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Tools & Tips

How to Easily Translate your Word and PDF Documents using Google Translate

Google Translate has it’s good and bad points: as translation tools go it’s not perfect but it is very convenient. One of the little-known features of Google Translate is that, in addition to translating web pages or blocks of text, it can also be used to translate your text and PDF documents.

To translate your documents:

  1. Open the Google Translate web page and click on Documents (this link takes you straight to the Documents tab.)
  1. Click the Browse your computer button and find the file you want to translate then click Open. Your document will appear as in the screenshot below.
  1. Click the Translate button – then wait. After a short time a new window containing the translated document will open. That’s it!

This is such a simple tool to use but how many of us know about it? You can use it for many standard text-based document formats, including Word (doc and docx), Open Office (odf), PDF, PowerPoint (ppt and pptx), Excel (xls and xlsx), Postscript (PS), and Rich Text Format (rtf), which should cover most bases.

Have you used Google Translate for your documents? How helpful was it? Are there other better tools out there that you would recommend. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Websites, WordPress

Update a WordPress Website Step-by-Step

Following on from the post about what’s involved in maintaining your WordPress website, this post shows you how to identify any updates that are needed and then work through them. The most important step, before doing anything (and there is a step in the procedure below to ensure you don’t forget!) is to make sure you have a current backup. Things do sometimes go wrong and being able to restore your site fast is vital.

With that warning placed ahead of any changes we’re about to make, let’s get started…

A guide to updating your WordPress core, theme and plugins: step-by-step with a little bit of nagging about the importance of a backup.

Login to your WordPress Dashboard

For this you will need an account with Admin-level permissions.
As soon as you have access to the Dashboard you will any updates will be shown next to the Updates and Plugins options as a red dot with a number, as in the example below.

Find out whether there are updates

If you click on Updates you will see a list of everything that needs to be updated. This will include any WordPress core updates, your themes, and also plugins.

In this example there are 17 updates pending – but what are they?

What updates are required?

If a WordPress Core update is required (this is the software used to run WordPress) you will see an alert similar to the one shown above.

Scroll down the page and everything that is ready to be updated is listed there.

If you see anything listed on this page, updates are definitely needed.

BUT don’t do anything yet. First we need to make a backup.

Backup your installation

If you’re working on the Live version of your site (rather than a local copy or a staging site) it’s imperative that you take a backup before proceeding. There are various ways to do this, for example, using UpdraftPlus (from the WordPress dashboard) or using Softaculous or a backup tool (from your hosting account cPanel).

If you don’t already have a method for creating site backups you must set that up before doing anything updates.

With your site all backed up, you can move on to the next step.

Update WordPress

With your backup complete, return to the Updates page and click Update Now under the heading “An updated version of WordPress is available”. If you don’t have any Core updates to do, skip ahead to the next step.

Update Theme(s)

If you scroll on past the Plugin list you’ll see the list of any Themes you have installed on your site that need to be updated. In this case the site has just the main theme used on the site (OceanWP) and one of the default themes.

To update them:
Click Select all and then click the Update Themes button.

On the subject of Themes, you really don’t need to keep old themes, such as any that you trialled and then disguarded, for example, or all the defaults that comes with a clean WordPress installation. It’s worth keeping one of the default, as they can be handing for troubleshooting issues – particularly after updating your site! – but the rest can and should be deleted since they don’t serve a useful purpose.

Update Plugins

Next you can start working through the list of plugins.

Each listing will show the change in the version numbering for the plugin with a link to the version details and also state compatibility with WordPress.

Note also that if there are any issues with a plugin’s compatibility, you’ll see an alert here, as in the last example shown above, which has flagged a PHP compatibility issue (check this blog post for help with this).

Now go through the list updating each plugin. You can do these all at once (not recommended), one at a time (ideal but can take a while) or in batches, determined by how “safe” you think they are. Generally I update the less invasive plugins in batches then the more integrated ones, like page builders, on-at-a-time.

That’s it!

All being well you won’t have had any issues and your site is working perfectly, just as before with the added bonus that it’s now up-to-date, meaning it’s safe and secure.

If you did have any problems, what to do?

In the next post I’ll go through some of the issues that sometimes come up when updating your site – and suggest ways to resolve those same issues.

Photo by Launchpresso on Unsplash

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Hosting, Tutorials, WordPress

Updating the PHP Version via cPanel for WordPress

If you’re running a WordPress site and have a self-hosted setup (so you pay for hosting that isn’t with wordpress.com) you may have noticed a warning about your PHP version being out of date. If you’re seeing this, what should you do?

