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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 3 Issue 11 November 2009
In This Issue
How much time do I spend writing?
In the news: Real-world consequences of posting personal information online
While you're writing, Microsoft Word quietly keeps track of the time you spend. Here's my advice on how to make good use of this hidden feature.

How much time do I spend writing?

Have you ever wondered how much time you spend writing in Microsoft Word? It turns out that Word has always kept track of your time, and has automatically been storing this information in each of your documents all along. It's called the Total Editing Time.

How the timer works
When you open a Microsoft Word document, a behind-the-scenes timer starts. As long as your document is open and its window is in front of all other windows, the timer continues, whether you're actively changing the document, scrolling around, or just thinking. If you Save your changes, the additional time is added to the document's Total Editing Time. If you close without saving, the additional time is discarded. The timer only counts whole minutes, and doesn't keep a history of each incremental amount. If you send a copy of your document to someone else and get an edited copy back, the time they spent editing will also be added to the Total Editing Time.

The good news: Without closing your document, if you switch to another Word document or to another program entirely (to check your email, visit a web site, etc.), that first document's timer will pause until you bring its window back to the front.

The bad news: Microsoft Word can't tell whether you've paused to think about your writing or if you've left the room. As long as your Word document window is in front, the timer will continue. In the worst case this means that if you leave for, say, 2 hours, then you come back, make a quick change and then Save, your document's Total Editing Time will increase by 2 hours. Even if your computer went to sleep during that time, when you return and wake it up the timer will still register that 2 hours have elapsed.

How to view a document's Total Editing Time
In older versions of Microsoft Word (Word 2003 for Windows or earlier, Word 2004 for Macintosh or earlier):
  • Pull down the File menu and choose Properties...
  • In the Properties window that appears, click the "Statistics" tab at the top
  • Look for "Total Editing Time"
  • Click OK to close the Properties window
In newer versions of Microsoft Word (Word 2007 for Windows, Word 2008 for Macintosh):
  • Click the Office Button (the round yellow/orange logo at the top left)
  • In the menu that appears, move your mouse cursor to Prepare
  • In the submenu that appears, click Properties
  • In the window that appears, click on the phrase "Document Properties" at the left, on the yellow background
  • When the phrase "Advanced Properties..." appears, click on it
  • In the Properties window that appears, click the "Statistics" tab at the top
  • Look for "Total Editing Time"
  • Click OK to close the Properties window
  • Click the "x" at the top right corner to close the Document Properties
Since I use Microsoft Word to write my newsletter, I can see that this issue took 114 minutes to write. Last month's issue ("Should I leave my computer on, or turn it off?" http://kadansky.com/files/newsletters/2009_10_21.html) took 216 minutes.

How to reset a document's Total Editing Time
When you create a new blank document, its Total Editing Time will have an initial value of 0 minutes. However, there will be times when you will want to start with a copy of an existing document, whose Total Editing Time may have plenty of time already noted. If you want your new copy of that document to start measuring from 0 again, how can you reset it? For a simple document you could Select All and Copy the contents of the original document, and then Paste into a new blank document, but this doesn't preserve margins, page numbering, and other more complex document-level settings. The solution is to open the original document and create a new copy using Save As. The Total Editing Time in that new copy will be reset back to 0.

Where to go from here
  • Take a look at your existing documents' Total Editing Time and see how long they took to write.
  • If you're actively working on a document but you're going to step away from your computer for an extended period of time, either close the document's window or (after saving your changes) pull another window in front of it so the timer won't count the time that you were away.
  • If you're technically inclined, you can also view the Total Editing Time by inserting the "field code" EDITTIME into your document, and then updating it to see the current value.
If you know someone who might find this helpful, please feel free to forward it.
If you have any comments about this article, send me a reply!
If you have a topic that you'd like me to write about, I'd love to hear about it!
In the news: Real-world consequences of posting personal information online

This past week I ran across a news story about a Canadian woman whose disability insurance payments were stopped, reportedly because she posted some photos of herself on Facebook having some fun, and the insurance company saw them and decided she was no longer suffering from deep depression. This may or may not be accurate reporting on how the decision was made, and the woman is apparently contesting it, but this highlights a very important point: Any information you post online about yourself can become public in ways that you cannot predict. This includes systems such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, online discussion groups, and your own website or blog. Even if you use "privacy" settings, these systems have exceptions, workarounds, and failures that you may not be aware of or that you may even unintentionally permit. As the increasing ability to search the internet collides with the increasing amount of information people are putting online, now is the time to be more careful than ever.

So, think twice before you post personal information on the internet, whether it's writing, photos, audio recordings, or video. Imagine the range of people who may see it, including friends, family, insurance companies, clients, colleagues, competitors, the news media, and current and future employers.
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

Did you miss a previous issue? You can find it in my newsletter archive: http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

Your privacy is important to me. I do not share my newsletter mailing list with anyone else, nor do I rent it out.

Copyright (C) 2009 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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