Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another PDF to Doc Converter

I came across another converter, and this time its online. You don't need to install any software on your system, and the conversion is almost instantaneous. Yes, Japanese also works. Go to the site, click on Browse, upload the PDF file. I uploaded a 9-page PDF document and the converted file was ready for download in less than two minutes.

The screenshots below show the original PDF on the left and the converted Word document on the right.

Comparison - original PDF and Word document

Click on the image above to see a magnified view. The layout is preserved quite well, but like many other PDF converters, each line has a frame around it. Not good if you are going to translate the Word document with a CAT tool. You will have to save it as a text file and start removing hard returns. Considering the hassle, I found PDF to Word, a shareware, still unbeatable, since it preserves the layout and gives you soft returns at the end of each line (see screenshot with soft returns after conversion by PDF to Word below).

Converted by PDF to Word

The online converter here, is useful if you are traveling and wish to make a quick conversion online, and of course, it is free and quick.

Have a great day!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Find and replace utility for Excel

Do you have clients who persist in using Excel as a word processor just because they need to insert some tables in the document? This seems to be the favorite pastime of some of my Japanese clients. I have a feeling that they are given a crash course on using Excel as a word processor when they join a Japanese company!

I was given about 31 Excel files each with two or more sheets to translate. As expected, within each cell, the author had generously inserted hard returns to align all text within a specific column. The moment I looked at it I knew that I would be wasting precious time removing these hard returns and translating the text in a CAT tool.  To add to this burden, are changes to specific terms that arrive later from the client. How would you make find and replace phrases throughout 31 files x 3 sheet on the translated document? I scoured the Web, landed on an Excel MVP page and installed a free macro utility called FlexFind (thanks Jan Karel Pieterse, you saved me considerable time, and a fine bowl of steaming noodles and beer is on me if you visit me in Japan).

The macro installs easily as an icon in Excel and also appears as an item under the Edit menu. Here's what it looks like:


I ensure that the Acknowledge and Each Item boxes are ticked so that when I do the find and replace, I read and confirm that the macro does replace the terms I want to replace. This is a good macro to keep and use for Excel.

I do have problems yet in merging text spanning across multiple cells and cleaning up sentences with hard returns in the same cell. If you do know of any solutions, for these do write to me.

Have a great day!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Keeping your system up-to-date

While translation keep me busy most of the time, and there's always underlying pressure to finish off a day's work, I have forced myself devote half about  a day every week to check for updates to Windows programs, updates to applications installed on my system, running the Windows defragger to defragment the hard disk, and performing a data backup. Today, I'd like to share with you my once-a-week maintenance schedule with the main utilities I use.

1. Detect and update vulnerable programs

I use Secunia PSI (free for personal use) that checks my system, scans, detects and helps to update vulnerable programs. It provides links for easy download of patches and updates to keep your applications running smoothly. Here's a screenshot of the results of scan of the system by this application.


Try it. I found it to be very useful as it warns me of vulnerabilities.

2. Update checker

I also use the Update Checker from that scans my system and produces a list of applications that need to be updated. Yes, this is also free, and shows updates to beta versions of applications too. The screenshot below shows some of the applications that I use for which updates are available today, and the download links.



3. Disk Cleanup

I usually go to Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Cleanup (note that my menus are in Japanese so the above may not be the exact words used, but you should be able to find the Cleanup program) and cleanup my system of unnecessary files, such as temporary Internet files. That does free up several hundreds of megabytes of space and prepares the hard disk for defragmentation, which is the next step here. 

4. Disk Defrag 

I then go to the same menu as above and select Disk Defrag under System Tools (Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/) to defrag my hard disk.  The defrag process does take a bit of time depending on how fragmented your hard disk is, but regular defragging makes the process go quite fast and keeps my hard disk in good order.

5. Disk Backup 

Finally, I back up my data using Acronis (to back up the entire disk) and also my own low level data backup method that I wrote about before.

To conclude, however busy you are, minimal maintenance such as described above will keep your system working like a well-oiled machine and save you problems in the long run.

Have a great day!