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Web help

Extent: HTML document
Description: Technical support on use of the web site and PDF files
Date: April 26, 2005
Subject(s): Public administration
Creator(s): Minnesota Department of Administration. Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis; Minnesota Department of Administration
Publisher: Minnesota Department of Administration

If you are having problems using this web site, help is available under the following topics:

If you apply the information you find under these help topics but are still unable to solve the problem, please contact the webmaster or call Andrew Koebrick at 651-201-2465

General site structure

This site is organized by Theme, Team, and Type.

Theme: Across the top of each page is a list of featured subjects (i.e. Environment, Demography, Criminal Justice...). Clicking on these pages pulls up listing of resources relevant to these subject areas. Subject resource listings are subdivided into resource Types. The Legislative Indexing Vocabulary is used to categorize our resources.

Types: All resources are categorized by document type:

Teams: Each functional work unit (i.e. team) can be accessed through the menu on the left of the page. In cases where teams are sub-units of general program areas (i.e. the Sustainable Development Initiative), you will find a link to that work unit under the umbrella team (i.e. Environmental Quality Board).

Please report broken links

Please report broken links directly to the webmaster. Please include both the web page address which has the broken link, and the address the link was pointing to, or fully explain the problem. To include the web address simply copy it out of the location box located toward the top of your browser and paste it directly into the e-mail message.

Printing web pages

All pages on the site can be printed without the navigational elements. Simply click the "Print Friendly Format" on the left bar.

Some older browsers are unable to print some of this sites web pages. Netscape 4.* browsers contain a bug which causes printing to fail when the page contains Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). To overcome this problem, upgrade to either the latest version of Netscape, or use the Internet Explorer browser to print.

Browsers and display settings

This site is viewable with any modern browser. If you are using an older version of Netscape (4.7 or earlier) or of Internet Explorer (prior to 4.5), we highly recommend upgrading. See the upgrade sites for Netscape and Internet Explorer.

The site is best viewed with a screen area of 1024 x 768 or greater.

Downloading files

To download files from our website to your computer, you can use an internet browser or you can use software called an "FTP client" that is specifically designed for transferring files. If you are having trouble downloading large files with a browser, you will likely have better success using an FTP client.

Download with a browser: Right-click on a file and choose a save option (e.g., "Save Target As" in Internet Explorer or "Save Link As" in Firefox). Choose a location to save the file. Note that if your connection to the website is interrupted during the download, you will need to try again and the browser will start back at the beginning of the download.

Download with an FTP client: There are a number of FTP clients available, some of them free. Features to look for:

Filezilla: Free open source frp client.

WS_FTP: Download a free 30-day trial copy of a popular client, WS_FTP Pro; educational users can also download a free "lite" version, WS_FTP_LE.

GNU Wget: Another client is GNU Wget. It may not be as user-friendly as other packages, but it is free, provides many advanced options, and is virtually guaranteed to work. At a command line (DOS prompt), type "wget" followed by the ftp address of the file. It may help to add "--passive" after "wget" to avoid problems with firewalls on your site.

You can figure out the ftp address either by holding your mouse over a website's link to the file (depending on your browser settings, the address is often displayed at the bottom of your screen) or by clicking on the link and seeing the address to which the browser is connecting.

For example, to download a 2003 air photo of Aitkin County, you would type:
wget --passive

 For other versions, see the GNU Wget site.

When using the FTP command line, use either 'anonymous' or 'ftp' (without the quote marks) as the username.  The password can be anything -- just leaving it blank is easiest.

Compression software

You may encounter files with a .zip, .hqx, .sea .tar .gzip or other extension on the file name. These files have been compressed by a compression program. Two producers of popular compression software programs are Stuffit and Pkzip / Winzip.

Free decompression software is readily available on the internet:

PDF documents

If your web browser cannot read our publications directly, you may need to install or configure the Adobe Acrobat Reader to work with your web browser. Click here to download the free Acrobat Reader.

What is a PDF?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It was developed by Adobe Corporation to allow efficient electronic distribution of large documents. A PDF file will look the same on the screen as it does on paper, regardless of what kind of computer you are using or which software package it was created from. A large document can be compressed small enough to download quickly, and displays text and pictures as if you were looking at the original book or brochure. At our site, we provide many of our reports in PDF for easy viewing.

