27 December 2011

PenPal Pro hits 1,000 Downloads

Last week, PenPal Pro passed 1,000 downloads!
Thank you to everyone who has helped make PenPal Pro a success.

26 December 2011

PicturePuzzle Gold Shortcuts

When you activate the Picture Puzzle Gold Edition, some of the benefits you gain are Short-cuts.
In the standard Free Edition, it does not matter whether you click the right or the left mouse button, they both give you the same move. But in the Gold Edition, a right-click gives you a move-saving and time-saving short-cut.

In Slider, right-click on any piece in the same row or column as the empty space to move ALL the pieces over one space.
4 moves using left-clicks
In the above picture, the right-most piece has trees and balloons, and belongs near the upper-left corner of the finished image. To move it one spot closer, you need to slide 3 others one square left. The whole effort takes 4 moves.
1 move using right-click
But with the Gold Edition, right-click on that tile with the trees and the balloons, and it and every piece between it and the empty square all slide over by one. It takes just 1 move, a single click, and saves time. You will have better High Scores, with fewer overall moves and faster times.

In Spinner, the standard left-click rotates the piece one quarter turn in a clockwise direction. And in the Gold Edition, right-click to rotate the piece one quarter turn in the opposite direction.

a left-click spins the tile clockwise a quarter-turn
You would need to click the picture piece in the upper right corner of the image 3 times to spin it into the right orientation with left-clicks (clockwise turns, the direction of the arrow). But with Picture Puzzle Gold Edition, right-click this piece to spin it counter-clockwise. It then lines up correctly in just 1 move, saving 2 moves and a couple seconds.

There are currently no short-cuts for the Swapper game. Do you have a suggestion?

7 December 2011

PicturePuzzle: Albums

Picture Puzzle v2 introduced the idea of Albums.
Albums are collections of photos, different puzzles you can play and solve.
When you install Picture Puzzle, you receive a default album automatically, with a handful of different images. You can download and install other albums, too. Images on a theme or from around the world. (Some installation package zip files include the Canada album as a bonus, which you can install by double-clicking the "SetupCanadaImages" file.)
Then, to access your installed albums, click "Change" beside the thumbnail image in the Picture Puzzle main menu screen.

This opens a standard "open file" dialog box.
 Albums are installed under the "images" folder, with each album in its own folder. So in the image above, the basic album ("Puzzle") and 4 other albums are installed. Choose an album folder, then an image, and click "Open"
Here are some other Albums you can download to install and play. Click the link, then on the destination page click "Download." Then on your computer, run the .msi file to install the pictures.
  • Canada pictures, one from each of the 10 provinces
  • National Parks, 13 pictures from parks and monuments in the western United States
  • Hudson Bay, a small town in northern Saskatchewan that bills itself as the 'Moose Capital of the World' (10 pictures)

4 December 2011

Picture Puzzle: How do I Uninstall?

If you need to remove Picture Puzzle from your computer, use the MS-Windows built-in uninstaller by following the steps below. They are designed to walk you through the process, which varies a little depending on which operating system you have on your computer.

In Windows XP, use the Add/Remove Programs utility.
    a. From the Start button, launch the Control Panel
    b.  Select Add/Remove Programs.
    c. Scroll down the list and find PicturePuzzle.
    d. Click Change/Remove to uninstall PicturePuzzle

In Windows Vista, use the Uninstall or Change Program utility.
    a. From the Start button, launch the Control Panel.
    b. Under Programs, click “Uninstall a program.”
    c. Scroll down the list and select PicturePuzzle
    d. Click “Uninstall/Change” and follow any instructions

In Windows 7, use the Uninstall or Change Program utility.
    a. From the Start button, click on Control Panel.
    b. Click on Programs and then Programs and Features.
    c. Scroll down the list and select PicturePuzzle
    d. Click Uninstall.

You can use the same technique to uninstall the support files (all the .NET Framework entries), but unless disk space is a concern, it is better to leave them in place. Other programs may depend on the .NET files, so uninstalling them might break another application on your computer.

Picture Puzzle: How do I install it?

