Category Archives: Software

Are your Microsoft Office Documents Accessible by Everyone?

When you are creating a document are you considering all of your readers?

Many people who are blind or visually impaired are able to access documents independently with the use of screen readers. Screen readers interpret not only plain text, but also titles, headings, images, and other objects, such as tables and forms. In order for the screen reader to interpret your document properly, there are some formatting rules you need to follow.

Here are a few of the things you can do to make your documents more accessible:

1. Add alternative text to images and objects.

2. Use Styles to create titles, headings, paragraphs and tables of contents.

3. Use meaningful hyperlink text.

4. Use simple table structures.

5. Use page breaks, column breaks, continuous breaks, and text wrapping.

6. Use page numbering, headers and footers.

For how to use these formatting suggestions, and much more, please refer to these links:

Creating Accessible Word Documents

Adding Alternative Text to Images and Objects

Also, did you know that Microsoft Office products contain an Accessibility Checker that you can use to see what needs to be changed in your document?

Where to find the Accessibility Checker

Rules Used by the Accessibility Checker






Happy Monday

Good morning! I hope you all had a good weekend.
I’m always in search of new ideas, so if any of you have downloaded any great apps or software recently, or come across any amazing websites that you think the rest of the world should know about, then please drop me a line and let me know!

Also, I always welcome comments, questions, corrections, etc about any of my previous posts. Let’s share the knowledge!

Did You Know?……Chrome Incognito

So here begins a new FSRC Blog segment called “Did You Know?…” which features cool and interesting tips, tidbits, and shortcuts for software programs that you use every day.

google-chrome-logoI’m starting out with a quick tip about Google Chrome. Did you know that you can go “incognito” on Chrome to avoid saving any cookies or history on the computer you are using?

Step 1. Open your Google Chrome browser.

Step 2. At the top right of the screen, click on the “hamburger” icon. (Three lines inside a square).

Step 3. Choose “New incognito window”.

ChromeIncognito1A new Chrome window will open with a message that says “You have gone Incognito…” You will also see a cool image of a guy in his spy/private-eye outfit in the top left cornerChromeIncognito2

Now, any browsing you do, or any websites you log into will be completely hidden from the computer you are working on. This is especially useful if you are working on a public (or college) computer and would like to access your banking website, or anywhere that you need to enter private usernames and passwords.

Once you close the incognito browser window, all activity will be deleted from the computer, and completely untraceable!

If you have any questions about this, or any, posting on the FSRC Blog, please feel free to contact us here at the FSRC and we can further explain or walk you through the steps., 703-323-3855

Using your Google Drive

google-drive-iconDid you know all NOVA faculty, staff, and students have access to 30GB of storage space on your Google Drive? This is particularly important to know since NOVA’s IT department recently blocked all incoming e-mail containing compressed (Zip) files and executable attachments. Using your Google Drive is a good alternative way to transfer large and executable files.

Your Google Drive is accessed through your VCCS email address. An example of that is: We all have one, so if you don’t know yours, or don’t know your password, contact the IT department.

For those blog readers who are not faculty, staff, or students of NOVA, this is useful for you to know too. The only difference is you can access your Google Drive through a normal G-mail account. A normal G-mail account gives access to only 15GB of space, but that is still plenty.

Please click here for your PDF print out with step-by-step instructions on how to access and use your Google Drive.


And please feel free to contact us at the office, or via our Facebook page,  if you have any questions about accessing or using your Google Drive

Useful Resources at the FSRC

Did you know we have video tutorials and handouts on subjects such as Blackboard and Microsoft Office on the FSRC Website?

If you are interested in looking at these, here’s what you should do:

  1. 4NavBarGo to our Website at:
  2. Click on “Tutorials and Handouts” on the navigation bar:
  3. Choose a category from the drop-down list:
    • General
    • Blackboard Basics
    • Blackboard Intermediate
    • Blackboard Advanced
    • Microsoft Office
  4. Then you can either download the PDF handouts, or click on the videos.

If you have any questions or comments regarding these handouts and videos, please feel free to call us at 703-323-3855, email us at or stop by the FSRC at CG 206 on the Annandale campus.

We are currently working on making all of our videos accessible to those who are deaf and hard of hearing. If this is a concern for you, watch this space, because I will make an announcement when all of the videos contain closed captioning.

Upgrading Your Browser

A few posts ago, I discussed the Browser Wars. While everyone has their favorite browser, you will always have a better web experience if your browser is the most up-to-date version available. Many website designers and web software developers don’t bother trying to accomodate very old browsers, so if you’re running IE6 (or heaven forbid, IE5), you should consider an upgrade.

