More Tips

In a recent reader survey* the most popular articles on this blog are the ones which help with day-to-day technical problems. Here’s a rundown of a few more handy tips while they sit on the ol’ noggin:

  • Many programs in Windows (Microsoft very much included) share consistent keyboard shortcut. A recent personal disovery is that Ctrl+Backspace can often be used to delete an entire word.
  • Google Translate is ace. It’s really come far and I now rate it above Babelfish. With more languages than ever before, and with dictionary, text and website translations it really is a must-have for people who have reason to search foreign sites. For instance, it is with Google Translate that I found that the Dutch for cattle grid is wildrooster. And the world is a better place now I know that.
  • Renaming a file? Click it and press F2.
  • Deleting a file and want to bypass the Recycle Bin? Hold down Shift and press Delete.
  • Browsing a website? To open a link in a new window hold down Shift when you click it. To open in a new tab, hold down Ctrl.
  • To rapidly lock a computer, press Windows key +L.
  • Onions release a chemical that reacts and turns to a mild sulphuric acid in the eyes (hence the stinging). To counter this, peel the onion underwater or keep your onions in the fridge.
  • While Alt+TAB lets you go forwards through your list of open programs, Alt+SHIFT+Tab lets you go backwards. It’s all a bit cack-handed, but if like me you have loads of programs open it can be very useful at times.
  • Alt+D in most web browsers selects the address bar so you can start typing a new web address.
  • Lots of programs let you drag and drop things. For instance, in most web browsers you can select text then drag it to another window; to a textbox or to something like the address bar. You can also drag images (e.g. to the desktop or a local folder) and website links (to your Favourites folder; the address bar or the Home icon to set a new home page). Try it and see.
  • In a web browser, the backspace button can normally be used to go Back a page (unless you’re in a textbox at the time). If that fails, try Alt + Left Arrow.

Okay, that’ll do for now.

* ie. Somebody left a comment.

HTTP Good Practise

Here’s one for the web perfectionists out there. The usual line with HTTP and web browsing is that requests are achieved through the GET verb, and data modifications are through POST.

All well and good, but how do you handle text links that trigger a data modification? For instance, a page might have a list of items in a table, with “Edit – Delete” as associated actions. Edit is simple, it might go to edit?id=…, but Delete is more tricky. Assuming that no interstital “Are you sure” page is necessary, how can you trigger a POST from that Delete link?

My current way of tackling this is to include a form at the base of the page, and use some Javascript to submit that form. For instance

<a href="javascript:deleteItem(123)">Delete</a>
<form action="" method="post" name="jsPost">
<input type="hidden" name="action" value="">
<input type="hidden" name="item" value="">
<script type="text/javascript">
function deleteItem(id) {

This works fine and while the HTTP behaviour is roughly correct (okay, so in a perfect world I’d use the DELETE verb….) the code does not work for people not using Javascript.

Any ideas for a better, but clean solution?

BBC News Redesign

BBC News April 08 redesignFollowing on from the homepage redesign earlier this year, the BBC News site has been revamped to a 1024 pixel layout.

Personally, I find the amount of whitespace a little too overpowering; it’s hard to see where section divides are (the regional “Around the World/UK Now” sections at the bottom, for instance)

I’m sure CSS purists will also dislike that this redesign still uses tables for layout, although the “Low Graphics” option still exists for any users who prefer it.

It seems this has just happened – none of the subsequent pages (Tech, UK, World, etc) carry the updated layout, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. The BBC tend to keep old designs around for archived material, so looking back to articles from the 90s you can see the page as it was (albeit with a few SSI errors…)

Update:  Steve Herrmann from the BBC describes the changes