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ISSUE 19.48.F • 2022-11-28 • Text Alerts!Gift Certificates

In this issue

FROM THE PUBLISHER: A major change to our newsletters

EDITORIAL: How our little business is run

COMMENTARY: Behind the scenes: The site

COMMENTARY: Behind the scenes: The newsletter


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A major change to our newsletters

Susan Bradley

By Susan Bradley

We’re developing new, bonus content!

When I acquired the AskWoody business, I felt that we would face difficulty in publishing our newsletters every week, 52 weeks per year. One of my first decisions was to change the publishing schedule to 48 times per year, approximately four issues per month. That remains our official policy.

However, that’s not actually what we did. Except for missing the first Monday in January 2021, we’ve published something every week since. We did that by offering “special” issues to fill the gaps. I also decided to make the full special issue available to both our audiences — our valued Plus members and those who signed up for the free, public newsletter. Our special issues consisted almost entirely of reprints, usually with a single theme.

You may have noticed that our banner above no longer says “Special,” but rather “Bonus.” Here’s the deal.

New, bonus content: Our first change is to produce new, original content for the extra four issues. That’s what you see below in this, our first bonus issue. We’ve already decided on the content for the next bonus issue on January 2, 2023. I’m pleased that we can accommodate this expansion of content.

Plus members only: The second change is that our Plus members will receive these bonus issues as an exclusive benefit. We will not publish the public edition on those Mondays; free subscribers will continue to receive our promised 48 issues. Membership has its benefits.

This change takes effect on January 2, 2023. That’s why this last special issue of 2022 has been sent to everyone.

Plus membership

We are encouraged by the loyal (and financial) support of our valued Plus members. We encourage everyone to become a Plus member, and that is the source of one more piece of news.

Effective today, November 28, 2022, the minimum donation amount to become a Plus member will rise from $1 to $6. The hard truth is that we cannot cover the costs associated with a Plus membership for $1. Rather than fiddle with minor adjustments, we chose a number that we think is still an incredible bargain but that we won’t need to change again any time soon. Most current Plus members donate quite a bit more than that anyway and will thus notice no difference.

We thank all our subscribers for sticking with us, and we look forward to continuing to serve you.

And tell your friends! (We’ve got gift certificates, just in time for the holiday season!)

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Susan Bradley is the publisher of the AskWoody newsletters
and the owner of AskWoody Tech LLC of Fresno, California.


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How our little business is run

Will Fastie

By Will Fastie

The operation of a small business isn’t usually the subject of a paper in the Harvard Business Review.

Neither is AskWoody Tech LLC.

In one of our regular and routine conversations, Susan and I talked about our respective operational roles, the things we regularly do, and — more to the point — the technology we use every day. The surprise was that despite common links, we do dramatically different things.

We thought you might be interested in what we realized was a distinct difference.

What we do in common

Like many small businesses these days, we have a Microsoft 365 account. This means, of course, that we use Microsoft’s Office productivity suite, which includes our domain-centric email system. OneNote and OneDrive play a major role. In the articles below, we each explain how we use these tools.

What we do differently

Susan wears many hats. Besides being the chief executive officer, she’s also the chief technology officer and the chief financial officer. In addition to exercising oversight of the entire business, she is the most prominent poster on the blog and provides direct supervision of the forums.

The tools and services she uses reflect her roles, and are described in her article.

I also wear many hats. I once sent Susan a list of job titles I hold, including such odd ones as advertising coordinator. Due to my experience in Web development, I’ve also handled the visual design of the site and done some coding for it.

But my primary responsibility is content, the management and production of our newsletters. My toolset also reflects my roles, as I describe below.

Meanwhile, we both have day jobs.

We hope you enjoy this little behind-the-scenes look at the business.

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Will Fastie is editor in chief of the AskWoody Plus Newsletter.



Behind the scenes: The site

Susan Bradley

By Susan Bradley

A newsletter about Windows isn’t run on Windows.

I’ve always found it interesting to see how something works, and I’ll bet many of our readers do, too. So I’m going to use my space in this bonus issue by giving you a peek into the technology we use to run the site and our forums, to prepare the newsletter, and to get it to your inbox.

