Microsoft Office language packs for free

I have a German version of Office 2010 professional, but often, I wish I had the English version. If I am reading a book on Excel Pivot Tables in English it is not difficult, but a nuisance, to find the correct commands in the German version. Sometimes, I teach in English somewhere abroad, and then it also would be nice to have English commands in Excel, Word, etc. Or if I show something to a collegue, who has the English version installed, it is nice to use the same version.
Microsoft sells language packs (they are not expensive), but you can also download them for free. Here is a link I can now even use the Dutch version of Office, when I try to explain my mother (81 years old), how to do something in Outlook…

Todo's from Everywhere

I use Emacs for taking notes and project management using Remember-Mode and Org-Mode (see my blog entries Capturing and More. However, if I am working in Excel or reading a pdf , More and I want to make a note or I suddenly have a thought about a feature that I want to add to my model, I have to jump to Emacs,hit some keys, enter the note or the task and navigate back to the program I was working in.
Not much of a hassle, but inefficient as it really interrupts my work flow too much.
No problem, if you use some macro scripting tool (for example winautomation or autohotkey) it is rather easy.
Here is the macro in Winautomation:
In step 1 the macro saves the location of the active window (for example Excel). In the next step it jumps to Emacs, followed by sending the keys C-c r  which asks me for a template:
I then choose the template (for example t for ToDo) and enter the information. I quit with C-c C-c and my entry is saved. Then I hit Ctrl-g (which is the Emacs command for “break” and in this case does nothing and if I change my mind and don’t want to save the note or tasks it stops the remember mode). This keystroke combination is used as a trigger for the Winautomation macro to return to the macro. In the last step the focus jumps back to the program I was working with.
The macro is started when I hit the hokey “Ctrl-Shift+F11”, which I defined in Winautomation.
As I have the professional version of Winautomation, I can generate an executable and send it to you. Just mail me at renger(at)
The only thing you have to do, is add a keyboard trigger like Win+…
For this you can use free programs like winkey (on Win32)  or HotkeyBind (I did not test these programs).

Killing an open instance of pdf viewer when compiling latex

If there is one thing that is annoying when you us pdflatex in Emacs, it is the behavior of Adobe or another commercial product. If you haven’t closed the pdf-file, Emacs or better LaTeX will complain that the pdf-file is still open. I found some tricks in the internet, but I did not manage to implement them properly (you can for example use sumatrapdf, but I wanted to keep my original pdfreader on my computer).
Finally, I decided to use my macro/script program winautomation ( I bought this program a few months ago after getting tired of the open source program Autohotkey (which is quite good, but you have to program a lot). Winautomation is just point and click. I wrote a lot of macros that make my life much simpler. For example, I have some scripts that start my subversion backup on my servers, some scripts that open the explorer in a certain directory, a script for logging in at the university, etc.
For the problem above, I did two things: I wrote a script that checks if the pdf-viewer is open, and closes it and integrated it in an Emacs macro.
Here is the script in winautomation:
In Emacs I recorded a macro with C-x ( and C-x ) in which I run a shell command:
      Alt-x shell-command Enter
      d:\inbox\closepdf.exe             (this is the script I wrote with winautomation)
      C-c C-c                                 (starting latexing)
After some trial-and-error, I now have a Emacs-keyboard macro that exactly does what I want: it closes the pdfviewer program using the winautomation-script and compiles my tex file to pdf.
I changed my settings for latex to always produce a pdf-file by putting the following line in my .emacs
      (setq TeX-PDF-mode t)
so now I don’t have to bother about the proper file-format for figures (no converting to ps, etc.).
The last thing I had to do was assign a key to my macro in Emacs. This is done by first naming the keyboard macro I recorded using “Alt-x name-last-kbd-macro” and after that save the macro in my .emacs file with Alt-x insert-kbd-macro and attach a key to it:
Here is the code snippet for the .emacs file
Of course, all this is also possible with autohothey or AutoIt,

OrgMode on my iPhone: MobileOrg and Dropbox

In one of my last year posts I wrote about using Org-Mode for organizing your projects and your notes/todo’s with links to your files. I am now using org-mode for lots of things but especially for my todo’s. Now this works fine if my notebook is up and running, but sometimes I want to have a look at those org-files without firing up my notebook. I use an iPhone and Richard Moreland developed a nice app (see that works together with dropbox (
It has some nice features:
  • Support for Dropbox or WebDAV as a transfer mechanism
  • Org files are stored offline and available anywhere
  • Complete editing support, including editable headings, body text, todo state, tags and priority.
  • Note-taking facility built in, including offline support
  • Full-text search, or search by keyword (TODO, DONE, WAITING) or by tag (errand, office)
  • Mark nodes as done, or flag them with an optional note for reference later
  • Document view of your outlines, for reading document-style Org files with long body text
  • Powerful support for linking between Org files

Here are some printscreens from my iPhone (by the way: printscreens can be produced by pushing the on/off and home button at the same time).
IMG_0045.PNG (320x480 pixels)IMG_0046.PNG (320x480 pixels)
IMG_0047.PNG (320x480 pixels)IMG_0048.PNG (320x480 pixels)

Golden Rule 3 Use a Version Control System

A few years ago I used to run around with an USB-Stick for my projects: if I worked at my office I copied the files at the end of the day and took them with me to keep working on the project at home or at my other office. Getting tired of that (especially of me forgetting to copy all the files or taking the stick with me) I changed to a synchronization software that kept my files at the same state everywhere I worked. That was a great improvement, although it did not solve my second problem: Keeping track of all the versions of my project. I used to keep numbered subdirectories, but the main problem was to keep track of the changes.
Finally I switched to a version control system. This keeps track of all the versions, the changes and I can even work together with other people on the same files. I can download the actual version to any computer, update the project or commit changes as long as I have internet.
I use subversion ( It is free and there is a nice extension for the Windows Explorer to manage all your files called Tortoise (
Now I only have one version of a project on my notebook. If I want to go back I can scroll through the logs and search for the version I am looking for and see the differences with the actual version of a file. It even integrates with Emacs.
If I work in a team with people at the other end of the world, we don’t have to email the projects but everybody can log in and download the files.
In the next few weeks I will show how it works.
Once you start working with a version control system you will not understand that you could have lived without it.

Forget your mouse and use Launchy

You probably have noticed that I like to have all commands under my finger tips. I believe that using a mouse is more time-consuming. One of the programs I use often is Launchy ( launchy is a free cross-platform utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, the icons on your desktop, and even your file manager. Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes. It hides in the background once started. If you hold the Alt-Key and hit the space key is a small window appears.  You can start typing the first characters of the program you want to start and Launchy will find the program. Hit “Enter” and the program starts. It is so much easier than using the mouse and go to the start-button or your desktop searching for your program.
In the next picture you see that I typed “exc” and Launchy suggests Excel (if you wait a little longer it will show a list with other possible programs or files starting with “exc”).

I think that when you start using it you never can do without it anymore.