Upgrading your browser is almost always free (it is definitely free for the most poplar browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome) and pretty easy to do. You can upgrade without losing your bookmarks/favorites. This link describes the reasons you should stay current with your preferred browser, and links you to the newest versions available.


Phishing and Hacking, part 2

Last week I discussed the internet/email scam known as “phishing”. Did you notice that IT sent out another message about a phishing email that’s going around? Remember, NOVA IT will NEVER ask you for personal information in an email. If you get such an email, it is probably a scam and you should not reply. If you are unsure about what to do, call the IT Helpdesk and they can tell you if the email is legitimate.

Now that we’ve recapped phishing, I want to cover malware. Malware, which is an amalgamation of “malicious” and “software”, is designed to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems. You may also hear of worms, trojans, viruses and adware, all of which are forms of malware. You can accidentally install malware on your computer by surfing the internet, downloading files, checking your email or clicking on a pop-up window.

The most important thing to remember about malware is that it is not targeted specifically at you. I know lots of people who say, “Why should I worry about malware? No one wants my computer files!”. Well, that’s correct…but what malware does want is your computer itself. Malware uses your computer’s processing power to disrupt your computer’s functions, disrupt other people’s computer’s functions, send emails (using your email account without your knowledge or permission), collect your personal information like bank accounts, contact info, etc., and passwords. Some people create malware to collect information that can be used to scam people, and some just like to cause problems for others. But the important thing to remember is that anyone can be a victim.

I know I’ve made it sound scary, and I hope I haven’t frightened you off the internet entirely, because there are ways to protect your computer from malware. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer, and make sure it is up to date! Hackers create new malware all the time. Your NOVA computer comes with antivirus software pre-installed (it’s called Symantec). You can also download this software for free if you go to–offices/administrative-offices/ithd/faculty/software/index.html and follow the instructions there.  There are also lots of other antivirus programs available; I like Ad-Aware, AVG and Malwarebytes and they are all free to download.

That being said, it is not possible for any software to protect your computer 100%, which is why it’s very important to practice Internet safety. PC World has a very good article about safety here: But, in a nutshell, if anything looks a bit unusual on a website or an email (pop-ups, misspellings, bad grammar, a file format you don’t recognize), don’t click on it.

If your NOVA computer starts acting strangely and you suspect you got a virus on it, back up your important files on a flash drive and contact the IT Helpdesk immediately. They can come remove the malware from your machine before it causes further damage. If you leave it alone, the malware can infect other computers, the network, your flash drives and your files. So get help right away!

Sea Creatures in your Email?

We recently received yet another email from the IT Helpdesk informing us that more “phishing” emails have been getting into NOVA email boxes. So what is “phishing”, why is it bad, and what do we do about it?

“Phishing” describes methods employed by scammers to get you to divulge your personal information, like your social security number, credit card number, or the logins and passwords to websites you frequent. It’s called “phihsing” because it’s like “fishing”…the scammers are throwing out lots of lines and hoping someone bites. No matter how convincing they sound, they don’t know who you are and they don’t know anything about you. You are not being targeted specifically; they got your email off the internet one way or another and you are just one of millions of people they emailed. But if you “bite”, then the scammer has phished successfully. Why the “ph” in “phishing”? No idea. Maybe it just looks cooler.

Email phishing involves email messages designed to make you give up some personal information. One of best-known scams is the Nigerian Letter scam, in which the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly. The scammer begs you to help him claim this money and offers a reward. This is also called the “advance-fee” fraud, and though most of us know we aren’t really being emailed by a rich foreign government official in exile, this scam can take many other forms. If someone makes you any kind of offer that involves wiring money or sending you a check to cash on their behalf, be suspicious. Do not trust any links or phone numbers in these emails; these will all lead you to false information.

Some scammers even make the email sound like a cry for help from a friend or relative of yours (they do this by hacking your friend’s email account and sending messages to all of the contacts). Never ever send money (especially through a wiring service) to someone who emailed you without calling them personally to see if they really sent the message.

The most recent phishing attempt at NOVA informed users that their email box was over the storage space limit, and asked the user to click a link to “fix” the problem. The email appeared to come from NOVA IT, but it didn’t. It came from scammers who were using that link (which they created) to collect personal information from NOVA employees. This example shows us how convincing a phishing scam can be. Along the same lines, scammers may send out emails telling you that your credit card account/paypal/amazon/bank account will be shut down if you don’t provide your password/credit card number/pin number/social security number. Some emails provide links to websites that look like real businesses. These are fake. No legitimate businesses will ask you for personal information in an email. If you believe one has, call them to verify (using the phone number listed in the phone book, NOT one in the email).