Our site lives on two Linux (Debian) servers located in a datacenter in Virginia, USA. One server, the host, receives Web requests and responds; the other runs the databases.

The site is a highly customized WordPress deployment. The customizations include quite a bit of hard code built into our WordPress theme. But many customizations come from the vast universe of WordPress plugins. Most of these are popular and well known, including such big ones as WooCommerce. Others are small but provide a key service or capability that we need — but that is not provided by the core WordPress code. A very simple example is the Replace Image plugin, which allows a new image to be uploaded and have the same name as the original. That allows an image to be changed across the totality of the site, not just in some places. Why WordPress doesn’t have that feature built in is a mystery, but the “pluginverse” comes to the rescue.

Another big component we use is bbPress. It’s critical for us because it runs our forums. We don’t use the typical WordPress model of having comments appear with each post, because the site could not deliver the necessary features that way. bbPress is a comprehensive forum system that can be customized as necessary. It has many features specifically developed for our purposes. This is so important that I rely on several professional WordPress experts to provide additional functionality to the forums and, for that matter, to the site as a whole.

The next big area for which we employ customized solutions is mailing-list management. We use two mail-service providers, MailChimp and SendGrid. But we don’t just use those services for mailings — our site interacts with them, as when someone signs up for the newsletter. That requires additional custom work. This has been a challenge for me: there are some unusual complexities when keeping both mail databases in sync, including integration with the ecommerce system. We use several plugins to assist with this, plus the custom work done by our consultants.

Why two mail services? Wouldn’t one make more sense? There’s no question that working with just one would be easier. We’re stuck with some history, involving the difficult and expensive integration work originally done to connect the site to the two services. Consolidating everything into one service would involve more expensive work; for now, it’s more economical to leave things as they are. But both services are of high quality and reliable, which is important to me.

SendGrid is used to mail our free newsletter. We also use it to send out notifications. We have custom code to link our site to SendGrid for these purposes. SendGrid is economical, compared to other services.

MailChimp is used to mail the Plus edition of the newsletter, as well as MS-DEFCON alerts and exclusive Plus edition alerts.

If you ever see an email from the site that mentions dueling databases, it has to do with synchronizing our master database with these two email services.

So, why did I not get my newsletter?

First, if you ever have a problem with any aspect of your relationship with us, get in touch right away by emailing I handle all such requests personally, and I’ll track down the problem and resolve it as quickly as I can.

Email is tricky. One of the oldest computer-based communications technologies around, it’s a complex system of service providers sending email, mail servers receiving them, and the bad guys trying to horn in with phishing and other scams. As threats emerge, your email service may tighten down, with the result that our servers are inadvertently (and usually momentarily) considered bad actors. It’s important that we hear about these problems, so if you ever miss an expected email, don’t hesitate to get in touch via customer support so I can clear things up.

I hope you’ll take pity on me for this aspect of my job and accept my apology if I can’t get back to you quickly. And remember — you might be 12 time zones away from me, which means I might be asleep when you email. (I need at least a little bit of rest!)

One more thing about email. I love to help people with their problems, and I do it as much as I can. But please don’t use the customer support email address for that purpose. Post your questions or pleas for help in our forums, where many knowledgeable eyes offer insights.

Are those email servers tracking me?

It depends on what you mean.

The most important thing we track is whether you get the emails and whether you open them. If you let me know that you didn’t get an email, I can get into the records at the service providers to find out why. As a simple example, if you change your email address and we don’t know that, we can discover that the mail to your old address was undeliverable. We keep very little personal information about our members, so it may be difficult to get in touch with you to resolve such a problem. That’s why you need to let us know.

So yes, we do have tracking on the emails so that we can be sure you get what you asked for. But beyond that, our only interest in your email address is making sure we can get in touch with you and that the email is flowing. We never sell our lists. Period.

There are obviously many other ways we could track you, but for the most part we don’t. We get a lot of statistics, such as how many people read a particular newsletter online. But all we get is counts — your personal information is not connected with your visits. We could get more data by using a service such as Google Analytics (and I’ve been counseled many times to do so), but I’ve been very reluctant.

