Category: Consulting

Word Reverting to Merge Fields

Ran into this rather bizarre problem with a client today. They have a lovely merge document that my program creates for them in Word. It has a header that looks like this:


In some cases, the user will go in and make changes to this document after it’s created. They might delete the last couple paragraphs for example. When they do that, the header in the document will suddenly turn to this:


The merged data disappears and Word reverts to merge fields!

Googling “deleting lines in Word document causes merged data to revert to a merge field” didn’t turn up anything.

Playing around with it, I discovered that it only happened if you deleted to the very end of the document. Curiously, at the end of the document was a single, invisible character. As long as that isn’t deleted, the merged data stays put.


Remote Access – TeamViewer

Finally got fed up with LogMeIn’s nonsense (price & program changes) and went looking for something else.

Found TeamViewer which seems a good solution. I only need remote access to my computer when on the road at this time, which is free. Seems to work smoothly. As a bonus, it has an Android client. Will look into it’s other capabilities in the future. Interestingly, it’s got a single purchase price rather than a monthly fee.

Looked into MSP Anywhere as well. While the company and product names are really horrible (what does MSP mean? N-Solar? What does that have to do with software?) and the website is equally horrible at explaining their product and what it could do, it has some nice features. It has the standard remote unattended access and an Android client. You can also create a “calling card” (another horrible name) which is an EXE you can create and distribute to clients. They just run that EXE to give you access to their computer. Pretty slick. At $49/month it’s reasonable, but quickly ends up more than TeamViewer’s $800 or so flat price.

Mailchimp Deadends

My client email list finally outgrew the “just use Outlook” phase and I needed something a little more robust. I turned to Mailchimp, probably because I’m cheap and Mailchimp is “free”, but quickly ran into some problems.

  • It’s free, kind of. You have to pay to use automation emails (for example, someone downloads your product and you want to automatically send them a series of emails over the next few weeks). It’s not super expensive for a small list, but you do end up paying.
  • You can have a series of emails you want to send to a subset of people (say, to all the people who downloaded your product last month but didn’t purchase). That’s easy. But if you want to send that same series again next month, the process of adding new people to that series if pretty clunky.
  • Once you have an automation series live, you can’t change it. You can edit the emails in it, but you can’t add new emails to the series or re-arrange the order of the emails.

1 & 2 I could probably live with, but #3 is a deal breaker. I’ve got a lot to learn about marketing still and need to make changes to things. So what are you using? AWeber? Constant Contact? Convertkit?

Update 5/17/2016

Constant Contact: Requires $45/month package to do email series. I’m still cheap. Next.

ConvertKit: Looks interesting, $29/month for up to 1000 subscribers.

AWeber: Looks interesting, $19/month up to 500, then about the same as ConvertKit. My list is smaller than that right now, gave it a try. Campaign feature is nice, let’s you rearrange to your hearts content. Does what I want – but… it doesn’t tell you what is going on. No numbers for how many subscribers are in the queue or how many people are at what steps. Support says it’s “in beta” and “those features are coming”. Also, discovered a bug within 1 hour – support says “we know about it, working to fix it”. So not a great start so far.

Update 5/25/16

AWeber: Tried to get into it. It just felt “off” – everything was a little hard to work with. Few things in “beta” that didn’t work quite right. Gave up.

ConvertKit: Imported it all to ConvertKit. Difference in price not that big. Based on subscribers rather than lists seems to make more sense to me intuitively which made it all a little easier to work with. Tag system and automation rules are pretty slick and useful. The Landing Page creator is very basic though – if you have any customization at all, you’ll be doing HTML/CSS work (it was some work, but I managed to strip down their landing page to it’s essentials so I could drop it into some of my existing pages). Other than that, pretty happy with it so far.

On-site Blues

I have a client that wanted me to work on-site (“to be more efficient”) which I agreed to. I haven’t done that in probably 10 years at least and overlooked several things that may have made a difference in that decision:

Travel Time: At rush hour, it’s taking just over an hour to get to and from this client. For my 20 hours a week that’s 6 hours of driving – a nearly 25% loss on my hourly rate. Oops.

Traffic: An hour of stop & go traffic is incredibly annoying. People really do this everyday? It’s horrible. I should have charged a daily annoyance fee for this.

Tools: I didn’t realize how many tools I use everyday in my programming and take for granted- large dual screens, the keyboard I’m used to, SnagIt, Thor, GoFish, IntellisenseX, speakers for music, etc. The lack of all that makes the programming far less efficient. This lasted only one day – I now drive an hour to get to this client and promptly logmein back to my own computer. Still stuck with a small monitor, an uncomfortable keyboard, and no decent sounding music.

The client is happy though and it’s good to actually meet the people actually using my software rather than just the one person I usually work with.


Being a one-man consulting shop has its drawbacks. Every problem and every emergency is yours to handle. Frequently you get to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from. On the other hand, if there’s no pressing emergency or looming deadline, you can arrange your work/life balance how you like and take advantage of the serendipitous opportunities that come your way.  Today was one of the later.

With fourteen inches of snow in the last two days at Copper Mountain and nothing needing to be done today that couldn’t be done tomorrow, I played hooky and went skiing.

Tomorrow I’ll figure out where my next paycheck is coming from. Today I did this:


ISAM Driver Not Found

Had a client run into a “ISAM Driver Not Found” error when trying to do a mail merge to Word 2013 on Windows 10 from my VFP application. It looks like the ISAM driver for DBF files has been deprecated and is not installed by default anymore by  Microsoft.

Installing the 2007 Office System Driver appears to install the missing pieces and get things working.

Around the World with VFP

So WordPress has sent me some statistics on this blog. I’m kind of fascinated by the graphic below showing where my visitors come from. This tiny blog, with no promotion, in operation for only three months, dealing primarily with a programming language that hasn’t been updated in 10 years – has got visitors from around the world. That blows my mind a bit.