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Jewish World Review June 18, 2002 / 18 Sivan, 5763

James Coates

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Consumer Reports


Restore missing Word task bars in a normal way; computer was zapped, how to fix it; spell check won't upgrade


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | (KRT) Q. I've lost all my task bars in Microsoft Word. The program works fine if you know all the keyboard commands. I've uninstalled it and then reloaded it twice, to no avail. I have a suspicion the problem may be with the preferences but cannot figure it out. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Lisa McCarty, Norfolk, Va.

A. Most likely your Microsoft Word software is using what is called its normal.dot file to open the program with those important task bars at the top of the screen turned off, Ms. M.

Normal.dot is a file that Word uses to keep track of custom changes in the settings that the user wants to make permanent. These include such things as setting a special default font type and size or opening every document with a letterhead already typed in. Somehow, your normal.dot got saved with the task bars hidden as a permanent setting.

Here is one way to fix things:

First of all, you can easily use the mouse to restore the Standard and Formatting bars of icons across the top of the Word screen for stuff like saving a file, clipping a selection of text, pasting the saved text, changing the font and showing or hiding paragraph marks. Just move the mouse up to the remaining line with the commands for File, Edit, View, etc. and give a right-click. This summons a pop-up menu with a list of all the dozen or so of task bars that Word can display, depending upon one's needs.

Most of us need just those first two - Standard and Formatting. So click on at least that pair to restore them.

You then can save the fixed display for future use by restoring the normal.dot file to implement the repairs made. Just create a blank document with the task bars displayed, then click on File and Save As. Save as normal.dot, thus overwriting the current preference file with those command icons absent.

A second fix would be to rename the current normal.dot file to something else, like "oldnormal.dot," and then shut Word down and reload it. The software will create a new normal.dot file with the default Standard and Formatting task bars displayed.

Q. I suspect Bill Gates has fixed things so that folks like myself who own Office 97 have to upgrade to the new version, or else the spell-checker will not work in our e-mail. I recently got a new Pentium 4 at 2.4 gigahertz with Windows XP. I'm on BellSouth DSL and running Outlook Express 6.0 for my e-mail. I also am using Office 97 Standard. The Outlook Express spell-checker does not work.

I had no problems with OE 5.5 on my Win95 system. The error I get is "An error occurred while the spelling was being checked." Did Microsoft do it to me just because I don't want to buy Office XP?

Jon Mikl

A. Poor Bill. He even makes money when he makes mistakes. Some glitch that nobody seems able to find sometimes - underline sometimes - removes the key file for spell checking on Outlook Express when Office 97 gets loaded on a machine running the Windows XP operating system.

A lot of folks assume that the Microsoft monopoly is forcing them into buying a newer version of Office, and often do just that when all they really need is to replace a single file. It is named csapi3t1.dll, a so-called dynamic-link library that connects the Outlook Express software to the Office 97 spell-checker.

You can get a fresh copy of the DLL file and instructions for the fix over the Internet from www.tech-pro.co.uk, an outfit in Britain that offers fixes for several computer problems as a lure to get people to view its products, including a world clock.

With the DLL file in hand, you need to move it to a directory on the C: drive called "Program Files¼Common Files¼Microsoft Shared¼Proof." This is a pain, I know, but not nearly as big a pain as buying a new copy of Office would be.

Q. "Ball lightning" hit a tree beside the house, and a monster surge of electricity fried two TV sets, a cordless phone and an Intel cable modem. Now the computer won't come to life the first time I start it up. It does start up on a second boot, but it always displays two messages: C:¼WINNT¼Minidump¼Mini 052103-02.dmp and C:¼DOCUME (tilde)1¼Owner¼LOCALS(tilde)1¼Temp¼WER 3 .temp.dir00¼sysdata.xml

After closing those error windows, the unit operates fine, with the exception of an occasional red circle with slash on the mouse pointer, but that clears in a millisecond or so. I'm at a loss to figure it out.

Robert M. Dorman, Norfolk, Va.

A. Just when you think everything that can go wrong has gone wrong, some new problem pops up, eh, Mr. D.? But, hopefully, ball-lightning strikes will continue to be somewhat rare computer problems.

When your PC got zapped and shut down so abruptly, one part of the Windows operating system assumed that one of the programs then running had crashed catastrophically. So it triggered a tool designed to offer users a chance to send a report to Microsoft over the Internet that a serious error had occurred. Those reports are called minidumps and are files containing significant data about the problem program. They get stored in that C:¼WINNT¼Minidump directory mentioned in those error messages.

Several fixes are recommended by experts, because there are several possible causes, including, it would seem, lightning strikes. Often you can fix things simply by getting rid of the Minidump directory. Click on the My Computer icon on the desktop, then click on the C: icon and scroll down to the WINNT directory. Right-click on the Minidump directory name and pick Rename. Change it slightly so you can restore things by naming it back to the original if trouble occurs. That should fix you up.

However, sometimes one needs to find the precise program that is burping. Since your error messages point to the Temp directory and an XML format Internet file, it probably is the Microsoft Internet Explorer software acting up.

The easiest fix is to simply order Windows to stop looking for error-reporting messages for that specific program. This is done by clicking on Start and Control Panel and then opening the System icon. There, if you click the Advanced tab, you will see at the bottom an "Error Reporting" link. Click it, and you get a set of prompts that will let you shut down error reporting for all programs and/or for Windows itself. Or you can browse through your programs and pick the ones you want to stop error reporting. Try Internet Explorer first.

I have no way of checking this, but some say that the problem can be fixed simply by using the XP System Restore feature to move the computer back in time to before that ball lightning struck. Checking the various newsgroups that mess around with this kind of stuff, I found that many folks insist that this fix won't work.

Still, maybe the first thing you should do is try System Restore just in case. Click on Start and Accessories and then System Tools to find the Restore commands.

In closing, let me say, good luck and keep grounded.


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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of rthis column by clicking here.

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