My wish lists

A. Word Processors

In the process of the evolution of Word Processors, several important features have been lost. What is amazing is that I had ALL these features in 1989 using a program of around 300K (PC-Write) that could run off a floppy.

1. Capitalisation control key.

A control key that changes the case of the character under the cursor on the screen then moves on. If the character is small case it makes it big case. If the character is big case it makes it small case. This feature makes it easy to correct capitalisation in titles etc.

2. Turn off “Automatic paragraph reformat”.

If you like it, fine, but where is the ability to turn it off? Why do I ever need to turn it off? Because when you do a lot of editing, especially at the ends of lines, the cursor continually switches from the right to left. It sometimes drives me almost crazy. When Auto-reformat is turned off, when I start deleting words the next line moves up one and is added to the current line and sticks out. When I have finished, a simple control command resets the paragraph.

3. Fix Zig-zagging cursors.

When moving the cursor vertically, whenever the cursor crosses white space, the cursor moves to the left. But frequently I wish to insert text exactly in the white space exactly below the text. This zigzagging needs to have an off switch.

Maybe there is some easy way. You have to create a line of spaces, copy them to the whole page, then the page works correctly. What a pain! I do not understand why the old Dos Word Processors had solved this problem, and Windows Word Processors have miserably failed. I am even more amazed that millions put up with this real problem without complaint.

4. Permit several markings then perform action

Often when I am editing I want to make several parts of a page into bold, italics, etc. What I would like to do is to mark each and every part, then execute the command ONCE. Now I have to mark, execute, mark, execute. What a needless pain!  For instance, why can I not mark several parts of a text, then at one command make them italics?

This is such a simple matter, and such a time saver. Again, PC-Write had it. None of the new Word Processors I have tried have this simple feature.

B. RSS readers

What I want in an RSS reader

Whenever you see the option “RSS” you can subscribe to that feed of information, so that you regularly receive updates.

I started off by using Opera - which does a pretty good job of handling them. Whenever I use Opera it quietly goes online and downloads the latest list of headers (or small articles) which I can read whenever I want to.

There came a time when I wanted some more features. I spent several hours looking for a reader program - and none of them worked. First, my list of non-negotiable features.

1. Like Opera, I should be able to delete any header I no longer want.

2. It should work on any feed I try to subscribe to.

3. I should be able to annotate, add comments and tags.

4. I should be able to click on the links and the downloaded pages should be saved for reading offline.

None of the programs I tried had ALL these basic features ! Go figure why not.

Only Opera allowed me to delete the header, not the whole feed. But, Opera has no annotations except from a small choice of tags.

Omea could not even read the Highlight Heath Newsfeed.

Awasu says it allows annotations, but I could not see how.

Now, come on programmers. What am I supposed to do? I really want to be able to clip, with referencing the source, as I go along, and to make annotated comments. Is this too much to ask?

C. Referencing

I have a real problem. I am forever browsing the internet and saving files. Then when I come to write something, I cannot remember where I downloaded the file from. You have to understand that one of the criteria for good academic writing is to always be able to fully reference your sources. Right now there is no easy way. Jabref may be getting in that direction, but I have never been able to get into it.

What I would really like is an addon to the ‘Save as’ menu within a browser, so that the ‘from’ ‘to’ information is saved. Ideally this should be saved with the file - perhaps a little text file. I would not be averse to a central file containing:

                         From.  To.    Date.    Comments.

Now, there is nothing to stop me building up my own xls file with such data in it, but can you not see how much of a pain this is to do? Where is the automation of such a vital task?

So what can I do?

1. Painstakingly note down this information for EVERY file I download. You must be kidding - it would take hours each week!

2. Google again whenever I need the reference.

3. Add the link to the file properties information

Have the patience whenever a file is downloaded to right click on it, and paste the URL into the properties dialogue box.

4. Free solution: PdfXchange viewer - Add Notes feature

I used to recommend Foxit reader but no longer do so because printing from Foxit is often VERY slow. There is a much better alternative - the Pdfxchange viewer which even in the free version allows you to annotate a text either in a bubble or, even easier, using typewriter mode. Try it! There is even a Portable version, and since nowadays one of the major vectors for viruses is pdf files, you get much better protection using an alternative to the big buggy Adobe reader.

D. Referencing - partly solved

The problem:

I have over 1000 downloaded pdf files, loosely classified across over 20 folders and subfolders. How can I best index them and at the same time build an author title publisher and source database?  I found the answer in Mendeley ( It took less than 15 minutes to index my files and suggest name title etc which I could then edit. I now have a searchable database of my files, and I can use just the indexing functions without the online backup which is offered. The best review I have seen is

E. Arabic typing Solution found!

The Arabic keyboard has been available for years. It is not that difficult to load the additional modules into Windows and Word so as to be able to type in Arabic. But, for those of us who read Arabic but only need to write occasionally, we need a shortcut.

Years ago, before Dos I think, there was a little program which allowed you to type using Latin characters, and to type from left to right. Then using a control key combination, the whole sentence was converted into a right to left Arabic Script. It was so easy to do!

Every Arabic letter had been assigned a unique one key Latin character. First you used a control key to start the process. Then you typed normally. At the end you used a control key and read what you had, transcribed into Arabic. Double consonants such as mm were transcribed as m with the shadda on top. The long vowels were indicated as aa or ii or uu.

Do the world a favour someone - let us have this for WordPad or Word.

It lets you type in phonetics, eg: "3arabi", and it will convert it to Arabic script for you: عربي

I've told you about Google ta3reeb, but this works better, as it works anywhere on Windows, not just in your browser.

Have a look!

Here are the numbers that Tunisians use when they're using the Latin script. They work with Google ta3reeb:

2 is a hamza:


3 is a ain:


5 is a kha:



7 is a strong ha:


9 is a strong ka:


The numbers are supposed to look visually similar to the Arabic letter counter-parts, especially 2, 3 and 7. The mnemonic for 5 is that "khamsa" begins with that letter.

The way it works is a separate keyboard is installed – with a confusing name. When you want to type Arabic you switch to this keyboard, type a rough English layout and you see Arabic appearing in a box – select the form you like, and you are done. Easy!