When I have Acrobat Reader installed, how do I look at the file? Just click on the hyperlink you wish to view and the document will appear on your browser. Forward and reverse buttons, like those on a VCR, step you through the pages. With Acrobat Reader you can search the text, zoom in on a section, and display pages in different formats.

How can I download a copy of the PDF file to my computer? PC users, right-click on the link. Mac users, option-click on the link. Designate where and how you wish to save the file. When you wish to view the file later, open the Adobe Acrobat program and then open the file through Adobe Acrobat, or simply double-click on the file name of the PDF file you saved.

Can I print a paper copy of the PDF file? The file can be printed on any printer. PostScript printers with adequate memory give the best results. Most inkjet and laser printers produce good results as well.

Viewing Problem: Missing Text

Some web browsers (Internet Explorer 5.5 for example) have trouble displaying PDF documents directly from the web. If you are attempting to view a document and it is either wholly blank, or contains sections of missing text/formatting, try the following:

  1. Right click on the link to the document.
  2. Select "Save Link As..."
  3. Save the document to your hard drive.
  4. Use either your web browser or the Adobe Reader to open this locally stored copy of the document.

Viewing Problem: Browser Freezes

Internet Explorer sometimes locks up or freezes while attempting to view large PDF files. This issue is addressed at the Adobe support knowledgebase

PDF memory issues

Although slowness in displaying PDF files may be due to an older, slower computer or an older, slower video card, the most common problem is with memory.

Memory on a Macintosh: If you are using a Macintosh, first check to see how much memory your Macintosh has. To do this, first close all programs that are open. Next, pull down the Apple menu in the upper left corner of your screen and choose "About this Macintosh." A box will appear and show how much actual memory you have and how much total memory you have if you are using virtual memory or a product such as RAM Doubler. Write down these amounts.

Next, check how much memory is allocated to the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click once on the Acrobat icon, then click on the Apple menu in the upper left corner and choose Get Info. A dialog box will tell you the suggested memory size for the Acrobat Reader. In the same box, make sure your computer has allocated at least the suggested amount of memory. To assign more memory to the Acrobat Reader, type in a larger amount (maybe one or two more megabytes; one megabyte equals 1,024K). Close the dialog box by clicking in the upper left corner. You need to restart the computer for the change to take effect.

If you don't have enough available memory to match the suggested size for the Acrobat Reader, try turning on virtual memory with an amount that will make up for the shortfall. Again, you need to restart the computer for the change to take effect. You may also want to purchase additional memory to improve your computer's overall performance.

Memory on a Windows PC: If you are using a Windows-based personal computer, close all programs, restart the Acrobat Reader and see if you can read our PDF files. If that still does not work, shut down and restart Windows and open only the Acrobat Reader. In either case you do not need to physically shut off the computer.

Memory in general: If your hard drive light remains lit much of the time, you should consider adding memory. The hard drive light should come on when you open or close programs or files but should not stay on for extended periods of time while you work with files.

PDF printing issues

Printing errors using either Windows or Macintosh: You'll get the best PDF printout using a laser printer with a built-in Adobe PostScript interpreter. A non-PostScript printer driver will work, but performance will be less than ideal, especially on systems with 16 megabytes or less of memory. Inkjet printers do better than non-PostScript laser printers but require more memory -- 16 to 32 megabytes of RAM for good performance.

To use PostScript, not only your printer but your computer needs to be set up for it, with a PostScript printer driver. If you share a printer with others in your office, your network may be using a a non-PostScript printer driver, such as PCL for Hewlett Packard laser printers. PostScript printer drivers are found on Windows 95 and Windows NT installation disks. Newer printers also come with PostScript drivers on an installation disk.

Almost all Macintosh laser printers are compatible with PostScript as well as their own printer drivers.

If your laser printer acts like it's going to print, i.e. the busy light starts flashing and then nothing happens, or if only half a page is printed or your inkjet printer returns an error message, you most likely have a memory problem. Many older LaserJet type printers do not have enough memory to print an entire page of graphics, which our cover pages often contain. A simple solution is to only print the pages you need, one at a time, or to print pages 2-X. If you have a Postscript-compatible laser printer you could try using a Postscript driver with both level 1 and 2 compatibility enabled (this is a setting in the printing dialog box). If you normally use a Postscript driver, try using a PCL-based LaserJet driver. For inkjets that refuse to print, try printing at a lower resolution. A Windows- or Macintosh-based computer without adequate memory cannot print at 720 dpi but will almost always print at 180 dpi, often called the "economy" or "draft" mode in the printer setup dialogue box.

