Gmail settings, Excel calendar dates, other advice

Ask Mr. Modem

Q. How can I explore the various settings in Gmail without messing up what I currently have? Is there any place I can see demonstrations of what the various Gmail features and options do?

A. Any changes you make to Gmail through its user settings are easily reversible by returning to the setting in question and changing it back to the way it was. As an alternative, since Gmail is free, you can create a test email account for yourself, then experiment until your head explodes. If you test settings in this manner and find something you particularly like, you can then apply it to your primary account.

Q. In using Excel spreadsheets on my Windows 7 computer, I cannot establish a uniform procedure to enter dates. If I enter 8/2/2014 it may appear as 8.2.14 or 8-2-14. How can I format my dates so they appear the same every time?

A. By default, the “short date” display format for Windows (and thus Excel) is “M/d/yyyy,” so August 2, 2014 would be displayed as 8/2/2014.

For various reasons, you may want to zero-fill your dates and have August 2, 2014 appear as 08/02/2014. Doing this actually involves a Windows setting, not an Excel setting. I only mention that because if you change this format, it will affect how dates appear throughout Windows and other programs running under Windows. It is not just confined to Excel, so caution is advised. I would suggest jotting down any changes you decide to make in case you aren’t enamored with the result, so you can then change things back to what you had originally.

To change the default date format in Windows, go to your Control Panel and select “Regional Settings” or “Region and Language.” In the Short Date format list, select whatever format you prefer, then click OK when you’re done.

From this point forward, unless the dates in Excel were formatted using Excel’s Format menu for a given spreadsheet, they will display as you have defined them.

Q. At work we just converted to Linux Ubuntu for our computer operating system and I will attend training next week. One thing I’ve been wondering about: If I send clients an attachment using a word processing or spreadsheet program, will they be able to open it?

A. As long as you save it in a file format your client’s computer can accommodate, there should be no problem. If you use a program such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice (comparable to MS Office, but free and frequently used with Linux) to create a document or spreadsheet, you will be able to save it in a format that Windows or Apple systems can read. I use LibreOffice and I work with a large number of publication editors who require .DOC-formatted articles. It is not a problem to simply select the .DOC format when saving my document as opposed to the native LibreOffice .ODT format.

Mr. Modem's DME (Don't Miss 'Em) Sites of the Month


Chordify transforms music from YouTube, SoundCloud or your private music collection and converts it into chords that you can play along with on a guitar, ukulele or piano. It’s a freemium service, meaning it is available in free and paid versions. The free version allows you to keep three songs in music storage, a maximum song duration of 10 minutes, a maximum file size of 10 MB, and .PDFs of the chord diagrams. Visit to compare the freebie to the Premium version. In the center of the page is the field where you can either upload a song from your collection or the field below it where you can paste in a URL to the song you want to convert. The page created displays the chords to your selected song and a Play button. When you click or tap Play, it starts the song and the chord field begins scrolling. Very cool!


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Great Language Game

When you begin, you will hear a short recording of a language being spoken. You are then given multiple choices from which to select your answer. You can make three incorrect guesses before the game terminates. If you have an ear for languages, give it a try. If it all sounds like Greek to you, better skip this one.

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