Quick reminder about basic cell phone security

Who among us hasn’t left a cell phone unattended somewhere, even for a short time? Sometimes we do it by accident, as when we walk out of a meeting or conference and suddenly realize we left without the phone, and sometimes we do it on purpose, as when we set the phone in a charger and step away from our desks for a while.

In those fairly typical circumstances, chances are that no one will steal your phone or even just sneak a peek at your mail.  However, to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to apply at least minimal security measures.  Simply requiring a PIN or a password to get past the lock screen can frustrate would-be thieves or snoops.  I use a four-digit PIN on my phones.  Although it’s undoubtedly somewhat less secure than an actual password, it works well for me because I can enter the PIN quickly and start using the phone with negligible delay.[1]  At the same time, I feel fairly comfortable knowing that if I leave my phone on my desk for a few minutes, no one is going to be able to read my mail.  (I’ve also made that possibility less likely by choosing a relatively short screen timeout setting.)

I confess that I’m not familiar with iPhones, so I don’t know where the appropriate settings are located.  On my somewhat older Android phones, the settings related to passwords and PINS are under “Lock Screen” (i.e., Settings > Lock Screen).[2]  You might find these security-related settings, or additional ones (including those for the screen timeout), under “Display” or “Security.”[3]

Incidentally, it’s also a good idea to empty your mail Trash folder(s) periodically, especially if you regularly delete mail from your phone that contains any financial or otherwise sensitive information.  As you know, deleting mail from your phone (like deleting mail from a mail-reading program on a computer) ordinarily just puts messages into a Trash folder rather than permanently erasing them from your device.  So anyone who can get into your phone and into your mail – assuming the mail on your phone isn’t password-protected – can see those messages.

On my Android, I can’t see the Trash folder unless I go into my mail settings and choose “Show All Folders.” When all folders display, I’m able to go into the Trash folder and select and delete the messages.

Don’t forget to install an antivirus program on your phone.  (Most antivirus programs offer versions that you can install on multiple devices, which I believe is a good investment.)  And of course, follow the same precautions when reading mail or browsing on your phone that you follow on your computer(s) – such as not clicking links unless you’re 100% certain that they’re safe.

In addition, remember to back up your critical data (as well as anything of sentimental value, such as hard-to-replace photos) on a regular basis in case your phone is lost, damaged beyond repair, or stolen.

Finally, consider installing a “Find My Phone” app that will allow you to locate your phone if it does go missing, and to erase your data remotely to make it less likely that a thief will gain access to the data.

This post covers only a few basics related to cell phone security.  But even the simple measures I’ve described here can add greatly to the security of the data on your phone.  If you haven’t already added a PIN or a password to your phone, consider doing so now, while you’re thinking about it.

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[1]  I’m not referring to using the phone while driving, which I scrupulously avoid.  (I have a speakerphone in my car for those rare occasions when someone urgently needs to contact me during an extended road trip.)  That was true even before my closest friend was killed by a distracted driver in May of 2016.

[2]  Note:  The locations of these settings vary by manufacturer, operating system (even within Android phones), and model year, so you might have to explore a bit to find the settings on your own phone.

[3]  Use caution, and do some research, before changing any of the default settings under “Security.”  Many of those settings (such as settings to require decrypting the phone each time you use it) appear to be meant to disable the phone if it is stolen.  They can have unintended consequences; make sure you understand those consequences before proceeding.  (Here is one helpful article about encryption on Androids: How to Encrypt Your Android Phone (and Why You Might Want to).)

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June 18, 2017 at 11:03 am

Search tips: Exact phrases and wildcards

Whether you are searching for a particular e-mail message in Outlook or for a particular document stored in your firm’s document management system (DMS), there might be occasions when you want to search for an exact phrase – such as “Motion for Summary Judgment” or “Home Inspection” – or look for a word (such as someone’s name) that you’re not sure how to spell.  This post explains how to do both.

