Don't just think of Web sites that have specific help or downloads. Also think of how to connect to the real network - the network of computer users who can point you in the right direction. If you're a beginner, start with Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide, 3rd. ed., the how-to resource that includes hands-on exercises.
- PDFTOTEXT - How to use PDFTOTEXT to convert PDFs into text - You've seen the Acrobat files containing columns and rows of numbers and other information, waiting to be analyzed. The problem: Acrobat files — ending with .PDF — can't be directly read into spreadsheet or database software. Now, there's a tool to make a PDF into formatted text, ready to import, and we have a step-by-step tutorial to help you. To download the Xpdf program, go to Fool Labs.
- Fileinfo.net - Another excellent, very detailed site for finding explanations for obscure file types. The site gives explanations on how to open the file and lists needed programs for both Windows and Macs to access certain file types.
- FILExt - A searchable collection of file extensions with many linked to the programs that created the files. Helpful when that public official gives you data with a file extension you've never seen before.
- NICAR-L - If you haven't already, you should join this on-topic listserv run by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. And don't forget the NICAR-L searchable archives that contain solutions to many common CAR problems.
- Google groups - A searchable list of the various computer newsgroups. If you have a question, chances are a group has either talked about it already or will gladly offer suggestions.
- Search Engine Watch - This site provides tips and information about searching the Web, as well as an analysis of the search engine industry. The site was created by Danny Sullivan, an Internet consultant and journalist.
- GIS Online Resources - A site sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that includes useful tools, such as an Excel worksheet that converts decimal minutes seconds to decimal degrees. The GIs world, while becoming more closed, has had a tradition of openness. A Google search will often find Web sites with GIs tools.
- Tucows - One of many Web sites to offer freeware and shareware downloads for most operating systems. Check here for utilities, basic text editors, etc.
- VersionTracker - A great resource for Mac users, offering freeware and shareware downloads for most operating systems.
- Woody's Office Portal - Woody Leonhard has made a career of being one of the bigger thorns in Microsoft's side. His newsletters will keep you up to date on the latest bugs and fixes (and the fixes that don't work) emanating from Redmond, Wash., as well as give you a wealth of tech tips.
- The Spreadsheet Page - A good site for information about MS Excel. Downloads, tips, FAQs and more for the most popular spreadsheet program. A quick search in Google can locate similar pages for most any program.
- The Access Web - MS Access FAQ site to help you find answers to some common questions. Plenty of code samples, wizards, tips and bug listings.