Why do I like VLC Media Player? Because it plays media. That’s pretty apparent in the title, however, so hear me out: The bane of Windows Media Player is that it straps a whole ton of accessories and add-ons into the picture when all you want to do is play a movie file. You don’t want to fuss with the library. You don’t want to go through a bunch of crappy skins or rudimentary add-ons. You don’t want to wait for Windows Media Player to load. You want a video. End of story.
Are you a PC user? Good; you are likely annoyed. Because, let’s face it, there are some parts of the “master of your domain” experience that are downright annoying to do. Novice users have it easy—to them, a computer is merely a portable word processor, a fancy little device that allows them to watch cats frolic online, catch up on the most recent versions of The Office without paying for cable, and surf the web for hours on end.
You, however, are not a novice user. You are intermediate, to advanced, to hardcore, and you don’t like it when you have to expend precious hours fixing up your PC in a variety of different ways. You want a system that works perfectly and you want it yesterday. Well, to that, I offer five meager freeware apps (or free Web apps) that should help trim some of the annoying processes out of your normal system use.
It never fails: Someone always sends you a link to grab materials off of (or upload materials to) an FTP site the moment that you’re away from your desktop which, of course, has your favorite FTP client of choice just sitting right there in the start menu. Sure, you could manually try to connect to a FTP site via your browser (or Windows explorer), but you’re kind of stuck if you want to do anything more than just download a file or two. Or two hundred.
Try not to fret, however, for FTP applications can receive the same kind of "web app" treatment as most software applications nowadays! And I'll be taking a look at one such app after the jump.
Alright, cheap geeks. It’s tough to want to put out even $0.99 for the latest single on iTunes (or wherever), and don’t even get me started about the annoyance that occurs when you find some slammin’ new track on Youtube, only to realize that you can’t rock out to it in your car because… it’s… on… Youtube.
Youtube is like the poor man’s free music library – just go scan for any music video and voila! It’s an instant way to dial up your favorite songs without having to pay for the track. However, this isn’t really the kind of solution that you can take with you.
For starters, pulling up Youtube video after Youtube video on your phone in a vain attempt to rock out sans cash investment will make you look like the biggest cheapskate alive. It’ll also drain your battery. And, here’s the kicker, it won’t work anywhere that’s lacking in wireless coverage. Or, to put it another way, there’s no reason why you should be trying to transform Youtube videos into your song library.
I’m a sucker for automation at Maximum PC – If I can’t find some kind of application that will automatically perform all the time-sucking computer tasks that I like (or would like) to do, then I just haven’t done my job correctly. Now, was there only an app to automate the process of finding these apps… but I digress.
This week’s download of the week carries on in the spirit of “don’t lift a finger to accomplish a task” kinds of applications by giving you a super-quick way to transform videos from one format into another. There’s just one caveat—two, technically. You have to have Handbrake installed and, more importantly, you kind of have to know what you’re doing.
It takes a special kind of finesse to manipulate the various files scattered across your system like Minority Report’s John Anderton. Was there only a piece of freeware that allowed one to transform one’s monitor into a touchscreen for such a purpose.
But I digress. I’m not referring to the actual means of tossing files around with one’s hands. Rather, I’m just trying to use a metaphor to illustrate the fluid-like motion that some people have with their systems: files, commands, and folders flinging all around the place like a robot on speed. Not many people have this kind of mastery over their file systems; In fact, I’ve only met one person who’s ever been able to display such rapid synchronizations of keyboard and mouse to organize one’s files.
What am I getting at? It’s tough to be a whiz of file management. Which is exactly why a number of freeware and open-source applications look to automate or otherwise enhance your ability to interact and arrange the very data strewn about on your PC. From applications that automatically delete files and folders at a given time, to apps that allow you to copy complex directory structures sans files, to apps that turn your folders into automated image resizing machines… there’s an app for seemingly anything you want to do with your PC’s files.
I’ve picked out five general apps that are must-haves for those that want hardcore control over their hard drives. Anything else—as the commercial goes--would be uncivilized.
Since its inception, the Window Recycle bin has operated with one purpose in mind: holding your stuff. As well, the recycle bin has always come with a super-bonus feature that, when activated, sends said stuff into the digital ether of your hard drive--or, technically, it marks the location of said stuff as "free space" on your hard drive, rendering said location available for an overwrite at some indeterminate point in the future.
There goes the joke.
Anyway, that's about it. You can send things to the Recycle Bin and you can delete things from the Recycle Bin. End of story. But thankfully--and finally--there's a piece of freeware that extends the usefulness of this digital trash pile just a wee bit past its original intention. It's not a monumental shift or crazy new feature, just a little, necessary tweak to an old friend.
PDFs. Why do we use PDFs? It's a question I've asked myself time and time again during the following scenarios: my default PDF reader crashing my browser whenever I erroneously click on a link to the blasted extension, an image- or page-packed PDF consuming all of the system resources on my work machine, and while I'm spending extra time to convert a perfectly likable file (.doc) into a new format that's compatible with even more people. At least, I think that's the reason.
But really, though, why do we use PDFs? Perhaps it's the wrong question I should be asking, however. Sad to say, PDFs are here to stay. And I must confess, filling out a PDF form has a certain elegance to it (and built-in digital signature support) that you just can't find in a standard text file or Word document (or OpenOffice.org document).
So instead of asking ourselves how we can rid the world of PDFs, we should really be thinking about the various ways we can improve our interactions with PDF files. That's where this week's Freeware Files comes into play. I'm going to show you five freeware or open-source apps that'll hopefully ease the burden you face when you're trying to manipulate this quirky file format. As well, I'll show you a few more features and tricks you can use to turn your own PDF routines into nothing short of a master class.
Or, to be specific, I hate pulling up PDFs in my browser. No matter the reader or the complexity of the file, something invariably goes wrong whenever a PDF file crosses over the barrier between Internet and desktop. Unless you have a sharp eye for what you're clicking on (or a helpful icon to guide your path), you always run the risk of accidentally slapping a PDF into a new tab whenever you're surfing around in the ol' Firefox browser.
PDFs by themselves aren't evil. And sometimes you'll want to actually open a PDF via Firefox instead of taking the extra time to download it to your desktop and open up a reader. What Firefox lacks, in this regard, is control--ways to separate a unique PDF download from the typical bevy of files you grab on a daily basis.
Thankfully, there's an add-on that fixes that right quick.
It doesn't happen that often, but sometimes, you just need an FTP. Or, rather, the problem is more like this: You need to access an FTP and you don't have a suitable software client on-hand for whatever reason. Sure, you can usually access an FTP via your Web browser, but that just offers the most rudimentary form of functionality (read: downloads only) that you can get. And that's even assuming that you can get into the FTP site you're trying to access--I've tested good ol' Mozilla Firefox on a few FTP sites that definitely work in a software client, yet do absolutely nothing when the ftp.*.* address is typed into a browser.
What do you do? If you're a fan of Mozilla Firefox, all you need is but one simple extension to bridge both worlds together. That's right--an FTP browser inside your Internet browser, which you can pull up into its own separate tab as if it was a new Web page, even though it's not.
What wizardry is this? Click the jump to find out!