Updating it is relatively simple to do if you follow the steps below.

  1. First, back up your site! You can use a plugin for this but the safest way is to download the SQL database and make a copy of the files from the server.
  2. Next, you can install a plugin like PHP Compatibility Checker to check the compatibility of your plugins. Most will be fine but the odd one may not be happy with the current version of PHP (v7.4 at the time of writing.)
  3. Fix any errors, either by updating the plugins with issues or replacing them (obviously there may be some work involved if issues come up.)
  4. Next login to your site’s cPanel and find the section for the PHP version. You can do this yourself or, if you’re not sure about DIYing it, open a support ticket and ask tech support to help. If you’re with a reputable hosting company they’ll do it for you. Find the dropdown that shows the PHP version you are currently running and change it to the latest version. Save your changes.
  5. When all this is done, login again to your WP Dashboard and check things are working. In 99/100 cases you’ll have no issues.

That’s it!

If you’re not confident doing this for yourself you can always get in touch and we’ll do it for you.

Reviews

Create captivating and engaging email footers: a review of Scribe

I was recently asked by a client to set up a some email signature templates that would work alongside her newly launched website and related branding. Great idea!

As a consequence I researched a bunch of tools that enable this and I ended up signing up to Scribe so I could test it before recommending it (or not). Here’s my review of Scribe.

The Brief

My client was specifically looking for a tool that would enable her to have a single branded email footer that could be used by her and members of her team. Each individual had a different computer setup and preferred email tool, with some on Apple, others on Outlook, and then various combinations of webmail and Gmail. This meant the solution would need to work across various platforms.

A Review of Scribe

Buy now on App Sumo*

What’s included?

Having a reviewed a few other tools I decided, for the price, Scribe would be worth a look so signed myself up on a lifetime deal. For this price I get:

  • Lifetime access to Scribe
  • All future plan updates
  • GDPR compliant (partner verified)
  • 60-day money-back guarantee, no matter the reason
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs) and banners
  • Analytics tracking
  • One-click installation
  • Co-workers signature personalization

Sounds like a lot of good stuff!

First Impressions

My first impression was very good! It’s a cloud-based tool so I just logged in with the email address I used for the purchase (via AppSumo). Once logged in via https://app.scribe-mail.com I have access to comprehensive looking “dashboard”.

The Departments View in the Scribe Admin Dashboard

As you can see, I had the option to create deparments, which would mean I could create variations on my main signature for different teams. If I have co-workers to add (currently I don’t) I can assign them to one of the departments I create. For now it’s just me, so I don’t need this featured – but it’s useful to have for the future.

Next in the menu is the Email Signature configuration, which is the reason for me testing this out. There are few more options here, but it’s pretty self-explanatory: on the left is a form to fill out, with your name, job title, logo, etc. and on the right is how it will look. There are options for changing the colors for the phone, address and social media icons, and various font optiotns. I changed from the default to Montserrat, which matches the paperwork I sent out (invoices, proposals, etc.)

Customizing the Email Signature in the Scribe Dashboard

You can see at the bottom of this screen there are options to add calls-to-action, promotional banners, and a special Covid-19 banner. What’s great about these is that they are trackable, so if you do put one of these on there you will have access to stats tracking. I think that’s a really great featured in these days when mailing lists and client communications are such an important part of promoting your business.

And, of course, if you don’t want to use these features, you don’t have to.

Other configuration options include the classic or minimal layouts.

Classic Template
Minimal Template

The other section of the dashboard are there for you to add Coworkers, who you can then assign to departments and create unique signatures for, and also to track your analytics and manage your account. If you have questions or feature request, you can click on the Feedback Board and submit them.

In Settings there are also some interesting features that include integrations (currently just Mixmax), enabling or disabling the tracking cookie feature (disabling this will disable analytics if you have any CTA buttons on your signature), and also the option to configure the tool so that the email signature is “sent” using your custom domain.

And that’s pretty much it.

Using your custom signature

Once you’ve set everything up it couldn’t be easier to implement your new signature.

Just go into the Signature section and click the Install Signature button at the bottom of the page. This gives you various options that include:

  • Copy HTML code
  • Copy Gmail code
  • Copy Outlook code
  • Copy Outlook.com code

Then you just paste it in.

If you’re not sure what to do with this code once you’ve copied it, try the relevant link below for an explanation. If you need help, get in touch!

My Thoughts

I like the interface – it seems pretty intuitive and doesn’t have a vast number of options, so I don’t think it will be overwhelming to a non-techie user.