Searching for Exact Phrases

Both in Outlook and in most DMSes (such as iManage or NetDocs), you can search for exact phrases by enclosing your search term(s) in quotation marks.  (By the way, this technique also works when you are searching in Google and other Internet search engines.)  In other words, click in the appropriate search box / field, type open quotation marks (“), immediately type your search terms, type close quotation marks (“), and press the Enter key or click the program’s search icon (magnifying glass, Search or Find button, etc.).  Be sure not to insert any spaces between the quotation marks and your search term.  In other words, your search should look something like the following:

“motion for summary judgment”

or

“home inspection”

or the like.[1]

Note that exact-phrase searches are somewhat limiting.  They look for the exact words you type between the quotation marks in the exact order that you type them.  Thus, a search for “motion for summary judgment” will not find documents containing the phrase “summary judgment motion” (unless those docs also contain the phrase “motion for summary judgment”).[2]

By contrast, if you type the words motion for summary judgment without quotation marks – and without bold or italics, which I’m using here simply to indicate a search term – the program you’re using to conduct the search typically will look for all three of the substantive words (motion, summary, and judgment), but not necessarily as a phrase and not necessarily in that order. That is to say, if you don’t enclose the words within quotation marks, the resulting documents must contain all three of those words, but each individual word could appear on a different page of the document.  Although this type of search (essentially using the Boolean operator AND to require each word to be present in the documents) can be very useful, searching for an exact phrase often produces more relevant, albeit fewer, results.

Wildcards – The Asterisk (Multiple Characters) and the Question Mark (Single Character)

Wildcards, such as the asterisk or the question mark, can be useful when you are searching for a term but (a) you’re not sure how one or more of the words is spelled; or (b) you’re not sure which word form is relevant to your search.[3]  (An asterisk stands in for multiple characters; a question mark stands in for a single character.)  You can combine wildcards with phrase searching, a particularly helpful technique when you are looking for mail from a specific person.

In fact, I recently helped someone at a law firm who was having trouble locating mail messages in Outlook from an individual she corresponded with on a regular basis.  A sophisticated computer user, she knew enough to use quotation marks for a phrase search on the sender’s name.  However, she didn’t realize that the person whose messages she was looking for did not use the shortened form of his first name in his mail.  So her exact phrase searches failed to find his messages.

I don’t recall the name of the person she was looking for, but it could have been something like “Fred Smyth.”  The problem was that Fred signed all of his mail “Frederick Smyth,” and also used his full name in his e-mail address.  So the phrase search – which was restricted to the exact words Fred Smith – turned up nothing.

I suggested inserting an asterisk wildcard after the name Fred in order to find instances of Fred, but also Freddy, Freddie, Frederick, Fredrick, etc.  (Remember that the asterisk wildcard stands in for multiple characters.)  So we tried the equivalent of the following:

“Fred* Smyth”

and voilà!  The e-mail messages she wanted to find appeared in the search results.

In this example, I deliberately spelled the sender’s last name “Smyth” so that I could differentiate between the asterisk wildcard and the question mark wildcard.  As I mentioned previously, the asterisk stands in for multiple characters, whereas the question mark stands in for a single character.  If the person I was assisting had been uncertain whether Fred spelled his last name “Smith” or “Smyth,” she could have inserted either an asterisk or a question mark instead of the vowel, like so:

“Fred* Sm?th”

or

“Fred* Sm*th”

Both searches would have turned up mail from Fred Smyth.  (If Fred spelled his last name “Smythe,” she could have added either an asterisk or a question mark at the end of the last name, which would have found “Smythe” or “Smyth.”)

I hope that this post, however cursory, has helped to clarify how phrase searching and wildcard searching – sometimes in combination – can produce more relevant results in both Outlook and your DMS.  I’ll try to post additional search tips in the near future.  In the meantime, if you work for a law firm or other large organization, you can find more information about search syntax in the quick reference guides and/or help manuals that your organization provides.

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[1]  I generally type search terms in lower-case letters because doing so typically will search for and find instances of the terms regardless of case (lower case, UPPER CASE, Initial Caps, etc.), whereas typing search terms in UPPER CASE or Initial Caps sometimes produces case-specific results.

[2]  Exact phrase searches usually ignore “helper” words (sometimes called “stop words”) such as “for,” “the,” and “an.”

[3]  In other words, you can use the asterisk wildcard to find different forms of a word such as “recuse,” “recused,” or “recusal.”  Note that your DMS might automatically “stem” words (that is, if you search for “recuse,” the DMS also will look for “recused” and “recusal,”) but this use of the asterisk wildcard can be helpful in many situations.  Just use this method with care.  If you are searching for “deny,” “denied,” or “denial,” and you type den* as your search term, the program might turn up results that include the word dentist or denver, among other irrelevant terms!

