Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 24 (Jan 2011) – computer tips (pt2)

The twenty-fourth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 31st January 2011 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website so I hope you find this information useful. In the first twenty-three episodes (see for earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, erotica, ‘writing rules’, historical & the classics, name & characters, Christmas, opportunities, songwriting, reading, auto/biographies and computer tips (part 1 of 2). This episode was computer tips (part 2).

Function keys

These are the ‘F’ keys at the top of your Windows keyboard and are usually set up as follows:

  • F1 – help. Pressing this in the programme that you’re in will usually bring up the help menu.
  • F2 – used in Excel for editing the contents of a particular cell (square). It doesn’t seem to do anything in Word, although the Word Help function keys menu says it’s for ‘move text or graphics’. Pressing the Shift key with F2 copies text. Ctrl F2 brings up the print preview option.
  • F3 – this varies depending on the programme from a search function (Explorer) to inserting pre-saved sections of text (Word). Shift F3 is the option to change the case of letters e.g. standard to CAPS or vice versa.
  • F4 – repeats the last action or find/go to when pressing Shift F4. Ctrl F4 closes your document.
  • F5 – Choose the Go To command (Home tab) or ‘move to the last change’ when pressing Shift F5.
  • F6 – Go to the next pane or frame (or Go to the previous pane or frame: Shift F6). Ctrl F6 goes to the next window.
  • F7 – Spelling command (or thesaurus if you do Shift F7).
  • F8 – Extend a selection (Shift F8 shrinks a selection).
  • F9 – Update the selected fields (Shift F9 switches between a field code and its result). Ctrl F9 inserts an empty field.
  • F10 – Show KeyTips (Shift F10 displays a shortcut menu). Ctrl F10 maximises the document window size.
  • F11 – Go to the next field (Shift F11 goes to the previous field). Ctrl F11 locks a field.
  • F12 – the Save As command (Microsoft Office Button ).

I use very few of the above and the Alt key is also used with the function keys but I only use one: Alt F4 to close the whole programme (i.e. Word, Excel etc.) – you’ll be asked to save the document if you’ve not already done so. Ctrl P brings up the print screen and Ctrl S saves the document. There are other options when you use the Ctrl, Shift and F keys but they’re quite complicated so you can look them up in Help (F1) if you wish. Likewise, Alt/Shift/Function keys work but I don’t use any of them. There’s also a very useful PC list which can be found at

The other keys and symbols on a standard computer keyboard

  • On a Windows keyboard, the Print Screen (PrtSc) key is useful. If there’s something that you can’t print you can press the Print Screen button (usually top-right hand side of the keyboard, perhaps over the numerical keypad if you have one. Then you can paste a picture still of whatever your screen was showing into a blank Word document or email (or wherever). If, like me, you’re working on two screens (I usually have my laptop showing my emails and then whatever I’m working on, like this, on a separate 19” screen) then the screenshot will show both. This you’d need to trim in something like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro but if you’re working with two independent screens you’d probably know how to do that. Let me know if you have any queries with this.
  • Next to/near PrtSc is SysRq. The ‘SysRq’ button, says, “ is a key on keyboards for PCs that has no standard use”, which makes me wonder why it’s there, but hey ho.
  • explains that the ‘Scroll Lock’ button is another that’s rarely used.
  • You may have heard of using (or already use) the Ctrl, Alt and Delete keys together. This will bring up a Windows Task Manager menu which contains five headed tabs. The first is the most widely used: ‘Applications’. It shows you which programmes are running (status). If one of your programmes has stopped working or frozen (as is a fairly common occurrence for Windows), highlight the programme that is likely to show ‘not responding’ then click on End Task. The other four headed tables are processes, performance, networking and users. Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s best to leave these alone. If you have more than one user set up on your machine (i.e. if you share your computer), you can log off yourself or another user from ‘Users’.

On a Mac keyboard F1 and F2 decrease and increase the screens brightness, F3 shows you all the screens of the current programme you’re in (very useful for instance if you have more than one Word document open at a time; which I often do). Pressing F4 brings up the ‘dashboard’ which is likely to vary from Mac to Mac but mine brings up the calculator, temperature of my town, calendar, clock and onscreen post-it note. F5 (a blank key) is the Find option (ctrl/cmd F I mentioned earlier), F6 on mine doesn’t appear to do anything but it either does but I can’t see or it’s not been set up to do anything – something for me to investigate. F7 to F9 are of use when playing iTunes, Quick Times or suchlike as they’re rewind, play/pause and forward buttons. F10 is mute, and F11 and F12 are decrease / increase volume. The final key to the right of F12 is the eject button. Useful if a CD has just finished and I’m in Word rather than iTunes etc. The main other differences between a Mac keyboard and Windows keyboard are that the @ symbol and “ are swapped. I don’t know why but there you go. As I mentioned earlier the Mac keyboard has a cmd key where the Ctrl button is on a Windows. Rather than three keys to the left of the space bar on a Windows keyboard there are four on a Mac. Working leftwards they are cmd, alt, ctrl and fn. There are so many shortcuts that if you’re new to Mac (or like me have had a Mac for about six months and are still getting to know it) then I’d recommend having the keyboard shortcut list I mentioned earlier handy. Oh, there’s also no delete button on the Mac keyboard so you need to press the fn and backarrow (backspace) button.

