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AOL Tips & Tricks Part 2

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AOL Tips & Tricks Part 2
(v1.1 - 8/13/94)


* Sound Off:  Chat Sound Command
If you play chat sounds often, try printing out your list of sounds and typing {S <soundname>} to the chat area rather than using your menu to play the sound. Be sure to type an uppercase S and check that you are typing the exact name of the sound where <soundname> appears (minus the ".wav" extension if you are on a PC).

* To Die For:  Rolling Dice
Ever wondered how people roll dice in chat rooms? Just type "//roll" in a chat area; the OnlineHost will announce the results of your roll to all. The plain vanilla "//roll" command rolls two six-sided dice. The full syntax of the command will let you define how many dice and how many sides: "//roll -diceXX -sidesYYY" (where XX is 0-15 and YYY is 0-999). Be sure to include the spaces. Keep in mind that it is considered rude to roll dice in Lobbies or public chat areas (with the exception of the Red Dragon Inn and other special game rooms) and inappropiate use may warrant a TOS violation for room disruption. Used respectfully, it can be fun and useful; try using the roll command as a substitution for drawing straws.

* What a Character:  Special Characters
--> WAOL and Mac users only <--
While we are normally limited to the standard ASCII characters, some versions of the AOL software can use the extended set in some or all of their AOL communications. Mac users can use the extended set in their documents and mail by holding down the <Option> key and various keys simultaneously. PC users on WAOL can use the extended set in all communications by putting <Num Lock> on (located on the right side of your keyboard) and holding down <Alt> key while you type a four numbers between 0131 and 0255 (you must use the zeros). When you let up on the <Alt> key, your special character will appear. You can also use a character map utility to find and create these characters; WAOL's "Character Map" utility (often located in the Accessories group) will show the extended set when you choose the "Arial" font and the Mac's "Key Caps" utility (located under the Apple menu) will show the extended set in any font. It should be noted that while these special characters can make great smileys and designs, not everyone on AOL will be able to see them (refer to the chart below). Even when they can see them, the ASCII code differs from Macs to PCs so they may see a different character. 
Extended Character Set Chart
Function           |        Platform                          
                   | WAOL | GEOS AOL | Mac AOL  
Create on keyboard | Yes  |    No    |   Yes  
Use in e-mail      | Yes  |    No    |   Yes (Mac <-> Mac only)
View in e-mail     | Yes  |    No    |   Yes
Use in documents   | Yes  |    No    |   Yes
View in documents  | Yes  |    No    |   Yes
Use in IMs         | Yes  |    No    |   No
View in IMs        | Yes  |    No    |   Yes
Use in chat        | Yes  |    No    |   No
View in chat       | Yes  |    No    |   Yes
Use in posts       | Yes  |    No    |   No
View in posts      | Yes  |    No    |   No

* IM Shortcuts
You can send IMs quickly from the keyboard without resorting to the mouse by using these key combinations:
   WAOL:  <Ctrl> + <Enter>
   PC/GEOS: <Tab> to "Send" button then <Enter>
   Mac AOL: <Cmd> + <Return>  or simply  <Enter>

* IM Screen Saver
--> WAOL users only <--
If you've got a lot of IM windows taking up valuable screen real estate, try minimizing them (clicking on the down arrow in the upper right hand corner of the window). Then when a another IM comes in for one of the minimized IM windows, an "arrow" (actually the > character) will appear next to the name of the minimized icon so you know which one to open!

* IM Blockades:  Turning IMs On and Off
Sometimes you need to turn IMs off, be it because you would prefer not to be interrupted or you are downloading a long file. IMs can be turned off through three ways. The easiest but most limiting way is to simply go to the free area; IMs may not be received or sent while in the free area. Keep in mind there are many other things you can't do in the free area so this method is best for times when you are going afk (away from keyboard) for a few minutes. The best way to block IMs is to use the off/on command. Simply bring up a new IM window (<Control> + i on the PC, <Command> + i on the Mac), type "$im_off" in the first field, some text in the other (anything will do), and send the IM. Be sure to type the command exactly as shown but without the quotation marks. To turn your IMs back on, repeat the procedure but use "$im_on" in the first field. You can also activate this on/off command by typing the command in the first field as before, but click on the "Available" button instead of sending it. This has the advantage on WAOL and Mac AOL of leaving the IM window open onscreen as a reminder that you've disabled IMs. To renable, readdress the IM to $im_on and click the "Available" button again. The most permanent and reliable method of turning IMs off is to use Parental Controls (keyword: PARENTAL CONTROL). The controls can only be used under the master screen name.
--===*Thanks to BenF7 for his contribution of the "Available" button trick to this entry!*===--