You’ll also notice that the site carries no advertising except the ads placed in the free newsletter. We do get a tiny bit of revenue from those ads, but we get absolutely no information about any transaction you may have conducted.

I don’t like interference from tracking mechanisms when I’m visiting a site, and I don’t think you should have to deal with them, either. If it annoys me, I assume it will annoy you, and I won’t do it. The site and the newsletters exist to educate and inform, not to flood you with commercials.

We need ad revenue to support the free version of the newsletter, and Plus members contribute directly. You are our life blood, and we’ll continue to honor your support by keeping annoyances away from you.

Alerts and social media

It’s important that we use popular services to help keep you informed. For example, Twitter has an immediacy and reach that are valuable to our readers and help us as well.

I’ve set up several Twitter accounts. The most important is AskWoody DEFCON Alerts, where I post every time the MS-DEFCON level changes. If you’re a Twitter user and want free notifications, follow that account. MS-DEFCON Alert notices are emailed to all Plus members, and we have text service for Plus members that provides notifications. The MS-DEFCON text service, though fee-based, is included for Plus members who donate above a certain level (see Plus Membership).

You no doubt know that I post regularly on our site, most often when there is news of a timely matter. Whenever I do, I also tweet to our primary AskWoody account. One thing included is my updates to the Master Patch List. Again, if you’re a Twitter user, this is a great way to quickly find out that we’ve got something new. If you’ve signed up for the MS-DEFCON text service, you’ll also be notified about Master Patch List updates.

This may sound like a lot of work. It was. At considerable time and expense, I put some automation in place so that all these things are triggered by us making the changes at the site — I don’t need to go to Twitter to make the posts, nor manually invoke the text service. And as you might expect, I found the WordPress plugin Zapier to help me with the automation.

One thing both Will and I found frustrating was changing the MS-DEFCON banner that appears on every page of the site when the level changes. When I acquired the business, a manual method for making that change was available. The problem was that this happens in the wee hours. Recently, I had one of our pros work up our own, custom plugin that allows us to schedule the change of the level. This has been deployed after careful testing, so now our banners change at about the same moment as our MS-DEFCON alerts are emailed and tweeted.

So I’m a development manager, too. Will is right when he says we have a lot of moving parts, so automating as much as we can is challenging, but also necessary. I invest in it as the budget allows.

I’m a Web denizen

From all I’ve mentioned so far, it’s clear that I’m glued to the Web. But it’s not just for operating and managing the business.

Depending on your perspective, the Web is either a cesspool or a gold mine. I’m mostly in the latter camp because, in my role as the Patch Lady, I scour the Web looking for the most current information and updates about security and patches. I spend a lot of time on this. Although it’s great that so many vendors and manufacturers have useful information on their sites, it’s utterly fantastic that so many individuals invest their time and energy to research and document problems and fixes. You see this all the time in my columns, where I refer directly to sources.

This information allows me to more precisely focus on the issues that I want to bring to your attention. It provides the basis for my own experiments, which I perform frequently to validate those outside conclusions. And it also allows me to learn which sources are the most trustworthy and valuable. I’m thus able to keep you away from the cesspool end of the spectrum.

Yes, I’m Web-centric.

But it’s not just about the technology

There is more than just tech behind the scenes. People (including you) are vital. Our forums are moderated by a group of thoughtful volunteers who help keep the forums civil, respectful, and on point. Many readers post questions, observations, praise, criticisms, and good old-fashioned help — making the forums fun, informative, and helpful.

Never visited? As part of the holiday season, drop by! There’s something for everyone: Windows, Linux, Apple, Office, hardware, software, and more. Did you read something in a newsletter article that you wanted more info about? Every article has its own forum topic, easily accessed.

And you can play “Stump the Experts!” There’s a lot of talent, expertise, and experience in our membership, people who are only too happy to respond with “Oh, I know what you are talking about, here’s how I fixed that problem.” (If you don’t get that, then you’ve got a really tough problem.)

General oversight and operation of the forums is one of my primary responsibilities, one that I take very seriously.

Day to day with technology

Call me wacky.

