So my new computer has arrived. It is, as I mentioned in my previous post, a Dell Inspiron M101Z, running the 64-bit Windows 7. I'm still figuring it out, which means, among other things, working out the tricks. I have the cheaper version, with the slower processor, but so far it seems to do what I need it to, which is mainly web surfing and writing.
The first thing I did when I got it was install the software I wanted. It comes with Internet Explorer and the starter versions of Word and Excel (which lack the full functionality and contain ads). I've never been a fan of Internet Explorer. That said, I've been playing around with the starter version of Word, and there are a lot of things I like about it. The continuous ad in the bottom right corner gets on my nerves, however, and it hasn't been enough to convince me to buy the full version. Maybe someday I'll be willing to shell out $120 for it, but not yet.
So for now, I've downloaded Firefox and OpenOffice, an open source browser and office suite respectively. Firefox is top of the line, and OpenOffice has the same functionality of Microsoft Office 2003, so it has the advantage of familiarity (it also has some odd quirks, but I've managed okay so far). I also installed Framemaker, an old Adobe word processor that I like, and which is still the core software I use for writing my novel. It gave me some trouble, as the install program wouldn't run on the 64-bit Windows 7, but I was able to get it working just by copying the files.
Speaking of Adobe, I wasn't able to install Adobe Acrobat 6, which I had lying around. There are known compatibility issues. I took a look at what a compatible version, Acrobat 9, would run me, and quickly decided that $300 was outside my price range. Instead, I installed PrimoPDF, which gives me the PDF printer for free, which was the main thing I needed. I still miss Acrobat, but I may try NitroPDF (free trial, $70 to buy) rather than Acrobat.
Anyway, I said I was figuring out the tricks, didn't I? Well, here's a few I'm finding useful.
- The touchpad accepts more than simple gestures. For example, if you use two fingers at once you can scroll through documents. You can also use gestures to zoom, rotate, and flip forward and back, but I'm finding that most software is not compatible with those.
- While these features of the touchpad are nice, I find that when I'm typing, the heel of my hand has a tendency to brush the touchpad. If this is interpreted as moving the cursor, then that's not much of a problem. However, the touchpad sometimes interprets it as a two-finger touch and scrolls the document, causing me to lose my place. Fortunately, pressing F6 will turn the touchpad off and on. I find myself using that to deactivate it while typing.
- Pressing F3 will call up the battery controls, and under the Battery Life tab, you can turn off battery charging. Why would you want to do that? I've ruined batteries before by constantly charging them, due to using my laptop plugged in. Batteries have gotten better, and laptops smarter about charging, but I like having the option. The computer reminds you that charging's turned off every time you wake it up, so you're unlikely to forget to charge it. You're much more likely to forget and leave charging on. (In an ideal world, there would be a setting that would prevent the battery from charging until its charge dropped below 90%. Then it would charge until full, and turn off charging again until it dropped below 90%).