Storing Images in XML files using C#

September 29th, 2012

XML files contain data in the form of text. Any data can be stored in and retrieved from an XML file as long as you can convert the data to text before writing to the XML file and then convert the text from the XML file into the correct data type when reading it back.

To convert and image in to a string so that you can store the image in an XML file, there are a couple of steps to go through:-

1. Convert the image to an array of bytes.
2. Convert the array of bytes to a string.

For this second step there is already a standard encoding scheme – Base64 – for encoding binary (byte) data into a string format. Luckily for both these conversion steps, .Net already includes the necessary classes and methods to do the work for us.

Here is a C# example of converting a PNG file into a string that could then be stored in an XML file:

String TheImageFile = @”c:\about.png”;

Image TheImage = Image.FromFile(TheImageFile);

TypeConverter converter = TypeDescriptor.GetConverter(typeof(Image));

String TheImageAsString = Convert.ToBase64String((Byte[])converter.ConvertTo(TheImage, typeof(Byte[])));

Converting back from a string to an image is a matter of reversing the steps …

Byte[] TheImageAsBytes = Convert.FromBase64String(TheImageAsString);

MemoryStream MemStr = new MemoryStream(TheImageAsBytes);

Image I = Image.FromStream(MemStr);

If you have a document containing a mix of text and images that you want to tidily save into a single file, you can use code like the above to easily store any embedded images as well as the text.

Seven Advantages of Using Desktop Invoicing Software

September 9th, 2012

These days the big move is toward online Software As A Service such as online accounting and online invoicing software. However, in a number of aspects, desktop software still holds a strong position. Here are 7 areas where desktop invoicing software can still beat online invoicing software:-

1. Desktop software is more mature with respect to online apps. Although RIA (Rich Internet Application) technology is advancing, traditional desktop software still allows far more sophisticated and powerful user interfaces to be created.

2. The costs of desktop software are usually less than those for online software. With an online software, the software vendor always has to charge on an ongoing basis for the cost of hosting the application. This usually means an ongoing monthly subscription to continue to use the online web application. With desktop software, although the initial cost of purchase can be higher the costs are usually a one-off except for occasional upgrades.

3. The speed of operation of desktop software is often greater than that of online invoicing software. Even though broadband speeds increase annually, many web applications have a spongy feel, making the user wait for new pages to be loaded.

4. Many online software enforce data and bandwidth limits whereas most desktop software are only limited by the size of your hard disk. Online vendors need to enforce price breaks since the cost of hosting their web applications rises as users need to store more data or use more processor time.

5. Although the best online invoicing applications have rock-solid security, many users would still prefer their financial data to be held on their own PCs, entirely under their own control.

6. Desktop software is always available for use. If you load it on a laptop or portable computer you can use the software while travelling. Online software is only as available as an internet connection, e.g. arranging for an internet connection while on holiday on a remote farm in Tuscany is not always easy.

7. As long as you have an internet connection on your PC, a desktop package can offer as many possibilities as an online system for things like emailing invoices and purchase orders.

Deciding between online and desktop invoicing is not a black or white decision, each system will has pros and cons. Often it’s the specific features of a particular software package that will make the decision. To try out a free trial of SliQ Invoicing to see if it suits you and your business, please visit our downloads page.

Windows OS Usage as Windows 8 approaches

September 3rd, 2012

With Windows 8 due out in late October this year, I thought I’d summarise some stats on existing OS usage.

As the picture below shows the most, Microsoft operating systems still dominate the desktop market in the UK with OS X being the main Mac OS in use at 11% of the market. I’ve also included iOS (iPad) for comparison. A good proportion of the people we encounter using OS X also run Windows (usually Windows 7) under some kind of virtualisation software such as Parallels or VMWare which tends to weaken the figure for OS X a little. Showing stats for the mobile market would give a total reverse of course, with Apple OSes dominating while Microsoft OSes take the minority share.


The real success story in these figures for Microsoft is Windows 7 which has grown to half the market share in little more than 2 1/2 years where its predecessor Vista crept up to about 19% of the market in roughly the same time.

The latest news from Microsoft is that Windows 8 will be available as an upgrade for only £24.99 in the UK. What’s even more surprising is that the upgrade will be available to owners of Windows XP and Vista as well as Windows 7. This means that people who haven’t bought a Microsoft OS for nearly 12 years will be able to upgrade for a very small fee.

