Walt Mossberg

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Using Publisher Documents on a Mac

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.

I need to use Microsoft Publisher documents on my MacBook. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to do this. I have tried to run it on Microsoft Word, but this didn’t work.

As far as I know, neither Microsoft nor Apple nor anyone else makes a native Mac program that can open or edit Microsoft Publisher documents, which use their own special format, rather than any common cross-platform format.

However, there may be some workarounds. If you own or can borrow a PC and a copy of Microsoft Publisher, you could export the documents as PDF files from within Publisher, and then open them on a Mac. Or you could run Publisher itself on your MacBook, since Macs can run Windows and Windows programs, if you buy and install Windows.

Your Mossberg Solution column recently recommended an add-on for Firefox called Surf Canyon that improves searches. But I am wondering if it’s safe to use, since it is labeled “beta.”

I have been using Surf Canyon in Firefox for months, without any problems. (It also works in Internet Explorer.) You are correct that it’s a beta, but that label doesn’t usually mean a product is unsafe, just that it’s incomplete or unpolished. In the old days, a “beta” product was usually pretty flaky and available only to a very small number of testers until the kinks were worked out. Now, especially with Web-related products, a “beta” is often just another word for version 1.0 of a product. It is open to all, and may not work perfectly, but is usually not dangerous to your computer.

Is there a legal way to use a smartphone as a modem for a laptop?

Yes, indeed. It depends on your carrier, and your plan, and your phone, but it can be done, perfectly legally, either using a cable or Bluetooth wireless to connect the phone to the laptop. Note that, depending on your plan, the carrier may well charge you an added monthly fee for this privilege. Also, the speed of your connection may be a bit slower than the speed you’d get from a cellular data card you insert directly into the laptop or from one that’s built in.

  • You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online free of charge at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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