To install Picture Puzzle on your computer, either download the game (see the downloads page) and unzip it, or if you received a CD, insert the CD into your computer. Then follow these steps:

1. In the Windows File Explorer, double-click on the file “RunMeFirst.exe”
Picture Puzzle needs the Microsoft .NET runtime client on your computer. This will check and see if it is already installed. If it is not, this will install it. Simply follow the prompts to accept the license agreement and install (which will take a few minutes).
If you have it already, you may be asked about repairing or removing it. If so, don't do either, simply cancel this part of the install.

2. Once the .NET client is installed, double-click on the file “RunMeSecond.msi” This will start the game installation wizard.

3. On the first screen, click Next.

4. Review the PicturePuzzle License Agreement, then click Accept and then Next.

5. Follow the rest of the instructions during the installation.

28 November 2011

PPPro: Occasions

On the Significant Dates screen, you identify why this date is important for your friend. Things like Birthday, or Anniversary. Do that by selecting it from the Occasion drop-down list.
But what if the Occasions that come pre-installed do not cover why the date is special to them?
You can add your own Occasions to the drop-down list this way:
1. From the List tab on the Main Screen, click the Occasions button (look in the right-hand column of buttons)

2.This opens the Occasions List screen. From here you can edit any existing ones or add new ones.

For example to change "Anniversary" to "Wedding" click in the Anniversary box, delete the text that is there and replace it with Wedding. Then click the Save button at the top of the screen.

To add a new Occasion (for example "Baptism"), either click on the "Add Occasion" button, or click directly in the empty box at the bottom of the list. Then type the occasion name.
After you click the Save button and close the screen, the Occasion will appear in the drop-down list on the Significant Dates screen.

16 November 2011

PPPro: Significant Dates

Your penpal or correspondent has lots of important dates for you to remember. Birthday, anniversary, or other important milestones. You can track them all through PenPal Pro.
From the Penpal screen, click the "Key Dates" button. This takes you to a screen that displays, one at a time, all the important dates you've entered for this pal.

To add a new one, click "Add Date" at the top. Their name should be automatically filled into the Name field.
Enter the date. Penpal Pro accepts many common date formats, so you can type things like "15/06/11" or "Jun 15 2011" or other patterns.
Choose the Occasion from the dropdown list. (Another post will show you how to add more Occasions to the list, if the one you need is not there).
Add any comments that might be helpful.
Then click the Save button at the top. Done!

12 November 2011

Picture Puzzle 2.1 available!

Picture Puzzle has a new look!
Version 2.1 of Picture Puzzle adds a new look-and-feel interface, and animated flying puzzle pieces. The gameplay has also been tweaked to improve the user experience as you solve the puzzles.

There are 3 variations for your puzzle-solving fun:
Slider: The lower-rightmost piece is removed, and the rest shuffled. Using the blank space, slide adjacent pieces around to solve the puzzle.

Spinner: The pieces are all in right places, but they may be rotated 90, 180 or 270 degrees at random. Each click spins the selected tile one quarter-turn clockwise.

Swapper: The pieces are all facing the right-way up, but are randomly scattered. Click on two pieces to have them swap places, until the picture is in the right order.

As before, for Easy-level games the puzzle has 6 pieces in a 2x3 grid, and Hard-level puzzles have 24 pieces in a 4x6 grid.

5 September 2011

PPPro: Language Written and Spoken

Your correspondent may write you in one language, and speak several others. You can capture these details about your penpal from the PenPals screen. Get there by clicking "Penpals" from the Main Screen and find the pal in question.

To identify the language in which you correspond with this pal, choose the language from the drop-down list beside "Writes in" then click the Save button at the top of the form.

To identify which languages they speak, click the "Pal Speaks" button. This will take you to a new window that looks like:

If you already have one or more languages for this pal saved, click Add Language to add a new one. If this is the first one, the form is ready for you to complete.
The Pal's name should be automatically filled in. If it is not, you can find them in the drop-down list. Then select one of the languages from the Language drop-down and click the Save button at the top of the screen. Click Add Language to add even more for this pal.

To see the list of all languages this pal speaks, click the "They Speak..." button.

PPPro: List of Languages

PenPal Pro comes with a small list of languages already programmed in. These languages can be used for identifying what languages a correspondent speaks. Or if you speak several yourself, you can identify what language you use in corresponding with them.