May 18, 2017 at 10:01 am

Tiplet: Add “Recent Items” to File Explorer in Windows 10

Several people attending my Windows 10 / Office 2016 upgrade classes at the U.S. Department of Justice in Los Angeles over the past few weeks have asked if there is a way to add the “Recent Items” icon to the Quick access list in the Windows 10 File Explorer.  One reason people like that icon / folder is that by default, the Quick access list – the one at the right side of the File Explorer – displays only 14 recent folders and only 20 recent files, which is convenient but not as comprehensive as the “Recent Items” icon / folder that Windows 7 users sometimes rely on.

It’s actually a fairly simple process to add “Recent Items” to the Quick Access list.  You just have to drill down through several folders and subfolders – assuming you have the appropriate permissions to do so (which shouldn’t be a problem on your own computer, but could be an issue on a computer provided by your employer).

To find the “Recent Items” icon in Windows 10, open the File Explorer (or This PC) and follow this path:

C:\Users\<UserName>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows

Of course, substitute your own user name for “<UserName>.”  (Your user name will not have the brackets around it.)

When you locate the “Recent Items” icon, right-click it, and when the menu appears, click “Pin to Quick access.”  That will add the folder to the Quick access list in the File Explorer.  When you left-click the icon, you will see many of your recently opened files and folders.  (Currently I’m seeing 149 items in my “Recent Items” folder.)

If you decide you don’t need it, you can right-click the icon and choose “Unpin from Quick access.”  But I imagine many users will like the enhanced functionality it provides.

July 30, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Using – and clearing – jump lists in Windows 10

“Jump lists,” first introduced in Windows 7, are the right-click menus of options for the applications that appear in the Windows Taskbar (the horizontal bar that typically runs across the bottom of the screen).  Most people probably are unaware that they even exist.  In fact, they’re quite handy.  They provide quick access to commonly used programs – and specific features within those programs – and other useful options.  For example, right-clicking the Taskbar icon for Outlook produces a jump list with buttons you can click to create a new e-mail, a new appointment,  a new meeting, a new contact, and/or a new task, even if Outlook is running in the background – or isn’t open!

The options available on a jump list depend partly on your version of Windows and partly on what the application’s developers chose to include.  All jump lists provide options for opening the program, for closing the program windows(s), and for unpinning the program from the Taskbar (or for pinning it to the Taskbar, if it isn’t pinned already). The jump list for File Explorer in Windows 10 (formerly known as Windows Explorer) reflects folders that are pinned to the Quick Access area within File Explorer.  Jump lists for browsers such as Chrome and Internet Explorer (“IE”) usually retain links to recently or frequently visited web sites, and also offer quick links for incognito / private browsing and for opening a new window or new tab.  Jump lists for word processing programs keep track of recently opened documents.

Recently opened documents can be removed individually from a jump list simply by right-clicking the document name.  In Windows 10, the menu that appears when you right-click a Word document contains numerous options:  Open, Edit, New, Print, Copy, Pin to this list, Remove from this list, and Properties.  The menu that appears when you right-click a WordPerfect document contains slightly different options:  Open, Print, View in WordPerfect Lightning, Pin to this list, Remove from this list, Properties.[1]

Depending on which browser you use, you might not have an option to remove any of the most visited web sites from the jump list.  For example, Chrome has no such option.  (If you’ve pinned a site, you can un-pin it with a right click.)  With Internet Explorer, by contrast, there is a right-click option labeled “Remove from this list.”  (As of this writing, Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, does not have a traditional jump list that keeps track of visited sites.  The only available option, besides the option to launch the browser, is to unpin the program from the Taskbar.)

There is a way to clear all of your jump lists at once – so that they no longer display recently visited sites or recently opened documents.  In Windows 10, do the following:

  1. Open Windows Settings by clicking the Start button in the lower left corner of the screen, then clicking “Settings.”  (Alternatively, press and hold the Windows key – it looks like a flag – and press the letter “I.”)
  2. Type “Start.”  (The word “start” doesn’t have to be capitalized; the search function is not case-sensitive.)
  3. Click “Start Settings” (or click “Show recently opened items in Jump Lists on Start or the Taskbar,” and skip to Step 5).
  4. Scroll to “Show recently opened items in Jump Lists on Start or the Taskbar.”
  5. Click the “On” button to switch to the “Off” position.
  6. Close the “Settings” dialog by clicking the “X” in the upper right corner.

