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Monday, April 30, 2012

Document Printing Guidelines For University Students

Four years at engineering university taught me that hostel students face a great deal of difficulty while printing their electronic assignments. These problems share one single root ... a common computer lab. The computers placed at university labs are infested with a spectrum of viruses & trojans. Students mostly transfer their assignments from portable drives to these infected computers & thus commences their nightmare. Following are the most common problems they face:

  • Characters in their documents changes into incomprehensible & strange characters. Technically speaking the ‘encoding’ of their documents get hit by a virus.

  • Folders containing their documents aren’t visible. This is especially irksome if the computer doesn't allow hidden files to be viewed because this feature is mostly disabled by lab administrators.

  • The computer is clean of viruses & the documents are visible just fine but wait their dimensions, fonts or in general the whole document formatting is different! This happens because of variations in Office versions. Document made on your personal computer/laptop may look good but when you take it to university lab for printing; pages are suddenly out of alignment.

I will now recommend some ways of avoiding above unfortunate cases, so stop weeping upon your bad luck & remember following guidelines:

  • Always save your documents in the ‘root directory’ of portable drive & not within any folder.

  • Rename file extension of your documents from .docx or .doc to something like .ddd. This avoids any virus attack on your documents as .ddd or something similar isn’t recognised as valid file by virus itself. At computer lab rename this extension to its original (~.doc/.docx) prior to printing.

  • To avoid misalignment of documents formatting; ‘solidify’ your office documents by converting them into .pdf files. Office 2007 onwards as well as OpenOffice have this option built-in or you can use virtual pdf printers I recommend doPDF. This way documents completely obeys your formatting rules irrespective of whether they are viewed in your personal or lab computer. Remember you can’t edit once the document is solidified (~converted to .pdf) so never discard the ‘editable’ document from your personal computer.

  • Try experimenting with PortableApps that you can install within your USB & you have all the applications right in your pocket, anywhere. For example PDF viewer need not to be installed on your lab computer but you can install this in your USB. Also to avoid password thefting you can install internet browser into your USB which works irrespective of lab’s computer. A must-have portable application is FreeCommander. This productivity tool is a unique replacement of conventional ‘My Computer’ file browser. Plus you can ‘show’ hidden files using Freecommander in case all folders of your USB get hidden because of a virus. Do remember that installed apps in your portable drives are prone to be easily corrupted by viruses. The best bet against this is again changing the file extension of all executable files from .exe to something like .ee

  • Lastly to avoid all the fuss relating to viruses & format distortions try to make electronic assignments ‘online’. You may already have learned about GoogleDocs which is the only office independant from computer version/settings & certainly out of harm's way from viruses. Best of all your documents are saved on Google servers which are much more trustworthy than even your personal computer’s hardrive!


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