The result is clean and fresh. It’s easy to customise – with a logo, avatar, photo, or custom colors – and, as long as you are familiar with the signature tools in your preferred mail app, easy to install.

My only gripe – and this is something I raised a ticket with them about – is that it doesn’t work 100% in Gmail because Gmail doesn’t support a full set of custom fonts; ironic given the font I use is a free Google font! What do I mean by this? Well, in Scribe I set my signature to use Montserrat, which matches my branding (well, the latest branding that is yet to make it to my website!) – however, in Gmail the email signature is displayed using the default Serif font. Not what I wanted. I’ve stuck with it because a) the developer has an active user forum and b) it still looks better than before I used Scribe, but I think this is an issue they need to overcome if they’re to claim full support for Gmail. I haven’t tested the signature in other mail applications so can’t comment, but if you have found the same then please let me know and I’ll update this post to reflect the signature’s behaviour in your particular email client setup.

This post contains an affiliate link. We only include links to products we have personally used or tested and are happy to recommend to our clients. What this means is that we receive a small commission for any sales made by anyone who click an affiliate link from this page. You do not pay more for this; it’s almost not worth mentioning but legally we have to!

Troubleshooting, WordPress

Fixing Your Site after Installing an SSL Certificate on WordPress

Sometimes, after adding installing an SSL certificate or migrating a site from one platform to another, it doesn’t behave as expected. There are several fixes for this so, if your site isn’t functioning properly after applying an SSL certificate, read on.

Generally the issues are caused by problems with your page links; that is, links to your site that were listed as http but are now https. Sometimes these slip through the cracks. The three main steps to try are:

  • Running the Really Simple SSL plugin
  • Updating the URLs in the WordPress database
  • Updating the site’s permalinks

Let’s get started.

Run the Really Simple SSL Plugin

This plugin is really simple to use, just like it says! You can install it from the Plugins library, then Activate it.

Once activated you will see a message box like the one below. Just click Go ahead, activate SSL and you’re done! (Yes, there are a few more configuration options but essentially that’s it!)

Update URLs in the WordPress Database

This is a bit more technical because you have to go into the database via PhpMyAdmin and use SQL searches to hunt down any old instances of the HTTP address and replace them with the HTTPS versions. I’ve found that whenever it gets to this stage, the find/replace usually does the trick and it’s one of the first things I check after finding any migration issues.

I usually run a search first to see whether there are any HTTP address lurking in there, and usually there are. To do this:

  1. Click the Search tab in PhpMyAdmin (make sure you’re in the correct database!)
  2. In the Words or values to search for (wildcard: “%”) field, type the search term, in this case the full website address using http://, e.g., http://www.mywebsite.com.
  3. Copy and paste the results into a text file. If you have any instances of the search URL in your database you will want to run the SQL statement to change them.
  4. Rerun the search using the variant of the URL without the www prefix, for example, http://mywebsite.com.
  5. Again, copy the results into a text file so you have a record you can refer. These search results give you the correct table names to use.

Now you’re ready to replace the URLs. The SQL statement to use is:

UPDATE wp_options SET option_value = replace(option_value, 'Existing URL', 'New URL') WHERE option_name = 'home' OR option_name = 'siteurl';

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'Existing URL', 'New URL');

UPDATE wp_postmeta SET meta_value = replace(meta_value,'Existing URL','New URL');

UPDATE wp_usermeta SET meta_value = replace(meta_value, 'Existing URL','New URL');

UPDATE wp_links SET link_url = replace(link_url, 'Existing URL','New URL');

UPDATE wp_comments SET comment_content = replace(comment_content , 'Existing URL','New URL');

To use it:

  1. Click the SQL tab in PhpMyAdmin (make sure you’re in the correct database!)
  2. Copy and paste the SQL statement above into the SQL Query field.
  3. Modify the original statement so that it shows your URLs (old and new) and amend the table names, if yours are different.
  4. Click Simulate. Then, if it all looks good, click Go.

That should have changed all the URLs.

Sometimes you’ll have a table or two not covered by the SQL statement above, or there may be another field in the table that is not listed. In that case you’ll need to add additional statements to cover those tables and/or fields. If you’re not happy to do this yourself, contact me for help.

If the above still hasn’t fixed your site, there’s are still two more things to try. Next we’re going to change the permalink settings, then we’ll try reinstalling the template from a download.

Update the Site Permalinks

In the Dashboard, click Settings and then Permalinks. You see a list like the one below.

