How do you start your day?
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I wanted to write that article for a long time, but never found the time – too busy translating ;-)
Since many Proz members have contributed their tips recently, which I appreciate, this is my contribution.
Now, I realize that we all do things differently, and you will surely adapt these tricks to your own method of working, but it can save you loads of time (and we never have too much of that!)
When you start your day, you usually start by opening your computer… after breakfast I suppose, and you wait… and wait…
Then, you probably start your application(s) and load your file(s). Depending on what you use, it’s often a case of wait… and wait some more. 5, 10 or 20 minutes, it’s just too long.
There are tricks and tools that you can use to speed up the process substantially. What’s good about them is that they are easy to use, mostly free and can be adapted to your own choices easily. You don’t need to be a computer specialist. The tricks are all for PCs (after all, I’m DocteurPC!) but if somebody wants to do a Mac version, I’m sure that some members would appreciate it also.
I won’t get into methods to change your bios to speed up the booting of your computer. This is “geek” stuff. However, starting with Windows, you can reduce the booting time substantially.
When Windows is first installed, by default, it loads all sorts of things, some of which you probably never use or need. You can check what loads by this method:
Start, Run, msconfig
Note that some version of Windows use msconfig32 instead of msconfig – it’s usually in the c:\windows\system (or windows\system32) directory. You may have to look for it the first time around.
Under the tab Startup, you will find all sorts of files – these start just as soon as Windows does. You can click/unclick some of them, but many are difficult to figure out: “Do I need this? or not? what is that? why does it load?”
Take a note of the ones you think you may not need, even if it’s not obvious what they do or which application they belong to. You can uninstall software that you really don’t need using the “Add or remove programs” in the control panel. You can also go into the registry and edit directly. Now that’s real geek stuff!
For example, supposing that you installed software XYZ (on a trial basis). You think you have uninstalled it, but it still shows up (or at least some parts) in the Startup file. (I won’t discuss programs that do not uninstall cleanly – that’s a whole other issue!)
If you are sure you don’t want a program, you could simply remove the tick mark in the msconfig and hope this will make it “disappear” from your list of start up and will not mess up the rest of your system. The reverse is that you also can drag some programs into the Start button so that they open automatically. But they will open from now, whether you want them or not.
But there’s an easier way.
I use StartupRun, available free at nirsoft.net.
Contrary to msconfig, it gives you a lot more information about what’s running: the product name, the type, the actual command, the description, the software or hardware company associated with the program, etc. You can simply right click on one item to disable it (at least temporarily, until you change your mind and find out that you need it, without having to reinstall it). Furthermore, you don’t need to reboot each time you change an option, a big time saving in itself.
Now, Windows starts with “only” the programs that you want.
It’s also a neat and easy way to find out if a new program is causing conflicts – simply disable it, reboot and see if the problem is solved. If it is, it means that this new program is the problem. You can then decide whether you want to keep it or not.
For all other programs or files which are not in the StartupRun menu, you must use the Windows Menu: Start, All Programs… or Start, My Recent Documents… Or maybe you have dozens and dozens of icons all over the place in the Task Bar or the Desktop. You can also click those to open/start files or programs.
I don’t know about you, but I also find that the list of programs you can access in “Start, All Programs” gets longer and longer and longer, forcing me to scroll through pages to find “the” program that I want. I find this very frustrating. Of course, Windows allows you to group some programs, but the process is tedious.
So, here comes another shareware to the rescue. TinystartMenu at tinystartmenu.com allows you to group your programs in a logical way. You can use the free version, which gives you 9 categories: Office, Utilities, Games, Entertainment, Internet, Programming, Graphics, Security and Others. This will be enough for most of you.
At the beginning, it presents you with a list of your installed programs and you simply decide in which categories you want them. If these 9 categories are not enough, or you would like to define your own, you can purchase the extended version for only $19.99. You can also use this version to quickly uninstall any program and there’s even a Vista Start Menu Pro (but only with the paid version). It’s available in 10 languages, which should be appreciated by all translators, even if I can’t judge the Russian, the Ukrainian or the Chinese versions ;-)
In my case, not surprisingly, I grouped together all my translation-related stuff: Trados, Transit and others utilities for my translation. I also have a graphic group for my paintings, etc. Now, I have a menu that is less than one page, much neater and faster.
And now it’s time to actually get to work. After I boot my computer, I like to have all my URLs opened, my tools and my files. In my case, that means that I automatically open 10 Firefox tabs with Granddictionnaire, wordreference, acronymfinder, proz.com glossaries, etc. I also open one Internet Explorer, for when I get on a site where Firefox does not work so well and to play jigzone.com ;-). The newest version of Firefox gives you the option to reopen all the Firefox windows that were opened when you closed down, but that’s useful only when it has crashed since I may not want to reopen all of them the next day.
If I’m working on a large project, I also open Trados or Transit as well as the file(s) I’m working on. And… you guessed it… I use another shareware to save me lots and lots of time.
Once-a-day, as the name implies, opens and loads a series of programs and files together, but only once a day. (http://www.karenware.com/cd.asp) This is a very small program, less than one meg, but it sure does the job and it does it very well.
It’s just four lines: Enabled (or disabled as the case may be)
Description (name of program or file)
Command (such as C:\MozillaFirefox\firefox.exe)
Argument (such as : www.granddictionnaire.com)
Start in (when you want to use a different starting location for a file or program)
With a couple of clicks I program the applications that I want, the actual file or the URLs required, and I can edit and disable them at will. For example, during the school term, I use something called First Class, a groupware which Concordia university uses. When I’m not teaching, I don’t need to open it every day, so I simply disable it in Once-a-day. Come September, I simply click on it to enable it. That’s all there is. No install, uninstall, reinstall… Boot, reboot… Presently, there are 18 entries in my Once-a-day file, 3 of which are disabled since I don’t need them at this time but will want them later. Once I finish a project, I disable the filename from my list to replace it with another one later.
And did I mention that it’s free? Furthermore, if you are interested in programming in Visual Basic, Karen Kenworthy, the author, gives you the source file free and she does some of the best programming I ever saw. There are many more free utilities on her site or you can buy the whole group on a CD for $35.00.
Now you can put once-a-day in Tidystartmenu and it will automatically open every day, which means that one click will open all your work.
In conclusion: 3 free programs, about one hour at the beginning to program what I wanted them to do; occasionally, a small change here or there requiring no more than 2 minutes of my time, and I save at least one hour a day and some frustration. Calculate how much you can translate in one hour per day, and you will see how worthwhile these 3 programs can be. It’s harder to calculate the cost of frustration ;-) Enjoy!