I know this is a lot of information but it’s very important to be safe when you’re using your email. Here’s my quick advise for dealing with phishing attempts:

  • If someone asks for personal information via email, do not email it to them. If you think it might be a real request and it’s from a business, call. Even if it’s from your friend, call.
  • If there are typos or bad grammar in the email, that is a big red flag indicating it may be a scam email.
  • Just because there’s a company logo in the email or you click on a link that takes you to a website, doesn’t mean it really comes from that company. Just because the email address looks like it comes from a legitimate business doesn’t mean it does. All of these things can be easily faked in an email.
  • Be suspicious of generic greetings like “Dear Customer”.
  • Most businesses will not threaten to close down an account if you don’t provide them with personal information. They WANT you to keep your account!
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • If you feel weird about an email, even if you don’t know why, trust your instincts and don’t reply. Better safe than sorry!

For even more information about phishing scams, check out




Browser Wars

What do you know about Internet browsers? Chances are you use one every day, but many people don’t know which browser they’re using, or what a browser even is. A browser is software that accesses and displays web pages. Browsers require a connection to the Internet. Whenever you look at websites, you are using a browser on your computer. Here’s a short video with a bit more information about browsers:

So what difference does it make? Actually, many software companies are competing quite vigorously for the market share in internet browsers, and each browser has its pros and cons. Though you may not care too much as long as you can get to the internet, most tech types have very definite ideas about which browsers are best. Internet browsers are free to download and install, so why not try a new one or two? Some browsers are faster, some are more secure, and sometimes websites that won’t run on one browser will run in another. You can install and use more than one browser at a time; in fact I often run as many as 3 simultaneously.

Here are some basic pros and cons for the most popular browsers:

Internet Explorer:

This browser comes pre-installed on most PCs (it’s a Microsoft product), so if you’re not sure what browser you’re using, it’s probably this one. Most people use IE because it’s the devil they know, but (as is demonstrated in the comic at the top of this post), the IT community doesn’t think very highly of it. IE tends to be slow on releasing new features, and slow to load websites. Older websites may only work correctly on IE (like Denosys!). Because IE is the oldest and, until recently, the most popular of the top 3, it is very vulnerable to malware and viruses. If you want to get the most out of IE, upgrade to the newest version available (you may be using a very old version and not know it).


Firefox has a wide range of plug-ins and customization options, and introduced tabs before IE jumped on the bandwagon (if you’re not using tabbed browsing, upgrade or download a new browser now…you’ll love it). Firefox is faster than IE, though it is popular enough to attract virus and malware. There’s an issue that can cause the software to take up a lot of computer memory if you have a lot of tabs open, and I always do. Most of the computer programmers and web designers I know prefer Firefox.


Chrome is created by Google, and combines web browsing and searching in one application. It is the fastest and simplest browser to use, though for the tech savvy there are lots of customizations available. It offers a browsing mode called Incognito which will keep the computer from saving any details of the pages you’ve looked at. It is very hard, though not impossible, to crash (In fact I crashed mine today), and I have noticed that it doesn’t handle PDFs very well.

What do we use around the FSRC? Hector is a die-hard Chrome fan, and he runs trainings on Chrome regularly. I used Firefox until recently, when I switched to Chrome because of the multiple tabs memory issue. I still like Firefox though I haven’t switched back…being able to use Chrome for on the fly web searching has been very handy.

Not sure what browser/version of a browser you’re using? Just go to this website and it will tell you!



New Horizons Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about some useful tech tools that were presented at New Horizons 2012. I could only remember 3 of the 7 off the top of my head (mind like a rusty trap) but luckily, the presenters posted the list so I can share the rest with you.


Ever copy content from Microsoft Word into Blackboard and gotten back a big mess? Blackboard doesn’t play nicely with Word’s formatting. But this tool will allow you to strip out all of that formatting and paste nice clean text into Blackboard (or your blog, or anywhere else). You can set it up to work with a shortcut, so it feels the same as a regular cut and paste, only without creating nasty formatting issues.

Freemake Video Downloader and Converter:

If you want to show a YouTube video but you don’t have an internet connection where you’re lecturing, this is a useful tool. You can download the Youtube video as your own video file, carry it around on a flash drive, and play it on any computer. The converter will take your video and make it into another video format, so if your computer doesn’t like the file you have, you can try another type. And it all happens online, so you don’t need to download any software.


Convert your Powerpoints to flash videos. This could be handy if you end up presenting on  a computer that doesn’t have Powerpoint. Also, you can embed flash videos in Blackboard pretty easily, so if your students don’t have Powerpoint, they can still watch your presentation.


It always takes me ages to find special characters in Word or Dreamweaver or other software programs. This site just lets you copy and paste any special characters you might need. Works with many text editors, but not, alas, the NOVA Annandale marquee. But it’s not likely you’ll ever need it for that.

✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿

See, it works with WordPress too!