My (overly) large purse contains a small laptop, equipped with a cellular broadband connection. (No, it’s none of your business what else is in there.) Because my purse is always within reach, so is that computer. If an emergency pops up when I’m away from work, I can immediately remote in to deal with the problem (using multifactor authentication, of course).

And I use that laptop for this business, too. There’s no telling when an idea for a blog post or newsletter article will come to mind, at which point I can pull out the laptop and get to work. Because we keep everything in the cloud, I can work anywhere, without restriction. Our Microsoft 365 account, with OneDrive, sees to that. I keep drafts of everything in my OneDrive space.

Why a laptop instead of a tablet? The latter would work for many things, but writing without a decent keyboard is tough. Perhaps dictation will eventually replace typing, but that day has not yet come. Besides, I’ve been typing for a long, long time — it’s easier, more natural for me. No weird or modern keyboards, though; touch typing requires a consistent feel and key placement. I like something a little “clicky.”

By the way, if a friend asks me which computer to buy, I’m happy to give recommendations but I always tell them to go to a store to try the keyboard. (Choose the tech that meets your needs.)

My small laptop is a Windows PC. That’s because we do use Microsoft tools for writing. (Will has more to say about that below.)

The key technology my family uses

If you’ve read my articles and posts, you know I often mention my family and its members’ use of technology. No, it doesn’t have much to do with my day-to-day responsibilities for the business, but it is like a little user-experience (UX) laboratory.

Examples abound (it’s quite the active lab). For example, my sister is a total fan of her iPad Pro and its Magic Keyboard. I can see that; if your key activities are email, letter-writing, and media consumption, it’s perfect. Well, almost perfect. My UX lab “experiments” have shown that Safari is a bit slow in keeping up with Web technology, so my sister does use third-party Web browsers. That’s an important data point!

Another lab result is to pick the technology that best meets your needs. Both my 94-year-old father and my sister use their iPhones and iPads for almost everything they do. But Dad, who still does a few tax returns on the side, turns to a full-fledged Windows desktop for that work. But wait! That’s evolving, too. There’s now a cloud version of the software he uses and he needs his iPhone for two-factor authentication. Did I mention that he’s 94?

My observations of my family help me form opinions about what consumers expect and need, findings that I can quickly validate with other sources and turn into appropriate advice and recommendations for you.

I can only wonder what sort of technology I’ll be using when I’m 94. Needless to say, I have a few years left to ponder that.

My personal goal for the site

I think our services — the site, the newsletter, the forums, the alerts, everything else we do — are helping our members learn and grow. It’s what I would seek if what we do didn’t exist.

All that is good, but it’s not quite enough. You’ve heard this from me before — never let yourself get into a situation where no one is left to help you with the technology you have and upon which you depend. Our forums are a good place to plant roots, but the kid down the street might also have just the insight you need to get your iPhone working well. Other people are key; cultivate those relationships.

I hope that you always see our site, forums, and newsletters as key tools to help you stay on your toes, to keep your tech under your control.

Tame your tech! Always be the master of your technology.

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Susan Bradley is the publisher of the AskWoody newsletters.

Completing the Puzzle


Behind the scenes: The newsletter

Will Fastie

By Will Fastie

When I took this job, I was surprised at the number of moving parts involved in publishing the newsletter.

My predecessor, editor emeritus Tracey Capen, did an excellent job with general organization and collaboration. Tracey wrote a very comprehensive document in OneNote about how to produce the newsletter, which was extremely helpful in my early days. I was very grateful to have that guide because otherwise, I would have been at sea on day one. Publishing an issue of the newsletter involves a lot of steps.

I’ve tried to build on Tracey’s good work, streamlining the processes as much as I can.

My roles

I once sent a fanciful note to Susan with a list of the “job titles” associated with the tasks I actually perform in my daily work. Here’s a portion of that list.

  • Editor in chief
  • Technical editor
  • Contributor
  • Art director
  • Layout artist
  • Advertising copy editor
  • Advertising coordinator
  • Production supervisor
  • Web developer
  • Web designer

Obviously, my most important role is developing content by creating ideas and working with our talented roster of contributors. Most of that work involves rewriting articles as necessary and verifying the technical accuracy of their content. Thankfully, rewrite doesn’t take much time because our contributors write well to begin with, but a second set of eyes on the content helps to assure accuracy and quality. This is the work that takes up about half of my time.