If you or your pals speak languages that are not in the list, it is a simple matter to add more languages. On the PenPal Pro Main Screen, click the Lists tab. Then click on the "Languages" button in the left-hand column of buttons. This will open the Languages List screen.

Click the Add Language button at the top of the screen, to jump to a new, blank Language line. Your new Language will need a unique abbreviation code of up to 3 letters. Type in the code, press tab or click in the Language field, and type the language name. (If the abbreviation code is already taken, an error message will pop up. Try another code if this happens).

Click the Save button at the top of the screen, or press the Tab key to automatically save this language entry and start another new one.

PPPro: Upgrade to Free or Gold editions

When you install PenPal Pro, you start in the Demo edition. All features and reporta work in this edition, but you are limited in how many correspondents and letters you may add to the database.

With the Penpal Pro Free Edition, those limits increase to 5 letters per day and 50 penpals or correspondents. Anyone may upgrade to PenPal Pro Free for free! There is no charge. You will, however, need a Registration Code. Send an email to sjgp.soft@gmail.com to request your PenPal Pro Free edition Registration Code.

PenPal Pro Gold Edition is the luxury version of the database. As before, all features and reports work, but there are no limits to how many letters or correspondents you may have in the database. PenPal Pro Gold edition is available for $20 (Canadian), payable through PayPal. Click the link below to buy PenPal Pro Gold. Be sure to include your email address, so that we may send you the Gold Registration Code.

Email (for Registration Code)
Once you have a Free or a Gold Registration Code, click on the About tab on the main PenPal Pro screen, then click Register and enter your code.

24 August 2011

PPPro: Adding Hobbies to the List

PenPal Pro comes with just a few Hobbies already loaded. There are many, many more interests and hobbies that people do in their spare time. When a pal has a hobby or interest that is not in this list, here is how to add it:

From the Main screen, click on the "Lists" tab. Then click on the "Hobbies" button on the left-hand column. You should see this screen:
All the hobbies and interests in this screen appear in the Hobbies drop-down list on the Hobbies and Interests screen. To add a new Hobby or Interest, so that it appears in the list as well, you can either click the "Add Hobby" button at the top of the screen, or scroll down to the last one, and place the cursor in the empty line.

Then simply type the Hobby or Interest. If some pals do Line-dancing, type that in.

If you are adding just one, click the Save button at the top of the form.

But if you are adding many at once, press the Tab key. This will automatically save the one you just entered, and give you a new blank line to type another Hobby or Interest.

PPPro: Adding a Hobby to a Pal

Your friends have interests and hobbies. Sometimes you share them, sometimes you don't.

Penpal Pro lets you keep a record of your pal's interests and hobbies, so that you can remember them, even years later.

Use the Hobbies and Interests screen to keep track of this information. Launch it by clicking the "Hobbies" button on the Penpal information screen. You should see your pal's name already filled into the "Name" field. (You can also get here from the Main screen, but the Name field will not be automatically filled in).
To add a new Hobby for this Pal, click the "Add Hobby" button at the top of the screen.

Select the hobby or interest from the drop-down list. If their hobby is not in the list, refer to the "Adding Hobbies to the List" post.

You can also set a Level of Interest. Maybe it's a hobby for this pal, or a mild interest, or maybe an all-consuming passion.

There is also space to leave any notes, to make the information even more specific and tailored to the pal.

When you are done, click the Save button at the top of the form.

28 June 2011

PPPro: What is Reply Priority?

Penpal Pro asks for some information called "Reply Priority" - what is it? How do you use it?

Reply Priority lets you tell the system how urgent it is that you reply to a given letter. If you get a letter that you think needs to be answered more quickly than others, you may give it a higher priority than others.

On the Penpal Details screen, you set the default Reply Priority for this penpal. In the example pictured, every letter you receive from this pal will automatically be given the High priority value.

Of course, a penpal may send you something that does not fit this default value. You may need to set a higher or lower priority value for different letters from the same pal.

You do that on the Letters detail screen. When you mark a letter as "I received it" you can adjust the letter's priority. The pal's default value will be automatically set, but you can choose a higher or lower priority value before you save the letter record.

When you run the "Letters I Owe" report (from the Reports tab of the Main Screen), all the letters you owe are then listed, grouped by priority in descending order. So it is easy to see which ones are the highest priority to answer.