It’s exciting times for Microsoft OSes and developers over the next few months with Windows 8 and the new Microsoft Surface tablet being released. Personally, although my wife wanted an iPad for her birthday, I can’t wait to get my hands on a Surface tablet. There has been quite a lot of negative press about Windows 8, with a lot of complaints about the loss of the Start menu that has been a feature of every Microsoft Windows OS since Windows 95. As time has gone on though, I’ve now begun to think of the Windows Metro interface as the Start menu replacement and Windows 8 has begun to feel even quicker and more fluid than Windows 7.

How to type the Euro symbol

August 15th, 2012

While some keyboards may have a key for the Euro (currency) symbol most don’t. All standard keyboards have £ and $ characters but don’t make it easy or obvious if you want to enter a euro amount into a document. A euro symbol € can be entered however by typing in an Alt character sequence. To enter the symbol, hold down the Alt key and then, using the numeric keypad – not the numbers above the main QWERTY keys – type in 0128 and release the Alt key.

Alt key sequences can be used to enter a number of other characters, e.g.

£ – Alt 156

$ – Alt 36

© – Alt 0169

If you come across other characters you can’t easily type on your keyboard, try searching on Google for “Alt Key Sequences” to find the correct Alt key sequence to enter.

More Great Accounting Tips For Small Businesses

August 9th, 2012

Check out these simple tips for keeping your accounts in order.


1. Use a separate business account

Make things easier for yourself by keeping separate personal and business bank accounts. This way it’s far easier to keep track of what your business expenses are, plus it will help when it comes to filling out your end of year Tax Return. Try to keep your personal and business receipts separate too.

2. Set up a petty cash fund

It can be useful to have a small amount of money available for low cost or unexpected purchases such as buying postage stamps, paper towels, or cleaning supplies. Make sure each expenditure is approved and recorded, and when you need to replenish the pot, don’t forget to record that as an expense in your accounting records.

3. Keep your files in order

Set up and maintain files such as Unpaid Customer and Supplier Invoices, Paid Customer and Supplier Invoices, Open Purchase Orders, Open Customer Orders , Monthly & Quarterly Tax Reports  and Monthly Bank Statements & Reconciliations.

4. Accept Credit Cards

You may end up missing out on sales if you don’t accept credit cards. There is a small fee, but the advantage is you get paid almost immediately. Shop around for the best provider, checking out services like PayPal or Google Checkout.

5. Use a bookkeeper

Employ someone to keep accurate and up-to-date business records of your incomings and outgoings. A bookkeeper can also take care of paying bills, chasing debts and submitting tax forms.

6. Hire an accountant

Ensure that you fulfil all your tax obligations by using an accountant. An accountant can also provide advice on complicated tax matters.

7. Use accounting software

Using accounting software to raise and track invoices and credit notes will help make your accounting process simpler and more efficient.

8. Prepare and maintain a budget

It’s important to keep track of your finances and having a budget can help you to do this. Prepare a monthly budget to keep track of business income, expenses and losses and use it compare your performance from month to month.

Do you have any accounting tips? Leave a comment and let us know. For more information on how SliQTools can help you with creating, raising and tracking professional invoices, quotes and credit notes, get in touch.

Money-saving tips for small businesses

July 27th, 2012

Whether you run a business or work for yourself, in these tough economic times, it pays to be savvy with your finances. Here are our top tips for any small business looking to save money.


1. Cut energy bills

Save money by switching energy providers. If you’re a limited company or have commercial premises you’ll need a special business tariff, but you can still shop around for the best deal by using a energy price comparison website such as UK Power, Energyhelpline, Makeitcheaper, Simplyswitch or PH Business Services. It’s well worth doing, as savings can be as high as £1200 a year! For sole traders or those working form home you can still make savings, as you can usually deduct a proportion of your household bills as a business expense. So use a price comparison website to switch your gas and electricity provider – some of them will even give you cash back.

2. Use a laptop

Consider using a laptop computer instead of a standard desktop computer, as laptops consume up to 75% percent less energy than desktops.

3. Outsource your work

In some cases you can save the money it would cost to employ a new member of staff by outsourcing work to a virtual assistant instead. Using a virtual assistant can be a great low-cost way to deal with those niggly jobs you don’t have time to do yourself.