The rest of my time is spread over the “job titles” above, but most of it revolves around the production of the newsletter. It is that production role that drives the software and services I use to get the newsletter into your hands.

And that is the big difference between Susan and me. I am almost completely Microsoft- and Windows-centric. Except for WordPress, I use non-Microsoft tools and Web services very lightly.

Editorial management

I am a user of the Microsoft 365 plan Susan administers for the business. Its tools and services form the hub of my interaction with her, my interaction with contributors, and my production process.

You’d think we would heavily use the collaborative tools in 365. But our regular staff is extremely small, so our primary communications tool remains email. As you might expect, that means Outlook and the organizational tools it provides to manage not only my AskWoody email, but my personal email as well.

Our second organizational tool is OneNote. Its flexibility in allowing free form content is extremely useful and allows us to store and share much information about our operations. A significant part of that is the editorial calendar (Figure 1).

Editorial Calendar
Figure 1. The editorial calendar

If you’re thinking that the calendar should be an Excel worksheet, you’re probably right in terms of features. However, using OneNote for collaboration is far easier than using individual tools (e.g., Word, Excel), and our shared notebooks contain more than just this one table.

Much of the credit for our use of OneNote goes to Tracey Capen. The business was using a different collaborative tool when Tracey passed the baton to me, but he had also used OneNote from his personal account and had committed a lot of useful information to it. After a few months of struggling with the “other” collaborative tool and using my personal 365 account, Susan agreed to switch us to our own 365 business account.

The key reason for not using my personal account is continuity of business. Should anything happen to me, the business must not be dependent on my personal resources.

The third organizational tool is OneDrive. We have a lot of stuff to store, including general documents and art. We need convenient and fast access to it, which OneDrive provides. But our heaviest use of OneDrive is to store the work product for newsletter production. Every issue has its own folder in our file system (Figure 2), so every document we use is accessible to our staff. Nothing is kept solely on personal machines.

Newsletter issue's folder structure
Figure 2. The folder organization for one issue of the newsletter

Individual articles are kept in the “Working” folder until technical editing is complete. Each article is stored in a folder named after the author and containing all the assets associated with that article, such as images. As an article moves through the editorial process, updated copies are kept in the folder indicating their status, eventually coming to rest in the “Done” folder.

I wrote a batch file to create the folder structure for a given issue. It sets up the folder organization, populates the files, and renames them to reflect the publication date. The folder is created in my local OneDrive folder and immediately synced to the cloud. Takes about a second, a marked improvement from the 15 or 20 minutes it used to take when I was setting things up manually.


In Figure 2 above, you may have noticed a lot of HTML files.

You might think that, because our site runs WordPress, we’d simply author articles using it. We can’t. WordPress is fundamentally a blogging system — it is not a publishing system. But there is another constraint. We email our newsletters to our patrons. To do so efficiently, we must create all content in a format that will work on both the site and in the emails. HTML (hyper-text markup language) is the lingua franca that allows us to do that.

We must therefore create all our content in HTML, which proves an interesting challenge. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one product currently on the market that allows WYSIWYG editing of HTML documents, and that is Adobe’s Dreamweaver. Unfortunately, it’s a relatively expensive subscription product. We needed a product that could be used by our contributors willing to author in HTML (we also accept Word documents) and by me to produce the newsletter. We couldn’t ask contributors to buy Dreamweaver, nor could we afford to pay for all those subscriptions.

Microsoft Expression Web

I turned to a dead Microsoft product, Expression Web 4 (EW4, the successor to FrontPage). Discontinued since 2012 and turned into a free download at that time, it turns out to be almost perfect for our purposes. The article you are reading was authored not using Word, but EW4.

There are some drawbacks to EW4. It knows very little about HTML 5 and CSS 3, which somewhat constrains its use. It is fine with XHTML, despite that being somewhat retro. But as it happens, our current site is based on XHTML. More important, however, was a tiresome series of experiments proving that formatting emails was much more reliable with XHTML. Retro or not, EW4 is a good solution.

