'You say you want a resolution...'

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. I'm shopping for a new printer, but the terminology I'm encountering is very confusing. Can you explain what resolution is and what the difference between a laser and an Inkjet printer is? Thanks, Mr. M.

A. When shopping for cell phones, digital cameras, or printers, it's quite normal to feel dazed and confused. The terminology encountered doesn't help, so let's take a look at a few of the most common terms:

All-in-One refers to multipurpose devices that generally allow you to print, copy, fax and scan documents -- or wind up with a lame-duck product when one or more components fail to work properly.

Dot matrix printers preceded Inkjet and laser printers. They created characters from patterns of dots. Sometimes referred to as “serial impact” printers, dot matrix printers were loud and resembled old teletype machines with their distinctive ‘clickety-clack’ sound that could drive you crazy in short order.

Inkjet printers spray tiny droplets of liquid ink onto paper and are the most common type of consumer printers due to their low cost (except for the ink cartridges) and ease of use.

Measured in DPI (dots per inch), resolution refers to the number of dots a printer can print in a linear one-inch space. The higher the DPI, the better the quality of the print and the more ink consumed.

Network-Ready describes printers that can be plugged into a local area network (LAN), such as a home network, allowing any computer on the network to print directly to the printer.

Laser printers use toner and a laser-generated light source to print, similar to a photocopier. While more expensive than Inkjets, laser printers excel at high-volume printing, print faster, and produce higher-quality results at a relatively low per-sheet operating cost.

Q. How can I open a few selected photos at one time? I don't want to close one photo before opening the next photo, if I can avoid that.

A. Hold down the CTRL key, then click to select (highlight) each photo you want to open. When they are all selected, right-click and select OPEN. All the selected photos will open simultaneously. You can open an unlimited number of photos up to the point that your system's memory (RAM) reaches its capacity.

Q. Sometimes a program will freeze while I'm in the middle of working on a document and I lose what I've been working on. Is there anything I can do to save my data when that happens?

A. The next time you're working on something and your computer freezes as solid as a puddle in Bemidji in February, hold down the ALT key and press the F key to open the File menu. Use your arrow keys to move down to the SAVE option and click once to select it, then press ENTER to save your work. Repeat the process to save any other open documents and select CLOSE to exit your saved files. It may not always work, but it's certainly worth a try when an unexpected freeze attempts to ruin your day.

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Mr. Modem publishes "Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks, and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit www.MrModem.com.