* Chattering Ram:  Getting Into Full Chat Rooms ($)
When you want to get into a room but get the "This room is full." notice, try these time- and wrist-saving techniques. 
--> Getting into Public Rooms when confronted with "The room you requested is full. Would you like to go to a room like it?" with a choice of "Yes" (default) or "No."
      - Any platform: When the first notice comes up, watch carefully where the "No" button appears on the screen. Then move your Rooms List so the name of the room you are trying to enter is in the same spot as the button. Now just click in the same spot continuously until you get in.
      - PC users only: Using the keyboard, hit <tab> to move to the "No" button, <space bar> to simulate clicking on the "No" button and <Enter> to try entering the desired room again. Just continue with <tab> + <space bar> + <enter> until you get in!
--> Getting into Member Rooms when confronted with the "This room is full" sign.
      - Any platform: Just hit the <enter> key repeatedly until you get in. 
      - Mac users only: Try hitting the <return> key 20 times or so. The returns will "stack up" and you can sit back and let your computer do the work.
On the Mac, this return-stacking technique can also help you get into Eaasy Sabre or AutoVantage when you get the "You are disconnected from the Gateway Host" message repeatedly, which indicates a full gateway.
--===*Thanks to NumbersMan for his return-stacking technique and BenF7 for his tip on getting into gateways!*===--

* Chat Room Backdoor:  Bypassing the Lobby
If you have a favorite chat room in People Connection you like to visit or use private rooms often, you don't have to go through one of the Lobbies to get there. Just pick a conference room in one of the forums/areas that isn't used often, memorize the keyword, and use that room as your jumping off point. From any conference room online you can click on the "Rooms" icon and go to a public room, enter or create a member room or enter a private room.

* An Annex Of Your Own:  Creating Custom-Numbered Public Rooms
When a popular room in the Public Rooms area fills up, AOL automatically creates another room, or "annex," with the same name *plus* a number assigned in sequential order. It is possible to create a Public Room with a number of your own choice. Go to the Member Rooms area, click on "Create Room" and type the name of the Public Room plus the number you want (i.e., Lobby 100). The only real value this trick provides would be for a special occasion in a Public Room, say if you had a birthday party for your 40-year old friend in "The Meeting Place 40." 

* Line-Jumping:  Moving to Rooms Quicker ($)
If you ever need to visit a room in either the Public Rooms or Member Rooms area and don't want to wade through all the room names, there is a shortcut! Go to the Member Room window, click on "Create Room" and type the exact name of the room you wish to enter. If your name is the same as an already existing room, AOL simply takes you to that room rather than creating a new one. This is a great trick for when your room is on the bottom of the list or you are giving your in-laws a tour of AOL and you'd rather not show them the room names some people have chosen.
--===*Thanks to NumbersMan for his contributions to this entry!*===--


* Mail Shortcuts ($)
If you find it quicker to keep your hands on the keyboard, you can open, compose and send e-mail without ever touching your mouse. The keyboard shortcuts for opening mail are as follows:
   WAOL:  <Ctrl> + m
   PC/GEOS:  <Ctrl> + m
   Mac AOL:  <Cmd> + m
To move about within the mail window, use the <Tab> key.
To send e-mail:
   WAOL:  <Ctrl> + <Enter>
   PC/GEOS:  <Tab> to the "Send" button then <Enter>
   Mac AOL:  <Cmd> + <Return> or simply <Enter>
Note: If you are accustomed to sending Instant Messages (IMs) with the <Enter> key, it can sometimes happen that when you are online you may accidentally send mail before it is complete. You can prevent this accident from occuring by waiting until the mail is completed to give it a subject. If you are using MacAOL 2.1 or WAOL 1.1 or higher, you can unsend this mail. But be sure to open a copy *before* unsending, since unsending it does *not* return a copy to you for editing.
--===*Thanks to BenF7 for his contributions to this entry!*===--

* Address Memo
--> PC/GEOS and Mac users only <--
Don't forget the Address Memo feature under the Mail menu -- it will allow you to turn any document you can open in AOL into a piece of mail, you just enter the recipient's name and the subject title. PC/GEOS users have a keyboard shortcut for this -- <Control> + a. If you wish, you can use this feature to compose text offline with either your AOL software or you favorite word processor. Just make sure that you save the text as Plain Text or ASCII -- this is required for your AOL software to open it. Also, files larger than 25k cannot be read in their entirety by the AOL software's text editor.
--===*Thanks to BenF7 for this entry!*===--