By default you probably have your site set to use the Post name for links. Whatever setting you have, these are the steps to follow:

  1. Click Plain then Save these amended settings.
  2. Click Visit Site to see whether the sites is back on.
  3. Go back into the Permalink settings, then click Post name (or restore to whatever setting you had before, if different.) Click Save.
  4. Visit the site again. Is it fixed?

If you’re still having issues there’s one more thing to try: deleting and re-installing the WordPress theme. This will create a little more work as all your customisations are likely to disappear, unfortunately, but at least it should get you back up and running again!

The steps for completing that task are in a separate post. Good luck!

Troubleshooting, WordPress

How to Remove then Update your WordPress Theme

Generally, things go smoothly when you update your WordPress theme, but sometimes they don’t. When this happens the way to fix it is often to completely delete the old theme and then reinstall it using the theme files direct from the developer. This post walks you through this process step-by-step.

There are several ways to remove an old theme: from the Themes menu in the Dashboard, or from the File Manager on the server, of via FTP. In this tutorial, we’ll stay within the WP Dashboard.

  1. Visit the theme developer website and download the files for your chosen theme. These will be available for download as a zip file.
  2. In your WP Dashboard, select Appearance and then Themes.
  3. If you haven’t already changed to a theme that works, do this now as you won’t be able to delete a theme you are using. Choose a “safe” default like Twenty Twenty or Twenty Fifteen.
  4. Find the theme you want to replace and click Theme Details (this flashes up when you hover of the image.)
  5. At the bottom of this page you should see two buttons (Activate and Preview) and a red text link saying Delete. Click Delete.

Now your site is ready to be updated.

  1. Back in the Themes list, click Add New then attach and upload the zip file containing your theme files.
  2. Wait for this to upload (you’ll see a % indicator at the bottom of the screen while it uploads) then Activate the theme.
  3. Check the site again. Is it working?!
Websites, WordPress

How to Maintain your WordPress Website

You’ve finished your WordPress website (or your webdev has handed it over to you) so now you can get on with writing and sharing your blog posts and updating the content now and again and that’s it, right?

Unfortunately, as with all your tech, a WordPress website is just like any other and regular maintenance is needed to keep it all running smoothly and, importantly, securely too.

But where to start?

What do I need to update?

Generally there are three main areas of your site that need to be kept up-to-date. These are:

  • The WordPress “core”
  • Your theme
  • Plugins that are used on your site

Those are the three building blocks, if you like, of your site. In order for the site to function all three need to be kept in sync, which is generally why there are always updates.

In addition, very occasionally there is the need to update the PHP version the site run on. This is basically the programming language that WordPress uses to “talk” to the database that stores all the content for your site. As with any language, it evolves, so sometimes changes are needed in order to keep everything in sync.

None of these jobs is beyond the abilities of all but the biggest technophobe but, because sometimes things go wrong there are “safe” and “risky” ways to go about it.

So, now you now what you need to update, let’s find out why it’s necessary – and get a taste of what can go wrong.

Why are updates needed?

One of the main reasons for updates is to fix security flaws. These are usually issues that don’t affect the performance of your site (as it in it still works) but plugs any gaps – “vulnerabilities” – that would enable a hacker to access your site. If you don’t want to risk losing your site, these updates are on the critical list!

But many updates are a result of improvements to the software, trying to reduce “bloat” (which is tech talk for tidying up the code) or implement new features.

As an example, WordPress recently issued a major update, going from version 5.4.x to 5.5.0. In software terms a major update is a Big Deal, which is why there was a Mexican wave of screams on developer forums, because the update changed something quite significant in the way WordPress works and consequently loads of plugins stopped working! Obviously then the knock-on of this is that lots of plugin updates were rolled out. Actually, these are still coming out, because as the updates are released new bugs are found (they had to react fast to try and fit in with WP 5.0.x, which is never a good place for a software developer to be!)

Likewise the changes impacted themes, which are built around the WordPress “core” software. Furthermore, some themes are designed and tested to work with certain plugins, so you can see how the whole things is interconnected and faults in one will impact another.

How do I know what needs to be updated?

The caveat with all this is that you have to have Admin level access to be able to keep on top of this, so if you have an account you use for site updates and another for full access to the Dashboard, you need to login as an Admin from time-to-time to see whether there’s anything do.

Likewise, if you don’t have an admin level account, you should (must) ask the person who created your site to either create one for you OR to create a new account for you. As the owner of the site, you really should have full access to it.

Once you’re logged in as an Admin you can check for updates and start to apply them. You can find the list of everything that needs updating in the Updates list, under Dashboard.

I don’t know where to start. What’s next?

