Design, photography and ramblings

Month: November 2014

New DataTable Plugin released

Version 1 of  the DataTable Plugin was released today.  It is designed to work with the latest version of WordPress 4.0 and should work for WordPress installs since version 2.6.  The plugin includes only the basic files needed to operate, and assumes you have jQuery 1.0 setup in your WordPress templates.

At the heart of this plugin lies the DataTable jQuery code version 1.10.4.   The DataTable code is available from and contains more advanced code and examples for use in any html web application.

This plugin was inspired by the desire to provide added functionality to html tables created in WordPress using the wpViews and wpTypes plugins.

What you might not know when you start your slideshows in PowerPoint

For months, everyone swore the laptop used in the conference room was too old and didn’t work.  “I know the video settings were set correctly last time we used it!”  The video settings would be checked and reset, then everything would go back to normal.  Then the following week, when someone would try to give a presentation we would hear them say “the video settings are changed again!”

Well chances are it is not the PowerPoint gnome sneaking around in the middle of the night changing video settings on computers.  No, it probably happened when you hit play on your PowerPoint presentation.

To backup for a second, there are two ‘display’ scenarios for a computer connected to a projector (on a Windows 7 machine).  First, the video settings are configured such that the screen on the computer is cloned, or duplicated, on the projector screen.  This setting is helpful if you have presenters with Excel spreadsheets or Word documents where the ‘slideshow’ button is not available.  The second option is to treat the projector as a second monitor.  For those of us who have two computer monitors at our desk, we know that having this setup allows us to view say a web browser on one monitor and a Word document on the other. This also happens to be the setting PowerPoint will switch to when you press play on your slideshow.

To demonstrate that PowerPoint can change your video settings (unbeknownst to you) , set both your video settings to ‘cloned display’.  Now load a PowerPoint presentation and start the slideshow.  When we tested this, we noticed the screens will flicker for a few seconds (the video settings are changing), then the slideshow appears on the projector screen and the computer screen displays the ‘presenter’ view with the navigation controls for the presentation (which are missing from the slideshow).  Now stop the PowerPoint presentation and see if both screens are cloned or extended.  If we go back to our video settings, sure enough they have changed from ‘cloned displays’ to ‘extended display’ (which means the projector screen is essentially a second monitor).

There is a solution to this.  One is to set the Slideshow/Monitor settings within PowerPoint 2013 to ‘Primary Monitor’ or anything other than automatic (as mentioned in this article).  Another (my choice) is to update your Windows registry using the method mentioned in the article, that will revert your display settings back after stopping a PowerPoint presentation.

You should still educate your users on this video setting swap issue.  You may want to write instructions stating that they either need to change the video settings to show their spreadsheets or progress reports or they need to ‘drag’ them from the computer screen to the projector screen.   There are so many display options these days that it is difficult to keep up with where the settings are being controlled (be it within presentation software such as PowerPoint your video driver settings).  If you want to quickly get to the display settings in Windows 7, press and hold the Windows key and press ‘P’.


The mail merge strikes back

mailmergeMost probably have a love hate relationship with mail merge.  This complicated yet refined method for  automating letter and envelope creation can relieve you of many hours of tedious copy and pasting from Excel to Word.  No longer do you need to manually enter names and addresses on the thank you letters you plan to send out to your 1,500 most loyal customers.  However, mail merge can also lead to hours of printer frustration and hair pulling if you do not play by the rules of mail merge.

Here are a few tips for a less painful mail merge (if merging a list of contacts from Excel to letters and envelopes in Word for example):

  1. ONLY use the ‘Finish & Merge/Print Documents…’ option for printing! This can not be stressed enough.  Many folks have pulled their hair out trying to get the regular ‘File/Print’ option to work with mail merge, so don’t waste your time.  Sometimes it may work, but not for all things, so just go with the mail merge print options.
  2. mm-printMake use of the ‘Print records From ___ To ___’ print option.  If you have hundreds of documents to print on expensive paper, you do not want to be wasting time and paper when your setup is incorrect.  Start by printing the first 6 records. Make sure you do not choice to print ALL.  This print option also allows you to potentially split a print job between two different printers (you could send items 1 to 100 to one printer and 101 to 200 to another printer.
  3. Again, preview the print job on the first handful of items.  If the mail merge is setup for both envelopes and letters this can help to ensure your printer is happy with switching between letters and envelopes at the same time.  This also just a good quality assurance test and helps prevent a good deal of printer waste.
  4. Lock your printer or print job.  If you are printing in a large office on a shared network printer, you do not want others inserting a print job in the middle of you large mail merge job.  One option is to locking your print job until you get to the printer and enter your username and password.  This is good if you have confidential documents that you do not want others to see and allows you to only execute the print job after you physically reach the printer.A secondary solution, and a better one when trying to prevent your large print jobs from being interrupted by others, is to talk with you IT staff about setting up a temporary password lock on the printer.   This essentially locks the printer so only you can send jobs to it.  Once your jobs are complete you would then remove the password block so others could print.  If you lock others out, place a notice on the printer to alert others of who has locked the printer and for how long (this is just a common courtesy to others in your work space).  The more communication the better.




Plone table of contents for news item

Plone doesn’t seem to give news items a table of content option as pages have, so it seems you can force a TOC in news items.  In the html editor enter the following code and see if this doesn’t add a table of contents for you:

<dl class="portlet toc" id="document-toc"><dt class="portletHeader">Table of Contents</dt><dd class="portletItem"><ol class="TOC1Digit"></ol></dd></dl>

Caveat: If this code is added to a news item that appears on a blogroll with other news items THEN the table of contents generates links for EVERY article. Plone is not the smartest CMS in the bunch, and definitely not the brightest.  But it does win my least favorite award.

Best of both worlds for mobile and web drop-down navigation

Limitations exist on mobile devices with regards to navigation of websites with ‘drop-down’ menus. A touchscreen, such as a iPad does not have a cursor you can move around the screen with your finger to ‘hover’ items.  Since most drop-down menus use the hover event of the cursor to show sub-levels of the menu, you are unable to access the sub-levels using a touch screen device the way most drop-down menus are created.

The following sample code is a simple proof of concept to demonstrate how to create a dual purpose drop-down menu using bootstrap.  The purpose of this code is to create a multilevel menu that gets around the fact that mobile devices  (and touch screens such as iPad, iPhone, Android phone, etc.) are missing ‘hover’ event functionality that the cursor of a computer mouse provides.  With this menu the main text is wrapped in a ‘div’  tag so mobile users can select the menu item, but not go to the webpage it links to.  The actual link to the menu  item is placed to the right and in my example I use both link text and an image icon to represent the link.  This allows both selection of multilevel menu items to drill deeper into the menu while also providing links to the menu items in parallel.

If you want to play with the code you can find it here (until someone edits the code):


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