PPPro: Adding a Country

PenPal Pro comes pre-loaded with more than 130 countries already in the system. But maybe you have a penpal in one that's missing, or maybe world events have created new countries since this list was created.

The list of Countries shows up on the Penpal Details form, where you can identify a pal's Nationality. It also shows up on the Addresses form.

How do you add a new country to the list?

From the Main Screen, click on the Lists tab. You will see a bunch of lists that you can change.
Next, click on the Countries button. This opens the Countries screen, with country names paired with a unique 3-letter country code.

To change the name of an existing country, first find it in the list, either by scrolling down to it or by searching (press Control-F for the search box). Then simply type the new name in the Country Name box, and click the Save button at the top of the screen. (changing the 3-letter code is not recommended).

To add a new country, click the Add Country button at the top of the screen. You will get a blank entry, with space for a country name and 3-letter code.

Type the name of the new country, up to 50 characters. Press the Tab key or click in the 3-letter code field and type a code for the new country (note: this must be unique, if the 3-letter code exists already for another country, you will get an error message). Then click the Save button at the top of the screen.

Ta-da! Now the new country will appear with all the rest in your Penpal and Addresses forms.

PPPro: Search for Pal

Maybe you started out with just a few correspondents. But over time, you added 10, 20, 50, even 500 or more penpals to the system.

Using the Next Record and Previous Record buttons at the bottom of the Penpal Details form can take a long time to scroll through them all.

How do you quickly move to the information for a particular penpal?

The secret is to do a search. Put your cursor in the Name field by clicking in it or pressing the Tab key until the field is highlighted. Then hold the Control-key (it says "Ctrl" and is usually in the lower left corner of a standard keyboard) and press the "F"-key (F for "Find").

You should now see the Find-and-Replace dialog box, that looks something like this:

Type some or all of the name you want to search for. To find a pal named "Jane Ellen Smith" you could type the whole name. Or just "Jane", which would find all pals named "Jane".

Click on the arrow beside Match to tell the search routine whether you want to match the whole field ("Jane Ellen Smith"), the start of the field ("Jane"), or text that appears in any part of the field ("Ellen")

Then click the Find Next button. If the first pal it finds is not the one you are searching for, click Find Next again, until you find the right one.

11 May 2011

How do I Install PenPal Pro?

So now you have decided to check out PenPal Pro, the penpal database, to help you keep track of all the letters and other things you send to all your friends and correspondents. How do you do that?

First, download the latest copy to your computer by clicking here. You may be asked to sign in or to sign up for an account - close the pop-up, an account is not needed to download the file. The file is almost 60 MB, and may take a few minutes to download to your computer. Save it somewhere you can find it, like your desktop.

Next, extract the files from the zipped downloaded file. You might do this by right-clicking on the file and selecting "extract" or by double-clicking on it and selecting "extract." This will unpack all the files into a new folder named "PenPal-Pro v2_2" (unless you choose another place).

Next, open the PenPal-Pro v2_2 folder and double-click on Setup to install PenPal Pro. If a security warning pops up, click Run

You should now see the PenPal Pro 2.2 Setup wizard. Click Next to begin.

The End-User License Agreement gives you a chance to review the terms and conditions for using PenPal Pro. Choose "I accept" and click Next to continue.

Enter a User Name and Organization if you wish (optional) and click Next

Choose Typical (recommended) or Custom setup, then click Install to begin. The wizard will then install all the pieces you need to run PenPal Pro in a folder named PPPro under your My Documents folder, and will put the Microsoft Office Access Runtime in an appropriate system area of your computer.

Ta-da! That's all there is to it. You should now be able to run PenPal Pro by double-clicking on the new icon on your desktop, or by clicking on the Start button and finding it in your menu of programs.

20 April 2011

Adding an Address

In order to correspond with a penpal or another friend, you need to know how to send a message to them. Use the Address screen to keep track of all their different addresses. One pal might have several addresses stored in PenPal Pro.
Launch this screen either by clicking on the "Addresses" button from the Penpals screen (which will automatically fill in the Name list) or from the Main screen (you will have to select a Pal by name). To add a new Address, click the button in the upper left corner.

There are only 2 required bits of information for Address, marked by a red asterisk (*): the pal's name and the kind of Address this is. The Address box then lets you write the address in a natural format, maybe all on one line for an email address, or over several lines for a physical address.