4. Use a virtual office

Impress clients with a posh postcode for next to nothing by using a virtual office address. From around £10 a month (a lot less than it costs to rent a city office) you can benefit from using a prestigious mailing address on your letterhead. A virtual office will also provide mail receiving and forwarding services, telephone answering services, and meeting room hire.

5. Use free or low-cost online resources

Make the most of free or low-cost resources available on the web, such as Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

6. Save money on your office phone and broadband

If you’re working form home try and find the best deals with domestic suppliers for phone and broadband. For business/office premises check out phone and broadband packages on websites like Broadband Choices, Business Advisory Service, Makeitcheaper or uSwitch.  A further option is to use an override provider, which will give you a number you can access without changing your phone provider and get much cheaper calls – around 5p to a landline, however long the call is, or 6p/min to call mobiles during the day. They’re also good if you need to make a lot of international calls, with rates from 0.5p per minute to a US mobile. Try Alpha Telecom, 18185 or 1899. Also try Skype to make phone or video calls via your computer, which is free if you’re calling another Skype user.

7. Use free or subsidised training

Save money on expensive training course by utilising government-funded subsidised courses from Learn Direct. There are courses in Business and Administration, Customer Service, Team Leading and Management. B] are also currently running a series of free business skills training courses which may be worth looking into.

8. Find out if you’re eligible for a business grant

Business Link is a government service that supports established and new businesses in the UK. Check its Grants and Support Directory to find business development help. You can search for financial assistance and advice, plus it also has some general money-saving tips. Your local council may also be able to advise you on grants available. Ask them about funding, as the funds on offer will differ from council to council.

9. Try bulk buying

Rather than purchasing office supplies every week, save money by bulk buying each month. Try wholesale operators like Costco, whose warehouses are designed to help small-to-medium-sized businesses reduce costs in purchasing for resale and for everyday business use by offering brand name merchandise at substantially lower prices than are typically found at retail outlets.

10. Rent unused office space

If you have unused office space look into the possibility of subletting it so that you can share the rent with someone else, and make the most of any space that you are currently paying for but not benefiting from.

Do you have any tips for saving money? Leave a comment and let us know.

How to keep your finances in order

July 18th, 2012

One of the most important things when running a business is to make sure you stay on top of your finances. Take a look at our top tips for keeping your finances in check…

financesMake sure you have your Unique Tax Code

First things first, you need to make sure you are registered with HMRC. Download the relevant forms for your business to ensure you are sent a Unique Tax Reference number, which you will need when you fill out your annual Tax Return.

Set up a separate business account

A separate bank account for your business payments and deposits will help you to keep on top of your finances. It’s far easier to track business-related payments if they’re not mixed up with your personal transactions. Research online to see which is the best business bank account for you. Remember, the Inland Revenue can ask for bank statements going back six years and failure to produce these can create delays in any investigation, so keep hold of your bank statements.

Hire a professional

Hiring an accountant can save you time and hassle, as they can be on-hand to give you advice during the year, as well as completing your tax return for you at the end of the financial year. Do your research and make sure you accountant is accredited with one of the national accounting bodies.

Keep your receipts in order

Keep all your receipts in a file, and log them in an Excel spreadsheet, or use accounting software to keep track of them. You need a monthly record of all your incomings and outgoings, including things like office rent, wages, business supplies, advertising, etc. This will help make filling out your Tax Return far less painful.

Keep track of your invoices

Create an online diary or email reminder system for tracking invoices so that you always know what amounts are outstanding. Consider using invoicing software to create, raise and track your invoices.

Set aside money for tax

Don’t risk facing a panic when the inevitable tax bill comes – plan ahead and set aside some money each month so that you will be prepared when you need to pay your tax. You might want to set up a standing order that automatically deducts from your bank account into a separate savings account. Many business bank accounts have a linked instant access savings account for this very reason.

  • For more information visit the Government’s Business Link website for small businesses

Do you have any tips for keeping your finances in order? Leave a comment and let us know. For help with invoicing and billing, take a look at our easy invoicing software packages

Setting the Default Email Account in Outlook

July 13th, 2012

If you have several email accounts set in Microsoft Outlook then when you create a new email, or a program like SliQ Invoicing launches Outlook to send an email, Outlook will use your default email account as the account from which the email is sent. If you are emailing invoices from a program like SliQ then this can be inconvenient since your default email account may be a personal email whereas you’d prefer to use your business email by default.

