Issue #67 September 14, 2004

1. PowerPoint backgrounds

It seems today that there are many companies and web sites selling PowerPoint backgrounds or templates. Many have been created with wonderful graphics or designs, but I find many of them too busy or the colors do not offer enough contrast with common text colors. If you want to create your own background, many people suggest you need to get a high end graphics package like Adobe Photoshop and spend hours learning how to use it to create complex graphical backgrounds. While I do own Photoshop, I don't recommend everyone rush out and buy it just for this purpose - that would be a waste of your money. I prefer to create my own backgrounds and to keep it simple. This allows me to make changes easily and to select easily contrasting colors for text and diagrams. It also allows all changes to be made using the tools that PowerPoint or MS Office already supply. If you click on the Format menu item in PowerPoint and then click on the Background menu option, you will see the current background. Drop down the Background Fill drop down list at the bottom of the dialog box and select Fill Effects. This will give you the Fill Effects dialog box where you can explore the options such as gradients, textures, patterns or pictures. My current slide background is a gradient of two colors running from top to bottom. If you want to take your background options to the next level, check out this article by Ellen Finkelstein on the great Indezine site. She goes through some more advanced techniques, but none of them require any tools other than what MS Office provides. Here is the link:

2. Booting from a USB drive

In the past, I have talked about how useful a USB drive can be - some call them memory drives or thumb drives. A USB drive is basically a memory chip attached to a USB connector that serves as a drive when you attach it to your computer. They are great ways to do quick backups of important documents, share a large file with someone else or carry your presentation for use with another computer. I had suspected that they could be used as a way to boot, or start, your computer, but didn't know how it could be done. Information Week recently published an article explaining how this can be done at As it explains in the article, it does depend on your computer and setup as to whether it will even work, but if this would provide you with a needed backup route, I encourage you to check it out.

3. E-mail Verification Tool

At my presentations and workshops, I always give people the opportunity to sign up for this newsletter - and many do take that opportunity. But when I get back to the office and try to decipher some of the handwriting, I admit that sometimes it can be a challenge. If I don't input the e-mail address correctly, the individual will never be able to benefit from the tips that you are getting. There is a tool that can be used to verify an e-mail address. While I don't think it can be 100% accurate, I think it is worth a try. Check it out at: