Reducing the size of a newsletter
by George Skarbek - 31th May 2005

To look at the book, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here

Computer Guide Q: I have been preparing newsletters for our club and emailing them to save postage and printing. This is an eight-page publication but the Word file size is more than 5 MB and some members complain that this takes far too long to download. I have been told to remove Fast Save as this makes the documents larger because it contains deleted information. I've removed the Fast Save option but the file is still large. What do I need to do to remove the Fast Save bloat?

A: Your advice about Fast Save is correct in that it increases file sizes, but this is not the problem in your case. By removing the Fast Save option and saving the file, redundant information will be removed, and I suggest readers check to ensure this is not selected. Not only will it reduce the file size but it can reduce acute embarrassment if your recipients find what you thought you had deleted. This option is set in Word from Tools, Options and the Save tab.

Your most likely problem is caused by images being too large. There are many ways to reduce the image size without it having it affect the final product, especially if viewed on the screen.

The first place to look is at your logo if you have one, as this is a probable area where improvement can be made. One of my clients scanned his business card and includes it in every document that he prints. It was scanned at 600 dpi and saved as a JPEG. That tiny image was just over 1 MB and, as a result, his back-ups did not fit on a CD after several months. A logo should be scanned at a lower resolution as a small image is being printed and be saved as a TIFF or GIF file, not JPEG. The reason for this is that a JPEG is a format for photos and with a TIFF or GIF file you can reduce the number of colours to 256 or 16 and the result is a much smaller file size. Even if your logo has only four colours, you must use your software to reduce the colours to 16 because this removes extraneous and unused information from the file reducing the size. In my client's case, I used this method and his new image is under 10 KB or less than 1 per cent of, and indistinguishable from, the original when printed.

If you have photos in the newsletter you should either increase the JPEG compression or reduce the image size to fit the actual size of the print, but preferably you should do both. As a rough example, if you have a photo taken with a 5 megapixel camera and a postcard-size print in the newsletter, you should be able to reduce the image size by about 80 per cent without any real loss in quality.

Another option to consider is to use a PDF creator and send you newsletter as a PDF file as this will automatically reduce its size in most cases. This is a relatively simple task requiring a PDF writer, which is not a part of Windows but can be bought or downloaded for free. Two free products are: PDF995 from www.pdf995.com and CutePDF from: www.cutepdf.com. Another solution is to install Open Office.org from www.openoffice.org This free program is very big and is the equivalent of Microsoft Office. It reads Word, Excel and PowerPoint files with a high compatibility, with the exception of macros. Once the Word file is read, create a PDF file, choosing compression of JPEGs. Those who need more features should consider the low-cost pdfWriter from avalanche.com.au PDF files can be made using Adobe's Acrobat but even the standard version is several hundred dollars.

Having downloaded and installed your PDF writer, don't expect to find it under Programs. Just click on File, Print and select the PDF writer from your printers.

I have produced a book based on these Q & A columns using Word. It has 240 pages, 70 screen dumps and 10 photos. As I also sell it as a downloadable file, I used these methods to keep the file size compact without compromising the printed quality. My Word file including all images is 2.1 MB, and as a self-extracting file for emailing it is down to 1.3 MB. You can obtain more details from: www.skarbek.com.au. Your eight-page newsletter should be a fraction of this.

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Q: Since upgrading my wife's PC to Win XP Pro from Win 98SE, our US Robotics Sportster Flash V90 Voice PnP modem is not detected by XP Pro unless we first turn on the modem before booting up into the operating system. We never had this problem with 98SE. Can you offer an explanation?

A: This is not a fault of XP but has been put in by Microsoft by design. They are eliminating the need to constantly check the serial ports. Most new notebooks do not have a serial port.

If you have turned on the modem and don't wish to reboot, go to the Device Manager in Control Panel, System, click on the menu Action and finally click Scan for hardware changes. This will find the modem and allow you to use it.
One quick way to go directly to the System screen is to press the Windows key and the Pause/Break key. This saves quite a few mouse clicks.

To look at the book, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here