* Squeezing Addresses
If you've got a long list of addresses and find you are bumping up against the address field size limits, you can remove the spaces in screen names and between commas to make them fit. For example, 
To:   OMNI Muse, Jamie 1990, Guide ASC
would become:
To:   OMNIMuse,Jamie1990,GuideASC
--===*Thanks to Patterner for this entry!*===--

* Blind Carbon Copying
You can blind carbon copy (bcc) anyone on your mail. To do this, simply put a set of paragraphs around the screen name or set of screen names. For example:
(Jennilynn)  <-- single bcc
(Jennilynn, NumbersMan, Jamie 1990)  <-- multiple bcc
PC/GEOS users will need to use double parentheses like this:
((Jennilynn))  <-- single bcc
((Jennilynn, NumbersMan, Jamie 1990))  <-- multiple bcc
Bccs are useful when you want to copy someone on a letter but don't want the other recipients to know. This is essential for e-mail with a large mailing list; a long list of screen names can take a long time transfer when reading the mail and it is important to protect the privacy of the names on the list. Note that you can even enter mailing lists as address book entries with the bcc parentheses already in place!

* Keep An Eye On It:  BCC Yourself
If you've sent an important piece of mail and would like to keep an eye on when it is read but you are going to be using a different screen name than the one you sent the mail with, try bcc'ing yourself. That way you can still check the Status on the mail to see when it is read and act accordingly. A similiar trick is to bcc your current screen name, giving you advantage of confirming that your mail was successfully sent, and doing so immediately if your mailbox is empty. Also, if your software has FlashSessions capability, you can automatically capture a copy of the mail you sent when you read the mail.
--===*Thanks to BenF7 for his tip about confirmation and FlashSession capturing!*===--

* Verifying Screen Names
It is useful at times to know when a screen name exists. Perhaps you are looking for someone or are curious if the screen name is already in use. Unfortunately, simply being able to find a screen name in the Member Directory doesn't necessarily mean they are still current (the Member Directory and AOL's Accounts Databases are not updated at the same time). There is a trick to verify a screen name, however! Simply send mail to that name *and* a name you know does not exist. You may want to use a deleted screen name that used to belong to you but the easiest way is to simply use the number 1 -- no screen names can start with a number so 1 is nonexistent by default. When AOL tries to send the mail, it won't be able to deliver to the nonexistent screen name and will tell you so. It will also report back any other bad screen names at the same time; if the screen name you are curious about isn't bounced back with the other, you know it is valid!

* Multi-Colored Mail and Documents
--> Mac 2.1 and higher users only <--
You can add color to your AOL documents and e-mail! To add color, just copy from the color palette below, paste into your document and retype! E-mail is a little trickier, however. You need to include a special invisible character for each color change or your mail will come across all the same color. To do this, first place your cursor in the far left margin and drag across to highlight both the colored word and the space before it. Copy and paste the selection into your e-mail window. You can delete over the letters and retype your own, but you need to leave the space immediately preceding the color in -- this is the special character that tells AOL to reset the color. Unfortunately, this special character doesn't consider black a color; if black text follows it, it appears invisible. Therefore, you need to end your e-mail with a color.

=Color Palette=
YLight green
YLight grey
YDark grey

Keep in mind that only other Mac users with AOL 2.1 or higher and color monitors will see the colors; PC users won't see this and Mac users with 2.01 or lower will get an error message when attempting to read the mail. Also, any mail sent via the Internet will *not* retain formatting, regardless of the platform receiving it. Please use this trick discriminately. To preserve colors and other style elements in documents when attaching as a file to e-mail, compress it first.
--===*Thanks to TigerTech and You for this entry!*===--


* Wildcards ($)
When searching any database on AOL (excluding Internet databases), you can use a "wildcard character," an asterisk (*), to expand the scope of your search. For example, searching for "park*" will find those items containing "Park," "Parks," "Parker" etc. Also, try using a question mark (?) to replace a single character in a word where spelling may differ. For example, searching for "gr?y" will find "grey" as well as "gray."
* BOOLEAN Expressions ($)
Try these "boolean expressions" to narrow down your searches. 
     AND  - Only finds those which contain BOTH words (or phrases). Example: "Michigan AND Ohio" will only find those containing both "Michigan" and "Ohio."
     OR   -  Finds those containing either of the words or phrases. Example: "Mustang OR Stingray" finds those with either, but not necessarily both, cars.
     NOT  - Explicitly ignores those containing the specified word or phrase. Example: "ski NOT water" would not find those with "Water skiing."
     ( )  - Parentheses can be used to group portions of the search phrase to avoid confusion by the search engine.  Example: "Information (Desk OR Service)" would find those containing "Information Desk" as well as those containing "Information Service."