Pinned items will remain in your jump lists, but recently visited sites and recently opened docs will not.  Note that you can turn tracking back on by repeating the above steps but, in Step 5, clicking the “Off” button to switch to the “On” position.

To clear jump lists in Windows 7, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click in a blank space in the Taskbar, then click “Properties.”
  2. When the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog opens, click the “Start Menu” tab.
  3. Uncheck the checkbox labeled “Store and display recently opened items in the Start menu and the taskbar.”
  4. Click “OK.”  CAUTION:  Be sure to click “OK” rather than closing the dialog by clicking the red “X” in the upper right corner.  Otherwise, Windows will not save your changes.

As with Windows 10, simply repeat the steps, but in Step 3 be sure to check the option to re-enable tracking of recently visited sites and recently opened documents.

To clear jump lists in Windows 8.X, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click in a blank space in the Taskbar, then click “Properties.”
  2. When the Taskbar and NavigationpProperties dialog opens, click the “Jump Lists” tab.
  3. Uncheck the checkbox labeled “Store and display recently opened items in Jump Lists.”
  4. Note the option to change the number of recent items to display in Jump Lists (the default is 10).  You can use the “spinner” arrows or type a number in the box.
  5. Click “OK.”  CAUTION:  Be sure to click “OK” rather than closing the dialog by clicking the red “X” in the upper right corner.  Otherwise, Windows will not save your changes.

As with Windows 10, simply repeat the steps, but in Step 3 be sure to check the option to re-enable tracking of recently visited sites and recently opened documents.

________________________________________________________________

[1] At least, these options appear on my computer.  Depending on which versions of Windows and WordPerfect you are using and how your computer is configured, you might see somewhat different options.

April 4, 2016 at 11:53 am 1 comment

$10.00 discount on my Word 2016 book extended thru April 18

Because we all could use a break at this time of year, I’ve extended my offer of a $10.00 discount off the regular price of my new book, Formatting Legal Documents With Microsoft Word 2016, through April 18, 2016.  For information about how to obtain and apply the discount code (and purchase the book directly through CreateSpace, Amazon.com’s publishing unit), see this post.

Thanks in advance for your interest in my book(s)!

March 31, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Safety alert: Microsoft recalls certain Surface Pro power cords

Microsoft has recalled AC power cords for its Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, and Surface Pro 3 computers sold before March 15, 2015 (last year). According to the May 2016 issue of Consumer Reports, the cords can overheat and cause a fire or an electric shock.

Microsoft will replace your cord for free. For a replacement, call (855) 327-7780 or fill out a form online (see this page on Microsoft’s web site).

Note that the recall affects only the models listed and only those sold before 3/15/2015. Also note that Microsoft advises not to use your current cord while waiting for the replacement.

 

March 31, 2016 at 1:59 pm

The Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down menu (Word)

Training clients sometimes ask me about the Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down in the Paragraph group on the Home tab in Word.  In all candor, I actually hadn’t noticed the drop-down until a client pointed it out to me several years ago.  That’s because I typically open the Paragraph dialog when I want to change the line and/or paragraph spacing of document text.  The Paragraph dialog, which provides access to a full range of configuration options including paragraph alignment, indentation, line spacing, before and after spacing, widow and orphan control, tab settings, and more – it’s sort of a “one-stop shop” for paragraph formatting – comes in very handy in most situations.

However, the Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down can be useful for a few specific types of formatting.  The options are limited to a few pre-set line spacing choices; a command that opens the Paragraph dialog; and, at the very bottom, context-sensitive commands that alternate among “Remove Spacing Before,” “Add Spacing Before,” “Remove Spacing After,” and “Add Spacing After,” depending on the configuration of the paragraph your cursor is in.  The pre-set line spacing choices – 1.0, 1.15, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 – aren’t particularly useful for legal documents (and where standard single and double spacing are appropriate, it’s easy to apply those options with the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl 1 and Ctrl 2).  Sometimes, though, it’s convenient to add or remove spacing before or spacing after.  And you can do so for multiple paragraphs simply by selecting / highlighting the paragraphs first.