To change the default email account in Outlook, do the following:-

1. Run Microsoft Outlook.

2. From the Tools menu, choose Account Settings.

3 In the E-mail tab, select the email account you want to be the default.

4. Then press the Set as Default button as shown in the picture below.


5. Press the Close button.

How to set Windows Live Mail as the Default Email Client

July 7th, 2012

If you are using Windows Live Mail as your email program on Windows 7 but you are having trouble sending email from other programs, e.g. SliQ Invoicing or Winzip, it’s worth checking that Windows Live Mail is set as the default email client in Windows.To do the default email client check, do the following:-

1. Click the Start button and on the righthand side of the Start menu, choose the Default Programs option.

2. In the windows that opens, choose the Set your default options link.

3. In the Set your default programs Window, select Windows Live Mail and then choose the Set this program as default option as shown in the following picture.


4. Click the OK button.

5. Close the Default Programs window.

Now, if you try to email from SliQ with the email sending option set to Send using the Default Email Program, Windows Live Mail should be launched with your email text and invoice template attached.

Windows 8 Overview

July 3rd, 2012

Microsoft’s much anticipated Windows 8 is set to launch later this year. But how will it compare to its predecessor Windows 7, which launched three years ago? Take a look at our lowdown on all you need to know about Windows 8.


Unlike Windows 7, which was brought out as a more focused, rework of Microsoft Vista and an incremental upgrade to the Windows series, Windows 8 has been “re-imagined from the chipset to the user experience”. It features a new user interface based on Microsoft’s Metro design language, designed to better suit touch screen input, alongside traditional mouse and keyboard input. Microsoft developers promise a more “fast and fluid” PC experience and say they have designed Windows 8 “for the billion people who use PCs today, and for the next billion people who will use them in the future.” Our summary of the new user interface is that it is clearly aimed at the tablet PC or iPad user. The riskiest part of Microsoft’s strategy in the way Windows 8 is presented is that they leave themselves open to alienating existing Windows users without winning over tablet PC users.

Here’s our summary of the key Windows 8 features…

Windows 8 will work on tablets and traditional PCs

The operating system’s home screen features big, touchable panels, similar to the live tiles in Windows Phone 7, which you can tap and swipe to other touch-based applications. Underneath the touch screen layer, is a more traditional Windows, with a task bar, file manager, app icons and more.

It will feature a clever touch interface

Users swipe upwards from the start menu to reveal the home screen and its tiles. Swiping from the right-hand side brings up a menu that can take users from an app back to the home screen. Users can multitask between open apps by swiping across from the left-hand side. And when swiping in a new app, users can snap it in place next to the app that’s currently running, allowing the user to view two apps at the same time.

There will be new Windows 8 apps

Microsoft has created a new kind of app for Windows 8 using HTML5 and Javascript, and they’re a lot like the apps you’d expect to find on a tablet. Out of the box, Windows 8 comes with an essential set of applications including Mail, Calendar, People, Maps, Weather, Music and Video players, plus a new release of Internet Explorer – version 10 – which is optimised for touch.

But you will still be able to use existing Windows apps

Although a lot of the early hype and information from Microsoft centres on touch capability and tablet or iPad-like features showing that Microsoft are clearly aiming to win over Apple customers, long time Windows users can be assured that existing Windows apps like Office and Photoshop will still work on Windows 8, although they won’t be optimised for the touch screen.

There will be a host of other improvements

Microsoft claim the software will need rebooting just once a month and that Windows 8 boot times are 70% faster than those of Windows 7. Previous Windows releases suffer from a gradual slowdown unless they are regularly rebooted so a reduced need to reboot coupled with a faster boot time will be very welcome.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 will drive sales

The Windows Phone 8 (WP8) OS is more competitive than its Windows Phone 7.5 predecessor and is likely to drive up Windows’ smartphone market share.

Windows 8 will come in three versions

Windows 8 is set to come in three different versions – Windows 8 (self-titled), Windows Professional, and Windows RT.

Are you looking forward to the launch of Windows 8? What are your views on it? Leave a comment and let us know.