* Ban Hard Returns!
--> WAOL users only <--
When you save a text file in WAOL, it will save it exactly as you see it on the screen. This means it will insert hard returns where ever a line ends on the screen, regardless of whether a hard return belongs there or not. These hard returns make for choppy reading if the screen is resized and can be quite annoying when cutting and pasting text. How do you solve this problem? Don't use WAOL to save your text. Rather, copy the text by selecting it, choosing "Copy" from the Edit menu, go to a word processor such as Word for Windows, paste it into a new document and save the document as text only. You can read the file in WAOL and as long as you don't save it in WAOL, the hard returns will stay out!
--===*Thanks to SF Frank for his contributions to this entry!*===--

* Retaining Formatting
--> Mac users only <--
The Mac AOL software allows formatting with different fonts, sizes and styles. Unfortunately, you may have discovered that if you try to send a formatted document to another person as an attached file in e-mail, the formatting is stripped in the process. To avoid this, just compress the document before attaching it! Note that no text retains formatting if sent to an Internet address. 

* Sending GIFs:  Mac -> PC
--> Mac users only <--
You may know that PC users can read Mac-created GIFs, but they must first strip the header with a utility such as "AOMAC2PC." If you'd prefer to send the GIF ready-to-read without the need to strip the header, there is a way! Change your GIF's file type to "TEXT" with a utility such as ResEdit or Changeling (available online by going Keyword: FILESEARCH and searching for "file type"). Note: GIF is by definition a compressed format. No significant time will be saved by attempting to compress GIFs prior to transmission, and it will only complicate things for those receiving the GIF.

* No Wait for Transferring Frequently-Sent Files ($)
If you send the same file via e-mail often, you don't have to wait for it to transfer each time. Just send the file to yourself, open it and use the "Forward" option to send it on to whomever! Forwarding mail with attached files takes no extra time because the file is already stored on AOL's computers. Clicking on "Keep As New" will keep the file in your box until you are ready to forward it again. If you'd rather not clutter your mailbox, you can send a copy to one of your screen names where you never check mail or you can pull it from your old mail list for up to a week after you first read it. You'll want to forward it to yourself again periodically to keep it available. (New mail scrolls off after five weeks; read mail after one week.)
--===*Thanks to FlowFazer for this entry!*===--

* Viewing File Descriptions Offline ($)
There is a way to peruse file descriptions offline and at your convenience. If you've got a number of file descriptions to view, turn on your System Log (under "Logs" in your "File" menu) and zip through the file descriptions. The log will capture the file name and descriptions and you can read them later. 

* Reorganizing the Download Manager
If you are a big fan of downloading and use the Download Manager often, there may be times when you want control over the order the files download from the Download Manager. There are some third-party utilities out there, but this technique is actually easier!
1. Open the Download Manager and open the file descriptions of the files you want placed on the bottom of the list (double-click on the file names)
2. Delete all those files you double-clicked on earlier to retrieve the file descriptions
3. Click on the "Download Later" button on each file description window and they will be added to the bottom of the list in the Download Manager window.

* Changing Your Default Directory
--> WAOL users only <--
Ever noticed that when you go to open or download files in WAOL, the directory that is presented first is rarely your first choice? As a result, this default directory often ends up collecting a bunch of files you didn't really want stored there. You can change this default directory to *any* one of your choosing -- permanently. From the Program Manager in Windows, highlight your WAOL icon, then select "Properties" from the "File" menu. In the "Working Directory" field, type in the directory you wish to become your default directory and click "OK." The change will take effect the next time you run WAOL, asking it to look there first whenever it needs to search for a file you wish to open, transferring, or save (including logs). Keep in mind that if you change the directory during the course of a WAOL session, WAOL will return you to the last directory accessed if you open or save again during the same session. This will not effect your default directory choice and WAOL will look to your preferred directory first upon running WAOL again.
--===*Thanks to Varian for his contribution to this entry!*===--