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January 3, 1900

By Karen Kenworthy


Wow! Can you believe it? The year 2000 is here!

When I was a nine year-old programmer-to-be, many years ago, I wondered what this age would be like -- what happened to those flying cars they promised us? Few people get to see the turn of a new century. But I would probably see the dawn of a new millennium. What would it be like? Well, now we'll know. It's a great time to be alive!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. I did. And one reason was all the nice Christmas and New Years wishes I received. Many of you wrote just to say hello, or to tell me a bit about yourself. Hearing from you is one of the nicest parts of this job.

Pieces of the Puzzle

Many folks wrote about last week's discussion of 16- and 32-bit programs. This follows on the heels of the enthusiastic comments about our discussion of "Runtimes, APIs, and Other Nerdy Stuff" back on November 22nd. I used to think I was the only one who wondered what makes things tick. Now I know there are a lot of us.

It doesn't take much to get me talking. And these nice comments are more than enough. So from time to time we'll have other chats about what goes on inside our computers. All this and free software too. What will we think of next? :)

Directory Printer Update

But this week I want to tell you about some recent improvements to the Winmag.com Directory Printer. As you probably recall, this Power Tool prints the names of all the files in a directory, directory tree, or drive. It can also print other information, such as each file's size, attributes (read-only, hidden, etc.), and time of last modification.

Back on December 6th we met a new version of this utility. Version 2.2 could "print to disk," storing information in a disk file instead of sending it to a printer. Another new feature allowed let us select an enlarged left margin, so the program's printed reports could be stored in a binder.

Thanks to reader Alan Daley, this week's new edition, version 2.3, makes two changes to the "Increase Left Margin" feature. The old version of the Directory Printer expanded left margins by 1.5 inches. Now, when asked to increase left margins, the program adds just one inch of white space. This is added to the .25 to .5 inch left margin already provided by the printer and its driver. Together, they provide enough space to punch holes in your report without creating holes in your data without wasting paper.

The old Directory Printer ignored requests to expand the left margin when printing reports to disk. That's because I had assumed that all reports send to disk would eventually be imported into a spreadsheet or other program, and the extra white space before file names would cause some confusion.

Alan rightly pointed out that many of these disk files eventually find their way to a printer, where the requested extra left margin would be appreciated. So now the request to increase left margins is honored even when printing to disk. The moral of this story is, if you don't what extra spaces added to your report, don't ask for them ...

Heads Up

I also fiddled with the top of the report. Previously the page headers were printed as closely as possible to the top of each page. With some printers, this meant the headers were less than a quarter of an inch from the paper's top edge.

Now you can ask the Directory Printer to increase its top margin by about a quarter of an inch. Unlike the left margin option, this option only applies to reports sent to a printer. It's ignored when printing to disk. What's more, the page headers are now centered on the page correctly, thanks to reader Walter Kast.

I also added another feature, requested by reader Leila Burrell-Davis. When printing page headers, and also each file's time of last modification, the Directory Printer now uses your preferred date and time formats. In the United States these formats default to "mm/dd/yy" and "hh:mm am/pm", and vary in other countries according to local custom.

You can change your system's date and time formats by running the Control Panel's "Regional Settings" applet. There you'll see two sets of formats, called "Long" and "Short". Directory Printer uses your preferred "Long" date and time formats when printing page headers, and the "Short" formats when printing files' dates and times of last modification.

I'm running out of time, but look for better column alignment. Long filenames make this job hard, but it's getting better. The new version also remembers its settings between sessions, including the new settings that control the amount of top and left margin, and whether you last printed to disk, or a printer. You'll also find an improved File Open dialog when printing to disk, with a choice of default file types and extensions. I've even made a few improvements in the contents of the report, when printing directories but not files.

If you'd like to give this new Directory Printer a try, download your copy from http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptdirprn.asp. As always, it's free, and its Visual Basic source code is available too.

In the meantime, keep those electronic cards and letters coming! I love hearing from you, even if I can't always reply personally. And if you see me on the 'net, or in my flying car, be sure to wave and say "Hi!"