Backing up your work

  • If you ever needed a case for backing up your work, this is a good one: online webzine ‘Oddlands Magazine’ which launched in January 2008 closed after less than a year (5 issues) because the editor’s computer ‘imploded’. The editor was quoted as saying “I have lost ALL submissions, correspondence, personal work, etc. I simply never backed everything up on a regular basis. I would file this under TOTAL stupidity. But it has happened…”. Oops.
  • Backing up your work is absolutely vital and I would recommend a separate hard drive; either a memory stick or a ‘portable hard drive’ which is about hand size (I use both). Obviously a memory stick is cheaper (c. £10) but it will hold less (c. 1GB-4GB; which is plenty for many years’ worth of Word documents) or if you want to back up your entire computer then a larger hard drive (c. £30+, I have two 250GB; one for my iTunes music, all 12000+ songs, podcasts, months’ worth of audiobooks etc, and the other for backups). If you can afford it, I would recommend both because most memory sticks have a keyring so you can always have your writing with you but safe in the knowledge that everything else is sitting on your external hard drive should your computer itself ever fail.

Protecting your work with passwords

  • I would highly recommend putting a password on your computer that is requested whenever you switch it on (as you can on mobiles, iPods etc). This varies depending on what computer system you’re using but on Microsoft XP it’s done through Start/Control Panel/User Accounts (System Preferences / System on a Mac).
  • You can also password individual documents. You can do this from new or existing documents by selecting File/Save As and clicking on Tools then General Options (Tools / Protect Document on a Mac). You can then type in passwords to modify and/or open a document. You can put in the same or different passwords for both. You will be prompted to retype the passwords once you click on OK and you won’t be able to gain access to the document once you’ve entered the password/s so make sure it’s something you’re going to remember.

The internet

The internet is (usually) a fantastic tool for writers. I’m forever dipping into it and any of the blue website links will take you straight to the website pages. I won’t go into the history of the internet but you can read it for yourselves at

  • Users of a Microsoft Windows computer will usually use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I have done for years but having upgraded (for free following a reminder to do so) to version 8, my computer started a go slow and crashing so I swapped to Mozilla Firefox which a neighbour recommended and looks pretty much the same. I find it slightly more user-friendly and can be downloaded free at
  • If you want to refresh (re-load) an internet page then F5 key should do this on a Windows computer or cmd R on a Mac.
  • You can set up as many pages (within reason) as your ‘home’ pages. This means that every time you open your internet browser (i.e. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari), the pages will appear automatically.


Finally, if you’re thinking of buying, or upgrading, a computer I would recommend a laptop over a ‘tower’ type computer. There are so many to choose from but the main thing to remember is that the smaller the screen, the smaller the keyboard. Buying an 11” (the diameter from one corner to the opposing corner) laptop means that the keyboard will be smaller than a 15”. However, you can still link a full-size keyboard and monitor to a laptop (which is the set-up I have with my 11” laptop). The great thing about laptops is their portability. If you’re going on a train journey or meeting other writers in a café (for example), you simply charge up the battery (I don’t keep my battery in my PC netbook when it’s in use at home but charge it fully if I know I’m going anywhere) and off you go. Laptops also have a built-in mouse but I use a separate one for ease, unless I’m on the move. These days the prices don’t vary much between the two (other than having to buy the monitor for the laptop) and there are offers for free laptops with certain broadband (internet) packages – just make sure that you get what you really want. Free laptops are bound to be quite basic but certainly good enough for most uses. If you do buy a new computer and you’re not sure how to use it or want to brush up on skills you have, there are free courses available (e.g. Learn IT centre and local libraries in the UK). New computers annoyingly rarely come with Microsoft Office (‘Word’ word processor, Outlook emails, Excel spreadsheets etc) so you may need to buy this separately. Some come, or used to come, with Vista operating system (I think most are now Windows 7/XP) – avoid it like the plague. I have it, it looks very pretty but it’s very unreliable, slow and nothing likes working with it. I bought my Apple MacBook last June and other than a few teething problems and some frustration at the illogical differences between PC and Mac, I love it. Macs do have all the software you need built in (there’s a hilarious Mac advert called ‘Box’ – – which proves this point, although my favourite Mac ad is called ‘Security’ –; I could watch it over and over… well, actually I have).

Another tip

Thanks to Denny from Northampton, England for recommending the following web sites: and and a tip for minimising your current programme: go to the top right hand corner of your screen where the white cross is on the red background and click on the dash. And she says her two favourite shortcuts are ones I mentioned last week:  CTRL with C to copy something already selected and CTRL with V to paste.


Here I provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts listed on my page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Write a story about one character helping another but things going pear-shaped; and/or
  • Write a story about a character struggling to use a gadget of some kind and how he or she gets over that difficulty. Remember that they can have help from someone else or by an external source but they have to have learnt something, ideally about themselves, by the end of the story.

The podcast concluded with News and feedback, On This Day in History and a 60-worder entitled ‘Lap of luxury’:

  • Sophie Ella-beth Fortescue III was used to the finer things in life. Pampered from the minute she was born, she lapped it up. She would have the best clothes money could buy, and her hair done regularly. Her nails were groomed to perfection and she loved having all the attention. Yes indeed, she was the smartest miniature poodle in Mayfair!

That’s it. Thanks for visiting – a list of the other transcripts and summaries can be found at

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