There’s no magic to updating a WordPress site and – usually – it’s fairly straight forward. As with anything tech-related, before making any changes you should make sure you have a full backup. There are various ways to do this, and I’ll explain one or two in future posts.

When was the last time you updated your site? Did you run into any issues with the major WordPress update that was rolled out?


In my next post I’ll describe how to check your WordPress site for updates and then work through them step-by-step.


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Tools & Tips, Computer Maintenance, Tutorials

Spring Clean Your System Series: Introduction

Spring is in the air – at last! With the increasing light, we naturally start to clear out all those dusty corners and give our homes and gardens a good tidy up, ready for the year ahead. But what about your technology?

If, like me, you use your computer for work and also have a number of other devices you use, such as a table or iPad, the chances are you have a lot of files to organise. Whether that’s photos, e-mail or documents, just like your regular paper-based filing pile, a lot of clutter can build up over time if you don’t stay on top of it. And that’s just the stuff you see.

Whenever we use technology lots of files are used behind the scenes and these also mount up over time; things like temp (temporary) files, cookies from websites we visit, and a legion of other one-time and short-time-use files. All this invisible clutter stays on your system and over time slows it down, which is why it’s worth removing it. And what better time than Spring, since that’s when we get busy tidying generally.

Now all you need is a few specialist (free) tools and the know-how. What better way to start the week than with decluttered and organised computer! To help you with this I’ve put together a series of posts that will take you through the various ways you can tidying up and also get organised.

What’s Covered

First we’ll look at ways to declutter all those invisible files using some free software designed just for that purpose.

Then we’ll look at decluttering our files and applications.

And finally, once we’ve cleaned up our act, we’ll make sure we’ve got everything backed up, either to The Cloud or to an external disk or drive.

While you’re waiting…

In the meantime, why not get out some screen wipes and give the screen and keyboard a good wipe down. And, if you have a desktop PC or a laptop with a visible vent, it’s a good idea to put the hoover up to the back of the fan vent and suck out the dust especially if you have pets. No, seriously. One of our computers was constantly overheating. When we took the back off to check that all was well with the heat-sink we found, to our surprise, an enormous ball of fluff had collected there. No wonder it wouldn’t work!

Taking that one step further, if you’re confident to open the case on a desktop machine – and can do so without invalidating any warranties – it’s well worth giving your computer’s insides a good freshen up. Just open it up and give all the dusty looking bits a blast of air from an air canister such as this one on Amazon*. No more fluff – and no more whirring fan.

Although the focus of this will be on Windows systems, many of the techniques and tips will also be relevant for Mac users. Where there are differences, I’ll provide separate info in later posts.

Credits: main image copyright iStock.com/valio84sl


Are you ready to Spring Clean Your System? Don’t want to miss out? Subscribe to the newsletter for latest news, updates, and tech tips.

If you need help with this or any other aspect of your home or business IT, contact me to arrange a free consultation.

PLEASE NOTE, that this post contains an affiliate link. If you buy something through one of those links you won’t pay a penny more but I will get a small commission.

Productivity Tools, Tools & Tips, Websites

SEO Tools: From Yoast to SEO Press

Since I first started working with WordPress I’ve been using the Yoast plugin for my SEO. It’s a great tool. I’ve been happy with it and have been happily recommending it to clients. But lately there’s been chatter in some groups where WordPress pros and others discuss their SEO tools of choice, and I’ve been hearing very good things about SEO Press. After reading many reviews to find out more, I’ve decided to give it a go.

As I type, I’m backing up my personal blog and will shortly be installing SEO Press. Once it’s installed I will then go through the configuration and setup procedure (if there is one) and then work on and publish my first post using it. According to the instructions I’ve read it’s simple to use and has some great features, such as tools to help with titles and metatags, the creation of XML and HTML sitemaps (the latter being somewhat overlooked these days but still very helpful), content analysis with unlimited keywords, and also making it easy to implement Schema – a form of metadata that is increasingly favoured by search engines, giving your content much greater visibility in searches.

There’s a comparison of the tool’s features on the SEO Press website. It sounds impressive, at least for a free plugin. As with anything the proof will be in the pudding. After using it for a while I’ll come back with a review – on usability and also whether it makes any discernible difference to my site’s SEO! Of course, there’s no plugin in the world that can actually boost your site’s SEO. Only good writing and constant review and improvement can do that! But what a good SEO plugin can do is guide you a little and make some of the technical side of SEO, such as adding Schema tags and maintaining your XML sitemaps, easier to manage. Wish me luck!


Do you need help with your website SEO or WordPress tools and plugins? If so, contact me to arrange a free consultation – no obligation.


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