Moms

How to make Excel treat a ZIP code like it's not a number

I'm merging data on an Excel spreadsheet with Word to compile a mailing list, but I'm having a heck of a time getting ZIP codes that begin with a zero to print. This is driving me crazy.

Excel is doing what it normally does in this instance, and that's dropping the leading zero because it's assuming that the ZIP code is an actual number. Since the 1 and the 01 have the same numerical value, Excel thinks its doing you a favor by tidying up and dropping the "unnecessary" zero digit.

To let Excel know that your ZIP code column is not made up of numbers, but rather ZIP codes, first highlight the entire column by clicking the letter at the top of the column. Next, click Format > Cells > Number tab.

In the Category section, scroll down and select Special. You will then have the opportunity to select ZIP code from the "Type" section. Make your selection, then click OK. Try your mail merge again and your ZIP codes will print correctly, with no disappearing digits.

What does PLOKTA mean? A friend was helping me with my computer by sending me text messages and she mentioned PLOKTA. I had no clue what she was talking about.

PLOKTA is a tongue-in-cheek, TextSpeak-based acronym that stands for Press Lots of Keys To Abort. This is the wildly popular, highly ineffective, panic-based technique most of us use when our systems freeze up. Typical usage: "If all else fails, try the PLOKTA method to get your computer to respond."

Is there a way to tell how fast my Internet connection is? It seems really slow. My ISP tells me it's fine, but I would like to check it myself.

There are lots of connection speed tests on the Internet, but two that are particularly easy to use are the CNET Bandwidth Speed Test (tinyurl.com/6rjjlz), and my personal favorite, the Speakeasy Speed Test (www.speakeasy.net/speedtest). No additional software is required for either test. Keep in mind that connection speeds fluctuate, so record your speed at various times of the day and night over the course of several days to determine your average connection speed.

Once you have established your average, contact your ISP and ask what speeds (uploading and downloading) you should be receiving. ISPs usually frame their insincere speed promises in terms of "up to" a certain speed, thus allowing themselves plenty of wiggle room.

For answers to your computer questions, visit www.MrModem.com.

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