Let’s quickly review “spacing before” and “spacing after,” since experience has taught me that even long-time Word users aren’t always sure of the meaning of those terms.  In essence, you can configure paragraphs so that they incorporate extra white space – kind of like a buffer – above and/or below them.  It’s really spacing between paragraphs, but it is created as an attribute of a paragraph, not by pressing the Enter key.  Spacing after, which is more commonly used in legal documents than spacing before, is what makes the cursor appear to skip a line when you press the Enter key after typing the text of a paragraph.  It’s as if you pressed Enter twice.

Spacing before and spacing after usually are configured in points (and usually increment by 12 points).  There are 72 points in a vertical inch, and 12 points, while not the same as true single spacing, is approximately one line.  So adding 12 points after a paragraph is like creating a blank line after that paragraph without pressing Enter.

As mentioned earlier, the options at the bottom of the Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down change depending on the configuration of the paragraph your cursor is in.  If the paragraph already incorporates spacing before, the command in the drop-down changes from “Add Spacing Before Paragraph” to “Remove Spacing Before Paragraph.”  If the paragraph already incorporates spacing after, the command changes from “Add Spacing After Paragraph” to “Remove Spacing After Paragraph.”

When you select / highlight multiple paragraphs and choose “Add Spacing After Paragraph,” Word adds 12 points of spacing after any paragraphs that lack such space, but doesn’t affect any paragraphs that already incorporate 12 points of spacing after.  Interestingly, that option removes extra spacing from any paragraphs previously configured with more than 12 points of spacing after.  In other words, it essentially equalizes the spacing after all of the selected / highlighted paragraphs.  The “Add Spacing Before Paragraph” option works the same way – adding or removing spacing before, depending on how the paragraphs were configured prior to applying the option.

You can imagine how useful these options are for adding or removing extra space between paragraphs.  Of course you can do the same thing by selecting / highlighting paragraphs, then opening the Paragraph dialog and tweaking the spacing before and/or spacing after settings, but the Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down on the Home tab makes it a cinch.

There are a couple of other noteworthy options that affect line and paragraph spacing.  For one, you can add or remove spacing before one or more paragraphs by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl 0 (zero).  The shortcut is a toggle, which means that you can press it once to add space before and press it again to remove space before the paragraph your cursor is in or selected / highlighted paragraphs.  However, keep in mind that this key combination affects only spacing before.  As far as I know, there is no built-in keyboard shortcut to add / remove spacing after.

Also, you can change the spacing before and/or the spacing after directly from the Paragraph group on the Layout tab (aka Page Layout, depending on which version of Word you are using).  That works just fine, but I sometimes forget that the option exists because I usually have the Home tab at the forefront (and it seldom occurs to me to apply paragraph formatting from the tab that mainly affects page formatting).

One final comment:  When you hold the mouse pointer over the Line and Paragraph Spacing drop-down, a pop-up appears.  It describes the functionality of the drop-down and, in Word 2013 and Word 2016, adds:  “To apply the same spacing to your whole document, use the Paragraph Spacing options on the Design tab.”

I don’t recommend doing so, at least not for documents such as pleadings that are subject to stringent formatting requirements.  With the exception of the first option on the Paragraph Spacing drop-down menu on the Design tab (“No Paragraph Space,” which applies single spacing with no spacing before or after), the pre-set choices apply line spacing and/or spacing after settings that are inappropriate for most legal documents.  Those choices are as follows:

  • “Compact” – single spacing with 4 points after;
  • “Tight” – 1.15 spacing (i.e., 1.15 lines) with 6 points after;
  • “Open” – 1.15 spacing with 10 points after;
  • “Relaxed” – 1.5 spacing (i.e., 1.5 lines) with 6 points after; and
  • “Double” – double spacing, but with 8 points after.

If you are working with a document that isn’t subject to strict formatting rules, go ahead and experiment.  You might find that you like some of the options available from that menu.  But for obvious reasons, they won’t work for most California pleadings or similar documents.

 

 

March 18, 2016 at 1:19 pm

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