiest part.  Some suggest thinking of a phrase or something you are looking at and varying letters and numbers enough in a mutated form of the phrase or object that no one could guess it but you.   Here’s an example (don’t use it, create your own!)  The sentence “The cat ate the canary.”  can generate a wide variety of passwords, for example ‘tHct8Thcanry!’, but there are many ways to take that one sentence and make a secure password.  Other ways to generate your passwords are to use the program to generate random passwords for you and to use a word that pops in your head with random numbers and symbols in it.  Make it fun!

MY NEW PASSWORD PLAN  You’ve set up your file, you remember your secure password, and you are now at your computer or on your phone ready to log onto a site.  You can open your password program, click the hyper link to the website and copy and paste the user name and password or just type it as you see it in your file.  If you are asked security questions, you have the info recorded right there.  Don’t forget to close your file after use, so it is not available to any ne who might walk by your computer or, worst case, hack onto your system.

We’ve discussed an outline of a plan to organize your user names and passwords.  Your next step is to look at the different programs available and figure out which ones would look better for you.  Some are portable (i.e., can be carried on a flash drive) some run on a Windows system, some on a Mac.  And some like KeePass can run on your Android phone.  Some keep your password  records online, so they are accessible to you anywhere.    BUT, as with everything, there are risks  associated with keeping sensitive info online, and this is understandably sensitive info!  You have lots of options.  Stay tuned to our blog for more info!  And as always, feel free to call About-Face Computer Solutions at (413)863-5447 or contact us via our website, www. about-facecomputers.com if you need more assistance!

Oh %$*#$!!&#, I lost Data! How Not to Be There In Four Steps

My Biggest nightmare is losing my data.  You can lose not only business data but pictures, recipes, family treasures and all kinds of other things.  I’ve been lucky over the years, only losing a hard drive one time but that was enough to give me the nightmares.  And I was lucky enough to recover most of my files from the failing drive. (Really Lucky! We’ve seen customers’ drives fail so that absolutely no data could be recovered.)  Even though I’ve been a computer tech for twenty-five years, it’s hard to stay focused on a good data management plan. It’s come down to four things for me: 1) Organization of data, 2) direct back up of my documents, 3) a system image for my drive(s) and 4) redundancy.

It may be an anal retentive tech thing but think of your hard drive as a filing cabinet for your computer data.   Organizing your files will make your life much simpler. Not only will you be able to locate your documents more easily, this organization will help you plan a good backup system for yourself.  For example, the operating system has its own folder, a ‘Windows’ folder. There are also specific folders for things like users, program data, drivers and temporary files to name a few. But all you, the end user needs to think about are files in the ‘Library.’  These are the ‘My Documents,’ the ‘Pictures,’ the ‘Music’ and the ‘Videos’ folders. Consider that to be your own private filing cabinet. Set up folders in there for your main areas of interest. In My Documents, you can set up folders for things like recipes, travel, Household, taxes, family etc.  In pictures you can organize by date or by topic. Relax and spend a little time dragging files to these main folders. You may even want sub folders, an example being folders within your recipe folder for desserts, main courses, hors d’oevres, breakfast and so on. You can trust me that organizing like this really makes a difference.  As you save documents, save them to the proper sub folder, and if there isn’t one, create one as you are saving. Organize your picture, video and music folders in the same way. You can move and rename folders later if you don’t like the way something is setup. Go for it!

Not that you have an organized documents folder, it’s a simple thing to back up the whole folder to an external hard drive or to the cloud, if you prefer….  If you back this up regularly and lose your whole system, all the files and the organization scheme you have set up can easily be restored to a new or upgraded system.  Some will want to back this up daily, some weekly. This is going to depend on how often you add or update files and on whether you have critical information that would change your life if you lose anything.  People with home business would want a very regular and frequent backup schedule. I once knew a father who lost the first two years of their son’s pictures because the data drive crashed and wasn’t recoverable.  There are many free and paid options for backup software that will run on a schedule. Online backup systems have a monthly or yearly charge but back up frequently. If you’re not backing up, do it now!

Now you need to think about your programs and program data.  Programs that you purchased or downloaded and installed are not located in the Library.  You can’t just copy program files because they have files and info scattered over your drive – that’s how they function so accept it and move on!   For my peace of mind, I like to make a system image weekly. Windows has a built in backup program that will easily create a system image for you and let you set this up on an automatic schedule.  The dreamy thing about a system image file is that you can restore the image to a new drive and if all goes well, the computer will boot to that drive and look exactly like the old one, with all the programs, settings etc. that you had.  Even your favorite desktop background will be there! If you’ve ever had a system crash, you’ll know that it is irritating to say the least when the many setting you created to make your system perfect for you are no longer there. Things like your screensaver, font settings and internet browser settings will not be there, just to name a few.  You’ll need an external hard drive at least as big as your current drive, but typically they’re less than $100. What are you waiting for?!?

Now that you’ve done all this, the last step to data security is to have some redundancy in your backups.  Make two or three! It’s good to have at least two backup drives and to interchange them on a regular basis.  Label them A, B and C or Mary, Harvey and Twit! But each time you back up cycle the backup drives. Having a third lets you keep a backup of your data off site or in a fire and waterproof storage box.  For the extreme catastrophe that would make this important, you would be happy to have this updated every month or two!

I’m hoping you will take this seriously enough to set up your own backup program!  Remember, four things: Organize! Backup Files! Image your drive! And create multiple backups!   And of course, if you need help, feel free to call us at About-Face Computer Solutions for some assistance or training.