Q: Here’s my problem. Whenever I open a Word document, I get this message: “The command cannot be performed because a dialog box is open. Click OK, then close open dialog boxes to continue.” I don’t know what a dialog box is so how can I close one?

— Gerald D. Boyd, Anacortes

A: A dialog box is a small window that a program pops open to request input from the user. For example, in Word if you click on the Save icon and the document hasn’t already been named, Word will pop open a dialog box that prompts you to name the file and tell the program where to save it.

Generally, if a program has responded to a user’s action by opening such a dialog box nothing else can be done in that program until the dialog box has been closed. Since you say that you get this message when you open a Word document, I’m guessing that another Word document must be open on your computer that has a dialog box awaiting your input.

Here’s how you can check: Hover your mouse over the Word icon in the system tray at the bottom of the screen. You’ll then see thumbnails pop up that will show you all open documents. You can then click on each one to see if any have open dialog boxes.

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Q: In a recent column you make the following statement: “The safest thing to do is to use a virtual private network, which encrypts ALL traffic between you and all websites.”

VPN encryption may not have the reach that you are stating. A VPN can only encrypt the transmission between the client and the service provider. The communication between the VPN service provider and the destination of the transmission is likely to be unencrypted.


— Morey Behrens

A: Yes, you caught me there. I should have written that a VPN encrypts all traffic between you and the VPN server. The traffic between the VPN server and the destination website would only be encrypted if that destination website supports secure connections.

But even if a hacker was to intercept communications between the VPN server and the destination website the hacker would not know the point of origin of that communication. In short, they wouldn’t know it was you.

That said, a hacker accessing traffic between the VPN server and a destination website could potentially see a login and password entered at the destination site.

Accordingly, you want to be sure that you’re using a secure connection if you’re accessing a website with sensitive information, such as a bank or an e-commerce site.

Check to see that the site address shows “https” and not “http.” The “https” stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol secure” and it indicates that all communications with the site are encrypted.