WordPress allows the insertion of HTML into a post. Thus I can take the same XHTML that is used to produce the emailed newsletters, quickly make a few tiny adjustments, and paste the entire thing into WordPress.

I am very grateful to our contributors who were willing to give Expression Web a shot. About three quarters of the articles come to me in that format. The rest come in Word, and my first step is to convert them into HTML using EW4.

Then the editing process begins. My general and technical edit of articles is conducted in EW4, which is not much different from working in Word. That’s not surprising, because at one point FrontPage was part of the Office suite. I use the tools in the program to be sure the HTML is valid and conforms to our requirements. I used EW4 as my primary Web development tool for many years, so I’m quite fluent. I’ve also been able to train some of our contributors, who usually have few problems with it.

EW4 is an old tool, so it does have some glitches. The program can crash, especially after it’s been running for many hours. (I save my work often.) It has a few odd behaviors. For example, if you want to make text bold in Word, you just turn on bold (Ctrl+B) and start typing. But if you do that in EW, the entire paragraph you’re in is bolded. You must type first, select the text you want bolded, and then use Ctrl+B. There are a few other quirks.

Word, browsers, and PDFs

Once I’m finished with an article, it is returned to the author for review. Upon approval, the article is sent to our crack copy editor, Roberta Scholz. The problem is that Roberta can’t handle an HTML file for editing (nor can our backup copy editor, Susan Holly). Both want a Word file.

That’s what they get. While it’s difficult to convert a Word document into HTML, it’s simple to load the HTML file with a browser (I use Microsoft Edge), select the entire text, and paste it into Word. Takes about 15 seconds. What comes back to me is either a Word file with Track Changes turned on, or a marked-up PDF file.

Once I have those edits, I transcribe them back into my master copy of the HTML file.

Microsoft Visual Code

What for? Isn’t that a developer’s tool?

I mentioned above that I can import an HTML document into WordPress. What I produce from EW4 is 100% legal and valid HTML code. When viewed in a browser, it looks perfect. Unfortunately, WordPress interprets the HTML a bit differently. I must remove all extraneous “whitespace” (e.g., spaces, nonbreaking spaces, carriage returns) from the HTML code, or WordPress will insert line breaks in the wrong places.

EW4 has some tools that allow me to fix such things, but there is no way to automate the process. I thus turned to a contemporary editor, Microsoft’s open-source project Visual Studio Code (VSC). I added extensions to fully support HTML and clean up extraneous white space. That cleanup is not 100% automatic, but it is relatively fast. While doing so, I also have my eye open for any HTML that isn’t perfect.

I had expected that that’s all I would do with VSC. However, it is lightning-fast — supersonic, compared to the aged EW4. That makes it very efficient for the final step, which is assembly into the final newsletter. I’m able to select the content very quickly and paste it into my master template for the newsletter. That final step puts the article back into the hands of EW4, which enables me to preview the result within EW4, followed by a preview in a browser.


Most of our articles carry illustrations. Knowing our requirements and limitations, most contributors send in finished images. In some cases, they require edits or at least file conversions, so I turn to non-Microsoft products — Windows Paint won’t cut it.

My primary image editor is Adobe Photoshop Elements (PSE). One of its best features is its ability to render an image into a relatively small JPEG file without losing quality. It inherits this from its big sister, Photoshop. No other economy-image editing program can match this feature, known as Save for Web.

I also use, a program I reviewed earlier this year. I use it for my own screen captures, but it also overcomes what I think is a bug in PSE — when PNG files with transparency are cut and pasted from some documents, PSE renders the background in black. does the right thing.

In addition to working on article images, I also use PSE to work on the art we use on the site. I don’t do the design work (the province of top graphics artist Bill Reuter), but I produce derivations of the art for various uses.


With all the articles and art prepared, it’s time to publish. It’s a bit more complicated than I’d like, but after doing it for about six months, I made a change that was extremely significant. Not only was it easier, but it resulted in a huge time savings.

