I’ve still got some problems to solve, but here are solutions to a couple of the most interesting things I worked on last week.


High Contrast Mode is highly confusing

I got this email last week:

I've got a new laptop with Windows 8.1 (and so far I HATE it), but just now I opened my computer and the background of everything is black.

Instead of my files opening with the usual white background (I'm using colors for correcting different categories), it's all black and white - no colored fields or cells showing.

I opened Firefox and got a message that I was in High something but that only came up once so I can't say for sure what it said. I went into settings - personalization, but again I don't know what I should do there.

I'm ready to toss it out the window.


Don’t toss that laptop! You’re in High Contrast Mode, a “feature” that’s been plaguing people since Vista. So we can’t blame this one on Windows 8.1.

There are several ways out of this, but here’s the easiest: Press and hold the ALT + Left Shift + PrintScreen keys simultaneously. Depending on your version of Windows, that key combination will either just put your display back to the regular desktop or it will pop up a dialog box asking you if that’s what you want to do.

One size does not fit all

I have to admit that, like many of you, I can be frustrated by printer problems. I have suggested more than once that the best solution to a certain type of printer problem is to drop the printer from a great height.

Apparently that’s not productive.

But, every so often I run into a printer problem that is really easy to solve. That happened last week when a customer described the problem as “Business cards don’t print right.” We printed out a test sheet, and she was absolutely correct, the page looked really weird.

If that ever happens to you, the first thing you want to check is the printer settings. In this case, the printer had recently been installed. Or reinstalled. Or both. There was a lot of frustration. In the Paper Size setting I found the default paper size was A4, and the template being used to create the business cards was, naturally, Letter size. Changing the printing default settings so that the printer was expecting the regular size paper solved the problem.

What IS A4 anyway? A4 is the most popular size of paper outside of North America, and that’s why by default many printers are set up for it. Here’s an excellent article about A4 vs Letter sized paper. (Warning: There is math.) http://betweenborders.com/wordsmithing/a4-vs-us-letter/.

Not all printers get you to those settings the same way. If you go to Printer Preferences and you don’t see where to change the settings, consult the printer manual. And yes, you almost certainly have a printer manual, either on your computer in a folder named after the manufacturer or on the installation CD. If you don’t see a manual there, search the printer manufacturer’s website for it.

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!


Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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