If your system does not have an adequate amount of memory for the most recent software, less than 16 megabytes, try downloading the PDF file, closing your web browser and opening Acrobat by itself with nothing else running. Try printing one page at a time in this manner.

A general rule of thumb formula for calculating if your printer has enough memory to print a full page of graphics would be:

Basic Formula printable area * xdpi
* ydpi * number of colors
Divide by 8 Equals Required
Memory in Bytes
300 dpi Laser 8 * 10 * 300 * 300 * 1 / 8 = 900000 bytes or .9 megabytes
600 dpi Laser 8 * 10 * 600 * 600 * 1 / 8 = 3.6 megabytes
720dpi Inkjet 8 * 10 * 720 * 720 * 3 / 8 = 15.5 megabytes

Thus old LaserJets with only 512K of RAM will not be able to print a full page with graphics at 300 dpi but most likely will print the full page at 150 dpi.

Saving PDF files on your computer

Windows 95: Right click on the the hot link to the PDF file. This will cause the browser to ask you where you wish to save the file. If you left click, Adobe Acrobat will launch and display the PDF file if your browser is configured to use Acrobat as a helper application.

Windows 3.1: Under Netscape 3.0 you can go under file and choose "Save as." Netscape will now ask where you wish to save the file. If you left click, Adobe Acrobat will launch and display the PDF file if your browser is configured to use Acrobat as a helper application.

Macintosh: It is necessary to hold down the OPTION and SHIFT keys simultaneously while clicking on the hotline to the PDF file. This will cause the browser to ask you where you wish to save the file. If you click, Adobe Acrobat will launch and display the PDF file if your browser is configured to use Acrobat as a helper application.

Installing Acrobat

Netscape 4.0 and Internet Explorer 4.0 will automatically retrieve and install Adobe Acrobat on your computer. Earlier versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer require that Acrobat be configured as a helper application in order to work seamlessly within your web browser. You can still always download the PDF files and then open them from Acrobat while no longer in Netscape.

To configure Netscape 3.0 or 2.0 to work with Adobe Acrobat start Netscape, under "Options" choose "General Preferences" and then click on the "Helper" tab. You will now see the screen below. Scroll down until you see the extension type "PDF". Left click once. In the box labeled File Extension it should say PDF. Notice here that the "Launch Application" option is selected. To fill in the bottom box you will need to use the browse button to tell Netscape where the Adobe Acrobat program is. It will not be the same as listed here. Most likely it will say "Program Files\AcroRd32. The path specified below is where this user choose to install Acrobat. If you cannot find where acrobat is loaded you can always use the Windows explorer or File Manager to find Acrobat. Search for the string "Acro" in either program. Once you have filled out the box below on your own computer click on "ok" and give it a try. You may find additional help on the Adobe Acrobat site

Other uses of Adobe Acrobat

MnGeo has used PDF format to deliver scanned and vector based maps to clients on CD-ROM. This has proven to be a cost effective way to deliver maps to users who do not necessarily own the mapping software used to create the maps. The PDF file format allows the users to zoom in and print the maps from their own computer. The PDF file format will support maps larger than 8.5 by 11. We have not tested the upper limits but have used it for maps as large as 40 by 36 inches. The nice thing about using Acrobat is that by choosing the "print to fit" option in the print dialog box a 40 by 36 inch map can be automatically scaled to fit an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper.

One issue to consider if you plan to use Acrobat to put vector or scanned maps on the web is that file sizes can become very large; if large scans are turned into Acrobat files, they are compressed using LZW or JPEG compression and sometimes will not compress very well. When turning vector-based maps into PDF files you may wish to consider generalizing your vector-based maps significantly prior to creating postscript files that will eventually become the PDF file. What we have found is that all points digitized in a GIS file are carried with the postscript file and eventually into the PDF files. All of these extra points increase the file size and slow redraw times as well as print times. These extra points also slow down working with GIS files in graphic illustration programs such as Macromedia Freehand or Adobe Illustrator.

There are add-ons for Adobe Acrobat which will allow you to add GIS attribute information to your PDF files as well. This add-on requires that your users download a plug-in for Acrobat to be able to use it and also requires you, the provider, to purchase the add-on package to be able to add the attribute information to the PDF file.

Acrobat can also be used to scan and index older paper documents with Acrobat Capture.

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