We use two different mail services, one for the Plus edition and one for the Public newsletter. Both were originally configured with templates, into which the content was placed. However, the structure of both templates required me to perform issue-specific edits. Once those were in place, I pasted in the content portion of the newsletters.

That probably doesn’t sound so bad, but it represented time I was spending at the very end of the production process, and all the cutting and pasting was a bit slow. If anything else went south during the week, it meant I could be up in the wee hours of Sunday trying to get the emails out. I wanted to move that work closer to me so I could get it done as I had time. So I eliminated the mail-service templates and built the emails using Expression Web. Now I can just paste the entire newsletter into a blank template at the service.

Obviously, these services have nothing to do with Microsoft or Windows — it’s all Web-based. But now I can use my core, Windows-based toolset to create the newsletters and spend minimal time online. Most weeks, I can prepare and schedule both emails in about 15 minutes online. It used to take a couple of hours.

The other part of publishing is getting the newsletters and “stub” posts into WordPress. The time to get the newsletters online is minimal. It’s the same sort of process I use for the emails — copy and paste from my own templates. The stub posts, those little abstracts of each article that appear in our blog (aka the AskWoody home page), must be manually created, and I haven’t been able to reduce that time by much.

Overall, I’ve been able to dramatically reduce the time I spend online with mail services and WordPress. I spend most of my time on my Windows PC using primarily Microsoft tools to produce the newsletter.


As you saw in Figure 1, the editorial calendar provides an overview of the progress of articles in the workflow. But there are other details that I need to track. I keep several Word, Excel, and text documents for each issue. These are mostly checklists.

There is one chicken-and-egg problem that requires a special checklist. I need to include various links in the emails, the newsletters, the articles, and the blog posts. However, the links aren’t known until I’ve actually made the posts to WordPress. For example, every article has a “talk bubbles” box at the end that includes a link to the forum topic associated with the article, but that link is automatically generated when the stub is posted by our site automation. That means I must know or figure out in advance what the link will be, and keep track of it.

That’s done in a text file, as shown in Figure 3.

Publishing links
Figure 3. Critical publishing links are kept in a special checklist.

The text editor I use is Notepad++. It’s my general-purpose text editor for most things except code. Again, Microsoft’s NotePad can’t cut it (although VSC could).

Development & design

I do some programming work on our website.

We have quite a bit of custom code that can’t be managed through WordPress. It’s all in PHP, which I know well. For that work, I use Visual Studio Code with a set of extensions to support PHP, CSS, Apache, and publishing via secure FTP. If we need to do something significant, Susan will create a test environment at our host so we can view and test our changes before making them public.

The most visible change I’ve made was deploying the redesign of the site with its more modern appearance. I’ve also deployed the site’s banner, along with new social-network sprites and buttons for subscribing; redesigned and restored the site’s footer (it had inexplicably gone missing); made a variety of modifications to our WordPress theme, including making links consistent and improving typography; and fixed a few other broken things here and there.

I also use VSC for my website development work. I used FrontPage and then Expression Web for many years, but my extensive use of PHP finally drove me to find better tools. Most of my Web work is done with VSC today, but I’m migrating to a non-Microsoft tool, JetBrains’ PhpStorm. I may decide to use PhpStorm for my work on our site, but even if I do, I’ll continue to use VSC in the publishing process — PhpStorm is overkill for that.

Windows, 365, and collaboration

As you can see, I do spend most of my time in Windows using Microsoft products for my work. If I’m using non-Microsoft products, it’s because the company doesn’t have a tool in that category.

I spend roughly 90% of my time with my complete, local toolset; another 5% in WordPress; and the remaining 5% using Web-based tools and services. Technically, of course, I’m online all the time because that’s the way OneDrive and OneNote work. It just happens in the background, without my noticing or paying much attention.

The one thing not obvious in what I do is the way I’ve organized things so that we can be as collaborative as necessary. Should our efforts to help you “Tame Your Tech” reach a wider audience and require a bigger staff, everything is in place to allow effortless collaboration with the larger group.

Every bit of that capability comes from Microsoft.


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Will Fastie is editor in chief of the AskWoody Plus Newsletter.


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