You can also record separately information about the region of this address (like a province or a state name), the country name, and any postal or zip codes.

The Start and End dates let you indicate when an address stops being useful. Maybe it's a temporary address while your pal is away at school, or a temporary job.

When everything is entered, click the "Save" button in the upper left corner.

Adding a Letter

Once you have a few correspondents saved in PenPal Pro, it's time to add a letter you received or sent.

That's what the Letters screen is for. Launch it either from the Penpal screen (which automatically fills in the Penpal information for you) or from the Main screen (you'll have to select the Penpal from the dropdown list)

To add a new letter, first click the "Add Letter" button in the upper left corner. If the Penpal name has been automatically filled in for you, move to the Date Sent / Received field. The system automatically fills in today's date, but you can change it.You can also add a description, to help you remember later any topics or key information in the letter.

In the "To or From me" box, indicate whether you sent or received the letter.
If your penpal sent the letter to you, your pal's "Reply Priority" will automatically fill in with their default value. Some pals need a prompt return and you might mark them as "High" priority, while others will only write every few months and might be "Low" priority. Of course, you can change the priority for any letter.
If you sent the letter, the "Auto-set Replied" button will be active. Click it to have PenPal Pro automatically mark any and all letters from this Pal as "Replied." (This keeps your "Letters I Owe" report accurate, so you always know whose turn it is to write).

When everything is filled in to your satisfaction, click the "Save" button et voila, you are keeping track of your Penpals!

PPPro Main Screen

When you launch PenPal Pro, the first thing you see is a decorative splashscreen. Then, after a couple seconds, you are automatically taken to the Main screen. From here, you can access all the features and functions of PenPal Pro.

The Main screen has 4 tabs. The first tab is the "People" tab. From here, you launch all the forms that let you add or find data about your penpals and other correspondents.
Since the whole point of the system is to keep track of your correspondents, the Penpals button is front and center and extra-large. Click on it to go to the Penpals data screen.
Below it are buttons to take you to the Letters screen, the Addresses screen, the Hobbies screen, the Languages Spoken screen, and the Important People and Important Dates screens.
When you click on one of these buttons from the Main screen, data for all correspondents is included. For example, clicking on the Addresses button brings up the Address form, from which you can review all addresses in your database. You can also see addresses just for a single person, by clicking the Penpals button first, and then from the Penpals form, click the Addresses button.

The Reports tab on the Main screen lets you access all of the Reports built into the PenPal Pro system. You can see whose turn it is to write with the "Letters I Owe" report. You can scan for upcoming important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) with the "Upcoming Dates" report. You can list your correspondents by country with the "Pal Nationality" report. And so on.

The Lists tab of the Main screen gives you access under the hood of the PenPal Pro system. You can change or add new items to the dropdown lists that you see on other forms. This lets you tailor the system to your needs.

Is a country missing? You can add new ones using the "Countries" list. Do your pals have hobbies that are not found in the current list? Add as many as you need with the "Hobbies" list. You can add or change the kinds of correspondents, or addresses, or special occasions.

19 April 2011

Adding a new Penpal

This is the first step in tracking information about a correspondent. You get to the Penpal form (see image) by clicking on the Penpal button on the Main form

Use this form to enter some information about this Penpal. You have to fill in the fields identified by a red asterisk (*) but all other information is optional; enter it if you know it and want to keep track of it.

When you have entered all the information, click the "Save" button

Announcing PenPal Pro ver 2.2!

PenPal Pro v2.2 is now available for download!

Keep track of all your correspondents - penpals, family and friends. Store in one quick and easy place information about their hobbies, languages spoken, and the siginficant people and dates in their lives. Track the mail and packages you send and receive, and details about any special enclosures like gifts.

PPPro 2.2 includes all the features from PPPro 2.1 plus the following improvements:
  • Better layout of all System List forms;
  • Bugs fixed on Enclosures form;
  • Added an "About" tab to the Main form, containing Version, copyright, contact, and more info
  • Added a Registration Code button to the About tab, for Demo, Free and Gold editions
  • Converted to MS-Access 2007 file format
  • Fixed a bug to set the Reply Priority automatically, based on this pal's default (on LETTERS form)
  • Made formatting for all Reports more consistent